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Fraser Health, with its 13 hospitals and 5 main and 8 smaller library locations, is one of the largest Authorities in British Columbia in terms of population served and health and medical resources collectively held.  The web-interface for the library catalogue, which has been hosted by Andornot since 1999, has just been recently completely revamped. 

The new site, at, uses the Umbraco content management system, allowing authorized library staff from any location to quickly add and change content on the site.  The new catalogue interface features quick and advanced search pages as well as an RSS feed for recent acquisitions on the Quick Search page.  Fraser Health staff can search the catalogue, add selected items to an ordering cart and send in a request for delivery to their nearest hospital library location. 

One of the fabulous new features of the site is the Subject Guides.  Fraser Health Librarian Niki Baumann coordinates this area and has moved all the information from individual BlogSpot websites.  She has completely revamped the interfaceFHAsite to this resource rich area of the website by dividing each Subject Guide topic into What’s New, Journals, Books, Databases and Websites and has used the catalogue’s permalink feature to link from the featured new books to the actual record in the catalogue.  The pages are kept constantly up-to-date with embedded RSS feed headlines from various journal websites, with the links to the titles available directly by IP address authentication if within the hospital locations or via a user name and password from outside the hospital.   These resources are now readily accessible to all Fraser Health professionals, from their offices, their homes or on the road. 

During the launch of the site the library staff encouraged users to “play” with the new site and designed a series of questions requiring users to search the catalogue database in order to find the answers.  Once the survey was completed, the user’s name was entered into a draw for a 4GB USB Drive.

Staff are thrilled with the new catalogue and web site.  We all feel like proud parents who have collectively given birth to a beautiful new child.  The catalogue includes additional special features that allow the user to search for items by format or site with ease.  The site is more streamlined and cleaner, yet offers more content." comments Linda Howard, Interim Library Manager.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a great way to keep up to date with news, events and other oft-changing information. While it’s not the latest technology, it remains an effective and easy-to-implement way of keeping people up to date with relevant information. This blog post reviews the technology and suggests ideas for using it in your library, archive, museum or other organization. We present two options which can be implemented together or separately. Your power users will appreciate being able to subscribe to the feeds themselves, while the rest will love the convenience of being able to see regular updates on your website without having to understand anything about RSS.

In this post:


What is RSS?

Example-RSS-feed-in-MS-OutlookRSS is a technology used to publish frequently changing information, such as news headlines and stories. An RSS feed typically includes a headline or title, a publication date, and a link to follow for more details. Users subscribe to a feed using a variety of tools – a dedicated feed reader such as NewsGator, a web service such as iGoogle or Google Reader, or an email client, including Microsoft Outlook. As new items are published in the feed, they appear in the user's reader, allowing the user to stay current with the latest news and information from many sources.

The screenshot above shows a sample RSS feed in MS Outlook (click to enlarge).

rss-iconOn a website, if an RSS feed is available, it’s usually indicated with an icon like the one shown to the right. The icon is usually a link to the feed, so clicking it will open the feed either in your web browser, in a dedicated feed reader program if one is installed, or in your email client, such as Outlook.

For users, quickly scanning headlines from many sources then clicking to read more is an efficient way of staying current with topics in their field of interest, whether it’s the latest legal judgments from the Supreme Court, or simply the latest sports scores.

How can you use RSS?

Two ideas for using RSS are to publish your own content in a feed, or to make the content of others available to your users (or both).

Publish a feed of your own content

If you have an Inmagic database and WebPublisher PRO, or the Inmagic Genie integrated library system, you can use the Andornot RSS Control for WebPublisher Pro to create a feed that publishes records directly from your database. For example, you might create a feed of:

  • the latest books in a library catalogue;
  • the latest journals received;
  • the latest additions to a legal memos database; or
  • the latest additions to your archives.

LSS-RSSThe feed can be created from any search strategy so can be really precise or very general. Once your feed is available, you can list the URL to it on your web page, as hyperlinked text or using the RSS icon. Just like your databases, the feed can be made available only to people within your organization, or to the wider world.

Andornot recently worked with the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library to develop a page of RSS feeds. The page lists feeds for different legal practice areas. LSS members may click the practice area to view recent additions to the library catalogue specific to that area, or subscribe to an RSS feed to automatically stay up-to-date with future additions.


Republish other content

Andornot-RSS-Feed-SampleAs you come across RSS feeds from other content providers, you can copy the URL to the feed and list it on a library web page for your users to subscribe to. You can also go one step further and publish that feed as text on your web page. This is a great way of keeping content fresh on a home page, for example. Once set up, the new entries will appear automatically

The screenshot to the right shows a sample page that publishes recent headlines from several health-related feeds. Users can read the latest headlines on the page, as well as subscribe directly to feeds they are interested in by clicking the RSS icon next to each feed’s title. The page is easily customized with feeds of interest to your users.

If your web site runs inside a Content Management System, including Microsoft SharePoint, it can be very easy to publish RSS feeds on a web page. It’s usually just a matter of adding an RSS feed web part or "widget" to the page, entering the URL to the feed, and sometimes specifying how many items to publish at a time (4-6 is a good number).

If you don’t have a content management system, you can still create a web page that publishes an RSS feed as text seamlessly embedded in your web page using the Andornot RSS Viewer. You can see this in action here:

  • on the home page, under Andornot blog in the right column – these are RSS headlines representing the latest posts to our blog;
  • on the home page, under Latest Additions in the left column – these are RSS headlines, each of which takes a user directly into a record in the database.

A further example

Andornot-home-page-with-RSS-headlinesWe always try to practice what we preach, and our use of RSS feeds is no exception. The Andornot Blog is available as:

  1. a series of web pages;
  2. an RSS feed, available from ( and linked via the RSS icon on our home page; and
  3. an RSS feed republished as text on our home page, showing the most recent 8 blog entries, configured within our Umbraco Content Management System.

All of us at Andornot use RSS feeds ourselves to scan the latest news and articles from technical blogs. We may only end up reading 20% of the actual articles, but glancing at a page of headlines is a quick and easy way of keeping current and getting a sense of the latest topics and issues.

How can Andornot help?

Andornot can help you do more with RSS by:

  • Working with you to establish what content might be suitable to create a feed
  • Providing you with our RSS Control for WebPublisher PRO, so you can generate RSS feeds directly from your database.
  • Helping you configure your web site to publish RSS feed content, a great way to automatically add current information to your site.
  • Explaining other options such as the use of FeedBurner, or tools to merge and combine multiple feeds.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you use RSS technology to provide a current awareness service to keep your users up to date with information relevant to them. Or, if you would like to start by setting up some feeds for just your own use, we can help with this too.

This post's categories

Andornot has hosted the Northern Health (NH) Library catalogue and website on the internet for almost 10 years.  During this time it has undergone many iterations.  The most recent is one located at

NHA Library Services website

Earlier this year a new design for the NH website was implemented using the DotNetNuke Content Management System (CMS).  So while Anne Allgaier, the librarian was considering how to deal with that change, she was concurrently being pressured to move the library presence off the internet and inside to the intranet.  The major concern being that the library services were meant for internal staff only. Anne knew however, that there were plenty of users who accessed her Inmagic-based catalogue and related information from their homes or from remote locations throughout the widely distributed region.  These users would be deprived of what had become a very popular service.  Anne asked Andornot to help her find a solution to keep the library presence on the internet and to incorporate the new website design and comments:

“Andornot’s has provided the Northern Health Library with exemplary service for the past decade, providing us with solutions that make it possible to provide the level of service that the library’s clientele requires, regardless of location.”

Website Template Linking

Andornot’s philosophy has always been that web-based databases should be integrated into the website template.  So while we worked with Anne to built up layers of content on the new site to go with the library catalogue, we also liaised with the NH website developers to implement a method that taps into the always-live site template on the NH server.  This was accomplished by having a content-free page on the home server within the NH’s CMS with a specific hidden comment tag in the content area (in this case, "<!—andornot -->").  This bit of text in the content area tells our system where to parse each page's content into the source site's template.

Library Portal

So while the template remains current on the hosted site, allowing users to quickly navigate to other areas of the NH website, the library content on the site continues to grow.  It includes:  NHAleftsideNav

  • the BC Ministry of Health News RSS feed
  • access to e-HLbc databases (requires IP authentication or username and password login)
  • access to thousands of online books (requires IP authentication or username and password login)
  • links to other library catalogues
  • Google Book Covers with links to Google Book Previews
  • Ordering cart
  • a canned search (one click) and an RSS feed for recent library acquisitions
  • links to various other services (Tutorials, InfoBriefs)
  • Patient information website links
  • Professional information website links

… thus providing NH staff, University of Northern BC medical faculty, and patients with a single access point for all sorts of resources, whether they are in the hospital, on campus, in their office, at home or on the road.  

Grey literature, fugitive publications, the hidden web; it sounds all very mysterious doesn’t it? threeSOURCE-logoWhere are these resources? How can they be found? Well for the folks in Alberta – and because it is on the Internet, for the rest of the world – this previously concealed material in the non-profit and social services “third” sector now has a home at threeSOURCE: See the press release here.


The database that forms the basis of the site contains a vast quantity of grey literature from groups such as the Alberta Federation of Labour, Alberta Status of Women Action Committee, Family Service Association of Edmonton, Calgary Status of Women Action Committee, and Families First Edmonton. It also contains the ESPC catalogue collection, which during the course of the project was converted from another system, L4U, using the MARC Transformer, into Inmagic DB/TextWorks.

Jennifer Hoyer from the Edmonton Social Planning Councilspearheaded this new website with funding assistance from Alberta Culture and Community Spirit and the Edmonton Community Foundation.

“There is currently no central location, either physically or virtually, for accessing publications created within or about this field of work.  People working within the third sector – in social services and nonprofits – are notoriously short on time when it comes to finding information and staying current within their field.  ThreeSOURCE hopes to make this process easier by presenting a one-stop-shop,” writes Jennifer.


Andornot assisted with almost every aspect of this site, from the recommendation of Artisteer as the basis for the website graphic design, which Jennifer took to enthusiastically, to the deployment of the site on the ESPC server. Our team integrated the website design into the ASP.NET based Umbraco Content Management System. We set Jennifer up with the desktop interface of the Andornot Starter Kit so she could catalogue grey literature while we developed the web interface. This included the database component, which consisted of the quick and advanced search screens, brief displays, a full display, Google book covers, a RSS feed for the latest database additions, and the Email, Save, and Print components. The web catalogue uses Inmagic WebPublisher PRO as the underlying search engine.

Content Management System

Once the website was up and running on our development server with Umbraco, Jennifer could login through a web browser and start adding website content to the site. Andornot put the final touches to the site, such as a link to their newsletter sign in and an RSS feed from the database and then moved the whole site over to the ESPC server.

“One of the key features of this audience is that they generally access and share information in a very social way: they discuss the latest developments in their field over coffee with colleagues, and they share new publications with their email contacts,” writes Jennifer. “We wanted to replicate this social aspect in some manner, and the RSS feed of New Acquisitions is a starting point for engaging our audience beyond the library catalogue interface.”

Topic Searches

Using Umbraco, Jennifer is able to quickly add new canned or topic searches to the home page, which can be based on recent requests for information or hot topics. To illustrate, Jennifer writes:

“We were recently approached for information regarding affordable housing solutions for seniors, to support a proposal for a related project.  A quick search of subjects such as “Seniors” and “Housing – affordable housing solutions” brought up the Wellesley Institute’s recent report on Precarious Housing in Canada (2010) and the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Analysis of housing for seniors living with disabilities using a livable and inclusive community lens (2009).  The former provides federal government funding allocations towards housing for low-income seniors.  The latter identifies affordability as a top major housing issue faced by seniors and seniors with disabilities, and pointed towards other publications confirming the urgent nature of this issue.”

She promptly added a link to all the items in the database on the topic Housing for Seniors after receiving that request for information. We are sure that the page will soon fill up with links to other relevant topics as they are determined, making the finding of relevant information in the third sector so much easier.

Congratulations to the Edmonton Social Planning Councilon the launch of this valuable resource.  Contact us for more information on project specifics. 

Andornot’s popular WebPublisher RSS Control has long allowed our clients to generate an RSS feed of any content from any textbase. Just recently, we configured our RSS control to work with a Genie Catalog. Since Inmagic WebPublisher PRO underlies Genie, it was relatively easy to make the RSS control play nicely with Genie. Generating the RSS feed via a query into WebPublisher is done in the same way, but the tricky part was having the link in the RSS feed take the user into the Genie OPAC, as though the user had searched there.

We’ve configured an example RSS feed here from our Genie demo (best viewed in an RSS reader or as an RSS feed in Outlook).

RSS is an effective way of sharing information with broad audience. Some great ideas for feeds include:

  • a feed of the latest items added to the catalog;
  • a feed of items on particular subjects or by favourite (or in-house) authors; and
  • a feed of the latest serials checked-in.

Please contact us to use the Andornot RSS control with your Genie system.


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