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Digital-first and student success with Talis Aspire at Northumbria University

Natalie Naik
case study Management Information

The library at Northumbria University and Talis have worked in partnership to develop next-generation library analytics for student success. In this blog post, Nick Woolley, Former Director of Student and Library Services, and from August this year Director of Library Services at Sheffield Hallam University, explains how Northumbria University worked with Talis over the past 6 years to improve the student experience. Find out more about their projects, including the latest undertaking, Advanced Management Information System (MIS).

Jump to the whitepaper about their MIS project here.

The University Library at Northumbria delivers physical and digital services and resources through professional librarians and teams, shaped by engagement and partnership with students, Faculty, and Professional Services, and externally through cooperation and collaboration with the national and global knowledge community. Their scholarly resources include over half a million print books, over 900,000 ebooks, an extensive collection of over 83,000 journals, databases and other primary digital sources.

You can find out more about how the University Library at Northumbria has developed to drive student success in the following article in the New Review of Academic Librarianship, by Nick Woolley and Jane Core: Putting the learner at the heart of student experience: The role of the University library in a seven-year journey of superconvergence at Northumbria University, UK.

Nick Woolley explains: “Our framework for library learning resources is organised around learning activity and is aligned through service design and business rules with our Digital First strategy. For students, our starting point is how they discover resources, either through academic direction or through independent learning. Our reading list service, underpinned by Talis Aspire and a central feature of our online scholarly gateway (, is a major component of our framework and drives a significant proportion of our collection development and content delivery (Table 1).”

Table 1 (Northumbria University Library integrated framework for resource delivery)

The Reading List service was developed at Northumbria in 2013/14 which then used Talis Aspire Reading Lists and the Talis Aspire Digitised Content modules and has since successfully provided students with an intuitive online resource to discover and access their module reading. It operates as a collaboration between all four Faculties and the university library, with academic colleagues creating and submitting their lists for review by the library’s Reading List team. Responsibility for the delivery of the Reading List service sits within this functional team who acquire all directed scholarly reading, digitise material from the library collection and engage with academic colleagues to enable and empower their adoption and ownership.

Each year, and alongside all Faculties and services, the university library undertakes National Student Survey (NSS) action planning to meet the university’s strategic aim of providing outstanding student and stakeholder experiences and outcomes. Action on reading lists have featured in every annual action plan from 2015, and targeted provision for low scoring programmes has consistently improved student satisfaction several times above baseline level (Table 2).

Table 2

“Enhancing our capability for analytics has been a priority for the University library at Northumbria since we developed our Digital First strategy in 2013. Evidence-based practice is a cornerstone of the library and information profession, and our growth of digital delivery offers new opportunities and challenges to taking a data-driven approach to understanding and demonstrating our value and impact to stakeholders. Digital also offers new possibilities to personalise the library experience, and so better enable equality of opportunity, success and progression, while also addressing contemporary student expectations around access to resources and value for money” explains Nick.

Talis was able to work with Northumbria University to provide them with a more in-depth look at the way students were using resources, which, teamed with data from other sources in the library, has provided them with much deeper insight. You can find out more about this project by reading the whitepaper linked here.


Thanks to Nick and the library team for their contribution to this content.

Northumbria University is based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North East England. With approximately 22,500 FTE students and 2,500 FTE staff, Northumbria combines outstanding academic research and teaching, innovative programmes, traditional values and social and cultural diversity. Northumbria University’s Vision for 2025 is to be a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence.


If you would like to find out more about anything mentioned in this blog post, or would like to hear about the Advanced MIS feature specifically, please raise a support ticket. If you are not a Talis Aspire user, please email

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