Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rss feeds, Library databases and yahoopipes

This post will discuss how to use RSS feeds from library databases. It's surprisingly tricky to do it compared to subscribing to normal RSS feeds from most blogs. This is due to the fact libraries generally provide access via a proxy - ezproxy to provide remote access to databases off campus.
As most readers of this blog are probably reading this off a RSS feed, I won't explain what a RSS feed is. If you have no idea what it is, please consult this guide.
The basic idea is this, do a search on a library database, create a RSS feed of the results and put it into your favourite feed reader (Google reader, Bloglines, Firefox, Internet explorer 7 , Outlook 2007 etc), After which you can watch new results come in as and when the database is updated in it without needing to run the search again or visit the database site again.
Some library databases that provides results and alerts vis RSS include ScienceDirect (via NUS Libraries), Scopus (via NUS Libraries), Engineering Village (via NUS Libraries) databases on ProQuest (e.g. ABI/Inform via NUS Libraries), Ebscohost (e.g. Business Source premier via NUS Libraries) , OVIDSP (e.g. EconLit via NUS Libraries) etc. How you get the rss feed url differs but generally you click on the RSS button that appears on the results page (see below for example from Engineering Village)

However, if you try to just stick the url given by the database directly into your feed reader (see image below) you will be doomed for disappointment, it doesn't work!
The technical reason and solution for this can be found here .
However for now there's a work-around.
The method describes below is specific to databases subscribed via NUS Libraries, but any library (e.g. NTU, NLB) using ezproxy to provide remote access should be able to do something similar by removing the particular proxy stem.
You need to delete the part that says ".libproxy1.nus.edu.sg" before pasting the url into your feed reader.
NLB users should remove ".libproxy.nlb.gov.sg" , while NTU users should remove ".ezlibproxy1.ntu.edu.sg"

Most guides I have seen on library webpages stop here. While this works, and the results will be pulled into your RSS feed reader (see below), you will be disappointed when you click on the link in the feed reader.

Because the rss feed url you enter lacks the ezproxy proxy stem, the outgoing links you are sent lack it as well, and when you click on the link, it brings you to an unsubscribed version (where you can't see the full-text) of the page at best, or at worse you get an error page (see below).

One way to solve this problem would be to add the proxy bookmarklet here to your browser (specific to NUS Libraries, NTU version is here ) and then clicking on the bookmarklet will log you in from the error page above.
But that gets tiresome as you will have to do the same for each link you click from the RSS feed.
A smarter method would be to modify the RSS feed you get to automatically append the proxy stem, libproxy1.nus.edu.sg (for NUS Libraries, for other libraries edit the yahoopipes accordingly) to outgoing links. This can be done via a simple Yahoopipes filter (you will need to make very minor modifications if you are from some other libraries).
1. Go to http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.info?_id=bfa397d618763affe6e2c1e4affc0532
2. Enter the rss feed url (the one that does not have the string libproxy1.nus.edu.sg)
3. Click "run pipe"

4. On the resulting page, click on "Get as RSS" and on the resulting page, copy and paste the url into your feed reader.

5. You will find that this time, the resulting rss feed will have links that work properly now. It goes without saying that if you haven't logged in this browser session yet, it will prompt you to log-in first.
Some libraries discourage the use of RSS feeds because they worry the constant polling for updates will cause unnecessary number of accesses. The method described above avoids this problem.
As results are pulled into your Feed reader, there is no access via the institution library, Until you click on the link to gain access to the database, the vendor doesn't count it has an access from you.
I might do a post about ezproxy, and other creative uses of Yahoopipes in the future.
Until later
Aaron Tay
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