Getting Started With Instant Messaging

What is Instant Messaging?
Instant message, or IM, programs let you exchange messages (text, audio, or video) with another person over the Internet in real time.

What are the advantages of IM?
In a word, multi-tasking. You can chat with several people at once, you can browse the Internet, and do other work on your computer at the same time. Text messaging also lets you to "talk" quietly and privately, useful if you're in a public place.

Do I need special software or equipment?
PC users need Internet access, a web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, etc.) and either an AOL account or AIM screen name. You can use your browser, or install additional software to send and receive instant messages.

Mac users need Internet access, a web browser (Safari, Firefox, etc.), and either a .Mac ID, an AOL account or AIM screen name. You can use your browser, or install software from your screen name provider to send and receive instant messages. (There is no web-based service for .Mac users; you will need a free account with one of the other compatible networks to use a web-based service.)

You might already have an IM account and user name
If you have an AOL email address, your AOL screen name (the first part of your email address) is your AIM user name. Sign into AIM Express

If you have a .Mac (mac.com) email address, your email address is your iChat user name. (There is no web-based service for .Mac users; you will need a free account with one of the other compatible networks to use a web-based service.)

I don't have a screen name. Which Instant Message service should I use?
Menasha Public Library does not endorse any particular IM service. But since you can only exchange instant messages with others on the same network, you might want to choose the one that your friends, family or co-workers use.

How do I get a free account?
The whole process takes about five minutes. You will need to access the service provider's website, choose a name, then verify your new account by email. You can also choose to download and install the provider's free IM software on your computer. Once you have verified your new account, you will be able to send and receive instant messages by following the simple instructions for the service of your choice. (If you have signed in but can't send us a message, try adding Menasha Public Library's screen name to your Buddy List (AIM); follow the instructions for the service of your choice to complete this step.)

Get an AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) Screen Name

Menasha Public Library's screen names
Circulation Desk - MPLCirc
Reference Desk - mplrefdesk
Children's Desk - menashakids

I Have a Screen Name. How Do I Send Messages?
Use the links and instructions below to send an instant message using the web-based service for your network.

How to Send an IM
Open the AIM Express link. Click the blue "Start" button, enter your AOL screen name and password in the new window, then click "Sign On." Click the green "IM" button at the bottom of the buddy list window to create a new message, and enter MPLCirc (not case sensitive) in the "To:" box. Enter your question in the message window and click the green "Send" button.

Where Can I Get IM Software?
You can download free instant message software from the three compatible networks using the links below. Although installing special software is not necessary to send and receive instant messages, the software sometimes offers more features than web-based services.

Download AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)

Web-Based Instant Message Services
You can send and receive instant messages using your AIM, MSN or Yahoo! account on any computer with Internet access without installing software using these web-based services:

AIM Express

Will someone answer right away, or will I have to wait?
Customers visiting the library in person will have priority. However, we will answer your question as soon as we are able, on a first-come, first-served basis. If our ability to answer your IM is delayed, please feel free to give us a call at (920) 967-5166, ext. 720, or E-mail us. Plus, you're always welcome to stop in and visit our Help Desk!

What kind of questions can I ask the library via IM and Chat?
Appropriate questions should be factual or short research questions that can be quickly answered. Examples include:

  • When are my materials due?
  • Can you renew my materials for me?
  • Do you have this book/DVD/Audio Book/etc.?
  • Can you hold an item for me?
  • Can you send material to my local branch?
  • When did Wisconsin become a state?
  • Who is the current mayor of Dacula?


We're open:

Mon-Thurs 8:30am - 8:30pm
Friday 8:30am - 6:00pm
Saturday 8:80am - 4:30pm
Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm