Earlier this semester, we added a chat widget to the desktops of our student computers in the library. Our computers are using Windows' Active Desktop, which essentially just means that the wallpaper is an HTML file instead of an image.
We've been using the MeeboMe chat widget on some of our web pages. Essentially, all you have to do to put it on the desktop is edit the HTML file you're using as your desktop background and add the widget code to it -- just like a web page -- and it runs the widget on your desktop instead of in a browser.
I ran across the idea on another library blog (I wish I had saved it; I'd like to give credit!), and e-mailed the idea to our IM coordinator and learning commons manager. Within five minutes, they had IMed me and asked
me to log out and in again. When I did, the widget was working. It started immediately propagating throughout the library as students logged into computers.
Man, talk about free publicity. We immediately saw a huge jump in our IM reference traffic, to the point that we had to warn the rest of the desk staff to expect it when they came on duty. (For the first week or two, a lot of the questions coming in were "What is this?", "Does this work?" and "Is someone there?".) Our IM reference stats are three to four times what they were a year ago, but that also includes expanded service hours so it's not exactly scientific. My gut feeling is that we could account for at least doubled traffic from adding the widget, though.