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What we learnt from MTRLC

Zena Amos

Some of the Talis team have been at Meeting the Reading List Challenge hosted by Gary Brewerton and his team at Loughborough University this week. Thanks Gary for the warm welcome showed to Talis.

As always a great event to see what challenges Universities are facing in implementing and maintaining reading lists, in now a very digitally resourced world. Students are expecting more from Universities each year in terms of access to resources, from all over the world and on every device. This is a challenge when Universities are facing budget cuts and trying to manage more with smaller teams.

It is clear that whatever reading list system a university has, some challenges are common across the board, time poor academics are unable or unwilling to create lists, librarians receive late submissions and complex buying decisions and processes for deciding what to buy and when.

There were some great ideas being shared from presentations across the two days. Some ideas that stuck out to us were, getting and using Student Unions representatives right from the planning of reading list changes or implementations and refer back to review processes and progress. National Student Survey results are powerful, and help to target areas of both need and best practice. Some trends showed too, such as buying coming from reading lists only, using ratios based on student numbers. We saw much discussion around identity of Resource Lists vs. Reading Lists, our Twitter poll finished up as just 6% saying Resource Lists 94% saying Reading Lists.


[Twitter poll now closed]

Monica Crump from University of Ireland Galway kicked off Day 2, with a very frank presentation highlighting the struggles of ‘Building the Infrastructure for a successful Reading List Service’. By all accounts, they are now well on the way to that success with a team and processes to meet the demand. I wonder if any more academics dare suggest an item is added to Desk Reserve, some 5 years after the service ceased to be. This was following analysis into the much loved, high maintenance service revealed 50% of the collection was never issued. So this was a disparity between what Academic were recommending and what students were actually reading.

In Melissa Bradley and Andy Prue’s presentation from the University of Kent ‘Collection Engagement Strategy: Reading Lists Case Study Approach’, school level policies were drawn up with the schools’ direction being to decide how reading lists were best resourced. The key buying decision was still with the schools but formalised using an agreed policy to quicken the process. It was also good to hear from Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), Jo Dobson and Deborah Taylor, another Talis customer of some years. They were discussing ‘Supporting academics with their reading lists in the Health faculty’, their approach to the support and training and showing the statistics across the departments.


This leads nicely to a group activity lead by SHU, designing a sport based reading list, that would appeal to the students of this subject. I’m proud to be part of the winning team with our football based list. Sectioning the list with ‘Warm Up’ – General study resources, ‘First Half’ readings with learning goals and academic annotation, leading to ‘Half – Time’ additional reading, you get where we were heading with this. I’m expecting an Idea to be raised on the Talis Ideas forum regarding the red and yellow cards to indicate the importance any day now.

Keji Adedeji, our Product Manager here at Talis rounded off Day 2 with ‘Beyond the reading list – a journey with Talis’. A look at the last 5 years at Talis, talking of our matured and ever improving Talis Aspire Reading Lists and Talis Aspire Digitised Content software, along with our vision for the future.

Due to unexpected delays on the first day (just an 8 hour domestic flight delay – I’m not over it yet), I sadly missed what were some great presentations from some our other Talis Customers, I was being kept up to date by Natalie Naik in our marketing team, here’s what she had to say on a couple of the talks on day one:

Andrew McDonald from De Montfort University spoke about overcoming the barriers of your organisational structure with ‘Dancing on Glass – Introducing a new Reading List System in a Period of Major Organisational Change. Some of the key challenges his team faced were resistance to change from both legacy library staff and academics, and the lack of desire from academics to manage these lists. He mentioned that as there was nothing in place before, it was extremely difficult to encourage people to take up using the new system. His advice was to focus on the benefits to engage both students and academics.

Rachel Fell and Nicola Ward from Manchester Metropolitan University delivered a presentation on ‘Reading List Awareness Campaign – Encouraging students to read to succeed’. Their presentation was all about getting students engaged with Reading Lists and they talked through their promotional plan, using print collateral such as posters and bookmarks and also sessions in various departments to make it easier for students to locate and use their lists.

If like me you feel you have missed out, then check out the Talis Insight Europe 2016 Agenda and register to attend this free event for further talks from some of these presenters and many more.

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