The purpose of this paper is to report the results of a case study evaluating the introduction of an instant messaging (IM) reference service.
During November 2006, an IM chat service was introduced at the University of Teesside in the UK. A review of the literature informed the introduction of the new service. An evaluation of the service, based on usage statistics and impressions from staff and students, has been taking place.
The paper finds that it is possible to set up an IM service without the need for the purchase of hardware or software. There have been some issues fitting the IM service into the existing range of help services, and there are concerns about the relatively small number of queries, although usage of the service is growing. But users of the service have been delighted with it.
The IM chat service has been in operation for only four hours per day, Monday to Friday, with limited marketing of the service. It is not known how much more popular a more extensive service would be.
The authors believe that the University of Teesside has introduced a quick and easy way for students to communicate with them, and recommend that other libraries consider IM‐based services.
There is a shortage of publications that report the results of the use of IM for chat, especially in the UK.
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