Tuesday, August 21, 2012

RSS Use In Public Libraries

I used to think that RSS was the poor sister in the range of social media tools that were available, but after seeing is ease of use and its benefits, I am changing my tune. RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication others refer to it as Rich Site Summary (Wusteman, 2004 p. 404). It is an application used on sites that are regularly updated. Users subscribe to a feed using a newsreader which then checks that site on a regular interval and notifies users of changes to those sites of pages(Wusteman, 2004 p.404). It is a fantastic time saver. Instead of visiting these sites regularly to note updates, new blog posts, or the lastest news all you need to do is regularly access your newsreader and it pulls on the new information from your feeds into a central place (Mu, 2008 p.10).

I have been investigating how Australian public libraries are using RSS, and I selected two examples  Eastern Regional Libraries and Yarra Plenty Regional Library to explore how they are using RSS.

Many libraries now have their own blogs either on their library websites or on a blog hosting site with links to them. Many of these have a RRS feed that notifies subscribers of a new post and pushes it out to them. YPRL has a quite a few blogs but not all of them offer a RSS feed.  ERL has 4 blogs,  all that can use RSS technology.

Some libraries use RSS to alert subscribers to changes in library locations and opening times. ERL's Find a library page has a google map of all the branches of the libraries, has the phone number of each library and the opening hours. RSS allows subscribers to be alerted to any changes on this page which means that patrons would be quickly notified of any change in opening hours that may occur, especially relevant for public holidays  or emergency closings.

Usually the RSS feed symbol is found on the address bar in your browser, ERL has placed symbols direction on their pages which makes it much more prominent – especially to people who are not so familiar with RSS. Many individual pages on the ERL website have RSS feeds. ERL has possible gone overboard with its use of RSS. RSS is particularly use for pages that regularly contain new information. ERL has RSS on pages such as on online resources and newspaper holdings  which are quite static pages. However, for those users that particularly use online resources at the library being notified of a new resource can be invaluable.  Interestingly, there is both a ERL newsletter and a YPRL newsletter  but at the time of this blog entry they can only be subscribed to via email and not RSS.

Getting feedback from patrons is an important aspect the social media technologies offer. Eastern Regional Libraries has a feedback page that is part of the I love Libraries campaign in Victoria. Visitors to the website and library users are invited to share their memories and experiences of the library. These are posted to a page entitled 'Why I love my library” It has an RSS option. As subscribers are notified when changes are made to the page they will be able to read of new memories other have of the library and builds a feeling of connectedness to the library and those who use it especially if people have similar experiences.

A great way of keeping patrons informed about new acquisitions to the library is to create a RSS feed linked to the catalogue. This way subscribers are the first to find out the new books and can reserve them. Although ERL and YPRL don't  Central West Libraries  has RSS feeds of the new titles added to the catalogue.  Users can subscribe to new titles, series issues and rating and reviews of books.

Another option for using RSS that none of these libraries are using (yet) is linking an RSS feed to a users library card. This then alerts the user to any changed on their card, overdues, fines, and reserves ready to pick up. An example of this is the University of Sydney's Myloans 

Wusteman, J. (2004). RSS: the latest feed. Library Hi Tech, 22(4), 404-413.
DOI 10.1108/07378830410570511

Mu , Cuiying (2008). Using RSS feeds and social bookmarking tools to keep current . Library Hi Tech News 25(9) 2008, 10-11. DOI 10.1108/07419050810946196


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