or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


#PLA12 Chat Reference Discussion (OCLC QuestionPoint User Group)

   March 15th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Integrating chat into your website

You put your info desk in the middle of your physical library, so put the chat reference link central to your website.

Placement = point of service, so put it everywhere, and be consistent (catalog, website, not just handouts and flyers)

Feb 2012 = 619 sessions (at Arlington Heights (IL) Library)

  • Homepage: 135
  • User account signup page: 133
  • Catalog pages: 124
  • These three pages are 63% of the total

Placement tips

  • Top-right or top-left, make sure it's above the fold
  • Talk to vendors: some will let you put chat widgets inside the databases
  • Put it on other community websites (local newspaper, Town Hall, social service agencies, etc)

Use a promotion to boost usage and introduce the service to patrons

"Win a Nook" promotion at Anne Arundel County (MD) Public Library

  • Promotion lasted one week, which was plenty long (especially for staff who had to keep promoting it)
  • Pass out bookmarks, pins/badges, and flyers to tell people how to get to the chat
  • This told patrons to mention the contest when they started their chat session, so they got entered to win the Nook)
  • Promotion focused on staff/patron interaction, so patron had to also mention staff person's name (staff person could then with a Nook also)
  • Results: 436 people tried chat that week - 632% increase; 899 sessions for the entire month - a 162% increase over previous year
  • Lessons learned: easy promotion; chat sessions increased; public "got" the service by trying it out; people love winning free stuff
  • Contact Betty Morganstern (bmorganstern@aacpl.net) for more details


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Reference Question of the Week – 3/4

   March 10th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Meebo.com logo Oddly, I was just asked a question that also routinely shows up in my stats, as keywords people use to find my website. I say "odd" because I I've never answered this question, but Google keeps finding me, anyway.So, the question: a patron walks in and says, "I want to do IM chat at work, but my company blocks AOL and the others. I used meebo for awhile, but they just blocked it this week. What are some other sites like meebo I can use?"

I kind of laughed, and so did she, because she knows she's doing something wrong. But I can't judge, so I searched the internet and found a posting on the Big Blue Ball forum that listed a few. They are:

I haven't used most of these, but the patron was very happy. She says it takes her I.T. people about a month to block new sites, so she should be set for about a year with this list.

Also interesting, the Blue Ball posting pointed out that "most schools/offices allow access to secure http sites by bypassing the firewall/proxy; meebo has https access." Huh.

chat, ebuddy, iloveim, im, kool im, libraries, library, meebo, public libraries, public library, quickbuddy, reference question, webaim



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