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Create, Curate, Captivate - a reading list toolkit

Aspects to consider in terms of reading lists

This year we’ve had discussions with the cost-of-living group and with students and academics at Student Staff Committees about reading lists and expectations around resourcing.

In each School, reading lists may vary considerably for all sorts of reasons. As academics who compile them for a specific module it is important to consider the potential financial impact this may have on students. Within the current financial climate and during the cost-of-living crisis it is worth considering how items are labelled or listed on your reading list and how a student may interpret this.

While the costs associated with an individual module may seem negligible, it is worth remembering that students will be taking multiple modules throughout the year and these amounts can add up. It should therefore be in our interests to do everything we can to alleviate the financial and associated mental burden for our students.

We understand that it may not be possible to alter the content or reading on your module. However, there are still steps you can take to help students:

  • Indicate any costs

One of the easiest but most impactful things you can do is make any costs associated with the essential reading on your module as clear as possible on your module outline form, and any Canvas pages. If there is an expectation to purchase core text, then highlight this from the outset together with a rough idea of how much this will cost. You might also want to have a rough total of how much all essential items cost and to have a discussion with the Degree Programme Director so as a School you can look costs overall across all compulsory modules.

  • Help manage access and stock levels

When resourcing reading lists, the library applies a baseline formula using the number of students on that module within that Faculty, together with the label of importance of that item e.g., essential, recommended or background. They’ll also consider the number of print (if needed) in conjunction with eBook availability. Please encourage your students to make reservations on print copies if they are out on loan and the Library will monitor these levels of reservations to see if additional copies are needed. You can also encourage students to use the Book Recommendation form to ask to purchase additional copies or to see if the title is available electronically. We also have a short loan collection for essential titles which aren’t available to licence as an eBook which effectively ensures a copy will be available to students to borrow for smaller periods of time. The Library also monitors eBook usage so again if we need to buy additional licences or credits for a particular eBook as demand has spiked then we have systems in place to do this.

  • CLA Licence

The Library also has a CLA licence which allows book chapters or articles to be digitised and made available to students through their online reading list. This may help provide students access to sections of core reading instead of purchasing copies themselves.

  • Changes to lists

Consider how many significant changes are made to a reading list each year. The online reading lists are publicly available so technically incoming first-year students can look at them before arriving for example. If you’ve recommended a specific edition and a newer one is available, will any edition be ok to use? Are you using specific sections which are only available in certain editions? By clearly labelling these citations it gives students a chance to ensure they have access to correct version or purchase a cheaper second-hand copy (if any edition is appropriate).

  • Labels and Notes 

Make appropriate use of labels and notes within the online reading list system e.g., “this section features essential books which you’ll be expected to use in their entirety”. Therefore, communicating to students how much of each book they might be using.

  • Out of print

Out of print items maybe common place in some subjects e.g., Fine Art and Architecture where publishers only print a small run of print copies. Again, please be mindful of these and in applying an essential label if they are in short supply.