Text messaging has established itself as a main communication point for teens and adults. Users want to have their questions answered at their moment of need – and this means not just when in front of a computer but wherever they are.  As many of you are- myself included, our users are tethered to their mobile device.  The phone is no longer a phone but a texting tool, an internet browser, a mini computer and entertainment device.    The fact is users are looking for their information needs to be answered on this device and this is where Ask a Librarian comes in!

Ask a Librarian will be launching a texting service to accompany our traditional chat service.  This means users can text us from their device at the moment they need assistance from wherever they are (though hopefully not the interstate).  A user will text a local phone number including a keyword before the question and they will receive an answer from a live librarian within minutes!

How is this going to work from your perspective?

First a little history on this project – Since 2009, Ask a Librarian has been working with a small taskforce of librarians to look at how we could implement text messaging into our existing service.  We had two main criteria: must be easy for the user & must integrate easily into the existing AAL workflow.

The taskforce was the following people:

–          Carrie Sabin Hunsucker, Alachua County Library District
–          Chad Mairn, St. Petersburg College
–          Marissa Ball, Florida International University
–          Mike Shell, Jacksonville Public Library
–          Paul McDonough, University of Florida
–          Susan Smith, Hodges University

After a lot of research, testing and discussing, we decided on Twilio as the company to provide the text messaging service.  This will work inside the Agent Console, however.   With Twilio, a user texts a phone number with a keyword.  It is then received and can be responded to within the collaborative queue in AAL.

We went ahead and purchased 14 phone numbers – one for each area code in Florida – so you will be able to promote a local number to your users.     With Twilio, you can even have multiple numbers for your campuses.

The great news is that because Ask a Librarian is setting everything up, you do not have any cost or technical work needed on your end to make this work.  However, site coordinators will be busy the next few weeks setting up tools (like scripts and knowledge base entries) to help with questions from different libraries and promotion down the line.

You will start noticing changes in preparation for the service – there is a new department “texting” when you login, new folders for texting scripts and new statuses.   Feel free to explore them or ignore them until we go live.

Once we go live, the texting department will be staffed concurrently to the collaborative or academic queue.  Whenever you are currently scheduled to staff either desk, you will login to the texting queue as well.   Additionally, you can staff just texting or local and texting when you want.  We are planning to go live with the new service on Monday, October 25th.

We will be offering online training on the following days and times – registration for these times will open soon! :

Mon., Oct. 4, 2-3 pm ET
Tues., Oct. 5, 11am – 12 pm ET
Thurs., Oct. 7, 10-11 am ET
Tues., Oct. 19, 1-2 pm ET
Wed., Oct. 20, 10-11 am ET
Thurs., Oct. 22, 2-3 pm ET

Curious on how it works – and you’re a texter?  Text (813) 344-2795 AAL for a special message.

We will also be distributing additional tools to help you with this new service in the next few weeks.

Please let me know if you have any questions!