The follwoing description of instant messaging is taken from Phil Bradley's book - Web 2.0 in your Library.
What is Instant Messaging?
Instant messaging, or IM, is a form of real-time, virtually instantaneous communication between two or more people using a textual format. IM software allows the participants to communicate via a small text-box on the screen and the resource displays the textual communication all parties have made. Most packages will let users indicate if they are online or offline by way of status alert (such as busy, at lunch or away), and these packages can be turned on or off as appropriate. Some resources will also allow people to share a search, participate in a video chat, use audio or send/receive files. An IM Conversation may be as short as a couple of lines of text swopped back and forth between participants, or connected for several hours without saying anything, each simply keeping their chat windows open so, unlike a telephone call or e-mail, an IM discussion can take place over several hours, involving various different formats of data.
IM communication tends to be fairly informal, with a high emphasis on short abbreviations such as IMO (in my opinion), bbiab (be back in a bit) or the unpronounceable ROFLMAO (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off). Emoticons - Small icons used to demonstrate pleasure, sadness, confusion and so on - are often widely used as well. Communication is less intrusive than a telephone call, and certainly quieter! At the choice of the users, the conversation(s) can be kept and stored or they may be transient in nature.
What software is needed?
There are a lot of different packages available that allow people IM. In fact you may have such a package on your own computer and if you use Windows you will almost certainly have MSN Messenger available to you.
Windows live messenger
How might IM be used in a library environment?
There are various examples of ways in which IM can be used in a library.
Dundalk Institute of Technology library is using Instant Messaging to provide reference support to users - have a look at the link below:
Also McMaster University use "Just Ask", an IM service - please see link below:
Reference query work:
An obvious way of using IM within a library context is to provide immediate access to library staff, in particular those in reference services. Dozens of libraries around the world are already using IM for that purpose and a good listing of them can be found at the Library success best practices wiki. IM works in the same way that any other text-based communication works and in fact you could think of it just as a speedier way of conducting a reference query via e-mail.
IM can be used to run searches in specific situations. For example, the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia has an IM interface, and if you add Encarta@botmetro.net to you list of contacts you can open up a reference session and query the encyclopedia without reference to your browser.
IM can be a very effective alternative to e-mail, if for no other reason then it is instant. For example, when setting up a meeting, rather then write an e-mail, send it, wait for it to arrive in the colleague's inbox, then wait for them to read it and finally respond to you, it may actually be more effective to simply IM the same person and say "how is 3pm for you?"
1. For this exercise we just want you to think of one way IM would work for your library or Institute or how would IM work for you. What benefits would it bring to your job?
2. And of course write a blog about you thoughts!
Play around with Skype
Skype is a software application that allows you to communicate by way of the internet to another Skype user, anywhere in the world, for free. Your computer works as your phone.
Skype setup and configuration are easy and it is generally a very user-friendly application. Discovery Resources:
The main advantage of Skype is free phone calls to other Skype users and here's how the process works:
1. Download the software.
2. Install the software. It automatically configures itself for your computer and network.
3. Register as a Skype user. (Finding a unique name will be the tough part.)
4. Get a headset for your computer. Using external speakers and a microphone is possible but not practical.
5. Locate another Skype user - you can search for this.
6. Click on a Skype contact name. You can do this from a variety of places within the client application.