Librarians like to text


Briahna LeFave, Business & Technology Editor

For over 10 years the UW-Whitewater Andersen Library website has offered a user-friendly “Ask a Librarian” 24/7 online chat for both Whitewater and Rock County campus libraries. A newer option however, is the “Text a Librarian” feature, which was added just this past year.

When polling 4,000 people between the ages of 18 to 34, researchers at LivePerson, a business solutions provider, found that 73% of American millennials and Gen Z-ers prefer texting as their main method of communication. Students can rejoice then, as their communication preferences have been answered. As if the online chat format wasn’t convenient enough, by texting the library (262)-500-3393 you can be in instant contact with one of the brilliant librarians on duty to help answer a wide variety of educational questions.  

Reference & Instructional Technology Librarian Diana Shull is largely to thank for this awesome tool. Shull is in charge of maintaining the SpringShare software that is used within the library for things like tutorials and library guides, as well as the 24/7 chat service.

“I, along with the other reference librarians and the library director, wanted to provide another way for students to ask us for help. I worked with SpringShare to set up the text number and to incorporate answering text messages into how we follow up with patrons to make sure that their needs are met.” says Shull.

Education Librarian Ellen Latorraca agrees, the “Text a Librarian” feature was added to equip students with yet another way they can connect with a librarian. Students using this tool can conveniently access the large gamut of knowledge and skill the librarians possess and utilize that to accomplish their educational goals. 

“Providing the SMS/text service is one of many ways students can get assistance, along with visiting us in person at the Reference Desk, using the 24/7 live chat service, email, calling the Reference Desk, and making an appointment from the Library homepage appointment link,” says Latorraca. She also added that as of spring 2022, undergraduates can even use the Navigate app to make an appointment with a librarian. So much accessibility! 

While one Ask a Librarian format isn’t necessarily preferred over the other, Shull explains that the 24/7 online chat tool may be more helpful to students who need assistance outside of Reference Desk hours. It is also better for students that may have questions that are lengthier or more complex, whereas the texting feature may be useful for more simple questions that warrant shorter, “text style” responses. Additionally, text messages received outside of Reference Desk hours are indeed directed to the 24/7 chat- talk about service.

“The 24/7 chat service is great for those research questions that happen in the middle of the night and questions that are more in-depth. There is always a live librarian answering the questions and you can chat with them as long as you need to.”

Whether texting or chatting online, Latorraca says the kinds of questions the librarians receive vary from from general book inquiries to questions specific to certain assignments and everything in between. Students shouldn’t hesitate to reach out with any question they might have for a librarian.

“We get all sorts of questions, ranging from how long you can check out a book, how to find and use ebooks, how to access a specific newspaper online for a class, to help choosing the best databases for a specific assignment.”

Especially since the wake of the pandemic, technology has been put to good use and the “Text a Librarian” feature, in addition to the “Ask a Librarian” 24/7 chat feature provides a unique point of connectivity for students and librarians alike that is reflective of the current culture’s reliance on technology and the convenience to communicate with a simple text from your phone.

“Our goal is to help students be successful, and that results in continuing to find ways for students to get the resources and support they deserve.” confirms Latorraca.