Reading lists and wider library collections are important. They provide the basis of the ideas discussed during lectures and seminars, and they are used as the foundation for essays, assignments, and research generally. Reading lists in particular are purposefully curated lists. Texts and materials included on reading lists give the authors, and their ideas and discourse power and privilege over those that are not included - unintentionally or not.
To examine the potential bias found within reading lists, a static snapshot was taken of 18 reading lists between August and September 2019 from across five different faculties. It found:
To empower staff and students to undertake their own audits of their lists and collections, the audit method and data collection spreadsheet has been made available on this page. Use the data you gather to start a conversation about the diversity of your reading lists, library collections, and wider curriculum.
Once you have completed the audit, please submit your audit using the form on this page - this will help build a collective picture of current practices relating to the diversity of reading lists and library collections.
Download the audit spreadsheet
Download the diversity audit template located on this page. Open the diversity audit spreadsheet template.
Gather the items to audit
Go to the reading list system, Aspire, and locate the reading list you wish to audit. Search for the reading list by entering either the unit title or unit code. Select View & Export and export the CSV file option - this will download a spreadsheet of the reading list.
Paste in the item details
Using the CSV file, copy and paste the title, type and importance into the title, type and importance columns of the diversity audit spreadsheet template. You can now close the CSV file, as you will no longer need this data once you have copied over the relevant sections of the spreadsheet.
Locate authorship details
It is advisable that you keep open the online Aspire reading list in your browser, alongside the diversity adult spreadsheet. Identify the authors of each item listed on the reading list. Conduct Google searches using the authors names. You may need to consult University websites, publishers websites, trade and supplier websites, specifically looking for biographic details.
You may need to add the words 'education,' 'university,' or keywords from the title of the book or item in order to locate the author.
Using Google Image search can also be helpful, especially for commonplace or ambiguous names. Google Image searches can also be useful where the item is particularly dated.
Many authors may also have written newspaper articles, especially UK authors. It is often possible to locate author details associated with online news articles, for example opinion pieces on The Guardian website.
It is likely that in some instances there will be no author details to be found or you may have found conflicting details. In these instances, it is advisable to select unknown in the audit spreadsheet.
In most instances, you are making a subjective judgment based on limited, publicly available information - sometimes all you will have is a photograph. If you are uncertain or uncomfortable making a judgment, select unknown on the audit spreadsheet dropdown box.
Complete the spreadsheet
Complete the spreadsheet with as much data as you are able to gather and include any additional notes.
Please note you do not need to complete every column. If you wish to focus solely on the ethnic and racial diversity of the lists, please complete the relevant columns. Adding in additional information such as gender and date of publication can provide additional, useful information, such as currency of the reading list and any appropriate correlations between sets of data.
Complete the submission form
The Library would like you to submit your audit, so that your data can be added to the master dataset. This will allow us to build up a comprehensive picture of the make up of readings lists, as well as examine trends over time. Submit your diversity audit spreadsheet by completing the form on this page and uploading your document.
Communicate your findings
Engage in conversation with your fellow colleagues, peers, and teaching staff - discuss what you have found and why you consider this to be important. Make contact with your subject librarian and discuss how you might go beyond the suggested readings. Consider making suggestions for other materials to be added to the Library.