Features - Rich Site Services: Web Feeds for Extended Information and Library Services

By Gerry McKiernan, Published on September 20, 2004


Figure 2. The Georgia State University Library offers a listing of more than a dozen Web feeds for its ‘Library News and Subject Blogs.'

Extended Services

In addition to offering feeds for news and announcements, some libraries also recognize the value of feeds for extending conventional library functions and services. Some libraries, for example, provide feeds for their Internet resource guides, such as that provided by the Minneapolis Public Library for ‘The List,’ its compendium of Web resources. A number of the major subject Web guides, such as EEVL: The Internet Guide to Engineering, Mathematics, and Computing, Humbul Humanities Hub, and PSIgate: Physical Sciences Information Gateway and SOSIG: Your Guide to the Best of the Web for Social Science offer RSS feeds for select updates to their respective contents.

A few libraries provide Web feeds that allow subscribers to receive updates for new acquisitions including books, compact discs, and videos. Libraries that offer such services include the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST, the National University of Ireland (Galway) library, and the University of Louisville Libraries. The State of Hawaii, Legislative Reference Bureau, provides select feeds for agency reports and recent acquisitions, while the library of the Lunar and Planetary Institute offers a feed that includes ‘Recent additions to the collection’ as well as ‘New and Noteworthy’ items. The Wisconsin Historical Society provides feeds for ‘Library-Archives Recent Acquisition' as well ‘Library-Archives Recent Wisconsin Acquisitions.’

E-Journals and Table of Contents Services

Feeds for new acquisitions are not limited to books, other monographs, or media. For example, the Legislative Reference Bureau (Hawaii) also provides a feed for citations for select professional journal articles, in addition to feeds for its institutional publications, while the library of the Royal Holloway, University of London, provides a feed for all recently received journal issues and feeds for individual titles (see Figure 3). OhioLINK, the statewide consortium, provides feeds for all journals available from its Electronic Journal Center.


Figure 3. Display of ‘Recent Serials Issues received for the Royal Holloway, University of London’ in the Pluck Web feed reader.

Libraries have also begun to use Web feeds to promote instructional and reference services. The University of Alberta (Canada) library provides a feed for its ‘Library and Instruction’ program page, while the University of Tennessee (UT) Libraries offer a feed for ‘Alpha Channel,’ a “guide to library multimedia services for the UT teaching & learning community.” In the arena of reference services, the Ohio University (Athens) provides a feed for its ‘Business Blog’ as well as one for its general ‘Reference’ service. The Moraine Valley (Illinois) Community College Library provides a feed for ‘Resources & Search Tips’ that profiles key print, electronic, and Internet resources, and the University of Winnipeg Library & Information Services department offers a feed that provides descriptions of major ‘Reference Sources.’

Potential Possibilities

In addition to current implementations, other library functions and services could also be enhanced through a broader use of Web feeds. For example, the review of newly published and forthcoming titles by selectors and bibliographers could be significantly expedited if publishers and book vendors provided feeds for individual titles and disciplines.[9]

If electronic journal vendors and publishers syndicated their content, users could choose to receive desktop notification for newly-published relevant articles by journal title or discipline. [10]

IngentaConnect, the e-journal collection offered by Ingenta Inc., is a notable example of a vendor service, providing Web feeds for each of its more than 28,700 journals (see Figure 4), while BioMed Central, “The Open Access Publisher,” is an excellent example of a publisher that offers feeds for all of journals (see Figure 5)


Figure 4. RSS feeds are available for all electronic journals in the IngentaConnect service.


Figure 5. BioMed Central, the “Open Access Publisher,” provides Web feeds for each of its electronic journals.

Ideally, such services should also enable subscribers to receive personalized feeds based on a saved search strategy.

The assessment, use, and integration of search results could be significantly improved if database and OPAC vendors offered a Web feed option. Noteworthy examples of the former include HubMed (see Figure 6) and my.PubMed, enhanced versions of the PubMed medical database made available by the National Library of Medicine.



Figure 6. Hubmed, "an alternative interface to the PubMed medical literature database,” offers search results in the RSS format.


[1] Roddy MacLeod, RSS: Less Hype, More Action, 161 FREEPRINT 7-10 (2004). Also available at http://www.freepint.com/issues/170604.pdf?PHPSESSID=18e229b6adc57736563635ce9a931348. <back to text>

[2]  Wikipedia, RSS, WIKIPEDIA (September 11, 2004), available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS. <back to text>

[3]  Mark Pilgrim, What is RSS, XML.COM (December 18, 2002), available at http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/12/18/dive-into-xml.html. <back to text>

[4]  Atom Enable Alliance, What is Atom?, ATOMENABLED.ORG (September 14, 2004), available at http://www.atomenabled.org.
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[5] Patrick Fitzgerald, Using JavaScript for Web Syndication, BARELYFITZ, (2003), available at http://www.barelyfitz.com/projects/jssyndicate/.
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[6 Dave Winer, What is a News Aggregator, DAVENET (October 8, 2002), available at http://davenet.scripting.com/2002/10/08/whatIsANewsAggregator  <back to text>

[7]  National Public Radio, RSS Feeds: Deliver NPR News and Information to Your Desktop, (2004), available at http://www.npr.org/rss/index.html. <back to text>

[8]  Gerry McKiernan, RSS(sm): Rich Site Services (2004), available at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~CYBERSTACKS/RSS.htm. <back to text>

[9]   Gerry McKiernan, B-Feeds(sm): Web Feeds for Books and Monographs (2004), http://www.public.iastate.edu/~CYBERSTACKS/B-Feeds.htm. <back to text>

[10]   Gerry McKiernan, eFeeds(sm): Web Feeds from Electronic Journals, 2004, available at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~CYBERSTACKS/eFeeds.htm <back to text>