Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Week 1 assignment - Blogging & RSS

Caveat: I am a recent graduate and not yet employed at a health sciences library, but am basing my answers on my Fall 2007 internship experience.

How do you think you could use RSS feeds at your library?
I think libraries need to introduce and help their patrons understand what RSS is first in much the same way this MLA class is for us! Although Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and related Web 2.0 technologies are new and subject to frequent changes, that is no reason for us as information professionals to assume our patrons (medical professionals extremely pressed for time) can 'just Google it' to figure them out.

The University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries How-To section includes Email Alerts with an option at the bottom a Comparison of Services chart of 'Save to RSS,' but does not explain what RSS is or how to save search strategies in it in the same way their helpful MyNCBI tutorial does. RSS is not the same technology as email and it is likely that a patron who does not already know what RSS is and is searching for information about it at the library would not click on an Email Alerts tab.

How do you think patrons could use RSS feeds?
I see RSS feeds as opportunities for patrons and medical librarians to collaborate on generating very specific search strategies tailored to research and/or practice needs, journal table of contents (TOC) subscriptions, etc. Information needs are never static in our field, and as science progresses the need to replace and adjust strategies based on new terminology, authors, specialties, MeSH terms and other factors in order to stay updated is constant.

As we've seen in our class help, however, we need to be careful to assess both what our institution allows access to and how our patrons plan on using this technology. If we work at a major hospital that blocks YouTube and a doctor indicates they will only check RSS feeds onsite and not from home or elsewhere, an RSS feed to a site broadcasting surgery technique videos would lead to frustration instead of information.