Free Opportunity to do Text Messaging @ Your Library

I’ve always been a fan of collaboration and in the current economy it makes more sense that ever.  Costs are less, staff effort and responsibilities are reduced – there are even surprise benefits like networking opportunities and getting great ideas from other libraries.  When we wanted to do virtual reference at my old library, we quickly realized that it would be impossible to offer a quality 24/7 service without help.


Texting is ubiquitous yet many libraries don’t feel they have enough staff to offer yet another channel for patrons to ask reference questions.  But if this is the way our younger customers want to reach us then we really should try to fill that need.  So I was delighted to hear about the text messaging project that Alliance Library System is starting with Altarama.  Free text messaging seemed too good to be true, so I checked with Lori Bell and she said that for the first six months there is no cost – just the contribution of time.  They are actively seeking funding to grow the project and will be submitting grants over the next few weeks.  If at six months they still do not have funding, they may can choose to start paying for the service.  But even if that happens, she thinks that by dividing the cost among the libraries (especially if a number of libraries participate) it should be very inexpensive.


Of course, you could do it on your own – there’s Altarama’s SMSreference and Mosio’s Text a Librarian (thanks to Joe Murphy for this review).  But if you do decide to start your own service, you might want to contact some of these libraries for some advice first.

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2 Responses to Free Opportunity to do Text Messaging @ Your Library

  1. Michael S. Hart says:

    I remember one report of a library usage stat, indicating that 70% of the available librarian staff was always occupied doing chat sessions.

    Then someone came across one of the newbies who was simultaneously handling over 20 sessions!!!

    They had to revise their idea/ideal of what the statistics meant about utilizing librarians for chat sessons. . .the older ones never thought a moment about doing TWO sessions at once but the new kid, who had grown up with texting, was off at supersonic speeds while the old ones were in the olde timey era of The Wright Brothers.

  2. anonymoose says:

    I think this is a great opportunity for libraries to give texting a shot without much risk. I think this is the future of library reference(and really services in general)-giving people what they want, where they’re at. Right now companies like chacha and kgb are beating libraries at their own game. No one is better at reference than us-they are just better at selling it!

    @michael-If someone is handling 20 reference questions at once I have a really hard time believing they are doing a very good job with any of them-even if they can type at the speed of light and the questions are fairly simple. Actually I have a hard time believing it is even possible(what software/setup are we talking about!?), but maybe I’m just jealous. (BTW I am not old timey by anyone’s definition) Its always good to have to rethink your old ideals and adapt to your current reality though, so yay for that.

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