All posts by Liz Rea

Week Nine: Instant Messaging

Welcome to week 9 of 23 Things Kansas. I’m Liz Rea from NEKLS, and I will be your guide this week to the wonderful world of Instant Messaging.

Examples of IM icons


Before we get started, lets think about the past:

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

– Western Union internal memo, 1876

How quaint and shortsighted this quote appears to be! Where would the world be without the telephone? Pundits have been saying similar things about the future of chat communication… but those of us who use it regularly can’t imagine a world without it.

Terms and Abbreviations:

Service Provider – In the case of Instant Messaging, the company that runs the servers which users engaged in chat connect to. Often, companies that provide e-mail also provide access to Instant Messaging as a part of their e-mail service.

Examples: MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk (Gtalk), Facebook Chat, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)

Emoticon – You’ve seen them: :) ;) :( :* They are punctuation marks put together to express emotions. A great deal of communication is nonverbal; emoticons help you express some of the meaning that might be lost in a chat vs. phone vs. face to face communication. To learn more emoticons, see this list of emoticons from Wikipedia.

Common IM shorthand –

  • LOL – Laugh out loud. Also: ROFL (rolling on floor laughing)
  • ty, yw – Thank you, and you’re welcome. Also tyvm (thank you very much), np (no problem), and yvw (you’re very welcome)
  • j/k – just kidding
  • bbl – be back later. Also ttyl (talk to you later)
  • afk – away from keyboard (most commonly used in the middle of a chat when you need to leave your desk for just a moment)
  • For those of you really interested, here is a much more comprehensive list

Sharing and Productivity

Instant messaging (IM) is a great tool to use to stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues and customers.  Libraries of all types are using IM as a way to connect with their patrons. It can be a great tool for answering reference questions, especially if you have a lot of millennials in your patron population.  If you are curious about libraries that are using IM reference, the Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki has a great list.

Instant messaging users communicate quickly through typing in real time. IM is less immediate than a phone call, but more immediate than an email.  In fact this is one of the advantages of using IM instead of email: you at least know (more or less) if the person you want to talk with is available.  According to OCLC’s report Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World 59% of the US Respondents have sent or received an instant message in the last 12 months. Sadly only 38% of US library directors have used IM.

Top 5 things people in my office use IM for:

  • Discussing projects without leaving our desks.
  • Quick communication with co-workers who may be internet connected but not in the office (out on a consulting call, for example).
  • Talking, solving problems, and sharing links with our member librarians.
  • Sharing interesting links (it’s much easier to click a link in an IM message than it is to try and tell someone which URL to type), even when we are in the same room.
  • Knowing the status of your co-workers through their status message.

Tools for your consideration

There are lots of ways to connect to Instant Messaging services: – web based, extremely easy to use. Allows web access to all of the major chat services listed here.

Use a client (a program on your computer) to connect to multiple service providers at the same time. These programs will need to be installed on your computer. Examples of IM clients include: Adium (Mac), Trillian (PC), Pidgin (Linux, Mac, PC)

Tool Instructions and Activity

Getting Started with Instant Messaging

There are four basic steps to getting started with Instant Messaging

  1. Choose your service, get an account – There are a plethora of chat providers these days, and (give or take) they all have pretty much the same features: text chat, the ability to send pictures/files, and video chat (if you have a webcam). One of the drawbacks with having multiple providers is that users of one service cannot talk to users with a different service. Both Meebo and any of the clients listed above allow you to connect to multiple services at the same time, as long as you have accounts. If you are signing up for a new account, you might want to check with your friends and see which provider they are using, so that you can sign up for the same provider.
    These services are free:

    Google Talk

    MSN Messenger

    Yahoo! Messenger


    If you already have an account with AOL, Hotmail, Google Mail (Gmail), Facebook, or Yahoo! mail, you can use the same log in information to log in to Meebo to use instant messaging.

  2. Log into your chat provider through Meebo using the account information you just created (or with your existing account information).
  3. Find buddies to chat with – Make a comment to this post that includes which IM Provider you are using, and how to find you (usually your email address), then find another person using the same provider and add them to your buddy list. Meebo has excellent instructions on how to add buddies using their service.
    Note: this exercise is going to mean that you get a lot of requests to “Authorize” people who want to chat with you. For the purposes of this lesson it would be good to authorize everyone who asks. You can always remove them later.
  4. Begin chatting! – Double click the buddy you want to talk to, then type in the box, and hit enter or click send. It’s that easy!

Talk about your IM experiences on your blog. Tell us what you think of Instant Messaging; Do you like it? What concerns do you have using a tool like Instant Messaging? Has it changed the way you work at all?

Extra Credit: Come talk to several librarians, including myself, just click to join the #23thingsks IRC channel. Type your nickname and click Connect. See this screenshot for help on where to click to start chatting. This multi user chatroom is hosted on Freenode (what is IRC?). I’ll be in that chat channel all week, pop in and say hi anytime (though please give it a few minutes, I don’t always see new users right away). You can get my attention by saying my name, just type “wizzyrea” to make my computer beep. :)

Guidelines and Expectations

Don’t expect instantaneous responses – People can’t always answer you immediately. They may be away from their computer or on the phone. They don’t hate you, they’re just busy too!

Be online when you are at your computer, but make good use of your status display. Don’t be afraid to mark yourself away when you just don’t feel like talking.

Special Note: this lesson was heavily discussed and worked through in an online chat with library friends from around the world.