We have now gotten through the first few weeks of Instant Message Reference at Edgewood College. We have not done any serious publicity for our site yet. The only way people would know about it yet is if they went to the Ask a Librarian link on the libraries home page. We are doing this so the librarians have time to become comfortable with instant messaging. I believe that most of them are already comfortable, but this will also give us a little time to identify and get rid of some of the bugs.
The system is actually already being used. We have probably gotten around five or six genuine questions through IM since the start of the semester last week. A couple were missed, but by implementing a louder ringing sound for a notification I believe that most of the missed IMs will be solved. I received my first question on Monday and it was pretty exciting. It was an actual reference question about where were good places to find literary criticism. I was able to help the patron and it probably took only about 2-3 minutes. I am glad to see that this system will be successful and even more glad that it will be useful to patrons.
We may have to re-evaluate how we staff the service because one of the librarians was getting a bit overwhelmed while having to help two patrons at once (cyber-patron and meat-patron). My plan is to have a meeting in a couple of weeks to ask how the librarians are adjusting to the service and to ask for any suggestions or concerns. After that we can go fully live and publicize the snot out of it. But I believe that regular reference meetings are going to be necessary to evaluate the IM service and what could be done to improve it.