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Wiki Main Page > Digital Presence & Online Outreach for Libraries > Widgets & RSS


Digital Presence & Online Outreach :: Widgets & RSS


Widgets and RSS will set your content free

You have tons of information about events, content from databases, lists of new books and materials and so much more. Much of this information is only available through your library web site, through your blogs, stuck in your catalog and in your databases. People have to not only know that it exists, they also have to come looking for it. Wouldn't it be great if we could have some of that information do double duty and have it appear on the web sites and blogs throughout our communities and schools. And aslos have it show up in the email boxes and RSS feed readers of our customers.


Some ideas

  • Would your local book club members like to receive news from your book blog in their email?
  • What about putting a list of new gardening books on a local garden centers web page?
  • Or new pet care books on the animal shelter web site?
  • Your local schools might be interested in having your events and programs on their website.
  • What other ideas do you have?


Get stuff out of the catalog

  • Catalog Search Link: A real simple approach is to create a link to a subject search in your online catalog. Make sure the results are sorting with the newest items first. Give that link to the other organization to add to their web page. Still, users will have to be enticed to click on the link and come back to the catalog.. Example: Our Latest Gardening Books
  • Enhance it with a graphic: Use a graphic of some sort to accompany the link. Book covers? Film graphics? Etc.
  • RSS from the catalog: Does your catalog create RSS feeds for searches? If so, you're really lucky! You can use Widgetbox, Google Gadget or Feed2JS (among others) to create a widget that will update automatically as new material is added to the catalog. (see below for more details on these tools)


Spread your News around

Does your library have a blog for posting news, events, book discussions, new material.... ? Then you've already got a magic RSS feed that will let you spread your blog postings far and wide. Make sure the RSS option is enabled on your blog. Usually just a click of a button in your blog's admin interface. If you see a link somewhere on your blog that says "feeds" or "subscribe" or one of these orange rss icons, then you're all set.


Let your users subscribe to your news THEIR way!

  • RSS Feed Readers: If your users have their own accounts with Bloglines, Google Reader or some other RSS tool, they'll know to click on the "subscribe" option to add it to their feed reader. Just make sure your subscription options are easy to find. Putting them somewhere near the top of the blog is handy. Repeating them in the your footer is a good idea too.
  • FeedBurner Option: If you use FeedBurner to handle your RSS feed, you'll find code for a subscription box on the "Publicize" tab inside your account. Add that code on the sidebar of your blog and you'll have a nifty email signup box. FeedBurner is a terrific tool that will keep track of statistics and much more. Well worth signing up and working through all the options. Example: SALS Blog
  • FeedMyInbox Option: A quicker and simpler solution that doesn't require signing up for an account is FeedMyInbox. All you have to do is create a link and put it on the sidebar of your blog. Format the link as shown below, including the URL for you blog or the URL for the RSS feed. Example: Subscribe to Polly's Blog You'll be taken to a screen to enter your email address and will receive an email with a confirmation link.

    Format for the FeedMyInbox link:

  • Spread the News with a widget: Use your RSS to create a little box of news that can be placed on other web sites and blogs simply by copying a bit of code.  Widgetbox, Google Gadgets and feed2js are handy tools for doing this. (see below for more details on these tools)
  • Facebook - Feed your blog RSS feed into your Notes page.
  • Twitter - Feed your blog RSS into Twitter with TwitterFeed (there are other tools to do this too)


Expose Your Databases

Many databases now have an RSS feature allowing users to get updates to their searches. When a new article on exploring the Arctic or gardening in Tasmania is published, I can get updates sent to me via RSS. You can take advantage of these features to put article headlines right up front on your web site or on the web site of other organizations.


  • Check which databases have RSS search alerts. EBSCO, Gale and ProQuest all have this feature.
  • Do a search. Find the RSS option and copy the link provided.
  • Use Widgetbox, Google Gadgets or feed2js to create code to put the content on a blog, wiki or web page.


NOTE for Academic and School Libraries: RSS feeds can be added to many courseware systems like Moodle and Blackboard. Get the content out where the students will see!


Widget making tools



  • Sign up for an account
  • Go to the Make a Widget page to, uh, make a widget.
  • Get the RSS feed address for the blog, catalog search or other RSS source that you're using.
  • Select the Blog/Feed option and paste the RSS feed URL into the box
  • Customize the widget - colors, number of headlines, size of box, etc.
  • Agree to the "terms" and save your widget.
  • Choose the </> - Get Embed Code option to get the code to copy to a web page.
  • Pass the code on to the webmaster of any organization that could use the content.


Google Gadgets

Google has a zillion 'gadgets' (their word for widgets) that you can add to your iGoogle page and also embed on other web pages. In addition to gadgets created by Google, they support gadets created by 3rd parties. Which means you can write your own gadgets if you like. Many libraries have created gadgets that search the their catalogs and databases. Users can add them to their iGoogle page or embed them on their own web pages.

Though iGoogle lets you easily add an RSS feed to your iGoogle pages, the gadgets that are created don't seem to embed on other pages very easily. I'd suggest using the CustomRSS gadget instead.


  • Sign up for iGoogle (it's fun and useful!)
  • Visit the the CustomRSS gadget page.
  • Find the "embed this gadget" link (lower right of the page)
  • Fill in the boxes and preview your RSS widget. Not as pretty as WidgetBox, but perhaps simpler is more appealing.
  • Copy the code and paste it where you want it to appear.



feed2js creates a snippet of code that will display the latest entries in RSS feed. The content isn't presented in a box like you see with WidgetBox and Google Gadgets. When you put the code on your web page, it will take on the formatting used on that page. So Feed2js is a good option when you want the RSS content to look like the rest of the web page. Example:

  • Click on the Build link
  • Add the RSS feed and click on the Preview button
  • Select options for displaying the feed
  • Click on the Generate Javascript button when you're done.
  • Copy the javascript code and paste it wherever you want that content to appear.


No RSS feed? Some workaround ideas.

Now that you see how powerful an RSS feed can be, you'll want one for everything. Unfortunately, not everything has one.. yet. Some ideas to get aroud this by using tools that will create feeds for you.


  • Set up a blog and post your news there. and are both free and easy to use. You'll have an RSS feed automatically and will be able to reuse your content through WidgetBox.
  • Use tumblr for fast posting of information you find around the web.
  • - Bookmark new book titles (news notes, web sites, whatever). Tag them with a unique tag.  Use the rss feed for that tag to feed through widgetbox.
  • twitter - Post events, new titles, news... to twitter with a link back to your catalog, calendar, web site.. Does double duty - twitter followers will get your notes (tweets) and you'll have an RSS feed you can repurpose.


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