Magazine article American Libraries

Reading Rooms Online: Browsing Current Literature in the 21st Century

Magazine article American Libraries

Reading Rooms Online: Browsing Current Literature in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Years ago, students and faculty spent lots of time in periodical reading rooms, looking over the recent literature in their field. Now, many libraries are phasing out their print journal collections as more and more become available online. Many of our patrons still use the journal literature, but now they can access it from their dorm rooms, offices, and homes. There is rarely a need to spend time in the periodical stacks.

Or is there? Database publishers still haven't managed to recreate the experience of browsing journals in a reading room. The best journals in a specific subject area may be scatered across several databases, requiring time and effort to track them down. However, RSS offers us a better way to keep up. Just as RSS feeds have made it easier to keep up with other content, librarians can use RSS journal feeds as a powerful current awareness tool for their patrons.

Scientifically focused

A journal RSS feed usually provides the most recent table of contents, sometimes with abstracts for each article. Subscribing to multiple journal feeds in a discipline would enable patrons to quickly and easily keep up with the current literature. Some database vendors provide RSS feeds for each of the journals they carry, and many publishers create RSS feeds for their own journals.

Derik Badman, digital services librarian at Temple University in Philadelphia , was asked by a faculty member in science education to create a physical reading room so he and his colleagues could keep up with the literature in their area. Derik instead suggested creating a virtual reading room using RSS feeds of the key journals in that discipline.


Using Yahoo Pipes (, Badman created a combined RSS feed of the key journals in science education and then set up an e-mail subscription to the feed for the faculty member. Every time the RSS feed updates, new content will be sent to the faculty member's e-mail. He has done the same for himself to keep up with library literature. …

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