Librarians On Call: an instant messaging enquiry service for Open University distance learners

Georgina Payne, Michelle Perrott


From March 4 - May 31 2002, The Open University Library piloted a new, instant messaging enquiry service for use by its distance learners, called Librarians On Call. The service enabled OU distance learners to remain online using electronic library resources, whilst also obtaining instant help from a librarian, without the need to disconnect from the internet to use the telephone. Student reaction to the service was overwhelmingly positive, and as a result the Open University has decided to continue the Librarians On Call service. Exit surveys conducted with students indicated students preferred the Librarians On Call service to both email and the telephone, and that they found the service both beneficial and easy to use. The article details the results of the pilot, and also discusses some of the practical issues encountered whilst setting up the service, such as software selection and staffing.


instant messaging; distance learners; enquiry services

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