Thursday, June 09, 2005

'All Librarians' Need an RSS Reader

Don't have time to create blog? You know, I understand, we're all pretty busy. Regular lurker on your listservs? That's ok too. Wikis? Social Bookmarking or Tagging? PHP? Python? MySQL? No?

Well, guess what? We're not all coders, and I can't track 'historical legislation' out of a wet paper bag. We all have 'our thing', and can only push our streams of knowledge in so many directions. That's my philosophy anyway.

Don't have an RSS reader? Whoh Nelly. Hold up. Really? Not even a Bloglines or a Newsgator account? Ok, this is where I draw the line - RSS is not an optional technology for Librarians. Personally, I would argue that it is the single most important web technology since we switched from Gopher to the World Wide Web. As a profession, we simply cannot be late to adopt and integrate this technology into our daily lives.

[If you want to get up to speed on RSS, I'd highly recommend Cindy Chick's RSS Tutorial ... right hand side, half way down]

Why is RSS so important? First of all, RSS is so much more than blogs. Check out these publishers who are now offering feeds: CBC, CNN, the Economist,, HBS Working Knowledge, to name only a minute few. How long is it going to be before every information source you need can be aggregated into your reader? Not long at all, I'd say. Maybe 2 years?

The samples above are also just the beginning, and the expected incantations. Think about the possibilities when we tie in search result feeds like Yahoo News, or as a completely off the wall example - my local classifieds newspaper/website - has a standing RSS feed to show me if anyone advertises a saltwater aquarium out in the Fraser Valley (used my phone number prefix!!). RSS is infinitely customizable, regardless of how narrow the topic.

Another important point - RSS is by far the best solution yet for IO (information overload). Like all professions, we have to sift through a ton of resources. We can't hold ourselves out as the information professionals when we don't have our own needs met. If we universally adopt now, in the future, we can be showing others how to create personalized feed collections. It fits right in with our expertise as content evaluators and collection builders. Think about it.

Blogs were only the first online product to adopt the RSS standard. Most website CMS Software now have RSS built in, and the search engines should be on board shortly. The pace of adoption, web wise, is the only factor left.

Perhaps I'm preaching to the converted here, but every Librarian out there (& Library Tech's too!) - stop now, and get thee to an RSS aggregator! If you don't have one, you're overdue.

& my fine is bad library puns. ;-)


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