I've been crawling out of my skin with anticipation, waiting to be able to announce this, and now it's finally official! Sirsi will be the first ILS vendor to offer native RSS feeds out of the catalog, and they've gone the whole nine yards in terms of searching! On the Press Releases page, initial information can be found in the Sirsi Enterprise Portal Solution featuring Sirsi Rooms 2.0 PDF document. There should be a feature-based press release up soon, but here are some early details.
The feeds will be part of their Rooms 2.0 and Enterprise Portal Solution (ESP) release around March. Features will include:
Major congratulations to Sirsi and its libraries!!!
January 25, 2005, Update: I've been emailing with Stephen Abram, Vice President, Innovation, at Sirsi, and he's been answering questions that have come up since the announcement. For me right now, the most important point is that reading the feeds will not be confined to within Sirsi's software. In other words, users will be able to create feeds for everything mentioned above and then subscribe to them in Bloglines or other third party aggregators. Beyond this, I'm going to quote Stephen extensively so as not to put words in his mouth, but I'll offer a few thoughts at the end.
Stephen Abram on whether the Rooms module is required:
Also, the feeds will be RSS 2.0, most likely to handle the depth and breadth of the searching they will be offering. I'm really torn on this issue because I understand David King's point about being able to integrate feeds into an existing web site, but I was also impressed with Stephen's description of the software as Sirsi's attempt to "put the librarian back in the web site." And I make my living band-aiding stuff, so I'm all for building it right the first time.
I think the obvious answer is to accommodate both sides by expending the resources to add basic RSS feeds to iBistro/iLink. That way, libraries that don't have the resources of a Kansas City Public Library or an academic library can use EPS to do all of the heavy lifting, while David can incorporate the feeds into his already-developed web site.
So if you're a Sirsi customer and you want feeds from iBistro, I think you'll have to request it as a customer. Stephen also noted that they're working on patron data feeds for a future release of the MyLibrary module, so we'll have to see if those can be added to iBistro, too, but ultimately providing them is the right move because that's how it should be period. Patrons shouldn't be forced to give private data to a third-party service like Library ELF just to gain the convenience the library's ILS vendor doesn't understand they need to provide (and here I'm talking about RSS and email and text alerts). I say this as a very happy ELF user that gave up her patron data, L-O-V-E-S this service, and believes the owner doesn't want to be evil.
In addition, I find it very interesting that they are going so far with the RSS feeds as to include the federated searching component. A feed of single search across all of the library's resources - if the query is structured well enough - could be incredibly useful, and it definitely puts the database aggregators on notice that if they don't do it, others will. It actually makes sense to do this in the OPAC, though, so that you can handle authentication there, which isn't too far off from an idea I proposed to Dinah Sanders at the Internet Librarian conference last year.
I still need to think through a lot of this, and I know vendors will hate the thought because they'll think it gets away from core services, but it would be interesting to be able to offer patrons an RSS aggregator via the OPAC/library's web site, in part so that they don't have such a steep learning curve. You can do the authentication there, so just let users subscribe there, as well, which puts the library at the center of their information universe. I thought newspapers would be the first to do this, but they don't seem to be understanding the concept. It would be pretty cool if your library offered the equivalent of Bloglines with library resources at the core.
Does Sirsi really understand this model and that's what they're shooting for? It's definitely intriguing. Think of the information literacy courses you could teach using EPS... subscribing to various web sites, e-learning modules, the library's catalog, database searches, and even podcasting within the library's framework would be one hell of a resource. And of course, Sirsi's recent acquisition of Docutek adds librarian help throughout the whole thing (not that you couldn't add links to an external service, but this would be embedded throughout).
I'm definitely watching Sirsi to see where all of this is heading, and I can't wait to see the first feed from all of this go live. They've obviously been working on the overall pieces of this for quite a while, and hiring Stephen Abram was another good sign. I think Sirsi may actually "get it."
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