Teaching with Chat

Using the IM reference exchange to teach information literacy skills

Kathryn Plunkett, SOSU

“give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” -chinese proverb

I took some notes on this session, but I honestly was tired by the time this one rolled around, and had a hard time staying focused by this point. Presenter was great; I just was overloaded by this point. As a result, I’m not posting all my notes here. They really won’t make sense (they barely make sense to me!).

Session Summary

Chat reference can be more than just a way to quickly answer ready reference questions. Especially for distance students. If the process is thought out, information literacy skills can be taught. When answering the questions, keep the ACRL Information Literacy standards in mind.

Some best practices to keep in mind:

For Students

  • Determine what the student already knows.
  • Build search strategies together;
  • aim for student independence;
  • describe each process step by step;
  • ask questions during each step;
  • ask the student to describe what s/he found;
  • define library terms.

For Library Staff

  • Know the importance of regular training.
  • Set policies and procedures.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.
  • Show you are approachable interested and listening.
  • Use scripts when appropriate.

Market the service was briefly mentioned. Some extra discussion on just needing to go where the students were. More and more, people are not coming into the library; accessing information online. But that doesn’t mean they’re accessing “good” information, as ReadWriteWeb posted today, citing a new study out by Northwestern University.

This session definitely makes me want to think further about how NEKLS has implemented its new online chat service on our newly designed website. A few people have used it and have been well-served, but how do we get more librarians to use it? I know not everyone is comfortable with this interface and email or call us instead. But, for those who this might be helpful at the point they have questions, how do we reach them?

Sidenote: good discussion happened between the three Kansas librarians present at this workshop at the end. Brad Fenwick from Hutchison Community College and Carol Matulka from Pratt Community College and I talked at the end about reaching students who need access to the library’s services after their kids go to bed (after 9pm) or early in the morning (4am-8am). Almost every library is closed at this point, but chat service isn’t available to them at all. What might fill this gap? We talked about maybe about tapping into a worldwide network of librarians who at least could answer basic reference questions and get people started in the right direction. Is anyone aware of a service like this? I’ve heard of it for a text service for librarians, but not for online chat reference.