Kate Wenger and I were part of the SpeedUPdating circuit at the OPAL Conference. This was the second year to do SpeedUPdating and I think it's a great way to expose library staff to a number of new ideas in a short amount of time.
Our 12 minute presentation (done 5 times in a row) was about the use of instant messaging at the reference desk. We started with the basics of IM, talked about why to use it (your students live on IM already), how we implemented it at Muskingum, some ideas for marketing the service (pens to all incoming Freshman which received kudos from Steve Cohen on Library Stuff) and challenges to implementation in an academic library.
The topic is not a new one. It has been talked about at a number of library conferences I have attended over the past couple of years. However, there doesn't seem to be a large number of academic libraries using IM.
I have had librarians from two liberal arts colleges of similar size to Muskingum (outside of Ohio) contact me this summer to ask about our experiences with IM. I'm hopeful that more smaller colleges will give it a try.
We view IM as an additional communication channel to reach our students using a tool that they are already using a majority of the time. We were not overwhelmed by questions during our trial semester. I don't think we'll be overwhelmed this Fall. Only time will tell how much this services is used. I'll try to report on our progress going forward.