Montréal’s Jewish General Hospital Health Sciences Library Starts RSS Services

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Francesca Frati made my day a couple weeks ago by describing how she’s rolling out RSS-based current awareness services in her medical library. Francesca has allowed me to post her entire email, after which I’ll post some of my answers to her questions/concerns.

Dear David,

A little while ago you asked to hear from anyone working with RSS in a hospital library…

I’ve recently begun to develop a current awareness service using RSS technology very much like what you have been developing for your physicians. I would say we are a small library, although the Jewish General is a McGill University teaching hospital so we are academically affiliated. I’m relatively new to RSS and have been reading as much as I can on the subject and exploring options offered by various databases. I’ve also been following your extremely helpful discussion on this topic- your unwitting assistance has been much appreciated!

So far two patrons I’ve worked with before in my capacity as consultant have agreed to help pilot test the service. One is a practising family physician who also happens to be the R&D coordinator at the clinic I consult for, and the other is a researcher. As they are together engaged in studying the use of push/pull technology in clinical practice and are both what I would describe as “carefully enthousiastic” when it comes to new technology, I saw them as the perfect guinea pigs for the project.

Interestingly the R&D coordinator is convinced this will only be useful for research and not so much practice, although he does consider InfoPOEMs to be very useful in the clinical setting. I suspect that what you describe as perceived push vs pull is a key factor in his thinking. I see this as something that will need to be addressed for the service we offer to succeed. We are all interested to see how actually useful the service will be because it does seem to require active seeking- at the very least an initial effort to set up the feeds- which may be a deterrant.

To date both patrons have asked that I subscribe them to TOC as well as PubMed feeds (at the moment I am actively involved in subscribing them to various feeds and at the same time teaching them how to do it themselves- in the future I see my role as more focussed on the instruction). The researcher expressed an interest in citation alerts so I set him up using Web of Science and he has already been notified several times which has made him very happy.

In any case so far so good.

The plan is to offer hospital-wide instruction sessions this fall and eventually to have our library news available as an RSS feed on our website, along with any other feeds that may be of interest to our patrons, and ‘how to’ information etc.

So far I have explored the possibilities in Pubmed and Web of Science as well as FeedNavigator at Helsinki University and BioMed Central. I haven’t been able to figure out what options OVID and EBSCO provide, if any. I would love to know about any other resources in your repertoire that could be of use to medical researchers/clinicians.


Francesca Frati, MLIS

Information Management Consultant
Herzl Family Practice Center

Current awareness/Serials
Health Sciences Library
SMBD Jewish General Hospital
3755 Côte Ste.Catherine
Montréal, Québec
H3T 1E2

Phone: (514) 340-8222 Local 5929
Fax: (514) 340-7552

“The real technology- behind all our other technologies- is language. It actually creates the world our consciousness lives in.” –Andrei Codrescu

Kudos to Francesca and her organization for getting ahead of the curve and getting off to a really good, pragmatic start! I hope that a lot of medical libraries can follow your example!

Here’s a bit of what I wrote back to Francesca:

  • I think RSS is best used in a clinical setting as an SDI tool for physicians with very specific current awareness needs. For instance, I set up a feed from PubMed for a gastroenterologist on probiotics AND (“ulcerative colitis” OR “Crohn’s Disease” OR “inflammatory bowel disease”) because many of his patients had expressed an interest in probiotics as a potential therapy.

    This method, I think, helps clinicians know immediately when very specific topics are addressed in as many (or as few) journals as they want.

  • Regarding the views of your R&D coordinator: I would argue that staying up-to-date on any new developments in his/her specialty is utterly essential to clinical practice.
  • EBSCO does offer RSS feeds. I have a post planned that details how to do this. [David adds: post on creating feeds from EBSCO is here]
  • OVID, unfortunately, does not yet offer RSS feeds for searches, but I am told by my tech support contact at Ovid that they do plan to roll out this feature in the near future. I can’t wait until they do- that’ll be a tremendous help to me.
  • In addition to FeedNavigator, be sure to review MedWorm, which has a much larger directory of feeds, and a great number of pre-set aggregated feeds based on specialty or condition. Also worth checking out is, and the UK’s NHS RSS directory. I wrote up a few short notes on these four directories here.

Have I mentioned yet that Francesca rocks?

Is your medical library rolling out RSS-based services or other Library 2.0 tools? I’d love to hear about it and feature your library’s activities here. Email me at david[DOT]rothman[AT]gmail[DOT]com, and we’ll tell the world how much you rock.

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