How the Library gets its (reading list) books, and how to use them…

Your first weeks at the university can feel quite daunting. Welcome Week was a dizzying round of activities and social events, and now you are trying to get to grips with seminars and lectures… Hopefully, by now, you have familiarised yourself with the Library and are finding the books and journals you need for your studies. But how does the Library know what books to order and how many copies? This post will take you behind the scenes, to the Library’s ‘engine’, where you will find out how staff process your reading lists – ensuring that the Library has copies of all the things you will need to read – and more!…By Karen Jackson, James Fisher and Blanka Matkovic

Our Academic Support Librarians work closely with another Library team that you have probably never heard of, Resource Acquisitions and Digital Access (RADA), to gather reading lists from academic staff throughout the summer. RADA staff then spend May to September focussing on inputting, updating, reviewing and processing these reading lists. It’s a mammoth task – team members work carefully through over 1000 lists each summer to order copies of required books, organise scans of key chapters and ensure links to articles and online resources are correct. This can entail some detective work – chasing down rare or out of print titles from obscure locations or querying with academic staff regarding particular editions required or number of copies needed. The Library’s ‘engine’ drives the acquisition of stock-taking account of student numbers on a module and the relative importance of the item.

So, what is a reading list and why do I need one?

A reading list is simply a list of readings which have been carefully compiled by your module leader to support your studies. The list informs the Library about the resources it needs to stock to support students on the module.  It can include different sources such as books, journal articles, websites, audiovisual resources, films or newspapers. The ‘essential’ readings are compulsory preparation for seminars and lectures, whilst the additional or ‘further’ readings will help with writing essays or projects. This reading list will guide your reading, support your studies and assist you in achieving success in your module.

Where do I find my reading lists?

Your department may have added your reading list to the Library’s Reading List system (known as Talis Aspire). Log in to find your lists, or you may also find a link to your list from your course’s Moodle or Web page. Each item on your list will have a link taking you directly to the material, making it really quick and easy to find what you need. If you can’t find your list, contact your module leader in the first instance.

How do I navigate my reading list?

Your module leader is sharing his or her deep knowledge of the subject with you and the reading list will be the starting point for your learning. Items on a list are generally marked as ‘essential’, ‘recommended’ or ‘further’ reading to indicate how important a piece of reading is to the module.

What are Essential Readings?

Essential readings are the core texts – these are compulsory readings to ensure you are adequately prepared for seminars and lectures. The Library purchases multiple copies of these – aiming for 1 copy per 10 students for print-only materials and ebooks where possible. Sometimes, if an essential reading is to be used week after week, you may choose to purchase your own copy to annotate and have always to hand.

What about Recommended and Further Readings?

Recommended and further readings are there to help enhance or supplement your understanding of particular topics. The Library purchases fewer copies of these, as they are designed to be used when looking for additional material or for essays and projects.

There is an item on my reading list which isn’t in the Library. Now what?

If all the copies of the book you need are on loan, you can place a hold on it via the button on the catalogue entry. This will recall the book from other borrowers. If a very large number of holds are placed on a single title, the Library will also purchase additional copies.

If you find there is an item on your reading list which the Library does not have at all, contact your Academic Support Librarian with the details of the book and your module – the Library can then chase this up and order copies urgently.

What else do I need to know about reading?

Warwick University Library is a huge resource. Your reading list will begin to introduce you to the range of books, journals and other resources available for your subject, but the Library has so much more to offer! The next step is to explore beyond your reading list – use this guide to help you get started with your own research and contact your Academic Support Librarian for further advice and help. And if there is something you would like to recommend the Library adds to stock, you can use our Book Suggestion form at any time to let us know!

Happy reading!


Are you familiar with your reading lists and do you find them confusing? Are there any items you would like the Library to purchase? Tweet us at @warwicklibrary, email us at, or leave a comment below.


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Cover Image: The University of Warwick Library

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