The Practical Side of IM

Technology needs are an important factor when implementing any new program, but they are rarely the most important. Planning is key to success when undertaking a new project.

This is what took up a great deal of my time when I started to implement IM reference at Edgewood. If one thinks only about the new technology and how cool it is, the project will fall flat. Something will be overlooked and you’ll be scrambling to fix it, or you’ll quickly turn patrons or staff off of the new technology.

The first thing I did was a Google search for literature about IM in libraries. I found a number of good resources that got me thinking including: IM Me, How do you IM?, Library Success, and the RUSA Virtual Reference Guide. I always find it helpful reviewing literature or blogs on a topic, because a lot of other people have done this already and have had some of the same problems you will have. You might as well benefit from other people’s knowledge and experience on the subject to make your own life easier.

Next, Jonathan and I started playing with the technology. I find it is always helpful to simply jump into the technology and start playing with it. Once you get in and mess around it is a lot easier to understand.

After we had a better understanding of what we were dealing with we gave our proposal to the head of reference. It gave some reasons about why we should do it, backed up with statistics. Then it addressed how the service would work including: technolgy, staffing, policies, training, promotion, and evaluation.

I also wrote up a draft that had some preliminary policies and best practices when IMing. We will be having a reference meeting on December 5th, and Jonathan and I will demonstrate it to the staff. We’ll do some training over winter break and roll out the pilot project starting in the spring semester.

Andy Burkhardt

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