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The Power of RSS: Instant Information Updating Based on Quality Searches

By Steven Cohen - Posted Jan 1, 2008
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When does the reference interview end? Is it when the student walks out the door? Is it when the library closes? Or when the librarian hangs up the telephone? In my experience working with the public (when I was a reference librarian) or with attorneys (I’m now a law librarian), the reference interview ends whenever the question being posed is ready for submission, either to a teacher, a boss, or an attorney. There could be months (or in the case of students, hours!) until the assignment is due, and librarians should continue to service their clientele when the initial assistance is completed. Following up is the key to good customer service that will, inevitably, bring the client back for more. It’s also good public relations and librarians can always use good PR. 

How do you provide quality follow-up service? It happens in two important steps. First, it’s important to obtain contact information (email address or IM handle will do). Second, you have to be able to update the client—in the case of MMIS readers, your student researchers or teacher colleagues—with new content, based upon their initial searches and assistance provided. Believe it or not, this is easier than the first part of follow-up work. With web tools at your disposal that allow for instant updating of information based on quality searches, all new information can be ­delivered to the client in two quick clicks. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the power of RSS. 

If you haven’t heard of RSS before (it is still a new concept to many librarians), fear not. Consider that the acronym stands for Really Simple Syndication. The second word should put your mind at ease about this valuable tool. In a nutshell, RSS allows you to keep up with just about anything that you want to on the web. If you want to stay focused on the latest blog posts on the effect of global warming, RSS can help. If you just want to be updated whenever The New York Times publishes its latest book review, RSS can help. And, if you want to know when the next Dave Barry column appears, RSS can help. The greatest part of RSS is that it can do all of this in one place, without your needing to parade all over the web looking for the new content. RSS is a continuously updated customized online newspaper, and it can not only help you in locating new information (in fact, the content comes to you, not vice versa), but it can help you do it in a quarter of the time.

An RSS Feed Is …


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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