Engineering Resources Blog:
Jay’s blog on the Digital Divide Network
Jay’s Journal on LISNews
Jay’s submissions on LISNews
There are numerous blogs and RSS feeds available from a variety of scientific databases, electronic journals and electronic books still not well-utilized by many academic libraries supporting scientific disciplines. Since one of the important roles of academic libraries is to promote and provide instruction in the use of electronic resources, it is evident that the libraries need to play a pivotal role in developing awareness about the evolving applications of scientific blogs and RSS feeds. Various course offerings such as those in biomedical engineering, chemistry and engineering management can effectively make use of such blogs and RSS feeds to support both face-to-face and distance learning. Their applications may include: current awareness services to keep up with new information, RSS feeds of new journal article citations, RSS feeds of research queries in electronic databases, and news alerts from different subject areas. Other library related uses may include RSS feeds of new book titles based on selected keywords, blog entries for course related information, and announcing library related events. A particular emphasis on the Engineering Resources blog created for the Engineering Departments at Drexel is highlighted to show how it is used by engineering students at Drexel. Faculty collaboration in the creation and use of course related blogs can further enhance their educational partnership with the libraries. RSS feeds can now be integrated into Refworks, a bibliography management tool, to facilitate citation of those feeds in student research papers. It is strongly envisioned that this presentation will further motivate academic libraries supporting scientific disciplines to seriously consider using them if they have not yet done so. Overall, almost all disciplines in academic libraries can benefit, provide additional avenues to reach their faculty and students and in the process help students learn valuable life-long learning skills.
This presentation attempts to answer questions such as:
1. What is a blog? What is RSS? How does it work? What is a feedreader?
2. Why is it important for faculty and students in academic libraries to learn more about it?
3. What are major electronic resources that provide RSS feeds?
4. What are some ways by which RSS feeds can be used in academic libraries?
5. Can academic blogs improve information seeking skills of faculty and students?
If so, how?
6. What are different ways that information consultants/librarians can use to develop user awareness of RSS feeds?
7. Where are we heading?
1. What is RSS? How does it work? What is a feedreader?
Students and faculty need to keep up-to-date with their area of research. Subject specific Blogs and their RSS feeds make it easier than ever to keep up with the latest news, innovations, articles, and groundbreaking research as it is made available. If an electronic journal or a website, offers an RSS feed, it is easy to capture that feed and receive updates from them. Some electronic databases will even create an RSS feed based on user specified search criteria and then notify the user when new relevant articles become available.
Blogs (a combination of the words “web” and “logs”) are an informal but valuable means of communication. Blogs typically include an RSS feed so the blog author can, in effect, push information to interested people. Blog authors could be fellow researchers sharing ideas or librarians alerting readers to new resources or upcoming lectures.
RSS stands for ‘Rich Site Summary’ or ‘Really Simple Syndication’. See Virginia Montecino’s definition of RSS in Introduction to Internet Terminology. A Web site can allow other sites to publish content by creating an RSS document or an RSS feed. A web publisher can post a link to the RSS feed so users can read the distributed content on his/her site. Syndicated content can include news feeds, listings of events, new feeds based on research keywords in an electronic database when available, stories, headlines, etc. The New York Times defines RSS as an ‘XML-based format for content distribution’. Jay Bhatt, Peggy Dominy and Andy Wheeler point out in their poster Keep Up-To-Date Using Subject Specific Blogs, RSS Feeds, and Listservs that Blogs (a combination of the words “web” and “logs”) and RSS feeds are informal but valuable means of communication to keep track of the ever-increasing flow of new information. With the laptop and the internet connection provided, one can access variety of blogs and RSS feeds from different disciplines
Feedreader – Wikipedia defines feedreader, also known as an aggregator, as ‘A news aggregator is a software application or remotely hosted service that collects syndicated content from disparate sources and provides a single consolidated view.’
RSS Compendium is a list with links to a variety of RSS readers categorized by different platforms http://allrss.com/rssreaders.html
A web based free service called Bloglines, can also be used to subscribe to different RSS feeds from variety of blogs when available. Feeds, when available, are indicated by either an RSS or XML icon. Once the URL associated with these icons is copied and pasted into the Bloglines account or in any feedreader, feeds for that site become available. When using Bloglines, downloading of the feedreader is not required and therefore feeds from blogs can be accessed from anywhere, anytime.
