Thing 2: RSS and Feed Readers


Maybe you've heard the term RSS from co-workers or friends. You’ve probably even noticed this or this on websites ranging from mainstream media sites to personal blogs. If the hows and whys of RSS are still a mystery to you, you're not alone. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a file format for delivering frequently updated information, such as news headlines, blog posts, and podcasts over the web. It helps to think of it as Really Simple Subscription, because you are essentially subscribing to a website and having information delivered to you when it is published.

Think about the websites you visit everyday. Imagine visiting 5 websites a day. When there is no new information, you've wasted time going to 5 different sites. Now imagine being able to go to only one spot to see updated information. That one spot is called a feed reader, or aggregator. The feed reader manages the RSS feeds of all of the websites to which you subscribe. Sounds good, right?

For another explanation of how RSS works, check out RSS in Plain English, from the fine folks over at Common Craft:

The two big players in the feed reader scene are Bloglines and Google Reader. Many more feed readers exist, and though each has its merits, the DO portion of this task will focus on Google Reader since you're already signed up with a Google account.

To read more about RSS and feed readers, take a look at these resources:


Take a look at these three libraries that are using RSS feeds to get information to their patrons:


  1. We've got one more thing for you to watch. This tutorial on Google Reader provides a good overview of how our feed reader of choice (at least for this task) works. One word of caution: the tutorial was created in 2005, back when Google Reader was just a baby. It's grown a bit since then, so expect to see a few cosmetic changes.

  2. Go to and sign in with your Google account.

  3. It's time to start adding subscriptions! Click "Add Subscription" and enter the URL of a site that offers an RSS feed. Add at least 5 subscriptions to your Reader.

    If you are using Internet Explorer 7.0 or Firefox, you can subscribe to an RSS feed in Google Reader with a single click. If a Website has an RSS feed, you will see this indicator in your browser's address bar. If you click on that indicator, it will take you to a page where you can choose your aggregator. Choose Google Reader as the aggregator to use. Then you will be taken to the Google Reader page for subscribing to that feed. Hurrah!

  4. No idea what to subscribe to? Here are some suggestions:
    • 10 Things @ SPL participants' blogs. Keep up with your co-workers as they work their way through the 10 Things. Visit a blog, copy the URL, and paste it into the "Add Subscription" field in Google Reader.
    • Skokie Public Library's new DVDs
    • SkokieTalk
    • Chicago Tribune
    • Your favorite news, career, hobby, or family websites

  5. Once you've got at least 5 subscriptions in your Reader, check back periodically to see if there are any new items. Click around in Google Reader and explore a bit of its functionality.

  6. Now that you've got your Reader set up, take a few minutes to post to your blog about your RSS experience so far. Don’t know what to blog about? Think about these questions:
    • What do you like about RSS and feed readers?
    • 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?
    • If you're already using a feed reader, share your experiences with your co-workers. Which one do you use? Do you find it useful?


Customize your Blogger template to include a feed from one of your favorite sites. HINT: Look for "Add an Element" in your Template.

Now you're ready for Thing 3: Instant Messaging.


Anonymous said...

There's no Number 3 in your to do list.

Toby said...

The number is probably hiding behind the photo. We'll take a look at it. Thanks for letting us know!

rich said...

I moved the image over to the right so it should look okay now. Also, the RSS in Plain English video should be working fine now.

Anonymous said...

I already added links to my template before I ever saw this. Guess that means I'm a little ahead on these things.