Discover: RSS

RSS is a powerful, yet often sadly under-used resource to monitor the content of a wide variety of blogs and news sites through one centralized interface.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web.  You may have seen this distinctive orange logo on various websites…

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

This logo indicates that an RSS Feed is available on a particular website.  The feed is a stream of information, which can be subscribed to and read using a feed reader.  Google Reader is one of the more popular and most widely available feed readers.  For help understanding RSS and Google Reader, check out these videos from Common Craft:

As you can see, using RSS and a feed reader can save you lots of time by checking a wide variety of web sites for you and presenting the results in a manageable list.  Many sites have RSS feeds, usually ones that are updated regularly.  They include:

  • Blogs
  • News sites like CNN
  • YouTube and Flickr
  • Magazines
  • Bookmark sharing services like Delicious and Diigo

Libraries already use many services with RSS feeds built right in, some examples include:

Events – Many libraries use RSS for their event calendars such as the New York Public Library
Databases – Many databases use RSS, such as Gale and Ebsco
Catalogs – Increasingly libraries use RSS for subject searches and recent acquisitions
Book Reviews – Here’s an example of a library that uses RSS feeds for it’s Reader’s Clubs

Engage: Google Reader

Google Reader is the one of the most popular web-based feed readers.  Check out these helpful videos for getting started with Google Reader, then go ahead and set up your own account.  If you aren’t already registered with Gmail you’ll have to do so, otherwise simply log into Google Reader using your Gmail username and password.


Create a post in your blog about this exercise. Think about these questions:

      • What do you like about RSS and newsreaders?
      • How do you think you might be able to use this technology in your work or personal life?
      • How can libraries use RSS or take advantage of this new technology?

This Learning 2.0 module was originally designed and implemented by students in Dr. Michael Stephens‘ Transformative Literacies class in the Fall of 2012.  This class is part of San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science curriculum. It was authored by Jeffrey Castel De Oro for Explore and Inspire: Scholarly Visionaries. It is available for use for other libraries or institutions.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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