I’ve been learning quite a bit from observing kids use IM. One thing I’ve learned is that I’m particularly not responsible with using the ‘away’ function of IM programs. In a previous entry I commented on kids using their away messages in a way I hadn’t really seen an adult use them. Specifically, I’ve seen semi-detailed messages to numerous friends in the away messages of teens. If people are to receive these messages the intended recipient of the message either must IM their buddies upon signing on, getting sent the away message in response, or choose to ‘get buddy info.’ This will return the person’s away message, and any other cutesy info they have in their away messages, such as profiles, quizzes and stuff like this: if you’re stupid enough to read this, copy and paste it into your profile.
Between home and work, there are four computers that I use on a regular basis. To complicate this, there are to programs I use (AIM and iChat), and two screen names (sometimes linking the two so I can have both running simultaneously.) With all of this, I can barely manage to sign out of all the places I may have IM running, let alone use away messages effectively. Even so, if I have an away message set at home, it might not work, because I could be signed in at work with the same name. (Side note: Only recently has this become a problem, when AIM stopped automatically signing people out upon logging in elsewhere.)
I mention my irresponsibility as a confession, and to get me motivated to use away messages as they should be. Sometime in the future, when I write a list of best practices IM in the library, being attentive to away messages will be there. Just as if patrons aren’t going to come back if they visit the Reference Desk and there is no person, or no ‘Be Right Back’ sign, they’ll get tired of IMing a librarian that isn’t there.
One more quick thing. There are a few ways to solve this, but if you’re worried about not being able to be on your personal IM account while monitoring a library account, consider using Trillian or linking screen names using AIM. This is only available in the lastest version of AIM, which tries to install Wild Tangent on your machine. Just deselect the box when installing.