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Library Unlimited: Diversity in reading lists

About the Library Unlimited project

The Library Unlimited project aims to provide guidance and inspiration for those wishing to get involved in creating reading lists which are more diverse, representative and inclusive of everyone who belongs to our student and staff community at Staffordshire University. It aims to create an open forum for students and staff to engage in dialogue with the Library about how to create a collection which is meaningful and relevant to all.

This project will not be complete in one academic year, probably not even in 2 or 3 years and for this reason it is being linked to the wider Library Transformation project which embraces our move towards more digital resources, new Library areas and a new Library Management system (LMS). 

Many Universities have begun their journey towards building equality and diversity by involving their libraries in auditing their reading lists. Across the board, their work suggests that often reading lists are Eurocentric and dominated by authors who are overwhelmingly white and predominantly male.   

At Staffordshire University we prefer to devote our efforts to towards greater inclusivity by entering into a useful dialogue and debate involving students, lecturers and librarians. The results of this collective effort should be real steps towards changing the situation. Instead of a backward looking audit, we want to put effort into reviewing and changing the content of reading lists. We have a budget of £30, 000 to spend over 3 years and we are seeking to find the best ways to do this in a really meaningful manner.  

Our objectives

These are our objectives.

  • To involve students as much as possible in the project.
  • To support and inspire academic colleagues trying to build equality and inclusivity into reading lists.
  • To help academic colleagues ensure that the materials on their reading lists are as accessible as possible to ensure maximum inclusivity for all students.
  • To make connections to inspirational resources for anyone approaching this important topic.
  • To offer a toolkit for beginning this work which will help everyone evaluate current practice by reviewing existing reading list content.
  • To create a reading list for students and staff which focuses on curriculum diversification – our interpretation of a process sometimes referred to as decolonisation.
  • To give examples of reading lists which have begun to do this already. Some of these lists have been created at Staffordshire University and some at other HE institutions.

See our PowerPoint presentation explaining the project

Background

The Office for Students (OfS) has instructed Universities to tackle the race attainment gap which exists in the Higher Education sector. The OfS has set a target for the gap to be eliminated by 2024/2025 (Office for Students, 2020).

The Closing the Gap report produced by Universities UK and the National Union of Students states

 "While 78% of white students who graduated last year ended up qualifying with a first or a 2:1, 66% of Asian students achieved the same, and just 53% of black students" (Universities UK, 2019).

At Staffordshire University we have begun to address this via the wider Building Equality and Inclusion into course design project. [LINK]

References

Office for Students (2020)  Official Statistic: key performance measurement 4.  Retrieved from https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/about/measures-of-our-success/participation-performance-measures/gap-in-degree-outcomes-1sts-or-21s-between-white-students-and-black-students/

Universities UK and National Union of Students (2019) Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment and UK Universities

#Closingthegap.  Retrieved from https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Pages/bame-student-attainment-uk-universities-closing-the-gap.aspx