Two Tools for Virtual Reference: Pinger and Screenleap

You are a law student who is at home, furiously working on a research project. You run into a snag, and want to get the Reference Librarian’s advice about where to find a certain type of resource. If you want to, you are welcome to make the trip to the library building to get the Reference Librarian’s help. But you can also get help remotely. You can, of course, call the Library.

pinger2But say you are one of those people who prefers to text, rather than call.  The Reference Librarian can now use a cloud-based service called Pinger to accept your text messages on the reference computer. Pinger is free and easy to use.  The Librarian needs to set up an account, which will then have a unique local Pinger phone number attached to it. The Reference Librarian then logs into the account and waits for text messages to appear.  The Librarian can register for an account at Pinger Textfree Web, http://www.pinger.com/tfw.

When you are ready to ask your question, you simply send a text message to the Library’s Pinger number.  You and the Librarian will be able to proceed with a text message conversation, only the Librarian will be using a computer
rather than a phone.  One disadvantage to Pinger is that it will not inform you if the Librarian is not logged into the
service at the time.  You simply don’t receive an answer.  Thus, if a few minutes have elapsed and you don’t get an answer, it’s best to call the Library, rather than wait.

Let’s say you have discussed your research question with the Reference Librarian, and the Librarian has suggestions about where to search online for the answers.  The Librarian wants to spend a few minutes showing you where to go on the computer.

ScreenleapEven though you aren’t in the building, the Reference Librarian can quickly show you what to do using a screen sharing tool called Screenleap.  If you have a web browser, you can use Screenleap.  In order to share a screen, as the Librarian would do in this situation, the web browser must be enabled with Java.  However, you can simply view a screen on any device with a web browser, including your tablet or phone.

To start a screen sharing session, the Reference Librarian would simply go to http://www.screenleap.com and press the button that says Share your screen now!  A distinct URL will be created that the Librarian will then share with you.  When you go to that URL, you will be able to see everything the reference librarian wants to show you.  Either participant can end the screen sharing session at any time.  Basic Screenleap, which allows sharing for up to two hours per day, is free.

Remember, the library is more than just a place and a collection of books!  You don’t have to physically be in the library to use the library, and your librarians are happy to help you with your information needs no matter where you are!