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Mary Leishman

undergraduate education

bring reading lists into the 21st century

In our recent flash poll we asked students what they think they should be paying for. 59% of students who took part said that the University should pay for essential course texts, not students.

All year, I’ve been asking the University to make sure that module reading lists are released at least 2 weeks before the start of term, so that students aren’t forced to pay for expensive next-day delivery or panic-buy from Waterstones.

But, in light of this recent feedback from you, I am asking the University to do even more.

There is a system called Talis, which UEA’s library is already using a bit, but I am encouraging them to use even more.

It requires tutors to input their reading lists. Talis will then cross-reference the number of students on the module with the number of copies of core texts in the library, and if there isn’t enough, it’ll flag it.

The library can then opt to buy them as an eBook (if available), which all students are able to use simultaneously. Students can highlight, annotate and save passages, just as they would on a kindle.  

UEA’s library already has a substantial number of course texts available as eBooks, but these are buried in the library course catalogue. Students also struggle to access eBooks off campus – it sometimes requires logging in multiple times, and a lot of students (and tutors) simply don’t know how it works.

Talis would integrate eBooks directly into reading lists. This means that when you get your reading list at the start of the year, a direct link to the library eBook (which will be the right edition, the right translation, the correct version) will be right there.

There’s some argument that the simplicity of the Talis system will cheat students out of learning vital research skills. I do take this point – but I don’t think struggling to log into ProQuest, Shibboleth or SFX really constitutes a research skill. Even with Talis, students will need to learn how to search for their topics, dig through archives, and work with their faculty librarian.

All Talis will mean is that when a tutor says “you need this exact book”, you’ll be able to access it for free.

To keep up-to-date with my on how this goes, follow my blog.


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