According to the Frequently Asked Questions section in Bloglines, Bloglines is a “news aggregator” of many online information sources, such as web sites, weblogs and news services, now broadcast their content to the web in so-called “syndicated feeds” or “news feeds” with new technologies like Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and ATOM. News aggregator software and services collect those syndicated feeds and present them to end users in a variety of ways.
More information on how to set up bloglines is available on several web sites and presentations. Jay Bhatt’s Blogging as a tool: innovative approaches to information access and Randy Reichardt’s Blogging & RSS: Applications and Technology - Examples from an Academic Library - presentation at CLA 2005 provide useful tips on using Bloglines to receive feeds from different blogs.
2. Why is it important for faculty and students to learn more about RSS feeds?
More and more libraries have now begun to provide RSS feeds of new books catalogued as they arrive in the libraries. They also subscribe to a number of electronic databases and electronic journals that provide RSS feeds. In order to keep uptodate with new books or new research, faculty and students will need to get familiar with this technology. This will help them to integrate new knowledge learned from other sources into their coursework or in the research project that they are working on.
3. What are major electronic resources that provide RSS feeds?
From electronic databases:
AccessScience provides online full text access to science reference material from the latest edition of the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology. It also now provides RSS feeds, however the full articles are only available through subscribing libraries.
Community of Science (CoS) News
Faculty members, graduate students and advanced undergraduate students in academic institutions with research focus in various discipline,s such as science, business and engineering, need timely updates on funding opportunities from various agencies such as National Science Foundation (NSF). Community of Science database is a comprehensive resource that provides access to this crucial information. COS Funding News is published each week and includes a sampling of new and updated award information from COS Funding Opportunities. COS Funding Opportunities is the most comprehensive source of funding information available on the Web, with more than 22,000 awards from around the world. COS Funding News is now available as an RSS feed.
Ei Compendex/INSPEC on Engineering Village 2 platform
There are many electronic databases and electronic journals now provide RSS feeds.
Databases such as Ei Compendex and INSPEC provide RSS feeds of the search queries used when searching. Engineering Village2 RSS feed illustrates how it was announced on the Engineering Resource blog for faculty and students at Drexel. In Bloglines, an individual account needs to be created so that the RSS feeds based on the search query can be added. After searching in the Ei Compendex or INSPEC or in both databases, by clicking on the orange RSS icon, the corresponding URL can be copied and pasted into Bloglines or in any feed reader. While using Bloglines, a separate feedreader is not required. Each week when the database is updated any new results matching the search query are delivered to the bloglines account. See Randy Reichardt’s Blogging & RSS: Applications and Technology - Examples from an Academic Library (Example 3: RSS in Db searching) showing how feeds are received in bloglines while using Ei Compendex/INSPEC on Engineering Village2 platform.
Highwire Press Journals
All Highwire Press Journals now provide RSS feeds. It requires free registration and the list of journal titles with RSS feeds is available under the ‘Alerts’ section.
HubMed (PubMed rewired)
RSS Feeds including HubMed (pubmed rewired) announced the availability of RSS feeds of literature searches in PubMed databases using the search tool called HubMed. HubMed is an alternative interface to the PubMed medical literature database. Having RSS feeds of searches conducted on PubMed is crucial for researchers to keep informed about new information on their research areas and does not require them to receive email alerts.
Engineering Resources blog announced the availability of RSS feeds from PubMed as well. See RSS feeds from PubMed.
RSS feeds for new issues of all IEEE journals are now available. Each journal title listed in IEEE Journals and Magazines has an RSS button that provides the feed URL. Each feed will contain the publication’s title and table of contents with a link to IEEE Xplore.
See the Proceedings of the IEEE main page and notice the RSS icon.
Knovel is a database of some of the leading engineering reference handbooks, databases, and conference proceedings. It provides aggregated engineering and applied science data that can be accessed globally utilizing proprietary tabular analysis tools. Knovel K-News provides RSS feeds of new content added in its collection.
