Monday, July 25, 2011

Vital #2: RSS


In Vital #1, you examined a few library blogs, then created a personal blog specific to this project. Since the purpose of Virtual Vitals is to promote professional development, you will want to have access to timely information found not only in blogs, but also available on news sites and from other Internet sources. The easiest, most efficient way to do this is to set up an RSS feed.

RSS, which stands for "Really Simple Syndication," (alternately, "Rich Site Summary" or "RDF Site Summery") is a way to distribute new content alerts to users automatically, eliminating the need to constantly check individual websites. This requires the use of an RSS reader or news aggregator, an easy-to-use piece of free software.

Once again, the folks from Common Craft have provided a simple explanation:

How does this help me?

The greatest benefit of RSS is the gift of time - but there are other reasons to use this tool:
  • RSS Feeds can be grouped in folders, making it possible to organize and target your reading
  • you're not limited to text - it's possible to follow Flikr feeds as well
  • by setting up a list of followers, it is possible to share with others, thereby greatly expanding the scope of information accessed
  • RSS can be used to receive search alerts from databases
  • RSS is increasingly being used by libraries and other institutions to announce events, issue updates, generate reports, and deliver content. It is a powerful marketing tool, in both the public and the private sector.
Here is some additional insight about the value of RSS for librarians, from Elyssa Kroski, of San Jose State University's School of Library and Information Science.

Stuff to check out

Gale provides a tutorial on how to subscribe to their RSS feeds and Search Alerts.

EBSCO Support has an RSS for its top news stories.

Vital Task

First Choose an RSS Reader:
Google Reader | Bloglines |

Here are some tutorials, to help get you started:

Google Reader


Next, add some feeds.

Select 15-20 sites to follow, grouping them by genre. Mix in a few personal preferences (food, travel, decorating, etc.) as well as professional readings.

Here are some suggestions, but feel free to strike out on your own. Professional journals and newspapers frequently include links to blogs, and a quick search will turn up lists of recommended sites on a variety of topics.

Libraries & Librarians:
Library fun:
*don't forget to include Virtual Vitals and your own blog!


The Culinary Librarian blogged about her Google Reader obsession. Once you've set up your own RSS reader, do a reflective posting about the experience, giving specific reasons why (or why not) this tool will be valuable for you as a learner.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vital #1: Blogging


Have you ever kept a journal, a diary, a simple log of what you’ve been up to? A blog (or “web log”) is simply an online version where you can record your thoughts and musings in online posts. You can write about any topic that interests you—education, libraries, travel, food, your kids, in a word—anything!

Blogs take you one step further than a simple diary, with the ability to share what you’ve written with the world, invite comments and questions (or not!) through the commenting feature. Blogs are a wonderful way to connect with other people with similar interests. Blogs can be a great way to develop your professional network and are also wonderful for helping you to remember events and projects in the future and to reflect upon them as you go.

Blogs let you do all these wonderful things without the pesky need to master (or even think about) HTML or web page creation. Additionally, they are usually free to create and maintain!

For more information, check out this short video about blogs from the Commoncraft Website.

How does this help me?

Blogs sound great and all, but how can they help you? You can use a blog to
  • Connect with members of your community
  • Share book recommendations and reviews
  • Showcase student writing projects & portfolios
  • Share interesting new tools and technology
  • and much more!
This article from WebJunction has 6 great reasons why you should consider blogging. I particularly like reasons 1: "Writing a blog keeps you current" & 2: "Blogs are an advocacy tool." We work hard as librarians to stay current and keep up with the constantly changing landscape. We are (or should be) constant advocates for our own library programs and for libraries in general. One more tool in our toolbox is always handy!

Here are some examples of library blogs in action:
Chances are good that you already know a person or organization with a blog. Two of these blogs are written by librarians within the WSWHE BOCES SLS.

Stuff to check out

There are plenty of different blogging tools to choose from. Some are more full-featured than others, some are more a quick-start. Poke around and see which appeals to you! These are all free options.
  • Posterous. Super minimalistic, Posterous can get you off to a quick start. Two neat things you can do with Posterous: create a post via email and easily share your posts with your Facebook and Twitter friends/followers.
  • Blogger, WordPress and Edublogs are full-featured blogging tools that allow for more customization. You can get started quickly and easily, but can also poke around in settings and make the blog more personalized over time.
If you haven't used any of these blogging tools before, you might try Blogger. The video below can help you get started.

Vital Task

Your first task is to create your own blog. This will help you to keep a record of what you’re learning during this project. It will also serve as a way to communicate with other participants. You can use any of the blogging platforms we’ve mentioned, or another if you prefer. If you’re new to blogging, try

First: Choose your platform and create your blog!
Posterous | Blogger| WordPress | Edublogs

Important stuff: You must have a blog specific to this project. Please don’t register your library’s blog, or a blog that you’re using for another topic/purpose. We will be looking at your blogs to see how you’re doing with each topic and to track your progress through the project.

More important stuff: Don’t forget to write down your account info! Login, password, URL, blog name.

Next: Create your first blog post!
Tell us who, what, where, why!
· Who are you?
· What have you learned in the program so far?
· Where do you work?
· Why are you taking part in this program?
Since this is an official weekly post (you can write more than once a week if you want), please title it “Virtual Vital: Blogging”.

And then: Register your blog here
We’ll use this to create a list of participants' blogs so everyone can read each others blogs and share their tips and ideas. Your blog entries will also be the basis for earning professional development credit.

Finally: Comments
Check the list of participants' blogs. There is a list on the Participants' Blog page, and they are also listed under the 'My Blog List' widget on the right side of this page. Take a look at other people’s blogs and leave a comment or two on anything you find interesting. Keep in mind that this is a way to share your ideas, react to another writer’s thoughts and to make connections with other people. When commenting on a blog post, remember to be respectful and courteous, even if you disagree with something they’ve posted. Next week we'll work on how to organize all these blogs!

Comments, part the second:
Leave a comment on this blog post as well, if you like.   You can say hello, post a link to your own newly created blog or let us know you're here and planning to join us.  Welcome!