Skip to Main Content

Library Loop

Library Champions - What Makes a Good Reading List  

by Anna-Lena Kleinert on 2023-09-14T17:24:00+01:00 | 0 Comments

Jane Picciano and Karen Driver (Senior Library Assistant (Collections Design & Delivery, Libraries & Collections)

Why we did it 

We spend a lot of time in Libraries & Collections setting deadlines, processing reading lists and buying ebooks and print books in collaboration with academics, but we have never explored in any formal capacity how students experience reading lists.  

In August 2022 we submitted a proposal to the Service Development Team to deliver a Library Champions project titled What Makes a Good Reading List?  

The rationale for the project was to understand reading lists from a different perspective, more specifically a student perspective. 

The aims of the project were to work alongside a group of students from a range of disciplines and levels of study to understand how students use reading lists (or not), use the resulting data to make recommendations to improve the student experience and to share the data and recommendations with Faculties alongside our student partners. 

How we did it 

We recruited 15 interested and enthusiastic students from a range of disciplines and levels of study to understand how they use reading lists, the impact on their well-being, and what they consider to be a good reading list. Some students had experience with reading lists, and some had none or limited knowledge of what a reading list is.  

We held 2 workshops; these were semi-structured but largely focused on student led discussion. In the 2 workshops we also presented the students with examples of different types of reading lists and asked for their feedback.  

After the workshops students were asked to produce case studies reflecting on their experiences of reading lists at King’s and providing recommendations. To support this we created a case study template, guidance, and held face to face and online drop ins where students could attend, do the work and ask any questions they had.   

We provided feedback on the case studies; highlighting where students had thought critically and made connections between reading lists and the wider student experience, but also linking their recommendations to our future plans to ensure they understood the impact of their thoughts and ideas. 

The case studies were presented at a Library Champions Event in April with a large poster time-lining our processes.  Some of the students from the project attended and everyone in the group mingled and discussed the experience with inquisitive attendees.  

What we learned about students 

Once we'd held the workshops and received the case studies we had a wealth of qualitative data which we coded and analysed.  

The key themes emerged as ‘Structure’, ‘Link to teaching’, ‘Prioritise’ and ‘Wellbeing’. To summarise: 

  1. Students value academic engagement with a list, links to teaching and assessment and clear signposting to content. A well structured list helps students feel supported in their learning. 

  1. Students value up to date content from diverse perspectives and authors, especially when material is then covered in lectures and seminars. It helps them connect with their peers and own research. 

  1. Reading lists impact wellbeing, positively and negatively. Structure, content and clarity is key. 

  1. Students do not start life at King's on a level footing in terms of knowledge of reading lists or in knowing how to read academic texts. 

Once we had established our findings and recommendations, we presented this project alongside 4 of our Library Champions to academics and professional services colleagues across faculties. The students discussed their experiences with reading lists, their participation in the project and fielded questions.  

What we learned about ourselves 

The Library Champions scheme provides opportunities for students, but it also gives us the opportunity to interact and learn from them too. We were all impressed at how engaged and excited the students were to speak about their experiences during the project and how they delivered the important information professionally and succinctly. It is important for us to ensure that we engage, listen, and collaborate with students as much as possible to ensure that they know we value their input and opinions.  

It was interesting to understand how students interact with reading lists as some of our team’s focus is on purchasing resources. Through this work we saw our own bias coming through in terms of length of lists and out of date resources, some of which was echoed in students’ comments and case studies, some not.  

Hearing experiences from the other side of the reading list has helped to give us a more holistic understanding. All in all, it was a fulfilling and exciting project to be involved in and working with colleagues that we don't have a chance to work with every day enriched our understanding for what they do and helped to cement stronger working relationships with both colleagues, academics, and students.  

What we’re doing next  

The project has put forward a set of recommendations aligned with the findings of our research. However, quotes from our Library Champions have already been embedded into other pieces of work such as our Inclusive Reading List Toolkit, and the Showcase has sparked interest in faculties ranging from initiating related projects with the library to academics telling us about individual changes they're making to their reading lists as a result.  

Our future plans, directly influenced by our Library Champions, include:  

  • Developing faculty templates for online reading lists 

  • Raising the profile of non-traditional resources such as audiobooks, apps and videos 

  • Establishing a definition of purpose for reading lists at King’s to provide clarity and consistency across the university 

 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


  Follow Us

  Return to Blog
This post is closed for further discussion.