Lexis/Nexis Academic Universe
RSS News feeds from Lexis/Nexis provide updates from various categories such as All News, Legal News, Business News, Risk News and General News. Engineering students need to keep up-to-date with new products as they become available in the market and RSS feeds can be very useful for them.
NASA Astrophysics Data System
NASA Astrophysics Data System, a NASA-funded project which maintains three bibliographic databases containing more than 4.6 million records: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and ArXiv e-prints, provide RSS feeds.
OSTI (Office of the Scientific and Technical information of the U.S. Department of Energy)
OSTI provides access to DOE research databases such as Information Bridge, Energy Science and Technology Software and Science.Gov. It also provides tools to explore significant DOE discoveries, learn about DOE Nobel Prize Winners, access and search e-prints, sign up for alerts, find science conference papers and proceedings, and connect with national laboratory education sites. OSTI’s available RSS feeds provide information on how to get news, announcements, and product or service updates.
According to the site Proquest RSS feeds,
“ProQuest is one of the first aggregators to utilize RSS feeds. It is an easy way for customers to create valuable, in-context links to their ProQuest subscription content. This enables customers to enhance services to their users by integrating the latest articles in a particular field into the corresponding e-resources page on their library website.”
These categories are: Marketing, Management, Finance, International Business, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Economics, Leadership & Organizational Behavior
Within each category are search queries with URLs for receiving RSS feeds for that search string.
Once the URL corresponding to a particular search, for example, ‘Accounting’ within the ‘Finance’ category, is added to the feedreader or bloglines account, anytime an article is added to Proquest that matches that particular subject term, a feed with the new article information will be received in the feedreader or the bloglines account.
RSS feeds are available based on Proquest’s predetermined search queries based on certain categories listed in the web site ‘Dissertations &Theses’. Some of the categories are: Education, Engineering, Physics, and Sociology. Once the URL corresponding to a particular search, for example, ‘Electronics & Electrical’ within the ‘Engineering’ category, is added to the feedreader or bloglines account, anytime a dissertation or thesis is added to the Proquest Dissertations & Theses database that matches that particular subject term, a feed with the new dissertation information will be received in the feedreader or the bloglines account.
According to the January 2006 Release Notes, Refworks has incorporated a RSS feedreader to allow linking to desired RSS feeds and import data from those feeds directly into Refworks. The RSS Feeds page can be accessed from the Search area of Refworks. Users can create their own personal database by importing references from online databases. They can use these references in writing their papers and automatically format the paper and the bibliography in styles such as APA, IEEE or MLA. As a web-based product, Refworks is available to users across various platforms including Windows, Mac, Unix, etc. There is an online tutorial available at Refworks Tutorial.
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)
USGS provides reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life. Many academic libraries supporting programs in Geology and Earth Sciences can direct several useful RSS feeds from USGS to their students. Available feeds include: USGS Newsroom, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes. For a complete listing of available feeds, see USGS feeds.
Examples of Electronic journals with RSS feeds
Tables of contents from variety of journals such as Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Materials and those from the Institute of Physics can be tracked using this new technology. A complete listing of all RSS feeds from Nature titles is available at Nature Newsfeed. Science Online RSS feeds provides Table of Contents of the current issue, News Summary, This week in Science, ScienceNOW, and NetWatch- the Best of the Web in Science. The use of RSS feeds alleviates the need for researchers to subscribe to email alerts since they are able to view new information from their choice of RSS feeds as one portal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides different RSS feeds for the Early edition, current issue and for the recent issues. Springer RSS feeds provides links to the complete Springer collection of available RSS feeds by various subject areas. IngentaConnect, which specializes in online journals in a wide variety of subject areas, provides RSS feeds from several journal titles. Users can sign up for feeds of the new journal issues of their choice, which on receiving shows the latest issue numbers and dates with a link to the full table of contents. BMJ Journals provides RSS feed icons on their journal home pages. IEEE Xplore now provides RSS feeds of of all new journal issues as they become available. Each feed will contain the publication’s title, brief description, and link to the table of contents in IEEE Xplore. IEEE Computer Society offers the availability of the latest magazines and transactions content through RSS feeds which automatically deliver new abstracts. The American Chemical Society (ACS) offers feeds in RSS format for the Articles ASAP and the complete Tables of Contents of all of its journals.
