RUSA MARS Product and Services Committee RSS Feeds Discussion Forum

RUSA MARS Product and Services Committee RSS Feeds Discussion Forum

Sunday, January 22, 2006, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Marriott Plaza San Antonio, Hidalgo Ballroom A

Forum Speakers and Presentations


The Products and Services Committee held a discussion forum at ALA Midwinter in San Antonio on the reference applications of RSS technology, originally called Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication feeds.  Three speakers were invited to begin the discussion forum.  Chad Fennel, from the University of Minnesota Libraries, provided an overview of RSS technology.  Antonio Barrera, Web Development Manager at Princeton University Library, shared an in-house application used to generate lists of recently cataloged materials.  Steven Bell, Director of the Paul J. Gutman Library, shared his innovations in using RSS to push content from a library blog to courseware management software at Philadelphia University.

After hearing the speakers, the 35 participants broke into small groups at tables to discuss their impressions or applications of RSS.  The following points emerged from the breakout sessions:

  • RSS brings content from many places to one place—it is a powerful tool for communication and is good for disseminating time-sensitive information.
  • Librarians can take a lead in creating Web sites that explain RSS to their users and direct them to important links.  Opportunities exist for library staff to educate their users about using RSS with content providers that distribute text, sound, or visual files.
  • Staff members do not need to be programmers to utilize this technology.  There is a large development community that creates free tools. 
  • RSS files are XML scripts that are easily integrated with blogs, such as internal files alerting library staff about course assignments, new resources, upcoming library events, technical service matters (such as access problems), and circulation issues.
  • A major RSS application among libraries is new acquisition lists-- i.e. new books and other new items in the catalog.  RSS is currently used to share library news and events and alerts regarding resources, Web sites, or networked licensed resources.
  • RSS presents an opportunity to collaborate with faculty utilizing courseware or course Web sites to inform the campus community about library news, events, and resources.  Incorporating RSS feeds into courseware such as Blackboard and WebCT requires buy-in from faculty.
  • RSS feeds might be used with federated search results, but limits set by licensed subscriptions are currently an obstacle that is not yet resolved.
  • Librarians should bring information to users where they are.  Don’t expect them to come to a library Web site and sign up for a feed about library news.
  • Database vendors are starting to build RSS feeds into their products.  Users are already calling libraries to inquire about access to full-text content from commercial publishers that distribute partial content via RSS (for example the Wall Street Journal).  How do we get library subscription content to work with feeds from publisher Web sites?