LIScareer.com
Career Strategies for Librarians
Keeping Up with RSS
by Andrea Delumeau

Until recently RSS seemed to be one of those buzzwords one could safely ignore, but not any longer! For
a long time I have been looking for an easy, not too time-consuming way to keep up with the numerous
developments in our field. On my quest to find a good strategy for keeping up, I found Stephen Bell's
Keeping Up Web Site at http://staff.philau.edu/bells/keepup. Although addressed mainly to academic
librarians, I find it useful for librarians of all backgrounds. He was rather anti-RSS at the time (he
considered it too time-consuming to learn), but he has now changed his mind and even provides a
tutorial! He said this about keeping up:

"Keeping up should be based on a strategy. Individuals need to determine what they need to know, what
resources will deliver that needed information, how much time they can commit, and what is the best
way to get the right mix delivered with the least amount of effort. It's all about maintaining control over the
information stream that flows to your desktop."

Although he considered it too time-consuming to learn how to implement RSS at the time, he
nevertheless encouraged all librarians to find out more about it and suggested reading the WSG
Newsletter article “RSS Newsreaders Deliver Headlines” at http://www.websearchguide.
ca/newsletter/030228.htm.

When I visited that article, I came across another helpful article, “RSS For Non-Techie Librarians” by
Steven M Cohen at http://www.llrx.com/features/rssforlibrarians.htm.

What is RSS?

So what is RSS? According to the Webopedia, RSS stands for RDF Site Summary or Rich Site Summary
(http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/R/RSS.html).  A less technical definition that is often used is Really
Simple Syndication.

RSS is an XML format which enables the syndication, or sharing, of content. The data usually provided
are pieces of information like a title, a brief description, and a link. For a basic introduction to RSS, see
WebReference.com (http://www.webreference.com/authoring/languages/xml/rss/intro/).   

Some people see RSS as the next big thing that is going to revolutionize the web.  This is certainly an
exaggeration; for a balanced view read "RSS: Less Hype, More Action"  by Roddy MacLeod (http://www.
freepint.com/issues/170604.htm#feature).  

For me, it is simply a very convenient way to keep up!

Getting Started

In order to read RSS feeds, you need a news reader or aggregator. The first step is to choose a news
aggregator for your desktop in order to receive and read RSS feeds. You may decide whether a web-
based or desktop-based aggeregator works best for you. I experimented with a couple that were
suggested  by Steven Cohen, but finally decided to use a web-based one, Bloglines (http://www.
bloglines.com), since it can be accessed anywhere and was easiest to use.  For a good selection of
both types of newsreaders, see the Christian Science Monitor’s easy-to-understand primer on RSS at
http://www.csmonitor.com/rss/#about.

I would then suggest doing a tutorial. I like Karen G. Schneider’s tutorial “Getting Started with RSS: The
Fifteen-Minute Tutorial” at http://freerangelibrarian.com/archives/111803/getting_started_with.php for its
down to earth approach.  In this short but informative tutorial you'll subscribe to the feed for Resource
Shelf (http://www.resourceshelf.com/), Gary Price's very useful site for librarians, from which you can
always unsubscribe later if you want.

Where to Find Feeds

Many sites announce their RSS feed with a link labeled "Syndicate" or a small rectangular orange icon
that says "XML."  LISFeeds (http://lisfeeds.com/) lists some library-related feeds.

Suggested Feeds for Keeping Up

Stephen Bell recommends Gary Price's Resource Shelf (http://www.resourceshelf.com/).  I would add
Steven Cohen’s Library Stuff (“The library weblog dedicated to resources for keeping current and
professional development”) at: http://www.librarystuff.net/.

Recommended Reading

Check out Teri Vogel’s site, ”Webfeeds, Blogs & More” (http://georgiasla.blogspot.com/), which presents
resources on blogs, RSS and other tools for information professionals. Based on the presentation
“Untangling Blogs and RSS” (http://www.library.gsu.edu/scholarship/presentations/vogel-2004-05-11-
blogs-rss-sla.pdf), that was delivered to the Georgia chapter of SLA (Special Libraries Association) in
May 2004. (An excellent presentation, by the way!)

Also read RSS: Your Gateway to News & Blog Content by Danny Sullivan, at http://searchenginewatch.
com/sereport/article.php/2175281.

I would also recommend reading Dylan Greene's blog post from January 2004 called "10 Reasons Why
RSS is Not Ready for Prime Time" (http://www.dylangreene.com/blog.asp?blogID=363).

About the Author:

Andrea Delumeau is a reference librarian at the American Library in Paris, France. In November 2001
she had a stroke on the job, which affected her mobility and speech and forced her to stay home for the
time being. However, she plans to go back to work shortly.

Article published October 2004

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