Journal of applied Physics provides RSS feeds by different topics covered in the journal. University of Wisconsin –Madison’s Ebling library has compiled a list of biomedical and health sciences electronic journals with available RSS Feeds. University of Saskatchewan Library also has created a list of electronic journals with RSS feeds. University of Chicago Press Journals provides RSS feeds of several journals covering different subject areas such as business, philosophy, religion, art, science and several others. Royal Society of Chemistry now provides advance article feeds of 22 journals such as Lab on a Chip, Annual Reports A: Inorganic Chemistry and Annual Reports B: Organic Chemistry. Various medical journals such as JAMA, Archives of Plastic Surgery, Archives of Internal Medicine, and many other archival journals provide RSS feeds of the latest tables of contents of their new journal issues as they become available.
JAMA&Archives provides a listing of each journal title that provides RSS feeds. Other journals such as Chemical Informatics, the Economist, Oxford Art Journal, and the American Art also provide RSS feeds of new articles.
4. What are some ways by which RSS feeds can be used in academic libraries?
Academic libraries can use RSS feeds in a variety of ways as listed below:
1. Announce the availability of new books and materials in a given subject area
See: New books in Wireless communication, mobile computing, computer security and computer networks
In this example, Drexel’s Engineering Resources blog announces availability of books in certain subject areas. Faculty and students subscribing to the feed can keep current with new book arrivals in the library. Australian National University provides RSS feeds of new books catalogued through its Innnopac cataloging system. It is envisioned that online cataloging systems such as Innovative Interfaces will soon provide feeds of new titles catalogued based on user search queries. This is currently under discussion on the Innovative Users Group discussion list.
2. Announce the availability of new electronic resources
The Lupton Library of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga provides feeds of new electronic databases added to its collection. See RSS feeds URL Automated Updates of New Databases to receive updates of new databases in any feedreader or in bloglines. Drexel’s Engineering Resource blog announces new databases and electronic journals as they are added in the collection. See Two New IEEE journals activated and TPSX Materials Properties Database from NASA for example. Since Engineering Resources blog provides RSS feeds of new items, faculty and students can keep up to date with availability of new resources. Drexel’s Physics, Math and Bioscience blogs provide news, events and resources from the Drexel University Libraries relating to these important science subject areas. MIT Libraries News provide subject/topic based feeds for areas such as DSpace, Engineering, Science and Scholarly Communication. Telford Science Library’s Science Library Updates provides useful informational updates in areas such as Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
3. Promote events organized in the library to faculty and students
Academic library blogs and their feeds can play an important role in promoting various library related events to faculty and students. RSS feeds can enhance any academic library’s outreach mission to make their users aware of new resources, events and other important announcements.
Drexel University libraries conducted events such as Codes, Cipers, and the German Enigma Machine (IEEE sponsored activity for students), Scholarly Communication Symposium: Friday, April 28th, and ‘Scholarly Communications Speaker Series’ sponsored by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies to highlight scholarly perspectives on the impact and future trends of publishing in an electronic environment this year. The Engineering Resources blog timely announced the speaker events at Scholarly Communication Speaker Series: “Scholarly Publishing and Open Access: Players and Payers” and at Scholarly Communications Speaker Series: Is There a Need for Resource Sharing in an Age of Open Access?. The University Libraries also conducted several workshops on teaching Refworks (a citation management tool) for faculty and students. The workshops were also promoted on the blog through a special announcement, Refworks Introduction and Training. In summary, a variety of information related to events can be easily promoted through a library’s weblog. Binghamton University Libraries RSS feed ‘Funding our digital future: budgeting for libraries and scholarly communication’ is another example of event promotion on campus.
4. Enhance Library Instruction for different courses by integrating appropriate resources
Engineering Resources blog provided instructional tips for some classes in engineering during the Fall and Winter quarter. See Related books and databases for BMES212 Body Synthetic Course, Knovel K-News - Tips on using scientific and engineering related handbooks , and Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research for some examples of resources used in the blog. Electrical and Computer Engineering - some useful links for design projects and Resources for CHE 481-483: Process Design I-III are examples of how useful tools for electrical and computer engineering, and chemical engineering senior design students were pointed out through this blog.
