Really Simple Syndication: “DVR” for the web

2 Oct
RSS icon

Image by TEIA MG via flickr under Creative Commons license

This semester I’m taking a class called Information Technology in Educational Organizations.  This week, my professor has asked us to think about whether or not we think RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is “here for the long run or dying on the vine.”

If you are not familiar with RSS, I liken it to “DVR” for the web.  Rather than having to tune into specific networks at the time of a live broadcast, you can subscribe to your favorite shows and they aggregate on your DVR so you can scan them and watch them at your leisure.  RSS does the same thing for you with your favorite websites and blogs by feeding them into an RSS reader or aggregator of your choice.  Here is a very short video that explains RSS in terms of my preferred RSS reader, Google Reader:

In the world of libraries, RSS is a valuable and relevant tool.  As a professional, many librarians face the difficulty of finding time to keep up with professional literature, new technologies, and shared programming ideas.  By bringing all of these ideas from your favorite websites and blogs together in your personalized RSS feed, you can eliminate the time-consuming hassle of checking each of your favorite websites individually.  Here are a few more of my favorite Library and Education-related sites that I follow using Google Reader:

  • Free Technology For Teachers ( delivers just what the name implies – a survey of technology tools that can be used for free to enhance learning in educational settings.
  • Librarian In Black ( – Sarah Houghton-Jan is an active and passionate, albeit opinionated, Librarian from the West coast. I began to follow this blog after seeing this impressive post about that whole Harper-Collins kerfuffle earlier this year.
  • LIS News ( aggregates library-related news from across the “Biblio Blogosphere” and has also led to me finding a lot of the library blogs I try to keep up with.
  • Screwy Decimal ( is a light-hearted account of the day-to-day life of Rita Meade, a Children’s Librarian at a public library in Brooklyn.

RSS is also a valuable tool that can be used by libraries to broadcast services to their patrons, encourage interaction and feedback, and increase visibility of the library website through RSS sharing features.

Here are the top 5 features that I believe are the reason you should start using RSS today, and why I think RSS (and Google Reader in particular) is here to stay:

  1. Organizing: Use tags and folders to group blogs and sites together by topical area or affinities.  If you only have 10 minutes to catch up on web news at a time, you can select the cluster that is related to what you are most interested in, need the most, or are just plain in the mood for at the moment.  You could also choose the category that has the amount of new posts you are able to get through in 10 minutes. Tip: I like to see my folders in a particular order rather than alphabetically, so I label my folders with numbers so they will sort the way I want them to.
  2. Browsing  – The feed discovery area allows you to subscribe to blog clusters curated by celebrities or publications, create clusters you can share with the world, or to see recommendations based upon your activity in Google Reader.
  3. Scanning – Post titles are easy to scan in your feed, allowing you to quickly select and focus on posts that are most interesting to you.  You are likely to get a good overview of the day’s news even from the titles of posts you scrolled past. 
  4. Searching – Searching has two benefits in Google Reader: You can search keywords in the feed discovery area to find blogs that discuss issues that you are interested in, or you can search your own feeds for posts you want to re-read.  For example, you want to show your principal a great article you saw last month about using Twitter in the library, but you can’t remember exactly which blog you saw it on.  By searching “Twitter in the library” you will probably find that post and possibly a couple more you forgot about that you can share through Reader itself (see below) or by emailing the direct link.
  5. Sharing– You can click “share” to alert your network of followers to posts that you find interesting or important, and you can see posts that your network of friends, colleagues or professional mentors thinks are particularly interesting, as well. Tip: Create a Google Reader feed for your library, and post the library’s Reader feed to your web page.  Within the account, create folders related to topics of interest or by affinity groups to provide a constantly updated source of trusted information!  You could have a folder dedicated to teachers that provides professional development information, posts about new technologies, and lesson plan ideas; a feed for students containing trusted resources for current events; and a feed for librarians in your district or extended network that contains professional development ideas and industry news.

Share with Brooklyn Biblio

  • Please comment and let me know the innovative ways you use RSS in your professional life or at your library, let me know if you have a great RSS reader application you can share, or share your favorite library and education-related blogs.  
  • Don’t forget, you can add Brooklyn Biblio to your own RSS reader and share the posts you find interesting or useful with your own networks.  Just click on the RSS icon at the top right of this page!

6 Responses to “Really Simple Syndication: “DVR” for the web”

  1. Marilyn Arnone October 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    I commend you on making a strong argument for why RSS is here to stay. Your post will be extremely helpful for those just learning how RSS can benefit them as you were very thorough and the video and graphics supported your rationale. This is like RSS 101! Thanks. BTW, I enjoyed reading some of your previous posts, too.

    • bkbiblio October 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      Thanks, Dr. Arnone. I hope you will stop by again!

  2. Marilyn Arnone October 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Indeed, I will.

  3. Kate October 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    Thanks to your shameless plug on my blog I came over to check your post out (I also responded on my blog- but I’ll be repeating a lot of it here).

    I love your post. Admittedly I am not a lover of RSS- simply put I haven’t found the need for it yet. As you and other pointed out, there is a time/place when I won’t have access to my normal ways of staying current, namely Facebook and Twitter. There will also come a time when I am not sitting in front of computer for most of the day (which will be awesome because it means I have a job). Because I don’t use it, I also don’t know a great deal about all the capabilities, so your post was definitely enlightening on those fronts.

    It will be interesting to see if my use of RSS changes in the next few years!

    • bkbiblio October 3, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

      Thanks for coming by! I’m glad you took some information away from my post. I think like a lot of web 2.0 technologies, it gets better the more you use it. I feel the same way about social bookmarking sites like delicious and diigo. At first, when you only have a few feeds in there, it might not seem that useful, but once you get a lot of sources put in, and you have a network of several “followers” and people you are following, it really begins to shape up.


  1. Rubbing Elbows: Preparing yourself to search for a library job* « Brooklyn Biblio - November 3, 2011

    […] I see job listings there that wouldn’t be right for me, but could work for a friend.  (Here is a post I wrote recently about using Google Reader, if you aren’t familiar with […]

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