Monday, September 17, 2007

Personal news and information searches delivered to you!

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the future, hoping that it would be like it was portrayed on the Jetson’s TV show. Well, we don’t have much robotic help, but we do have Roombas! One of the futuristic ideas that intrigued me was having software that brought personalized news to you every day. That sounded like a wonderful idea to an information addict like me. We are finally starting to see this kind of thing provided through RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

One can easily set up a free online reader, such as Bloglines or Google Reader and subscribe to receive blog posts or free information from websites. One of the benefits of these readers is that you don’t clog up your email with news articles. In addition, these online readers organize the posts so that one can read information from many different sites, allowing you to keep posts from the same blog together and easily save items of interest. Instead of clicking on each website every day to check for new items, these items are directly sent to your reader – you just open your reader and see any new items.

This is great for people who like free online information. However, much of what most non-techie people like to read is not free online – like newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. It can be very costly to pay for these subscriptions. Many people can access these magazines, newspapers, and journals through their library website, because their library pays for the online subscriptions (via databases, such as Gale). Usually people just have to sign in with their library card number through a link on their library’s website. Unfortunately though, many people are unaware that their library provides access to these subscription databases.

Now there is an even greater reason to introduce patrons to these library databases. RSS4Lib had a recent article highlighting the new RSS feature from Gale. This is a wonderful feature for libraries to provide. It is very simple to set up a keyword search or advanced search in the Gale database. For example, a patron could be interested in any new magazine articles about Alzheimer’s, in order to find out about new information or research about the disease. It is very easy to do this search on Gale. Then, the next step is to click on the RSS icon. This will give you a web address (URL) to copy and paste into your RSS reader. Then, as soon as articles on this topic are added to the Gale database, they are sent to the patron’s reader. So the patron does not have to search through thousands of magazines or newspapers each week to find news about their chosen topic – it is automatically sent to them every day. It is not a perfect system – the full text of some articles is not provided because of publishing agreements that delay online access to an article until the print version has been out for a period of time. But at least, even for these articles, you can see the title, magazine name, and date of issue for later use.

I think that library patrons will love being able to create RSS feeds of searches from the Gale database. It is easy, saves time, and is very convenient for patrons. I would like to design a class to teach older adults how to set up an RSS reader, how to add feeds, and how to use the Gale database. It would be a nice addition to other “how-to” computer classes, such as how to set up an email account. I encourage other librarians to investigate the RSS feature in the Gale database and to consider adding a computer class for patrons about this feature.

For an introduction to RSS, here is a video from the Common Craft Show (via Librarian in Black post):

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Angel, librarian and educator said...

On the free stuff online, it may really depend on what the "non-techie" person may want. A lot of newspapers can be read for free online, and they do feature RSS feeds. For reading the daily, it is a great choice. I don't even read print newspapers anymore. Magazines vary a bit more. Salon you get free if you look at the ads. Others you don't. You have to just see what's out there.

Your point about the database access via your local public library is great. I don't think a lot of people, even those with library cards, realize they can do that. That would then let them see those older articles the newspaper has archived. We should definitely be advertising that more.

BTW, I discovered your blog after you added me to your neighbors on Blog Catalog. Thanks for the add. I have added your blog to my feed reader.

Best, and keep on blogging.

Ref_Librarian said...

Thank you for your comment! I plan to mention the available subscription magazines and newspapers in any computer class I teach at the library.

jasonP2P said...

Hi! I'm a librarian and stumbled upon your post. If you are into RSS feeds, then one tool I'd highly recommend is Feedity ( ) that let's you create custom RSS feeds from all those websites and webpages which do not yet have a RSS feed. Its really smart and fast too! Chao :)

carol stanley said...

As a senior defined by age...I am always looking for new things to learn..but able to understand the language in the education. I often get directions and instructions on doing things on line..Unfortunately it takes me forever to figure them out..carol stanley author of For Kids 59.99& Over.