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RSS: Try It, You’ll Like It

RSS (Rich Site Syndication, or Really Simple Syndication) is changing the way people receive and manage information. This technology has been around for several years and is increasingly being adopted by mainstream internet users. More than likely, this includes people you serve at your library or information center. If you have yet to jump on the RSS bandwagon yourself, read on.

RSS saves you the hassle of having to visit your favorite blogs and websites one by one to check for updates. With RSS, the updates come to you. You can access news feeds from all of your favorite sources through a single access point.

The first step is to sign up for an RSS reader. Google Reader (pictured above) and Bloglines are two popular (and free) web-based readers.

Once you have an account, look for any of these symbols:

on the web sites you frequent. If you are running a newer version of Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, the symbol will appear on the right side of the address bar. Try it with Dragonfly!

If you don’t see the symbol in your address bar, you will find it at the bottom left of Dragonfly’s navigation bar:

Click on the symbol. In newer versions of web browsers, you will see a menu of subscription options. Select the RSS reader you chose in the first step, enter your username and password if asked, and you’re subscribed!

If you don’t see subscription options (or if you see code that is difficult to read) copy that page’s entire address from the address bar. Go to your RSS reader and find an “Add Subscription” option. Paste the address directly into your reader.

Once you’ve added several subscriptions, visit your reader periodically to see what’s new.

Here are some of the questions I’m frequently asked by people who are new to RSS:

I don’t read that many blogs. Why would I need RSS?

RSS is not just for blogs. Feeds are also available for journal tables of contents, PubMed searches, podcasts, photo sharing sites, social bookmarking sites, and more. You can even subscribe to MEDLIB-L as a news feed.

Isn’t this just another password to remember / something else I’ll have to find time to do?

Think of it as a way to streamline what you’re already doing to continually educate yourself about developments in your field.  Don’t feel like you’re doing enough?  With an RSS reader, you can quickly scan any number of information sources at a single glance. Read, save, and share items that are of interest to you, and ignore the rest! No guilt!

Couldn’t I accomplish the same thing with e-mail alerts?

It’s true; many sites that offer RSS news feeds also offer e-mail alerts. Personally, I find it useful to separate news items and professional reading, which I can tackle as time permits, from e-mail messages requiring my personal attention. Using an RSS reader for news reduces clutter in my inbox and makes it less likely that I will overlook a time-sensitive message.

I encourage you to give RSS a try. Let me know how it’s working for you! Comments on this post are welcome.


Coming next week: Thoughts on talking to health professionals, students, faculty, staff, and the public about the benefits of RSS.

6 Responses to “RSS: Try It, You’ll Like It”

  1. Kathy Fatkin Says:

    Hi Alison, I use a feedreader too. It is great for catching up when I have a moment to think about what is going on. My favorite RSS feeds are RSS4LIB and the Krafty Librarian. I also monitor HBS working knowledge and of course PUBMED new and noteworthy. I look forward to learning more from you on technology. I like the idea of technology tuesdays, should be a great way to take manageable bites of thing that tend to intimidate me!

  2. Hope Leman Says:

    Hi, all. You can also emply FeedBurner to generate RSS feeds and use them to expand library services, as we discuss in the article How to Create a Simple Online Electronic Table of Contents Delivery Service: Medgrab as a Case Study:

    and as we have done on ScanGrants:

    FeedBurner is free and quite easy to use:

  3. Alison Aldrich Says:

    Thanks, Kathy and Hope for your comments. I am also a fan of RSS4LIB and the Krafty Librarian. David Rothman does a great job reporting about medical library and Web 2.0 issues.

  4. Hope Leman Says:

    Hi, Alison and Kathy. David Rothman’s blog definitely is must reading. I also recommend Dean Giustini’s UBC Academic Search – Google Scholar Blog.

  5. Susan Banks Says:

    Hi Alison,
    I especially liked your FAQs. I’m in the process of creating a blog for graduates on keeping up with research and will add them to my entry. The concept of RSS feeds is still a mystery to many of our alumni, and I appreciated seeing your summary in easy to understand terms. Would you mind if I borrowed some of your wording?

  6. Alison Aldrich Says:

    That’s a great idea, Susan. Please feel free to borrow whatever you’d like.