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RSS & Libraries: Ahab's great white whale
If the library blogosphere was your only source of current events within libraries, you would think that RSS was new MARC record and that podcasting will alleviate the need for circ rules.

This is ridiculous, of course, but that's not to say that there isn't merit to RSS (podcasting seems silly to me). RSS (in the right context) is perfect for libraries. Elsevier has just begun RSS feeds for current awareness searches (this has some problems, as well, but they are not insurmountable). RSS feeds for new acquisitions has potential, as well (although for larger libraries this needs to be filtered a bit... Emory, for example, gets 600 new items a week... put that in your Live Bookmarks, mofo). I know there are libraries that make RSS feeds of their news and announcements. This seems a little self-indulgent (how many people really subscribe to these?), but if they aren't much extra work, why not? I have no stone to throw here, really, I have come up with "Wag the 'Blog", after all.

RSS's real potential lies in computer-to-computer communication, though. All this talk of setting up feeds for our users is mostly noise to the primary goal which should be getting our services and collections visible in other sites and interfaces like A9's OpenSearch. What we need right now is marketing and mindshare. Feeds of new items that have gone into the anthropology subject guide are nice and all, but it'd help a lot more if that feed appeared contextually off of a Google search or something.

Lorcan Dempsey makes note of the University of Michigan exporting their reserves lists via RSS to Sakai, their portal/courseware application. This is the perfect application of RSS and, I note, something I put into Reserves Direct almost 2 years ago. Granted, I didn't think this was anything revolutionary or even noteworthy at the time, I just needed a way to get the reserves lists into Blackboard and this was a technology my feeble brain could wrap itself around. Actually, the RSS feed was never even advertised. Blackboard 5 has no native RSS capability (neither does Bb 6, for that matter... at least not in the course interface), I used a Perl CGI (now ported to PHP) to write the RSS feed as JavaScript in the page. This was a hack-y solution, but it worked, and that was what was necessary.

I guess what I'm drawn to here is the fact that the electronic reserves software that my employer has chosen to use doesn't support RSS. In fact, there is no alternative to its own interface. At Emory, I was present at a demo for said program and I left thinking, "huh... we can do that...". Two and a half to three years later, the commercial product still boasts the same feature set (which was indeed impressive -- three years ago) but has not evolved a bit. In the same time (and primarily because Jason White took over the main programming duties when I left) Reserves Direct has become an extremely powerful and extraordinarily flexible tool for getting the collection and services to where the user would want it. Namely, contextually among their other course items.

How could our vendors be so out of touch to something so simple and obvious?

6 Comments:

At 10:00 PM, November 02, 2005, Blogger bloggerpost said...

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At 12:10 PM, November 07, 2005, Blogger bloggerpost said...

Stop wasting your time posting here, use RSS to Blog to automatically create your own blog network.

 
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