I had an e-mail reference question from a lady in CA the other day. We really needed to talk in person for me to be able to get a sense of what she really wanted. It turned out we were going to have to communicate during a time when I was not going to be at the archives (Tennessee Conference Archives) and would not have access to long distance phone service. I was going to have access to broadband Internet, so I asked if she Skypes. She did indeed, So I plugged in my mic and video cam (these came standard on my wife’s computer but mine is older) and I conducted my first video reference session with someone across the country. There were glitches, of course, but it was a neat experience. Particularly for someone old enough to still use “neat” as an adjective. My intention is to add Skype, including camera and mic, to the repository computer if it will handle it. This may provide better access for our users.
For those unfamiliar with Skype, it is a voice over Internet protocol software (free) that allows one to communicate from one computer to another over the Internet or even to make phone calls. “Calls” from one computer to another are free. There is a charge for calling a phone number, though so far it seems to be cheaper than long distance services. The neat thing from my point of view is that it also supports video images. My camera is cheap (money and quality), as is my mic. Their combined cost was about $50, but they do serve. I was able to discuss the reference question face-to-face without the cost of the airfare.