Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Article Note: On Instruction Using IM

Citation for the article:

Desai, Christina M. and Stephanie J. Graves. "Instruction via Instant Messaging Reference; What's Happening?" The Electronic Library 24.2 (2006): 174-189.

I read this thanks to Interlibrary Loan.

I scanned this article. In part, some of the findings illustrated or confirmed things I knew from my previous experience using virtual reference. The authors of this article conclude that instruction can be offered via IM reference and that students, for the most part, do want to learn as well as get an answer. The authors do note that "however, the way the patron formulates the question affects the likelihood that the librarian will provide instruction" (187). The authors also conclude that virtual reference can mirror the reference desk, especially with good training for the staff providing the service. Librarians can and do apply instruction techniques in IM such as suggesting resources, leading through steps, and modeling search techniques. They close the article by suggesting future research questions, which include:
  • "Does co-browsing increase the likelihood of instruction or its effectiveness?" (188). I know that one of my little frustrations back in the day was the co-browsing offered in the Docutek product, which had a penchant for not working. It was eventually easier to just give the patron the steps to follow and "talk" them through the process. So, maybe this means instruction was increased, but I am not sure that is what the question intends.
  • "How often are librarians asked the same questions thereby making knowledge bases worthwhile? Will patrons use the knowledge base for self-instruction?" (188). The library I worked at during library school had a small knowledge base of reference items for the reference staff to use. I can say that it is a worthwhile tool, and it could be something worth developing in other settings. On a larger scale, that campus had a large IT KB. It was well constructed and widely used. It was heavily promoted to the students, so they grew accustomed to using it to answer many basic IT related questions. I believe that a good KB can be a great tool, but it needs good promotion as well. This is an example of "if you build it (and promote it), they will use it."
Overall, the article is worth a look. I think it has encouraging findings for librarians interested in IM as well as instruction.

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