Basic Chat Technologies[Note: For more recent ramblings on digital reference, please see my blog.]
Chat reference services using basic software only allow for a rapid exchange of text messages between user and librarian. There are three different technologies used for such pared down services: instant messaging software, web chat rooms, and chat software.
Instant Messaging Software
Requires both the user and the librarian have the software installed on to their computers. Most instant messaging software is free and can be easily downloaded from the web. The main benefits of doing chat this way is that many users are already familiar with the programs and are likely to have in their computers. If a user doesn't already have it on their computer, it's pretty easy to install. Such programs also don't require much bandwidth and run pretty quickly. A downside to this technology, though, is that two people using two different programs can't exchange messages. If a user is already familiar with one program but the library requires the use of a different one, then that creates a hurdle for the user.
Web Chat Rooms
This is probably the least attractive way to run a chat service. It requires that the library first register a room (usually at no charge) on the web site of company providing such a service. When a user wants to chat, they need to log on to the page of the service (which can be linked to from the library's web site). The few libraries that have chosen to go this route are using a number of different services:
Other Chat Software
Forms of Digital Reference
Index of Chat Reference Services
Last updated: July 31, 2002