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You may remember that I started a home grown virtual reference project at my library. Not that we were want for VR projects, but I had a feeling this would be a successful, low cost program that would be sure to attract many of our patrons.

Today I received my 100th question via AIM. Obviously I was a believer in the program to begin with, but I must say that it has exceeded my expectations.

We have increased our availability to patrons for no cost. Certainly I’ve had to spend time answering the questions, but since I’m here (in part) to answer reference questions, I don’t consider more work a cost. If more staff would get on board and use AIM whilst at the Reference Desk, there would be a cost to training, but even that would be only a cost of time.

For no cost not only have we become more available, but I’ve helped patrons that otherwise wouldn’t have been helped. I’ve done more Young Adult Readers’ Advisory in the past 2 months than I have in the previous 2 years. YAs have sent me messages asking about the library’s hours, and prizes for summer reading program. I bet that these things aren’t a big enough deal for them to make a telephone call, but shooting me a quick message is more convenient. Perhaps this is grandiose, but I can’t help but thinking that I’m breathing some life into libraries for these kids.

I’ve been asked what shampoo I use and what 646345*453456345 equals, but I have turned a portion of the few silly questions I’ve received into productive sessions educating kids about what the library has to offer.*

There have been a few questions from what I presume (through their good spelling and mature vocabulary) were adults. Most of these transactions ended in a conversation about IM, and how they were happy the library is offering it.

Come Autumn, once I can do some reference outreach in the schools, I know that I am going to need my fingers limber for typing away at a near google of reference questions.

*Kids will listen if the right medium is used. Television is no longer a cutting edge way to get kids to pay attention, it is to be expected. IM is the new TV in this regard. It is interesting and funny to me that a “hot” medium like TV or film is perhaps no longer as captivating to young people as simple text is. It is the interactive nature of this special text, I’m sure.

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