Making the most of your reading list

As term is now underway, many of our new and returning students and colleagues will have been exploring our new Reading Lists. We thought we’d take this opportunity to highlight and explore some of the additional functionality they offer to you – from adding notes, to managing your reading progress and references for your bibliography.

To help, we spoke to one of our Faculty Librarians, Richard Holmes, who was part of a team of colleagues across the service who got this up and running in record time for the start of term.

What is TALIS Aspire?

Talis Aspire is the new platform Durham University uses to manage and present online reading lists. It replaces the former ‘Library Resources’ tool and offers many improvements, particularly for students.

Where can I access the reading list for my module?

Most modules will have a link directly to the respective reading list on the left of the screen in DUO. Alternatively you can find it directly from the Talis Aspire homepage – there is a link on the Library Home page for My Reading List.

How do I find my reading list on TALIS Aspire?

If you have followed the link from your DUO module, this shouldn’t be a problem – you’ll be taken straight to the reading list or to a page from which the modules reading list is listed.

If instead you have arrived at TALIS Aspire you can search directly from the homepage: just enter the module code or title of the module in the search box.

Alternatively you can browse through the reading lists available by selecting your faculty, department and level of study by clicking on the the option to browse all lists underneath the search box.

There is so much to read! How do I know what is most important?

There are several filters you can use to pick out highlights in your reading list. Your tutor may have marked key items as ‘essential’ or ‘seminar’ reading, for instance, and you can choose to view only these from the ‘Filter’ menu at the top of the list. Alternatively you may wish to view only those materials available online. You can also select items you have flagged yourself in some way from this menu. The ‘Type’ menu allows you to display only specific types of items, such as journal articles or audio-visual materials. The items marked as ‘chapter’ or ‘article’ are mostly likely to be key extracts assigned by your tutor.

If it says ‘View Online’ – does that mean I don’t need to come in to the library to read it?

Essentially, yes. The link should either open the full text or take you to a page from where it can be accessed.

There should be no difficulties accessing journal articles but bear in mind that some academic ebooks have a restricted number of online ‘copies’ to consult. If all those are in use it can be worth clicking the book’s title instead to see if there are any print copies available and booking a Browse and Borrow slot to collect one if you are in Durham. If any view online links don’t work, please click on the three dots to the right of the item and select the ‘Report broken link’ option.

Not all the items have a ‘View Online’ option… what does this mean?

This means the material is currently only available in hardcopy form, as not all book titles are available for purchase in ebook format suitable for library use. It can be worth searching for a book or journal title on the catalogue or in Discover, though, in case online access has been purchased since the reading list was last updated.

Can I print off my reading list?

Yes. To print your list from Talis Aspire, select ‘PDF – List’ from the ‘View & Export’ menu at the top of the screen and print from your preferred PDF viewer.

Can I add notes to my reading lists?

Certainly. Click the three dots to the right of any item and insert your own personal notes. You can also assign a reading intention or status to each item within your lists by clicking the circle icon next to each one.

This can help you to organise your list, and quickly identify what you have read, what you are wanting to read next, and what you are reading now. You can then filter the list and show just items from a particular category. These customisations are visible only to you and will remain in place throughout your time studying at Durham.

Can I look at module reading lists for modules I’m thinking of taking next year?

Yes, all of Durham’s online reading lists are visible, although access to the full text of scanned materials may be restricted.

Can I export the references to help me write my bibliography/reference list?

Yes, you can export in the standard RIS format to import into reference management software like EndNote or Zotero. Select this from the ‘View & Export’ menu at the top of the list. You can choose your preferred citation style for viewing the list from the ‘Citation Style’ menu at the top of the list.

Is this new? I’m a returning student and don’t remember this from previous years?

Talis Aspire replaces the previous ‘Library Resources’ tool and offers multiple benefits to tutors and to students. It accommodates a much wider range of material types and offers far more options for organising the layout and highlighting the relevant reading and audio-visual materials. Implementation was brought forward from the original timescale to improve the student experience in the new online teaching environment and staff in Durham University Library and Collections worked tirelessly to set it up in time for the start of the new academic year. It still needs some refinement, though, so please report any issues you encounter to us.

[ed: I think this is quite modest – the team involved were tasked with getting this up and running for the start of term, in a fraction of the time usually required to implement a new reading list platform and on top of existing workloads. Work was also done to then ensure all existing reading lists we had been provided with were preloaded into the system. Academic colleagues have then attended short preview sessions at what was an incredibly busy time of year for many of them to introduce them to how to add, update or modify their lists.]

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