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Reading Lists Online: Structuring your list: a guide for academic staff


The acquisition of reading list items forms a significant part of the Library's collection development policy. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a shift to online library services for the time being. But ensuring that essential reading list items are available electronically is generally good practice as it enables the widest levels of access and helps to ensure student satisfaction. 

The Library is working with academic departments at the University to adopt a more consistent approach to Reading Lists in terms of length and structure, while also moving to a more streamlined workflow. 

Find out about the new recommended structure on this guide, and when you are ready, submit any new reading lists via our online form.  

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Reading List structure

Reading Lists Online is the primary vehicle for UoB students to access their reading lists. The Library creates RLO lists based on the recommendations of academic staff, and can also provide training if academics wish to edit and maintain their own lists. 

RLO lists are embedded on the relevant Moodle sites, as well as being accessible from the Library website, student portal and MyBolton app. 

Recommended Reading List Structure for 2019-20 onwards

It is recognised that different subject areas have different approaches with regard to reading. Reading List length can be agreed on a departmental basis, but this should be underpinned by principles of simplicity, consistency and improving the student experience. 

The following structure is a good starting point to follow, with all reading lists items to be assigned one of the following importances: 

  • Suggested for student purchase (maximum of one)
  • Essential (maximum of three)
  • Recommended (maximum of six)
  • Further reading 

It is not necessary for every Reading List to feature every importance.

A guide to reading list sections and importances

Suggested for Student Purchase 
The Suggested for Student Purchase category indicates to students where a title will be used on a very regular basis in teaching and/or seminars, and that it would be in the best interests of the student to obtain their own copy. All items with this category will be passed to John Smiths bookstore, and will be made available for purchase using the #UniAsItShouldBe bursary scheme.

The Library will acquire Suggested for Student Purchase items, but departments should make it clear to students that the Library will be unable to provide a copy for every student, and it would be in their best interests to acquire their own copy.  


Essential and Recommended Reading 
Where items are listed as Essential or Recommended the Library will seek to provide the text in electronic format. This will either be: 

  1. in full-text as an ebook or ejournal article or 
  2. where this is not available, by digitising a chapter, article or section*

When a Reading List is submitted, the Library will check the availability of the Essential and Recommended titles. If titles are not available electronically, they may contact the relevant staff and ask for a chapter or section to digitise. If an item is to remain as Essential or Recommended this information must be provided, or the title will have to be moved to the Further Reading section.

If all of the requested areas of the text cannot be digitised due to copyright restrictions, an alternative electronic text should be recommended. Alternatively, one key chapter could be digitised and made Essential or Recommended, while other print-only chapters could be listed in the Further Reading section.  


Further Reading

The Library will aim to provide access to all Further Reading where possible, in either print or electronic format. It will make use of emerging acquisition formats such as Demand Driven Acquision (DDA) or electronic Short Term Loans (STL) to provide access to material, while ensuring the best financial return on investment. Academic staff can support this strategy by:

  • Making regular reference to reading lists in lectures and seminars, and directing students to RLO as the key point of access for their recommended reading
  • Working with their Academic Librarian to ensure RLO lists remain up to date

* The Library is will be trialling digitisation once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. The service will be formally embedded during the 2020-21 academic year. 

Selecting readings for inclusion on your reading list

When completing a module specification, or otherwise reviewing a reading list, the following steps are advised:

  • Consider how choices of reading will support the Teaching and Learning strategy for the module. You may wish to consult reading lists from other modules on the programme, and consider how the reading may develop student understanding of issues and concepts as they progress.
  • Start by developing an awareness of already accessible resources via Discover@Bolton or Ebook Central (the Library's main package of ebooks). When looking for texts to use for Essential or Recommended readings, prioritise those which are already available electronically.
  • Where a text that you wish to recommend is not already available from the Library, contact your Academic Librarian. The Library will investigate the availability of the text and will endeavour to purchase it depending on cost, format and availability. The Library will prioritise acquisition in electronic format; where this is not available you will be asked to select a chapter or section for digitisation if the text is to be an Essential or Recommended reading*.
  • Consider the pedagogical approaches involved in the Reading List. In addition to using Importances, should the list be structured by theme, or by week of study? Reading Lists Online has the flexibility to support different structures, please speak to your Academic Librarian for guidance.
  • In addition to Importances, consider making use of notes and annotations on Reading Lists.

* The Library is will be trialling digitisation once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. The service will be formally embedded during the 2020-21 academic year. 

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