Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bringing RSS to faculty (without their knowledge)

The ability to get RSS feeds from journals is a fantastic service of Ebsco and a handful of other places. The vast majority of our faculty have not adopted RSS, so I wanted to find a way to put the content in a format that they already use: e-mail. I know there are e-mail alerts that can be set up in most databases, but that requires getting people to set up log-ins, identify journals of interest, and set up those alerts. Work like this is the perfect opportunity for librarians to step in and provide a value-added service.

The Steps

1. I identified a list of journals that might be of interest to our faculty and staff. These included general titles, such as College Teaching, Academe, and Liberal Education, as well as teaching in specific disciplines, such as the Journal of College Science Teaching.

2. I created a login for our library in Ebsco and set up RSS feeds for all of the journals that I wanted to offer through the service.

3. Using our library consortium's access to SurveyMonkey, I created an online "form" for faculty and staff to select journals of interest to them.

4. As requests came through SurveyMonkey, I created one RSS Feed from all of the individual feeds from Ebsco using Yahoo! Pipes. If more than 7 feeds were requested, I truncated each feed so that the resulting feed would not be too large in size for the next step.

5. Using Feedburner, I took the RSS feed from Yahoo! Pipes and set up an e-mail subscription to that feed. Feedburner allows you to personalize the activation message, which allowed me to respond to any additional requests.

It was a lot of work, but the response from the college community was absolutely phenomenal. I did not expect quite so many requests, or for people to select quite so many journals. There have been a few glitches with Feedburner that I'm still trying to straighten out, but other than that, after I set them up, I won't have to do anything until the feeds in Ebsco expire.

We're a small institution, so it was feasible for me to set up these alerts individually. If I were working with a larger population, I would probably create packages of journals for people to subscribe to (categories such as General Higher Education, College Teaching, etc. - each with three or four journals. ) This would cut down on the number of feeds created through Yahoo! Pipes, which was the most time-consuming part of the whole process.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

New books RSS feeds

Many thanks to the Wyoming State Library for posting the URL format for Sirsi catalogs. Using this information, I was able to create RSS feeds via Feed43 for both new books and new movies. Since the feeds are captured from the HTML created by the catalog, I have to create links into the record using a keyword search pulled from the titles, so it isn't perfect, but it works 90% of the time.

Feed43 lets you customize which parts of the HTML you want in the RSS feed, and even gives you the ability to format and move these strings. Since the catalog is pretty "goopy," this functionality was essential. The other "easy-to-use, put-in-a-URL and we'll-create-the-feed" sites just didn't know how to deal with the chaos that is the catalog output.

Now to format the feed to put on the website...

Monday, May 14, 2007

C is for CMS

Content management systems. So many to choose from and everyone seems to have their favorite. (Or the one that they adopted and then fell in love with, making it difficult to find any real comparisons.) Many libraries seem to be using Drupal, but Plone and Joomla are often mentioned as well.

I've decided to start playing with Joomla (and if I say it enough, I may actually remember the name instead of calling it Oompa and getting that song in my head...) Not a completely random choice, as I tried Drupal first, encountered a blip installing it, and, while I was waiting for a reply from my web hosting service, came across this blog post comparing Drupal and Joomla. Joomla seems to have a more user-friendly administration interface.

I have a week between classes: plenty of time to devote to a little project that could end up saving us a lot of time during the busy season. Progress reports to follow.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Making Meebo for ME!

Thanks to Greasemonkey and, I am now a proud owner of the Meebo Message Notification, by T Fast, which will blink the browser window running Meebo to alert you to an incoming message. This makes it more like IM, which is very good at visual alerting.

In preparation from starting chat reference on Meebo, I'm also looking into PhraseExpress, which will put commonly used phrases at your fingertips, like Word autotext, but usable from any program (including websites). It seems to be an icon in the system tray that you can use to select the phrase.

I'd like to use this to put a few chat-handy phrases such as, "I'm still working on your question, can you wait a little longer?" Silence is so loud in the chat world.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Friday, December 15, 2006

Books in, Part 2

Success! Thanks to footnote #2 on Jon Udell's LibraryLookup Bookmarklet Generator page, I was able to create a link into individual book records via ISBN.

Thanks to Librarians' Internet Index, I've selected a few good websites to drop in there too. They are now sitting together in harmony here, on my personal account.

Not bad for a Friday afternoon.

Books in (or, égalité, fraternité, library!)

I am intrigued by the idea of using to organize the library's "suggested websites." This is one of those offerings that I think is a hold-over from the pre-LII and pre-IPL online world. It is getting to be a duplication of effort for individual libraries to be in the process of maintaining their own set of "best reference links."

That being said, there is still a place for us to compile websites that will help students with a particular class or assignment. And to be an equal opportunity promoter, we may as well sling some books at them, too. So, the task at hand is to find out how to get a permanent URL to a book record and tag it in with everything else.

To distinguish the books from the websites, we can use the [book] convention utilized by Google Scholar, which I really like. For that matter, we can use the brackets to classify the website content, too: I could see [statistics] or [news] being viable categories.

This allows two things to happen:
1. We can distinguish the format of information in brackets, which will help reinforce the importance of finding the right size "chunk" of information.
2. It gets students back into the catalog.

Two things to look into:
1. Adding permanent URLs to articles that would send students through the proxy server. I don't know if this falls under's desire to help people find resources open to them (they may see it as, but, it will help the students.
2. Adding permanent URLs to search strings in databases - example searches?
3. Will the URLs into the catalog (we have SIRSI) "expire"?

Time to play this afternoon. Finals week is wonderful project time.