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Chatting via QWIDGET: Does the Interface Make a Difference?

  • Author(s): Johnson, Cynthia;
  • Coppernoll-Blach, Penny;
  • Davidson, Sara;
  • Furuta, Ken
  • et al.

Librarians in collaborative digital reference systems have wished for an Instant Messaging (IM) patron interface for years. Until recently, technology has not been available which allows libraries to use an IM interface while easily maintaining consortial statistics, managing shared staffing and benefiting from the cost effective advantages of a consortial effort. In the spring of 2008, OCLC's QuestionPoint service released "Qwidget," an IM interface. The benefits of the new interface include: 1) it can be embedded on any web page, and; 2) it seems "friendlier" than the older form (many reference transactions now begin with the patron simply entering, "Hi").

As of fall 2008, most of the UC campuses have employed Qwidget on library web pages, and the early results are dramatic. Statistics for October 2008 (our 1st directly comparable month) show that the campuses that embedded Qwidget on at least one page experienced a 2.9 fold increase in requests when compared to October 2007. Conversely, requests from campuses that did not implement Qwidget were either flat, or dropped in the same period. This poster session will present our experience.

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