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Case study: Improving the visibility and use of reading lists

Improving access to reading lists can help enhance the student experience. This case study looks at how, by working collaboratively with University and academic departments, the Library has set about increasing the visibility of reading lists and ensuring they are available in one place, something that provides consistency for all disciplines/levels and is particularly supportive of interdisciplinary study. This initiative is ongoing and over the last two years has provided many learning outcomes that will inform service developments and provision for years to come.

Department(s) / colleagues involved

  • Library: multiple teams including the acquisitions team and Academic Support Librarians
  • ITS: Learning Support System team
  • Academic Departments: Heads of Department, departmental administrators and academic colleagues
  • The Student Personalised Information (SPI) Programme provided funding for temporary additional staffing and project management
  • The Academic Quality & Standards Committee provided guidance and actively supported the initiative through advocacy and targeted communications

Our aim was to …

…improve the visibility and use of reading lists. Student surveys often raise the issue of access to core readings. The Library has always requested reading lists in order to be able to acquire required reading materials for students but was only receiving c. 500 for the 2,500 modules taught and not all in time to get readings for the start of the academic year. The Library and academic colleagues had worked hard on this but it was clear that a change was required. We therefore adopted a new approach with the aim to increase the number of reading lists obtained to enable the Library to acquire materials to support students on their courses in a timely fashion.

What we did …

Rethinking of the current process and arrangements within the Library and how departments and academics developed reading lists.
The reading list system Talis Aspire (Aspire) was adopted by the Library to help with this. ITS colleagues identified improvements necessary to enable integration with University systems, eg. Moodle, and further improvements were identified by the Library team to better support the workflow. Greater use of the system by a wider community was advocated by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and other senior colleagues.

The team identified the following priorities:

  • Engaging academics – ensuring colleagues were aware of the timeframes required to get reading list items into stock by the beginning of the academic year and improving dialogues where this proved problematic.
  • Encouraging the adoption of Aspire – this would make reading lists available in one place and provide links to the Library Catalogue and online resources, improving access for students.
  • Focusing on increasing the number of reading lists obtained and processed for the start of each academic year.
  • Reviewing the timelines for long-term planning – academic staff are busy researching and planning their courses over the summer, yet a significant lead-in time is required to source, acquire and process the required resources – how can we support both?

We therefore:

  • Considered how we could support academics in setting up their lists on Aspire, ensuring training and support was available in a variety of ways (face-to-face and online) as well as recruiting additional temporary resource to assist in inputting lists initially, if required. The lists would still be owned by the academics and could be updated and managed around their own demands.
  • Reviewed the complete process from start to finish – ensuring this was a streamlined as possible.
  • Considered the workflow and, as more lists were to be received, ensured the Library was appropriately resourced to cope with the increased workflow and demand. Funding for the additional support came from the SPIP.
  • Improved communications to ensure departments and academics were aware of the initiative, key steps and timeframes, and the training and support available.
  • Piloted a new role – the Reading List Officer – to engage with departments and offer training and support. This is to be an all year round role, continuing the support for reading lists beyond the summer period.
  • Considered ways of fast-tracking or prioritising certain lists (a triage approach) to maintain throughput.
  • Worked with ITS and the system provider to identify Aspire system issues and/or ways the system could be improved to better support the Warwick approach.


The outcome has been …

1st year of the pilot (summer 2017) - significant progress was made, with a considerable increase in reading lists visible on Aspire for the start of the academic year (1068 lists published against approximately 2,500 modules believed to have a reading list). In addition, the number of items being acquired (print materials) and also digitised content being available (Course Extracts) in readiness for the start of the academic year also increased.

2nd year of the pilot (summer 2018) – we focused on supporting academic departments in the use of Aspire to improve workflows longer term. The trial of the Reading List Officer proved successful and we are now moving to mainstreaming this role. We did face some challenges (e.g. around recruiting for some roles) which impacted on delivery but lessons have been learnt. The effects of other changes to processes are currently being reviewed with the intention of providing further streamlining. Processing potentially 2,500 lists in a short timeframe will prove a challenge for the University so we are working with Simplify Collaborate Deliver (SCD) colleagues to provide the best results possible.

The benefit/impact has been …

Greater number of reading lists are visible (in one place) to students for the start of the academic year and throughout the course.

In addition, an increased number of reading list materials are available in/from the Library too!

This supports the Education Strategy by …

Enhancing the student experience and ensuring a comparable experience across all disciplines/all levels of study with reading lists visible and accessible in one place – particularly supportive to interdisciplinary study.

We hope this in turn will respond to student concerns and impact positively on student survey returns.

The response of students / staff has been …

Overall, this initiative has been positively received – students in particular have reported that they like having reading lists are all in one place, the system is easy to use and there is a consistent approach across disciplines.

There is still more to be achieved but we continue to work with the Academy to improve coverage.

Our next steps will be …

Full review of the process and progress made this year – along with support from the SCD team to ensure process and resourcing can better support demand. Stay tuned for more developments.

To find out more, you can contact …

If you’d like to find out more about Reading lists then contact a member of the team:

James Fisher - Resource Acquisitions & Digital Access Manager – j dot w dot fisher at warwick dot ac dot uk

Karen Jackson - Academic Support Manager (Teaching & Learning) – k dot jackson dot 3 at warwick dot ac dot uk

See also the Library’s Reading Lists page.