05 August 2012

RSS feeds and academic libraries

       One example of a good use of an RSS feed is on the Swinburne University of Technology Library home page. A feed from the Library Blog, at http://blogs.swinburne.edu.au/library/feed/entries/rss  features posts with timely news about the Library’s relation to institutional and cultural events, highlights from Swinburne’s history and information about opening hours and training sessions.

       Another example of a dynamic and relevant RSS feed is that of the University of Technology, Sydney’s Library at http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/events/feed featuring events, orientation and training sessions and news about collections, as well as interest groups.

RSS feeds can enhance a library’s ability to meet the information needs of its users by:

  • ·         Providing a notification of when events will be held
  • ·         Generating interest about the value of the library to the community
  • ·         Challenging beliefs about what a library does or should provide
  • ·         Creating a ‘way in’ to the library through online networking which brings users to the library web site who may not otherwise have visited.
  • ·         Promoting manageable ‘bytes’ of information about the library which can be easily shared, e.g. by adding a twitter option
One study (Cassidy et al, 2011, p. 385) pointed out that at the university surveyed; only around 16% of students actually subscribed to any RSS feeds, while 62% reported no interest in them whatsoever.  In the above study, it was noted that the areas of interest which students felt could be effectively communicated via RSS feeds were ‘updates about new library books and resources’, and also ‘library news and events’ (Cassidy et al, 2011, p. 385).  RSS feeds are perhaps these days lost in the background amid other web 2.0 activities for students.  But the Cassidy study indicates that students who were interested in subscribing to their academic library’s feed were clear about what news would be appropriate for them via this method. 

In Tripathi & Kumar’s (2010) study of web 2.0 tool use in academic libraries in Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.A, it was shown that most libraries used RSS feeds for general and university news, for schedules of ‘workshops and exhibitions’  and also for updates on new books, and also e-journals (Tripathi & Kumar, 2010, p. 200).  Many libraries (just under 20% per cent, found that including instructions on how to use RSS proved useful also, while others had classified their feed to make them searchable(p. 200).  (This study, in addition, features a useful list of check points to aid in the understanding of web 2.0 implementation in academic libraries (p. 199, 205-206)). 

Cassidy, E.D., Britsch, J., Griffin, G., Manolovitz, T., Shen, L., & Turney, L. (2011). Higher education and emerging technologies: student usage, preferences, and lessons for library services. Reference & user services quarterly, 50(4), 380-391. Retrieved from http://rusa.metapress.com/home/main.mpx
Tripathi, M. & Kumar, S. (2010). Use of Web 2.0 tools in academic libraries: a reconnaissance of the international landscape.  International Information and Library Review, 42(3), 195-207. doi: 10.1016/j.iilr.2010.07.005