42% of internet users (53 million American adults) report using instant messaging.
Within the instant messaging Gen Y (18-27 years) age group, 46% report using IM more frequently than email.
- Pew Internet and American Life Project
What is Instant Messaging? "Generally, instant messaging is a text-based tool that allows users to conduct conversations online by exchanging short messages in near synchronicity over the internet." (from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "How Americans Use Instant Messaging" report)
Why should libraries use Instant Messaging for reference transactions? "This is not just any audience; many IMers are those hard-to-reach Millennials who grew up in the 1980s with computers and don't think of them as technology. 'IM is essential because it aligns library services with the preferred technology of this target population of usersóa huge mass of future library and information users who could, potentially and scarily, become nonusers,' says Stephen Abram, vice president of innovation at Sirsi." (from "IM Me" Library Journal, 4/1/2005)
Why is IM a good medium for conducting virtual reference? "IM will reach another, larger audience. IMers are enthusiastic about IM. The same canít be said about web-based chat software. Thatís not something people use everyday, and it isnít something integral to their communication. [...] The real magic happens when library users add the library's screen name to their buddy list. Then the library is a presence in their lives whenever theyíre online and have their IM program running. Let me repeat that. Through IM, you can be available to your users, among their trusted peers, when they're operating online." (from the post IM Talking Points on the Walking Paper library blog.)
The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative also has a report on 7 Things You Should Know About Instant Messaging.