February 26, 2006

RSS and Libraries

RSS and Libraries

Ailsa Parker has a new BlogHui abstract on the use of RSS in libraries.

RSS is primarily a method for spreading the word about changes, sharing new developments among people who want to be notified. This seems at cross purposes to the needs of libraries, since libraries collect and preserve. Libraries want, above all, a stable literature; RSS wants to tell you the news and then vanish.

But librarians need news as much as anyone else -- particularly news about the world of writing. What books do we need to know about? What books do our patrons need to know about? RSS is a superb channel -- provided you can create a good reading list.

That's another reason sharing your book list helps everyone. Your close friends may be interested in what you're reading, but people you've never met might find it useful too. British mystery writer John Baker has a nice reverse-chronological list of his current reading (scroll down the right-hand column to find it). A little George V. Higgins, a bit of Auden, a touch of Lillian Hellman, a dash of Northrop Frye. This is gold for librarians -- or for booksellers who want to go beyond reinforcing the best-sellers.

Update: Jennifer Elrod (Squirrel Tao) notes that booklists can help liberate librarians from best seller lists. Booksellers have very different needs than libraries -- they have to sell whatever drives people to bookstores this week, and that's often driven by national and international forces. Libraries buy for the long haul, where bookstore buyers need to buy for next week. Bookstores can return what doesn't sell; when a librarian uses a chunk of budget, it's gone forever.

More Updates: Library Stuff urges librarians to talk more about RSS and its role.