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University Resource List Policy

Executive summary

This policy aims to ensure that students can access the correct learning resources in a timely and consistent manner. It sets out the responsibilities of the different staff groups and requires academic staff to use the University's Resource List system embedded into Moodle. It also requires staff to provide guidance within lists on the relative importance of individual resources. Students should have consistent reading lists across modules which should be constrained in length. Resource lists should be prepared in sufficient time to allow items to be made available in the Library. All items on resource lists should be available in the University Library collection with appropriate access arrangements for the number of enrolled students.

1.   Purpose

The aims and purposes of this Resource List Policy are to:

  • Ensure that all St Mary's University students have ready access to essential learning resources and are clearly aware of which resources are recommended for every module on which they are registered
  • Ensure that purchasing and provision of resources is cost-effective and that resources are available in the right format, at the right time and in sufficient numbers to meet the learning and teaching objectives of the programme of study
  • To ensure that reading and self-directed study is a positive experience for students, and that they do not regard the University as having failed in its obligation to provide necessary resources for the successful completion of a programme of study
  • To ensure effective use is made of the University's Resource List system and its capacity to reduce the administrative burden associated with resource list administration
  • To ensure compliance with Copyright law and the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency agreement in the re-use of published material
  • To clearly articulate the roles and responsibilities of Library staff, Programme Directors/Module Convenors and module teams regarding the use of resource lists as teaching tools

2. Scope and definitions

A 'resource list' constitutes the list of learning resources students should use during self-directed study to help them achieve the learning outcomes of a module. It should be used to compliment in-person teaching sessions, online learning, assignments and other learning tools. As a general rule, every module of study should be supported by a clearly defined resource list. The University should provide convenient access to all resources on resource lists for students via its Library collection.

In the context of this policy, 'resource list' should be taken to mean the actual list circulated to students registered on each module rather than any provisional list included in validation documents or similar.

The policy applies to resource lists at module level and outline resource for students on that module, including core resource and further resource, digitised chapters, journal articles and other digital objects.

3. Staff responsibilities

Programme Teams, Module Convenors and Library Services staff must work in close collaboration in the planning and development of resource requirements for both new and existing modules and programmes. Staff responsibilities fall as follows:

  • Academic Directors for TLQE are responsible for implementing the Resource List Policy within their Academic Schools and ensuring the requirements of this policy are adhered  to by academic staff.
     
  • Module Convenors and/or Programme Directors are responsible for creating, editing and updating the definitive resource list for each module and making this available in a timely manner, using the University's Resource List system. They do this based on their desired learning outcomes for each module, their disciplinary expertise and their awareness of current literature and resources in their disciplines. Module Convenors and/or Programme Directors have a responsibility to ensure that the resource lists provided to students reflect current scholarship, professional practice and legal requirements, as pertinent to the needs of each module.
  • The Library Academic Liaison Team is responsible for acting as the Library's primary contact with Module Convenors and/or Programme Directors with regard to resource lists. The team is also responsible for training academic staff in using the Online Resource List System and working with academic staff to ensure the format of resource list is appropriate and sustainable for Library resourcing purposes.
  • The Library Team is responsible for systematically reviewing resource lists using the online system and making purchasing decisions for Library resources based on the guidelines set out in this policy. The team is also responsible for managing the Library budget for resource list provision, ensuring access to the resources for students and overseeing the specialist systems involved.

4. Format and distribution of resource lists

In order to ensure a consistent and high quality experience for students, it is highly desirable for all resource lists used within the University to follow a standardised format. This standardised approach minimises confusion regarding the expectations of students and their access to learning resources. The following guidelines should be followed by academic staff when constructing resource lists:

4.1. Location of resource lists and change control

Module resource lists should be created, maintained and published to students using the University's Resource List system. This system is simple to use and greatly reduces the administrative workload across the University versus maintenance of traditional static word-processed lists. It also allows resource lists to easily be embedded in the Moodle VLE as required. Support is available in its use from the Academic Liaison Librarian team.

Once a module resource list has been converted for use on the Online Resource List system, all learning resources for the module should be listed via this method. Minor changes to lists can be made at any time during the academic year, but large-scale additions or changes must be made well in advance of each semester (see Section 7 below). In order to avoid confusion as to the location of required resources, additional resources should be added solely by editing the Online Resource List and not added in an ad hoc manner within the MyModules VLE.

4.2. Types of resource suitable for resource lists

Resources on resource lists can be in a wide variety of formats and are not limited to traditional printed books. All resource list resources should be carefully chosen to be suitable for the level of the module, as well as the mode of study. Common resource formats suitable for resource list use include:

  • Printed books and e-books
  • Chapters within books
  • E-journal articles
  • Whole journals and other periodicals (for background resource)
  • Online reports and official publications (either within Library databases or on open access)
  • Websites and webpages (including news and current affairs)
  • Online video content
  • Other digital learning objects

4.3. Length of lists and relative importance of items

In general, resource lists should be kept as concise as possible for the given level of study. This is to ensure students can make effective use of the resources and also to ensure the University can provide the resources to students in a financially sustainable manner.

