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AskSJ Today our library, the San Jose Public Library, launched our new Text a Librarian service. As far as I can tell, we’re the first public library in California to offer text messaging services independent of a consortium model. There are others who participate in the My InfoQuest cooperative, which we are not a part of. Here are the details:

  • The service is run through Mosio’s Text a Librarian.
  • Text your question to 66746 and start the message with AskSJ
  • The library responds to the user through the interface of our choice (web browser, email, IM, or text messaging) and the answer shows up to the customer as a text message
  • Customers are encouraged to add 66746 as a contact for easy future access
  • The library currently is answering questions from 1-6pm, Monday-Friday
  • The service is completely secure & private – customers are assigned random user IDs so the library staff don’t see phone numbers connected with questions
  • The service is mobile carrier certified, so we don’t need to worry about Verizon or AT&T blocking our number from sending messages to customers.
  • It’s staffed jointly with the San Jose State University Library
    librarians and a number of our public library staff at our main King
    Library and at our many branches.

For more info on our service, see the San Jose Library Text-a-Librarian FAQ page.

On our first day, we’ve received 20 questions so far (as of 5pm).

We have received an immense amount of interest from the media as well — today I gave 3 radio interviews about the service and 1 television interview (along with SJPL’s Head of Reference, Joan Bowlby). Our press release also garnered a front page story on the San Jose Mercury News Local section today, as well as a brief 30-second spot on this morning’s local Fox affiliate through a press release we sent out.

UPDATE: LOTS OF VIDEO, AUDIO, & STORIES

I’m very interested to see how much the service takes off in the upcoming week, as people have heard about it and start to use it and spread the word.

That’s a lot of awesomeness for one day! How do you spell H-O-T?

“San Jose Library launches Text a Librarian service”

  1. caleb Says:

    so rad!

  2. Jim Bulger Says:

    That is amazing that you can get so much press for something. But what’s more amazing is the service! I wonder if the limited hours will turn people off. Maybe not mentioning the hours at all would create more of an interest in the service. Instead, just saying something along the lines of “We can’t always answer right away, but will answer as fast as we can during normal business hours.” We’re always so worried about managing people’s expectations that we end up under-selling ourselves and killing people’s interest in our services. I would hate to see that happen to your text a librarian service!

  3. Meg Says:

    If they don’t answer right away, it’s not a texting service. It’s email. So they definitely need to list the hours.

  4. Jeff Scott Says:

    I think the hours choice was a good choice. It hits the post school/after work hours where you probably get most of your virtual questions.
    Just curious, what kinds of questions are you receiving?

  5. Susan Kantor-Horning Says:

    Contra Costa County, Sacramento, and Santa Monica are California public libraries currently participating in the nationwide pilot project, My Info Quest text a librarian service. The project is sponsored by the Alliance Library System. Altarama is providing the texting software and PeopleWhere is providing the scheduling software. There was a soft launch for the service in late July. http://www.myinfoquest.info/

  6. Megan Says:

    Awesome! Sac Public is doing it too! Check us out:
    http://www.saclibrary.org/?pageId=1004

  7. jacqui grallo Says:

    20 questions on your first day? Right on! How are you marketing the service?

  8. Leanne Says:

    I am the reference librarian at Kiama Library, Australia. We have had a texting service for a few years-but it isn’t used widely. we just have a mobile phone and number and I check it regularly throughout the day. I need to go out and promote again to get it being used-thanks for the inspiration

  9. Sarah Houghton-Jan Says:

    To answer Jeff’s question, we are getting the typical range of questions – the same stuff you’d get via phone, email, chat, or in-person. We’ve had questions about local businesses, restaurant recommendations, health resources, money resources, and even the ubiquitous “what is the meaning of life?” :) I think I expected a more concise range of questions – but we’re truly getting everything you could think of.

  10. Sarah Houghton-Jan Says:

    Re: our marketing, I came up with a lengthy marketing plan with about 15 different discrete items, including press releases to our media partners, announcements to partner organizations via email, & web marketing via different parts of our website proper as well as our mobile catalog. There’s also a lot more that we have yet to implement including business cards with our “e-reference” info all in one place; in-library ads in print & on our “events” screens; blast marketing via our social networking sites; etc. It’s quite long, and a list I built up slowly over time and now use as a template for other new projects.

  11. Sarah Houghton-Jan Says:

    If your library is offering text messaging reference services (or any other interesting service such as IM reference, podcasting, online classes for the public, etc.) make sure you add yourself to the lists on the Library Success Wiki. That is where most people in our field go to find out who is participating in what types of services, and also a good place to go to find other libraries’ examples of these services (so you can model yourself after what others have done well!).

  12. Fiona Says:

    I have an award for you at http://readersrandomramblings.blogspot.com/2009/08/attack-of-zombie-chickens.html

  13. Mary Says:

    Ada Community Library in Boise, Idaho, has also just begun text reference through Text a Librarian: http://www.adalib.org. Starting slow but we haven’t really promoted much as of yet. We love being able to provide reference in a variety of different formats – in person, phone, email, IM, and now text!

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