Monday, July 6, 2009

SMS Reference: Keeping Up With Your Clients / Sonia Herman

SMS Reference: Keeping Up With Your Clients / Sonia Herman, Southbank Institute of Technology / Brisbane, Australia



In an attempt to meet evolving client needs, Southbank Library needed to become more flexible in the way services were delivered. The paper investigates whether providing a short message service (SMS) for students to text the library for information would offer a readily accessible alternative to e-mail and live chat services.


SMS reference services where thoroughly researched in Australia and overseas to gage their usefulness for Southbank Institute libraries. Demographic statistics of the student population allowed researchers to determine how appropriate SMS reference technology would prove to be for library clients.


The paper finds that implementing SMS reference allowed the library the opportunity to access students via a familiar accessible service. SMS a Librarian has become part of the Southbank Institute Library Ask a Librarian service, which includes e-mail, phone and live chat access for students and staff. By adding this new technology to the reference services, users are now able to send questions and receive answers from Southbank librarians by using the text messaging facility on their mobile phones.

Practical Applications

SMS has become a popular way of communicating particularly among the younger generation. However, it is important that individual libraries evaluate the appropriateness of this technology for their clientele. For Southbank library it was a suitable technology as so many of the students use text messaging. It was felt that a large number of international students would benefit from this service. Often students with English as a second language feel more comfortable texting a question then using more conventional methods of communication. The success of the SMS reference service at Southbank Institute library revolves around three key points: SMS meets our clients' needs instantly; SMS is a relevant form of communication for students; and finally, the ease of providing SMS technology.


When researching other educational institutions using SMS reference technology it became clear that universities were leading the field. Southbank Institute of Technology was the first vocational education institute to implement SMS reference and its experience should benefit similar skilled-based training institutes.

Article Type / General review

Keyword(s) / Mobile communication systems; Reference services; Academic libraries; Australia.

Journal / The Electronic Library / Volume: 25 / Number: 4 / Year: 2007 pp: 401-408 / ©Emerald Group Publishing Limited / ISSN: 0264-0473 / DOI: 10.1108/02640470710779817

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