5. Announce availability of new research and learning opportunities in academic departments’ blogs
Drexel University’s Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department’s blog provides information on the New research experience for undergraduates (REU) site focusing on Engineering Cities. Drexel’s CoAS E-learning blog keeps faculty and students up to date with new developments in podcasting and RSS feeds. The Information Ethicist is a newly introduced blog for the INFO679: Information Ethics course taught in the Information Science and Technology Department at Drexel. The highlight of this blog is the integrated collection of student projects consisting of blogs created as part of the course requirement.
5. Can academic blogs improve information seeking skills of faculty and students? If so, how?
Academic blogs that provide RSS feeds help students in keeping up to date with new information tools as they become available. Collaboration between faculty and information professionals can play a vital role in transmitting new information to students. Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering resource link included in the Engineering Resource blog is an example of how just one page all major resources are represented while also providing links to use blogging and RSS feeds. During the Instruction session, a variety of feeds from hubmed and (Ei Compendex) Engineering Index were shown raising the awareness of how different type of information can be accessed. Using the sample public access bloglines compilation of RSS feeds, students in the class became aware of variety of available feeds.
6. What are different ways that information consultants/librarians can use to develop user awareness of RSS feeds?
Course and departmental blogs with RSS feeds which link to the Academic library’s blog will not only enhance the Library and the Academic Departments’ collaboration with each other but also provides an additional opportunity for students to learn about libraries. Drexel University’s Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department’s blog links to the Engineering Resources Blog thus providing access to new resources in engineering collections.
Information professionals and librarians include a link to their blog in their signature files with their email messages.
Information professionals can also link the blog in their library’s home pages. They can announce the availability of their blog and RSS feeds to their faculty and students.
Informal consultations with students are excellent avenues to help students learn about RSS feeds and blogs.
Library instruction classes integrated with particular courses can include interactive discussion with students to show them how RSS feeds can be used in their classes. Bionanotechnology BMES460/BMES480 - new items and databases to search, Related books and databases for BMES212 Body Synthetic Course, and
Electrical and Computer Engineering - some useful links for design projects are some examples in which use of RSS was integrated successfully.
Introduce RSS feeds during faculty meetings and departmental seminars.
Create flyers and bookmarks with brief information about the blog and RSS feed and distribute them during orientation, classes and informal visits to various departments.
7. Where are we heading?
There are many other electronic resources such as ScienceDirect, Web of Science, ACM Digital Library, and Google Scholar that do not provide RSS feeds of search queries at present. It is crucial that when they begin to provide RSS feeds, our faculty and students are informed, so that they begin to use them effectively in their research or in courses they are associated with. Our Engineering Resource blog will be a key resource to promote these newer services in addition to regular channels such as Library News articles, emails, and instruction during library seminars. Students working in a group project can set up a group account in Bloglines and subscribe to feeds based upon the group’s area of interest. Refworks, a bibliographic management tool, can also be used as a group account for students working in a group project. It needs to provide RSS feeds of the citations added in the group account so that other members of the group can keep up to date with newer citations added by their group members. Innovative ways, in which blogs can be promoted on campus, need to be envisioned so that their utility is recognized by our faculty and students.
New initiatives like New JISC project will feed tables of contents into library catalogues.
JISC’s project of new RSS news feed services will automatically feed publisher and e-journal information into library catalogues. It is led by the publisher Emerald, supported by library supplier Talis and is aimed at completion in July 2006. More and more electronic resources will be providing RSS feeds and it is likely that more libraries will be developing blogs with RSS feeds to announce new resources to their faculty and students. New developments will require more outreach, promotion and announcements while also requiring increased training for the library staff, faculty and students. In summary, the future lies in the creative integration of existing and emerging academic blogs and RSS feeds to enhance information access and, in the process, contribute to quality research and teaching in higher education.
I deeply appreciate the Emerald Group Publishing Limited for originally publishing ‘Blogging as a Tool: Innovative Approaches to Information Access’ in the Library Hi-Tech News, 22(9), p. 28-32, 2005. This paper provided further motivation to seek out new RSS feeds, think about new applications of RSS feeds and continue to envision shaping of information access in academic libraries. This paper will receive the Outstanding Paper award at the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2006.