Hennepin County has RSS!

Glenn Peterson, Web Administrator at Hennepin County Library, just sent an announcement to web4lib about their RSS feeds.

Take a look – Hennepin has done a great job of not only creating useful subject guides for content (26 of them right now), but they have also designed them well. The visual look (much like the rest of their site) is very attractive and usable, and I love the images of actual librarians (photos of staff who take care of each subject guide page – it’s a nice human touch).

Keep it up!

Content Aggregation

Greg at Open Stacks posted a great post about content and podcasting, prompted in part by Michael’s post.

I was chatting with Michael today about a similar topic… and when I read Greg’s post, I thought I’d share some thoughts. Greg supplies some good pointers – here’s the two I want to focus on:

1. If you provide regularly-updated textual content, provide an RSS feed.
2. If you provide regularly-updated media content, audio/video/whatever, provide a podcast feed.

All this – RSS for text, podcasting and video podcasting for media, Tivo for television is Content Aggregation. Greg argues that the term “podcast” isn’t maybe the best term, and I’d agree with that. And probably “aggregation” isn’t the best term, either. But it IS one term that describes what’s going on – someone writes text, records audio or video, and makes that available for other people. Then, anyone can “subscribe” to the feed and get new content (video, audio, text, etc… whatever etc would actually be). And then the content can be absorbed, scanned, studied, ripped apart, or deleted when it’s convenient for the (uh-oh) “End User.” So all you’re really doing, then, is “subscribing” to “content.”

It’s up to us librarians to figure out what our content is, and how to provide our customers the ability to aggregate that content.

University of Alberta’s RSS Feeds

Geoff Harder posted about the Univeristy of Alberta’s RSS feeds, which connect to various new book lists from their library catalog. That’s wonderful, I thought… and then I looked closer, and realized they’re a SIRSI site (we’re also a SIRSI site).

Now I’m excited. Excited enough to pester Geoff to post an explanation of how they accomplished making those feeds! Apparently, the U. of A. people were pestered by more than just me, so Kenton Good has posted an explanation of how they’re creating the feeds (thanks!). Lots of food for thought!

What the heck is RSS?

Aaron over at Walking Paper just posted something that I was thinking about last night. He’s quoting someone else’s post about if customers know what blogs and RSS is/are.

For my part, when I read Jenny’s post about SIRSI, I emailed it to our automation librarian. He hollered over to me “David, what the heck is RSS?” Here’s what I said in explanation – “It’s a way to subscribe to a webpage, so you get the updates pretty much when they are posted.” He got it. But not until I removed the jargon (rss) from the explanation.

I think RSS, blogging, and aggregators are easy enough to understand… but the naming of these things is a huge hinderance. RSS, Aggregator, Really Simple Syndication, XML, etc – all this is jargon. Does it mean anything to the normal joe? I doubt it.

RSS jargon needs to be re-worked to make more sense to our average library customer, at the least – especially since it’s going to be a feature in most of our products within a couple of years (assuming RSS continues to take off).

So what should we call it? Here are some ideas:

myweb, my library, content grabber, InfoFinder… anyone else got some? And of course, public training classes will go a long way, too!


Just saw the SIRSI RSS thing that Jenny Levine posted. Very cool on first glance! I hope it ends up to be what SIRSI is claiming it will be. If so, that’ll be one awesome product.

But for me, there are some questions I’ll need to answer to become completely satisfied with the product. Mainly, because the way I’m reading SIRSI’s PDF, to use the RSS feed part, you have to purchase SIRSI Rooms (a separate product from the Unicorn ILS system my library has).

So the first question is this: will you be able to use the RSS feeds mentioned without purchasing the separate SIRSI Rooms product?

Also, it sounds like the newest version of SIRSI Rooms is really trying to become a Content Management System (CMS), which is cool… unless your library system already has one in place. Then it’s not so cool – who wants to operate two CMS’s? That sorta defeats the purpose of content management, doesn’t it?

So my second question is this: how well wil it integrate with my present website? Can I hook up parts and pieces of the SIRSI product with my website as needed?

Or maybe I’m off my rocker, and still trying to do it the hard way (build it yourself, rather than piggybacking off someone else’s hard work)? Not sure.

Of course, first things first. I want to see some more info, and I want a DEMO!