Undergraduate resource lists should not normally include more than 40 unique books per module. Longer lists may be appropriate for Masters-level resource lists. However academic staff must bear in mind the financial and resourcing implications for the University of excessively long book lists. The distinction between a focused 'resource list' and a subject bibliography should also be considered in this context.

Each resource list item should be clearly classified into one of the following importance categories (which can easily be achieved using the 'Importance' feature on the Online Resource List system). These categories help students organise their workload and also facilitate planning of Library resources. Purchase ratios relating to these categories can be found in the table at 6.1.

The following definitions may be useful:

  • 'Recommended for Purchase' - Resources (normally textbooks) which will be used continuously throughout the module teaching period, and which students are strongly encouraged to purchase for guaranteed access.
  • 'Essential' - Resources which must be read by students to ensure understanding of the topic at hand. These should be limited to around 3-4 items per topic.
  • 'Recommended' - Resources that students are strongly recommended to read in order to ensure complete understanding of the topic at hand.
  • 'Background' - Resources that will assist the student in building comprehensive background knowledge of the topic and maximising their attainment. The student does not necessarily have to read every resource listed to gain knowledge of the subject area.

4.4. Description of resources within resource lists

Accurate resource description is crucial in resource lists to ensure that students can locate the resources and that Library staff can rapidly ascertain requirements and costs for resourcing purposes.

The Online Resource List system assists staff with this process by enabling items to be 'bookmarked' using descriptions already available online. Resources can be bookmarked not only from the St Mary's Summon Library Search tool, but also from publisher websites, Amazon, WorldCat and many more online locations. Once bookmarked in this way, the online system will automatically link students to resources where available online, or (for printed resources) inform them of available Library copies.

For published books, the latest edition of any given text should be specified unless there is a specific pedagogical reason to recommend an older edition. This is to ensure that students are always directed to the most current information and research. The Library will automatically purchase the latest editions of books added to resource lists unless specific reasons are given for alternative action. Any pedagogical reasons should be given in the 'Library Note' field on the Online Resource List system.  

4.5. Sub-sections within resource lists

Resource lists should preferably be broken down into logical sub-sections in order to improve their usability for students. This can be achieved using the 'Section' functionality in the Online Resource List system. The types of sub-heading or structure used within lists will vary by discipline and preference of the academic staff teaching on the programme/module. However common methods for sub-dividing resource lists include:

  • By topic within the overall module remit
  • By time period (week 1, week 2, etc)
  • By resource format (books, journal articles, websites, videos etc)

If topics or time periods are used for sub-headings, these should generally match the formal structure of the module for consistency.

4.6. Explanatory notes

Resource lists can be significantly improved as pedagogical tools through the provision of explanatory notes using the 'Student Note' feature on the Online Resource List system. Such notes can be used as a brief summary of why an item has been recommended, as well as for providing further detail on which aspects of the resource the student should focus their attention on.

4.7. Academic years and annual resource list rollovers

Each online resource list must be assigned to an academic year on the Online Resource List system – for example, '2016-17' or '2017-18'. Each summer all existing resource lists will be automatically copied from the current academic year to the upcoming year by Library staff. This is called 'rollover' and results in a copy of the current list being created for the new academic year.

After the rollover process all copied lists for the new academic year will be left in 'Draft' status and will not be visible to students until they are 'Published'. Each Module Convenor must review the list for their module well in advance of the semester start date (see deadlines in Section 7) and publish the list themselves after making any changes. After publishing the list they must also reset the resource list link in the Moodle VLE to point to the new version of the list.

4.8. Number of students on each module

The number of students expected to be enrolled on the module in the current academic year should always be stated within the online resource list. This information is essential in planning Library resources for each module and can easily be added using the 'Expected Number of Students' function on the Online Resource List system. The expected number of students on the module directly influences the number of copies of an item which are purchased (see 6.1).

4.9. Making resource lists accessible to students via the Moodle VLE

The online resource list for each module should be embedded in the Moodle VLE so that students can use the list effectively. A special plugin is available on Moodle to enable this; this can be found under the 'Add an activity or resource' menu within that system and is labelled 'Resource List'.

5. Support for academic staff in using the Online Resource List system

The Library Services department provides a training and support service for academic staff to ensure they are able to take ownership of their resource lists on the online system. This is provided by the Academic Liaison Team. The Liaison Librarians can provide either one-to-one or group training sessions by appointment with academic staff as necessary. They also serve as the first point of contact for academic staff for any matters relating to Library resource list provision. The Liaison Librarians maintain a record of training provided, which can be made available to Academic and Programme Directors for planning purposes.

