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Talis Aspire

How have universities re-evaluated their e-content approach?

Natalie Naik

When physical books weren’t available, what did the library do to ensure continuity for students? At Talis Insight Webinars 2021 we heard from a number of librarians about how they tackled the challenges of content provision during the first stage of the pandemic. Online content was required, but this comes in many forms, and not all e-content approaches suit every university or student group. 

Here’s what we learnt, and what universities are planning to do next…

Ken Dick, University Librarian, University of Portsmouth presented a talk on “E-content at Portsmouth – was 2020 an evolution or revolution?”. 

Ken told us that they initially responded to COVID-19 by analysing their Talis Aspire reading lists, so that they could identify where e-books and e-textbooks were most needed. By having academics using Talis Aspire reading lists they were aware of what content was being recommended or provided to students, and where gaps needed to be filled. This has since encouraged the University of Portsmouth’s library to revive their Talis Aspire engagement projects, as the value of the information gained from having up-to-date reading lists was clear.

They engaged with several free student textbook projects being offered at the time, and suspended all print book orders.

For the next phase, from September 2021 for the academic year 2020/21 they put several initiatives in place to improve student access to resources. They used SAGE Catalyst to provide online textbook content to students, which they integrated with their Talis services. They also worked with Perlego, an online ebook and etextbook provider, which works on an unlimited subscription model to a catalogue of over 500k resources. They enabled subscriptions to the University of Portsmouth Business School.

Watch Ken’s full presentation below:

In a session titled “How We Ran a Reading List Service during a Pandemic” Susan Abbott, Digital Library Manager and Simon Foote, Taught Courses Support Coordinator at the University of Exeter told us about their challenges.

They were affected by the sudden move to working remotely. Initially, they didn’t have sufficient equipment, internet access or the tools they needed to carry out their tasks. 

They have been digital first for 5 years, and had prioritised scanning in chapters or pages for their reading lists, which meant they were in good standing when it came to providing resources to students. In the Spring of 2020 they told staff that Talis Aspire reading lists must contain digital content only, and that physical items would be removed. 

In June 2020, they introduced a Reading List Mandate, and introduced a new e-book supplier. Since then, the library has started to own lists, do more online chat and they’ve removed their phone support service.

You can find out more about their digital content strategy and their plans moving forward by watching the video below:

Thanks to Ken, Susan and Simon for speaking at Talis Insight Webinars 2021. You can see more content from the event at

If you have any questions about topics mentioned in this post, please raise a support ticket, or email us at

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