IM me: Instant messaging may be controversial, but remember, we also debated telephone reference
By Aaron Schmidt & Michael Stephens -- Library Journal, 4/1/2005
Quote that caught my eye: "School librarians may even have the mandate to make sure kids don't use IM."
We don't even supply email accounts to students. We'd rather not deal with the possible consequences of misuse (coming from our school's domain) when we are not able to control the use. Certainly, many students who want email can get it from the numerous free sources out there. Sometimes, kids use it to send work home to themselves or to retreive work they have done at home. I have also used it to communicate with parents (almost always in response to email sent to me). While the classroom teachers may have distribution lists for the parents of their students who have email, I do not have access to those lists. I do have distribution lists for staff and frequently email them about new websites I have discovered or about other media center resources. I am on mailing lists for Kathy Schrock's Sites of the School Day and Surfing the Net with Kids which give me lots of good ideas to share with staff.
We (speaking for the school district) don't allow the students to do IM from our school computers. The computers in school are for school work only. IMers were using the computers to pass time with their friends while other students who had schoolwork to do couldn't get access to a computer. Outside the school day, we only have student access to the 29 computers in the Media Center for our school of 500+ students. (During the school day, we have the Media Center, two additional labs of about 30 computers each, and the business room with another 30 computers -- but the labs are checked out for classes or have classes scheduled in most of the time and after school they are unsupervised.)
As far as using IM myself to provide a service like instant reference, no way. First of all, I am the only media specialist serving two schools. I spend half days in each building. When I am in the Elementary Media Center, I have a fixed schedule of classes and can't stop my class to IM. I'm often away from the computer. When I am in the HS I am available face-to-face for anyone who has a question or needs help. While my paraprofessional and I try to extend the school day (HS student day is 8 - 3:07) by opening a 7:30 and closing at 4 PM, there is no staff to answer questions outside of those times.
I'm just guessing here...but I bet you have to have a cell phone in order to text message. I may be the only person in the world who doesn't have a cell phone ... but I don't. See above, for the problems with IM. I'm sure they would be the same for text messaging except that the phone would be with me.
This area looks like it could be useful to me for my personal staff development. I quickly glanced at the Webinar information about the ELM hoping that I could share it with my student users but it seems mainly geared to librarians not patrons. I can see the benefits of webinars. Not needing to travel is a big one. I can also see some disadvantages--primarily the need to engage in the webinar from work. I can't even often read my email without distractions. Taking part in something that requires more than a few minutes would require pre-planning (and possibly hiding ;-))