IamLibrarian


Text Messaging and Libraries

Posted in Information,of interest,Technology by millerlibrarian on April 13, 2009

I am sure that many of you have heard of or are using SMS text messaging services in the library. I wanted to share some thoughts and information on this. I have recently gone through training with two providers: Altarama and Mosio. Although I will not promote one or the other, I will share some of my thoughts.

Text messaging seems like the next logical extension of library services.  Many provide chat and email service already and the surge of text messaging makes it extremely relevant to keeping our services current.  There are libraries providing this service to patrons already and others who are beginning to explore it.  What I really like about this, is that you don’t have to reply to patrons using a mobile device – you can text them right from your computer – either through a chosen platform or a microboard.

This is extremely relevant for me, as I work from my computer.  Ironically, before I began exploring and using this service, I had set up this option right from my gmail – with my husband.  I do not generally turn my Blackberry on unless I’m working away from home, but his phone is on all day.  To bridge the gap, I set up a connection – I text him from my Google chat and he texts me back through his phone.

My point, it is a great thing to experiment with text messaging.  I actually registered with Mosio, to get a feel for the process and answer questions that people text in to the service.  I really enjoy it and find it very easy to use.  So, now, the relevance to libraries:  it seems natural to provide this as an additional way to connect our patrons with information.  It IS true that we have to meet our users where they are – especially today.

I see one potential barrier to the service:  the availability provided by libraries: when do we offer the service?  Funding/budget shortfalls have led to many decreased hours of operation and cuts in library staff.  Despite this unfortunate and unfair occurrence, we can and should resist:  how about being on call, during off hours?  Many of us do not turn our computers or phones off when the library closes or we are “off duty” – nor do our patrons.  I see this as a limited service right now – if we shut it off at say 5pm, are we not missing a significant part of our patronage?  So, can we give back?  I would be willing to voluntarily answer texts for a period of time on a certain day or days – would you?  As with all services, availability, especially in the launching phase, is an important part of ongoing service.

What do you think?

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