Web Feeds: The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Gerry McKiernan (Iowa State University Library) provided the audience with an introduction to RSS feeds and aggregators, especially their potential roles within libraries.

McKiernan describes feeds as automated web surfing. Feeds are sent immediately after something new is posted to the site so the site’s users can know about new content instantly. This is the strength of feeds.

RSS is called so many different things on a website…feed, XML, RSS, syndication, syndicate this site, etc. This identity crisis is part of why most users don’ t yet know what RSS is, much less use it.

ListGarden was mentioned as a useful open source option for creating your own RSS feeds.

McKiernan bemoaned the fact that IE does not have built-in RSS functionality. Firefox, Safari, and Opera has RSS functionality. I’m hearing a lot of anti-IE talk at the forum, which is not surprising at all given the audience.

Many different people and organizations are embracing RSS feeds—politicians, publishers, news organizations, and the library world.

Uses for RSS in libraries mentioned were e-journals, new materials notification in libraries and archives, user instruction, and subscription database content. McKiernan shows us what some libraries are doing with RSS already, and encouraged us to keep going. McKiernan then touched on podcasting as an aspect of RSS that has potential in libraries to extend the library’s reach into “the audio.”