For years many libraries have relied upon Meebo as a tool to provide virtual reference services through instant message (IM) chat reference. The free service allowed libraries to respond to chat reference queries from a number of IM service providers including Yahoo Messenger, MSN, Google Talk, AIM, and many more. Earlier this month Google acquired Meebo and soon after announced that the service will be shutting down as of July 11, 2012.
Many libraries and librarians are now looking into alternative options to continue their IM reference services. While one solution will not work for all, the links below provide an overview of some of the options that exist for library chat and IM service continuity.
Some libraries are looking into paid services such as LibraryH3lp. LibraryH3lp provides chat reference support for libraries and non-profit organizations. Fees for use are based on the size of the population served. Many academic and public libraries are already using services through LibraryH3lp. The company also provides an additional package which supports SMS messaging for libraries that want to engage with users on their mobile devices. Free trials are available.
Another fee based service, LibChat, will soon be provided by Springshare, the makers of LibGuides. The company is currently suggesting that LibChat will work with other Springshare products and services. Pricing information is not currently available.
Additional free chat clients are still available. A few of the featured free services include the following:
Digsby: This service allows users to integrate and manage IM, email, and social networking. Support for AIM, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and more is provided. This service also helps to manage multiple email accounts and social networking profiles. Download necessary.
IMO: A web-based option, IMO provides support for various IM services as well as social media sites. Download only necessary for mobile version of the service.
Pidgin: An open-source instant messaging client Pidgin has support for many of the most common IM services including AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, and more. Download necessary.
For a full list of recommended services visit: http://www.ghacks.net/2012/06/10/with-meebo-shutting-down-here-are-some-alternatives/. Additional information on services provided at: http://www.multyshades.com/2011/09/25-most-useful-chat-widgets-and-chat-client-tools/.