The purpose of this paper is to address how New York University Shanghai Library utilizes WeChat to support students’ research and information needs. WeChat is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed in China. Released in 2011, it currently has over 355 million users worldwide. The paper explores the information exchanges and interactions as well: what are students asking and what they can gain from this app; and features of the app are explored: WeChat can send files, support video-chat and group and voice messaging. By examining the opportunities and challenges of this app, the paper offers best practices to maximize WeChat as a library virtual service.
The design approach of this paper is to analyze the information exchanges and interactions from participants. By collecting and analyzing the responses, the paper presents the opportunities of the app in supporting patrons who are often mobile and also how the app can be used for student engagement that is beyond reference services.
From virtual reference to social media outreach, this paper finds that the app can offer a wide range of support and service through the library. Based on the positive daily interactions in the app, the research notes that the app can be utilized in many contexts: to support virtual service, to create student engagement, to promote library services and to create an online community of student users.
This paper introduces in the context of an American institution and how this app can be utilized to support virtual reference and student engagement. The most important feature of this work is to demonstrate how to use this app to promote and to provide library services remotely. The paper introduces an alternative virtual reference service that can be utilized in any university setting.
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