6. Library provision of resource list resources to students

Students now expect convenient, cost-free access to all recommended resource list resources as a basic element of University provision. Any failures in this area are likely to have a significant negative impact on student perceptions of the University and on ratings given in feedback exercises such as the National Student Survey. Given the strong emphasis on learning support in the Teaching Excellence Framework, shortcomings in this area will also have an impact to the University's broader league table position in future. It is therefore crucial that students have dependable University-provided access to all resource list items and are not expected to make their own arrangements to obtain these key learning resources.

6.1. Library resource policy for resource list items

A key function of the University's Library service Library is to ensure that resource list resources are available to students in sufficient numbers. In line with its Library Resource Management Policy, the Library service operates the following resource management policy for published resource list items (NB. 'book' is taken to mean any non-open access published resource with an ISBN):

'Recommended for Purchase' books

    • High priority
    • One print copy purchased per 20 students (a maximum may apply for very large cohorts).
    • E-book version purchased wherever available.

'Essential' books and book chapters

    • High priority
    • One print copy purchased per 20 students (a maximum may apply for very large cohorts).
    • E-book version purchased wherever available.
    • For chapters, scanned/digitised copies created wherever possible under Copyright law

'Essential' journal articles

    • High priority
    • Subscription to journal considered where articles from title are frequently recommended across multiple modules/programmes
    • Scanned/digitised copy of article purchased where a subscription is not possible

'Recommended' books and book chapters

    • Medium priority
    • One print copy purchased per 40 students
    • E-book version purchased where available and funds permit
    • For chapters, scanned/digitised copies created wherever possible under Copyright law

'Recommended' journal articles

    • Medium priority
    • Online access where the Library already subscribes to the journal
    • Subscription to journal considered where articles from title are frequently recommended across multiple modules/programmes
    • Scanned/digitised copy of article generally purchased wherever the item is not already available in the Library collection

'Background' books

    • Low priority
    • At least one print or e-book copy purchased per module

'Background' journal articles

    • Low priority
    • Online access where the Library already subscribes to the journal
    • Scanned/digitised copy of article considered where funds permit. Otherwise academic staff should consider alternative resources already available in the Library collection

The above policy is applied by the Library service by means of the controlled 'Resource List Review' functionality within the Online Resource List system. This review process is automatically triggered when any changes are published on a resource list by academic staff. Library purchasing policy may be varied in certain situations based on the needs of particular disciplines, modes of study and the limits of available funding.

6.2. Budgetary arrangements for Library resources

Provision of University Library resources takes place within the constraints of the institutional Library Resources Budget as administered by the Library Services Department. This budget is allocated to Library Services as part of the University's annual financial planning process, and the service aims to match the average spend per student FTE of competitor institutions when making annual budget bids. The Library Resources Budget is divided between the Academic Schools based on student numbers and average resource prices across different disciplines. 

In some situations the allocated budget amount for a given discipline may not be sufficient to ensure resource provision in line with the policy listed in section 5.1. In this situation, Library staff will discuss the situation with academic staff and agree a compromise in the best interest of students.

6.3. Resourcing for excessively long resource lists

Lengthy resource lists – particularly those incorporating very long lists of books – cause many problems with Library resourcing and, ultimately, knock-on problems with student satisfaction with the University's learning support.

The Library service defines an 'excessively long resource list' as one containing more than 100 entries. In most cases Library staff will be unable to systematically review lists of this length and they will be referred back to the relevant Academic Liaison Librarian to discuss with the Module Convenor.

In most cases the Library service will require the Module Convenor to reduce the length of the resource list to within the guidelines laid out in Section 4.3. In some cases it may be appropriate for non-essential background resource to be relocated to a separate subject bibliography with clear disclaimers about the need for students to source the books (at their expense) from outside the University.   

6.4. Resourcing new modules and programmes

Where new modules are created that require many new Library resources, there may be a period of several years while resources are built up to match the required ratios per student. In this scenario (assuming no dedicated funding is available), resources marked as 'Essential' or 'Recommended' will be prioritised.

Where new programmes or modules are being considered for validation, proposed resource lists must be provided during the validation process so that resource costs can be considered. In some cases additional central funding may be required by Library Services as a pre-condition of validation in order to ensure adequate provision.

7. Deadlines for confirmation of resource lists

In order to ensure sufficient time for new Library resources to be made available in advance of each semester, all new resource lists(or substantive revisions of existing lists) must be completed by late-July for Semester 1 and late November for Semester 2.

8. Monitoring and enforcement

Effectiveness of the Resource List Policy will be monitored and evaluated through reporting to Teaching, Learning and Quality Enhancement Committee.

9. Complementary documentation

The following policies should be read in conjunction with this Resource List Policy:

  • Library Resource Management Policy
  • CLA Scanning Service Policy