Wowie Zowie! AOL just released their Second Annual Instant Messaging Trends Survey. They not only studied users of their IM service, but also other IM networks as well.
Technobiblio has already made some great comments about the survey’s library implications, but there a few facts worth stating here:
-Nationwide and around the world, instant messaging use is growing, with more than 7 billion  instant messages being sent every day worldwide, according to IDC. ComScore Media Metrix  reports that there are 250 million people across the globe – and nearly 80 million Americans – who regularly use instant messaging as a quick and convenient communications tool. [emphasis mine]
Think a few of the 80 million people using IM are your library patrons, or potential patrons?
-Ninety percent of Internet-savvy teens and young adults say they send instant messages, and 71 percent of those ages 22-34 say the same.
-IM Screen Name as Calling Card: When meeting someone new, those ages 13-21 are as likely to give out their IM screen names (52 percent) as their e-mail addresses (53 percent). This group is also as likely to use instant messaging (33 percent) as mobile phones (38 percent) to keep in touch with friends. Instant messaging is now tied with mobile phones (36 percent) as the preferred way to stay in touch with friends over the summer.
These facts fit well with the notion that heavily populated buddy lists are status symbols for teens. (200 is the limit when using AIM)
-IM to SMS – Watch Out!: While SMS text messaging still dominates in the mobile messaging arena, 32 percent of all mobile messengers now use an instant messaging service on their mobile device instead of, or in addition to, sending SMS text message.
My library related thoughts are this: 80 million is an impressive number. There is no way there are 80 million people using non-IM live chat for communicating. A number of companies have live chat on their websites but it is not as ubiquitous as IM. If we want to be relevant to our patrons and be on the same communications page Virtual Reference isn’t the way to do it. The public is already using IM. Having to enter another online environment to simply chat is a silly notion to them. Is VR tantamount to placing cyberhurdles between patrons and libraries?