Text Messaging Reference Service Launched – My Info Quest. Is it really better than chacha and kgb?
A press release today announces the first “text messaging reference service.” While it’s a decent idea, and relevant to the public library user market, it’s not really novel and one has to wonder how useful this is. After all, there already exist at least two text messaging services which essentially provide reference service, chacha and kgb.
Chacha and kgb use low wage people searching Google and in-house knowledge bases (roughly 10 cents per response, which usually averages to less than minimum wage) , whereas My Info Quest uses “real, live librarians” (much more highly paid). Chacha and kgb are both staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week whereas My Info Quest is staffed… 14 hours on weekdays, 8 hours on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays. Chacha is also free (ad-supported), so there’s no cost difference either.
Oh, and chacha recently released a study showing that Chacha results are more accurate than Google Voice or Vlingo (Google/ Yahoo via phone). While this study shouldn’t be a surprise (human + Google > Google), it showed that Chacha hit the mark approximately 89% of the time. That’s 25%better than at health science libraries and 34% more than the oft-cited 55% accuracy by Hernon & McClure / Kaske & Arnold.
Other than pointing to the occasional library book, it’ll be interesting to see the future for this service.
The applications here are – are we aware of these other resources / alternatives which are springing up? (Did you know about kgb or chacha?) Are we evaluating them in the context of where our value proposition is? And are we trying to fight losing battles or are we planning and positioning strategically?
A snippet of the press release follows. Full link here.
A new library service named My Info Quest (www.myinfoquest.info) claims to be the first collaborative text messaging reference service of its kind. The Alliance Library System (www.alliancelibrarysystem.com) in East Peoria, Ill., has partnered with about 50 participating libraries; Altarama Information Systems (www.altarama.com); and WebClarity Software, Inc. (www.webclarity.info), developers of PeopleWhere (www.peoplewhere.com), to build this new reference service. The pilot program launched on July 20 and will extend until Dec. 31. Other partners include San Jose State University Graduate School of Library and Information Science, South Central Regional Library Council in New York, and TAP Information Services.
The patrons of approximately 50 libraries from all over the U.S. are now able to text a question from their mobile phones to 309-222-7740 and a “real, live librarian” will respond within minutes. The service is free of charge, but standard text messaging rates apply. Staffed by librarians from around the country, answers are sent to cell phones by librarians in 320 characters or less, or the equivalent of two 160-character text messages. The hours of service are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.