Pilot Program Allows Real-Time
Chat With Librarian Via the Internet
by Gail Matsunaga
From Dateline February 27, 2003
|In an ongoing effort to provide a variety
of reference services, the Pollak Library is currently testing
Convey, a chat reference software program, overseen by Rosemary
McGill, reference coordinator. The program allows students and
faculty and staff members real-time guidance
related to library information from their home computers.
There's nothing worse than working from
home and not being able to access a particular database or find
a certain book through the Pollak Library's resources. Thanks
to Convey, a chat reference software program, students and faculty
and staff members can access real-time guidance or answers to questions
related to library information via the Internet.
From 2-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, visitors to
the Pollak Library's Web page (http://library.fullerton.edu/)
can click on the “Ask a Librarian” link, then “Live
Help” and be connected to a university librarian who can walk
users through their searches - even temporarily “taking
control,”with permission, of their computers to show the process.
Convey is one of two programs - the other is
24/7 Reference - currently in the pilot stage at various CSU
campuses. San Diego State University also is testing Convey, while
Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State Long Beach and
San Jose State are testing 24/7. Both programs will be evaluated
by the end of the semester, when it will be determined whether to
institute either of the programs systemwide.
The program also is on the computers in the library's
electronic resources area, in the Titan Lab and at the El Toro campus.
Additionally, students and faculty and staff members on computers
with audio capabilities can talk to librarians through their computers
during these sessions.
So, what are students asking? “They're
trying to get into a database, often the same kinds of questions
we receive in person,” replies Rosemary McGill, reference
coordinator and member of the CSU-wide task force that is evaluating
And at the end of the session - those that are
text chat - the program produces a transcript for the user,
which could come in handy as reference for a future database search.
According to McGill, Convey is such a new product
that no library in California had it until now.
The 24/7 program, on the other hand, has been in existence
longer and is in more libraries. Starting in the greater Los Angeles
area, 24/7 has grown throughout California public libraries and
colleges, and now includes several out-of-state libraries. Its biggest
advantage is that users can “talk” to a librarian 24
hours a day, seven days a week. However, it is limited to text chat
Ideally, if the state-of-the-art Convey is adopted
system- wide, students will have access to library assistance around
the clock. And, says McGill, with 23 campuses, there's the
possibility of forming a consortium to staff it. A Fullerton student
working from home, for example, may get online assistance from a
librarian at Humboldt State.
o far, says McGill, students seem to like the service,
and the librarians involved enjoy this newest way to help users
navigate their way around the library's resources.
“Calls have increased this semester already
and, hopefully, as more students need help, they will give us a
try. We try to provide as many types of reference - telephone,
e-mail, etc. - vas students will use.”
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