Friday, July 14, 2006

Pondering Current Awareness and RSS

About a month ago, Professor Michael Stephens, of the blog Tame the Web, posted an e-mail correspondence he had with David Rothman on "Selling RSS to Medical Librarians." Mr. Rothman discusses in a clear way how he has been selling RSS to his medical faculty. The subject may be specialized, but the ideas are applicable to any academic library. To me, this offers a very intriguing idea. The librarian is taking a very active role. He asked the physician exactly what he wanted for his current awareness needs. The librarian then created an account on a feed aggregator for the professor with feed subscriptions to the sources the professor wants. The beauty of this is that it requires minimal work on the part of the physician (replace physician with any faculty member in any other setting). We know faculty love things that take minimal work, and I am not saying they are lazy, just that they like things easy so they can devote more time to their research. The process as outlined by Mr. Rothman let's the librarian create a "package" for the professor and just pass it on to him when it is ready. It makes a nice example of personalized service. The idea behind this is to provide a more effective alternative to the TOC services that many libraries have. Mr. Rothman chose Google's Reader for his needs, but I am sure this may work with other aggregators like Bloglines.

In my setting, we do not provide TOC services to our faculty. For a moment, I am curious how they keep up their awareness. Ok, not that. What I am really curious about is if they expect such a service, but they have not mentioned it. The level of knowledge when it comes to rss is variable between faculty who know what it is and likely use them already and those who have no idea. Part of what got me thinking when I saw the post is that, a while back, I was having a conversation with a faculty member, and I casually mentioned that I kept a blog, and that I used a reader to keep up with a lot of things in my field. He was intrigued, but it was the end of the semester, things got hectic, and we did not get to talk again. But I have thought about that conversation, and I wondered how many professors might be able to make use of their own customized rss for their fields of endeavor. I know there is an opportunity there, but given how things are a bit tight for me now in terms of time, I have to let it wait. Probably a project for the fall term? We'll see.

Additionally, I would like to play with rss a bit further. Right now, I have a good share of journals that I have on e-mail TOC alerts. I use a feed reader, but I usually use them for blogs (Bloglines) or for some news sources, mostly alternative and some Spanish (Newsgator). I have not really used a reader to set up a very customized feed, and I would love to play with the idea a bit more too. But, if we could tell professors, "we will help you set this up to get the information you want with ease," I think it could go some ways into building some good will as well as just serving our faculty.

Update note (7/24/2006): Another resource in this regard is Professor Bhatt's presentation given to the HigherEdBlogCon on April 12, 2006. The presentation on rss to increase user awareness has some ideas that may be useful for our setting. The poster presentation he displays has a nice set of content. The information on it is the type of stuff we could be presenting to our faculty. There are other ideas on the presentation as well. This presentation adds a bit more to my understanding, and it gives me an idea or two for making a presentation for our faculty at some point on this topic.

1 comment:

David Rothman said...

Hi Angel!

I've actually continued to write a good bit more on library RSS services at my own blog, I'd love to hear any further thoughts you have, or to hear about any challenges or successes you encounter in contemplating addtional RSS-based services to your users.