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Alex Grigg

Why use IM? I don't suppose why not is a sufficient answer, huh?

Personally, I'm not currently a huge IMer, but I've certainly used it in the past and continue to keep a couple of active accounts. Think of IM as e-mail with an immediate response. Not only can it give you an immediate response, but you can know in advance if you're likely to get one. Most IM clients show whether the person you're contacting is online and available to talk and that stops you from having to guess. Ever had e-mail conversations with responses taking 10 or 15 minutes to go back and forth? Despite the idea that e-mail is instantaneous, oftentimes there is significant lag between send and recieve. That is not the case with IM.

Also, in an era when a large segment of the US population is on their computers at work and at home for significant amounts of time it can often be more convenient than a telephone. I've worked at several jobs where I had no phone, but I did have an internet connection. That makes IM the medium of choice. It will also allow you to appear to be working (or even actually be working)when you are also chatting away with friends and coworkers. It's a little harder to disguise a phone call.

Finally, though, IM has the same advantages that e-mail does in terms of permanence and interpretation. I can copy and paste out of IM. I can save messages. I can make sure that spelling or IP addresses are accurate. I don't run the risk of mis-hearing soomething. I suppose this also allows for easier communication with people who are hard of hearing or have strong accents.

I don't know that any of these reasons are solely responsible for the growth of IM, but they certainly don't hurt its popularity.


IM is clearly an important Library 2.0 tool. A significant number of students are using IM, and they are increasingly expecting access to library services using IM. As these students become our future librarians, I can only expect that IM use will increase.

However, as much as I like the idea of IM services for library patrons (and use IM myself), there are still a lot of problems with IM systems. If you're interested, Symantec has provided a detailed overview of security issues with IM systems: http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/reference/secure.instant.messaging.pdf

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