Currency, Convenience and Access: RSS Technology Applied to Subscription Database Content

John Law (ProQuest Information & Learning) and Karen Schneider (LII) spoke about the wonderful world of RSS to a full room on the last day of the conference. Karen Schneider did a fabulous job of filling in for Jenny Levine, the original second speaker.

Karen Schneider
Really Simple Syndication lets you create content in one place (text. audio, video) but display it in many places: RSS aggregators, websites (intranets, public websites). RSS puts you out there to the public—it puts you into search engines (Google, Technorati).

LII’s success with RSS

  • LII’s e-mail newsletter has 15,000 subscribers and takes quite a bit of maintenance (the list, spam filters, etc.)
  • RSS feed has 8,400 subscribers (minimal set-up and maintenance, no spam, no list management, users find it on the web, opportunities for new formats like audio)
  • Access to the site has doubled in the last year, which Karen theorizes has a lot to do with the visibility RSS provides

Other cool things you can do with RSS: UPS & Fed Ex package tracking, weather reports, ego feeds (seeing what others are saying about you), new book lists, updates on circulation status of items, video blogging, podcasting, feeds from subscription databases.

How do you know how many people are subscribing to your RSS feed? There’s no one way. You can look in Bloglines to get an idea of how many people subscribe to your feed and that should give you a general idea.

Cool things that libraries are doing with RSS feeds:

  • Events at the library
  • Newly acquired/ordered items (can also see as a webpage)
  • Newly arrived items (can also see as a webpage)
  • Displaying local news headlines on the library’s website
  • Some library users are using RSS to displaying the books they have checked out from the library
  • The University of Manitoba Health Science Libraries has a page with recommended RSS feeds from their library and from other sources that they believe would be helpful to their users.
  • David Walker has created RSS Creator to create RSS feeds for subscription databases and e-journals that aren’t providing feeds on their own.

RSS4Lib is a blog that discusses innovative ways libraries are using RSS feeds (and of course they have a feed)!

How to display Feeds on your sit e: Rely on someone else for the javascript code (Feed2JS, Feedroll, RSS Digest) or Roll Your Own

Helping Your Patrons’ Information Literacy with RSS

  • Create a public aggregator of feeds for a specific audience
  • Academic libraries could aggregate news for specific departments
  • Public libraries could aggregate community news
  • School libraries could aggregate news for class projects

John Law
ProQuest is offering RSS feeds for its subscription databases. Law stressed that access to content (which is critical to realizing its value). Users expect content in context.

ProQuest has a link on their homepage to their RSS feeds. Very specific subject areas have RSS feeds with the new articles in that area.

Libraries can display the newest article headlines (with links into the database) for targeted subject areas on their webpages (e.g. marketing and communications, advertising, etc.).

ProQuest is also planning on offering roll-your-own feeds, allowing users to create customized feeds. The user runs a search, then clicks on a “Create RSS Feed” link. The resulting feed will contain any new articles meeting the criteria of that search.

During the Q&A period, John Law also discussed authentication issues. The pre-defined feeds are delivered to anyone and require no authentication. Because the feeds contain the citations only (with a link into the database), they’re only authenticated at the point of linking into the database. The customized feeds are only creatable once you’re inside the database and already authenticated.

2 thoughts on “Currency, Convenience and Access: RSS Technology Applied to Subscription Database Content

  1. To get an idea of usage, we also track the hits to the actual file used for the feed (ntw.rss). Over time, like the Bloglines subscriptions, this has been a useful indicator.

  2. It’s easy to lose track of the fact that an RSS feed is really just a web page, served up by a regular old web server. So whatever tools you use for general web usage information can be brought to bear on your RSS feeds–e.g. “foo.xml has been downloaded by a bazillion unique IP addresses…” But non-browser RSS readers will probably not handle cookies, so cookie based unique user counts won’t be reliable (well, they never really are, but that’s a different topic).

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