August 10, 2005

Live chat comes to Morris Library

by Paula Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Intimidated by asking a librarian a question? New technology has a solution.

Morris Messenger is a new service of Morris Library that allows all computer users within the Southern Illinois University Carbondale community to chat live with a reference librarian. In addition, users may pose their questions privately and anonymously — a big plus for shy types.

Users can get help finding specialized journal articles, renewing a book loan, or learning the capital of Botswana. In doing Internet research, users benefit from the guiding hand of a professional librarian rather than merely being provided Web sites via search engines like Google, Yahoo or Ask Jeeves.

Access to this live chat feature comes through Morris Library's homepage,

Morris Messenger allows students and patrons to make inquiries at their "point of need," thereby making more efficient use of research and study time. Even a transcript of the conversation between the librarian and the patron is available. One student said, "I love the chat reference service. It is wonderful. I love also the librarians who work behind the scene. Thank you for your hard work."

According to Chris Desai, science reference librarian, and Stephanie Graves, humanities

reference librarian, users have given Morris Messenger rave reviews, with 98 percent of users saying they will use the system again.

"A librarian not only provides the answer, but helps the patron find the answer for themselves," Desai said.

Currently, Morris Messenger operates from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays. This fall it will also run from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays.

Offering innovative technology is a goal of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.