Currency, Convenience and Access

The poster sessions were right outside the door, so a fair amount of noise bleed-in and door open-and-shutting was occurring behind us. Jenny Levine couldn’t make it, so standing in for her was Karen Schneider of Librarians’ Internet Index. She joined with John Law of ProQuest to give this talk. Check the LITA site after the conference for copies of the presentation, as it doesn’t match what was in the conference binder!

Karen Schneider of LII

A brief explanation of RSS (the operative word being syndication) and why to use it:

  • create content — text, audio, video — in one place
  • display it in many places — websites, podcasts, RSS readers, your own site, syndicated onto other sites

RSS Puts You Out There
"Ambient findability": "Related feeds" feature in Bloglines. The constant updating of the RSS reader that the audience is using means they’re constantly reminded of you and brought onto your site or even into your library catalog.

LII launched its RSS feed in spring 2004 and now has over 8,400 subscribers in fall 2005. In that time, accesses to the site have also doubled, largely driven by the RSS feed. From the user’s point of view, installing an RSS aggregator or using a service like Bloglines

  • Saves time — don’t have to check multiple websites to find updates
  • Gets to the point — only presents content that’s actually updated
  • Lets me compare — find out which sources actually provide updates

John Law of ProQuest

An RSS feed of subscription database content can provide our audience with content in context. Usability studies at Rochester showed this context is important to students.

Examples: Integrating an RSS feed of new articles in a library web page; integrating an RSS feed of new articles in a course web page.

ProQuest is just starting to make available Custom RSS Feed (roll-your-own feed on a specific topic/keyword). Currently they offer a small number of preconfigured feeds that can be added to websites by their subscribing institutions. Well, that’d be fun. At our public library we subscribe to ProQuest Newsstand — newspaper articles fulltext — which would be a perfect candidate for allowing people to view daily updates!

In Q&A after the session, though, I think the authentication issue is still being resolved, so I don’t know how useful this would be for our library. Darn.

Back to Karen

What have libraries done with RSS so far? A few of the examples shown:

  • Hennepin County — teen events updates
  • Kansas City — news & events
  • Kenton County Public Library — a long list including new-books lists
  • Manitoba — recommended feeds list in a topic
  • Ann Arbor District Library and Ed Vielmetti — his home page contains a list of what he’s reading and what he has on reserve at Ann Arbor (Karen remarks: "After all we do to protect patron privacy! But I like that option"
  • Yorba Linda — seniors page incorporating an LII feed of new entries on Seniors topics

The first ones are examples of feeds you might provide; the last are examples of ways you and your patrons can incorporate feeds from other sources into your web pages. See also the RSS Creator presentation given as part of the Breaking Out of the Box session at this conference — RSS Creator makes a feed from a database search of new additions to a subscription database.

RSS4Lib strongly recommended.

Go where your users are! As Anne Lipow said, "It is not the users who are ‘remote’."

Some Q & A and commentary

What about the server load on our website when Bloglines picks up an update and now thousands of people hit our site? There is a don’t-recheck-until header that our RSS feed can send out, but not all the major aggregators respect that.

Vendors should include doing the work of RSS Creator so we don’t have to — provide a feed that works with our OpenURL link resolver.

We use del.icio.us to subject-index our feeds.

IE 7 has a built-in RSS reader, so odds are, this time next year we will have a lot more users of RSS since they’ll no longer have to install a separate aggregator. Aiieeeeeee!

How about adding a link to our RSS feed of new articles from a specific journal into our catalog record for that article? I like that! Just add another 856 field. "Subfield r." "No, subfield f!" Hmm, I sense an incipient controversy here. Has anyone brought this to MARBI’s attention yet?