Maybe the Easiest Virtual Reference Set-Up Ever

I’ve been playing with Meebo Rooms today in between student appointments and crazy-hard research questions. For the two or three of you that haven’t heard of these things, they’re a brand new feature of Meebo and you can read more about them on the Meebo blog. Basically, it’s a free and easy chat room where you can also push links and video and you can embed the room on a web page (such as the Research Help page of your library?). What’s not to like?

I can easily envision this on the library site. We could be logged into meebo and hanging out in the room in case anyone had a question. This would alleviate a problem we’ve been facing: how to make it easy for students to ask IM questions even though we all have separate IM addresses and are not considering having a single “reference” account that we’d all log in and out of. And yet, students could ask questions without having an IM account. Perfect.

Except… We’d have to figure out what to do about the fact that anybody looking at the embedded room could see the questions we were working through, and anyone who logs in can see the last 50 or so lines of chat history. I’m the least privacy-concerned librarian I know, but even I think we’d have to have a warning about this posted prominently.

And then there are the ads. Every so often we are asked to “please enjoy this sponsored video,” which stinks. We could turn the media area off, I guess, but that seems like a kill-joy.

I can also not choose any options other than “only You can add video” and “anyone can add video.” I’d like to be able to authorize people to push video out onto the library site… just cuz I work on a college campus with, you know, college students.

But I’m still thinking we might be able to make this work. I’d love to make this work. Even if we only do the text part of it at first and save the cool media-pushing-thingy for later.

[Update 5/16/2007: I've embedded a few sample reference chat room configurations here. One cool thing is that people can copy the code for the room and paste it where ever they'd like, so they could easily add it to their own pages and have us right there in their own space if they wanted. The magic happens if you click "Copy Chat Room."]

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