LibraryH3lp: A New Flexible Chat Reference System

Pam Sessoms and Eric Sessoms

LibraryH3lp is an integrated IM and web chat system designed specifically for Virtual Reference services in libraries. The software was designed for, and is currently used by, a night-time chat reference collaboraton between several large academic libraries. LibraryH3lp is designed for the workflow of chat reference, supporting multiple simultaneous operators and routing to queues of operators in a particular service area. It also supports web page embeddable chat ‘widgets’, as well as simultaneous gateways to multiple IM protocols. This article discusses the motivation for the development of the software, and provides an overview of LibraryH3lp’s features and technical architecture. Parts of LibraryH3lp are available as open source. The complete application is available as a low-cost hosted service, and will eventually be available to be licensed for local hosting.