Launching virtual chat reference services at Boatwright Library at the University of Richmond has been an interesting challenge of “trial and error” over the years. After trying several different software programs and staffing options, librarians have finally found a niche with AOL’s Instant Messenger service. The first section of the article describes a path of experimentation, including early collaborations with the computing services help desk, staffing patterns within the library, technical and financial challenges with virtual reference software, and attempts to get students to use reference chat services. The second half of the case study will describe the great success with AIM service in the last year, providing statistical information as well as coverage of training and guidelines, advertising, and staffing. This article will touch on a number of themes, including the value of experimenting with a variety of chat reference software programs, and the need for library staff to stay current with new technologies.

Document Type

Post-print Article

Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2006 Routledge. This article first appeared in College and Undergraduate Libraries 13:4 (2006), 43-54.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.