28 February 2011

Overwhelmed? Stay updated at your leisure

The story:
You're busy.  Your Inbox is constantly full.  Your time is limited.  In a surge of professional enthusiasm you decided to have the table of contents from your most read professional journals sent to you electronically (eTOC's).  You meant well (and still do) but the incessant number of emails you get means often times these eTOC's slip past your scouring email-eye.  Next thing you know you're searching through old emails trying to find the latest articles or searching the publisher's site trying to find the contents of the recent issue.  Overall you're annoyed: this eTOC which was supposed to be an easy way to keep updated seems lost in cyberspace. What happened to the good old days when it simply showed up in tangible paper form courtesy of your hospital Librarian?  Well, before we start getting misty-eyed about justifiably discarded practices, and ready to throw our electronic baby out with that bathwater, note there is a better way!

First though let's reaffirm why eTOC's are better than their print predecessors

eTOC advantages:
1) They link right to the abstract/article meaning 'instant access' if you have a subscription
2) You can access it from anywhere you have access to email (no more carrying around loose pieces of paper)
3) They are automatic and not contingent on whether someone is 'in the office' to send it
4) They're green! (unless of course you print off your emails)

Now that we feel refreshed on our original resolve for eTOC's let's look at an even better way!

Look for the orange and white RSS Feed symbol!


RSS Feeds, Google Reader, or your Library Intranet site

With RSS feeds, (which are available from most Journal Publisher websites) you can automatically link to the most recent issues of your selected journals.  You can either set up a Google Reader account or add it to your already existing Google account.  Google Reader makes setting up automatic journal feeds easy and browsing new issues/articles a cinch!  There's the option of searching and adding journal feeds from the Reader interface "Add a Subscription" button or from the individual journal homepages.  From the Publisher's site, instead of signing up for an email to be sent simply go their RSS Feeds page and click on the 'Subscribe to this feed in Google Reader' link.  Now all the new articles from these journals will show up automatically on one page in your Reader account!  Sounds nice especially when you think of the mass of rogue emails floating around somewhere in your inbox.  Google Reader keeps them neat, organized, contained in one space and is very user-friendly!
You can also sign up to follow new posts from your favorite blogs *cough cough* also searchable from the "Add a Subscription" button on your Reader main page

Snapshot of Google Reader

Another option sometimes offered by Libraries is a 'Current Awarenss' page where the RSS feeds of major journals are linked to the Library site so you can see the latest articles/latest issue of your favourite heavy-hitters.  Though useful it may not be offered by all Libraries and will of course not be as tailored to your needs as the Google Reader option. 

Talk to your Librarian about how to use RSS feeds, whether they offer a centralized 'Current Awareness' page or for assistance and/or setting up feeds on a Google Reader account.  Keeping these updates organized, contained and easily accessible is just one step closer to keeping you sane, keeping your inbox clearer and keeping your good intentions intact!

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