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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Texting services become a new tool at libraries

Since today’s generation texts at all hours of the day, mobile technology companies are capitalizing on students’ nimble thumbs to promote texting services in new industries. The latest place to send text messages: local and university libraries.

The “Text a Librarian” program at Mosio, a mobile technology company based in San Francisco, launched a year ago. The program allows patrons to text reference questions to participating libraries. On the other end, librarians can answer text questions through a computer that receives the texts.

“Librarians don’t have to buy phones or learn how to text,” said Gabriel Macias, vice president of sales and marketing at Mosio. “It’s super easy.”

Before Text a Librarian’s launch last year, libraries at UC Berkeley and UC Merced served as beta testers for the program. Now the program is used at almost 250 libraries nationwide.

“We’re signing on more and more libraries every month,” Macias said. “Libraries are going to want to continue to find technology and solutions that their patrons can use, especially on their mobile phones. Texting is cool because everyone can text – even if you don’t use it, you have the capability.”

Other university libraries, such as Harvard University and other Ivy League schools are starting to use texting programs at their libraries, Macias said. Although UC Davis libraries do not have a texting service yet, other technology options are available for around-the-clock communication.

As part of a taskforce to keep Peter J. Shields Library and other campus libraries in the loop, services such as chat rooms and e-mails have become available for students who have questions for librarians concerning research. The newest issue the taskforce is exploring is mobile technology, said David Michalski, social and culture studies librarian at Shields Library.

“We do a lot of e-mail questions,” Michalski said. “In my time [at Shields] over the past few years I’ve seen more e-mails. “

At University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the texting craze has hit its student library.

Pam Sessoms, undergraduate interim head librarian at UNC-Chapel Hill, said her library has started using the LibraryH3lp system for students to text in questions.

“Librarians answered over 10,000 questions over chat, IM and texting in 2009,” Sessoms said in an e-mail interview. “Breaking 10,000 questions last year was very exciting.”

Cost is always an issue in many under-funded library budgets. Mobile phone programs, however, are a more affordable tool.

“UNC-Chapel Hill has paid $300 per year the past two years for thechat/IM/texting system we have currently,” Sessoms said. “This is much less expensive than what we paid for other virtual reference subscriptions in the past.”

At Mosio, the Text a Librarian program is affordable for many California schools, and libraries outside of the UC system, including San Jose State, Santa Clara University and San Jose’s public city library.

“We’ve never heard a library say [Text a Librarian] is way too expensive,” Macias said. “We’ve developed our system to be as cost efficient as possible – something to suit [a library’s] budget.”

SASHA LEKACH can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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