askON CALL: adding voice to chat, a pilot project

Been busy at MPOW preparing to add voice to our chat reference service as a pilot. We want to see if this will enhance the reference experience within the chat interaction. It’s also another method of access for those with limited typing ability or text-based learning challenges such as dyslexia or illiteracy.

The chat client currently used has the capability for VoIP on its US server, but not on our UK server, which is the one we use in order to protect the privacy of our visitors. So we’ve decided to utilize Skype for the purposes of our pilot. Every interaction will begin as usual by initiating a chat, and should the librarian decide to initiate Skype, they will still use simultaneous chat to send links, etc. which ensures a valuable chat transcript for the visitor’s future reference. Data will be collected by a mandatory “operator” (librarian) survey and the visitor exit survey, should they choose to complete it.

Many individual libraries have experimented with or incorporated Skype into reference services, but to the best of my knowledge, this will be the first collaborative of over 50 libraries that will be testing it out.

Char Booth has published a few articles about Skype in libraries. For the purposes of our pilot, we are not interested in piloting Skype’s video feature, but here is a slide show from Booth on voice and video.

Stay tuned and wish us luck for our launch on Monday! I’ll tell ya how it goes 🙂


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