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Library Services



Reading Lists @ UCL

A guide for UCL teaching and academic staff.

What counts as an essential resource?

UCL Library Services uses the term ‘essential resource’ to refer to those key or core texts which students are required to read to gain sufficient understanding of a topic, to enable them to participate in seminars, or to complete an assignment. This may include textbooks which students will refer to weekly, and single chapters or articles on a specific topic. The library prioritises purchase of Essential readings.

The terms 'Optional' and 'Recommended' readings show the readings are important but more likely to be further reading, for optional topics, or in a general bibliography area. Using these tags crucially indicates to your students how to prioritise their reading.

To indicate to the library and your students the importance of a reading, please mark each resource as Essential, Optional or Recommended, using the drop down box.  You can do this when adding a resource into your list (bookmarking), or retrospectively once the list is complete. The default setting of the box is 'Importance not set' and you can change to a different importance at any time.

Image shows a resource in an online reading list, with a drop down box displaying options to tag the reading as Essential, Recommended or Optional.

Will the essential resources I had last year still be available in 2024-25?

If we bought ebooks or digitised course readings in 2023-24, these will continue to be available. If we purchased any e-textbooks (online versions of textbooks) at your request for 2023-24, you will be contacted to ask if the same resources will be required in 2024-25. If you no longer require access to an e-textbook, please respond to let us know, so that we can put the funds towards other essential resources.

If you requested any ebooks last year that turned out to be unavailable electronically for any reason, it is unlikely that they would be available as ebooks this year. We can check whether anything has changed in the last year for a specific title if you contact your Subject Liaison Librarian or Site Library Team to request this. Alternatively, we’d recommend instead requesting a print copy/copies if possible and requesting digitisation of a chapter for your reading list.

How do I notify Library Services of new resources I need for 2024-25 modules?

Option 1: via ReadingLists@UCL

Option 2: if you do not use ReadingLists@UCL

Option 1: via ReadingLists@UCL

If you have a reading list for your module in ReadingLists@UCL, bookmark and add any new resources to the list.

If a resource is not available through the library, you can bookmark the relevant details on a publisher website, Amazon, or another site that has a full description of the resource, and add a note for the library to purchase it.


Ensure that you:

1. Make sure you set the importance for each resource to either ‘essential’, 'recommended' or 'optional'.

2. Add any instructions for us in a Library Note, e.g. if you require digitisation of a book chapter or an article (please also see our instructions for digitisation requests). To add a note, click on the Edit item menu symbol to the right of the item, then select Note for library from the drop down menu. Please add a date to the note so we know when you requested the digitisation.

Screenshot shows how to add a note for the Library

3. Publish your reading list, by clicking on the Publish button that appears at the top right of your list  – this is what will notify us that you have amended your list and prompt us to order any essential readings that you have added.


If you don't have a list in ReadingLists@UCL but would like one, or you're not sure if a list exists for your module from a previous year, see our Setting up a Reading List instructions. These guide you through how to check for an existing list, set up a new one, and how to get training on using ReadingLists@UCL.


Option 2: if you do not use ReadingLists@UCL

If you prefer not to use ReadingLists@UCL, you can contact your dedicated Subject Liaison Librarian or Site Library Team to request items that you need for your modules. If you’re not sure who to contact, see our Find a librarian if library team page, which lists librarians by faculty and department. 

To avoid delays in processing your requests, please provide the following information: 

  • The module code and title
  • Which term the module is running in
  • Estimated student numbers
  • Whether the resource is essential, recommended, or optional
  • Specific information on the resources needed, including title, author, edition, publisher etc. Ideally, send a link to these details on a publisher website or Amazon
  • If you want multiple hard copies of book ordered if it's not available electronically.

An alternative to this is to fill out our Suggesting a new book or resource web form, providing the same information. Please note that only one resource can be requested at a time using the form.

What if an essential resource isn't available online?

We aim to continue providing essential resources online in 2024-25 wherever possible. If you want to know whether a resource is available online before you decide on whether to make it an essential resource for a module, contact your Subject Liaison Librarian or Site Library Team. 

Otherwise, after you have requested a resource, we will look to see if an electronic version is available as a first priority. If it is not, we will purchase a print copy/copies if we don’t already have it. If we aren't able to source a print copy, we'll let you know and ask if you would prefer to identify an alternative resource that is available online. You can also search in Explore for alternative resources in our existing collections.

If an essential resource is not available online and you want to request digitisation of a book chapter or article, please see the guidance under How do I request digitisation of articles or book chapters?

How do I request digitisation of articles or book chapters?

You can request digitisation of articles, book chapters and some other resources in our collections, as well as digitised copies of articles not currently held by UCL. Under UCL's CLA licence we can typically digitise 10% of a publication, or one chapter, whichever is largest, if the text is covered by the licence. If we are unable to digitise a resource you have requested, we will let you know.

To request digitisation:

If you use ReadingLists@UCL, you can bookmark a link to information about the book or article in your list, and then add a Note for the Library, to request digitisation. For book chapters, please also add the chapter title and pagination to the Note.

To add a note, click on the Edit item menu symbol to the right of the item you want digitised, then select Note for library from the drop down menu.

Screenshot shows how to add a note for the Library

If you do not use ReadingLists@UCL, you can request digitisation via our Course Readings Service.


How do I request audio-visual resources?

Library Services has access to a number of audio-visual services providing accessing to films, theatre performances, audio and images. 
If the material you require is not available in these sources, please contact your Subject Liaison Librarian or Site Librarian team to discuss further options.

Why is August 9th the deadline for Term 1, 2024-25?

We have given a deadline of August 9th for Term 1 because we manage requests for module readings for thousands of modules across UCL and need significant lead up time to investigate costs, negotiate subscriptions, and ensure availability and access, especially for ‘big-ticket’ resources: higher cost resources, such as e-textbooks, databases or digital archives.

We will continue to process requests for essential resources that come in after March 8th, however, it may take longer to establish whether these are available or not, and there may be delays to providing access in time for Term 1. If you’re not sure whether a book you require for a Term 1 module is a textbook, please submit your request by August 9th so we can check this.

If you already know of essential resources you want to request for the next academic year, particularly 'big-ticket' resources, you can also request them at this stage, although we will contact you later in the year about resources needed for future terms.

I’m new to UCL and started after the deadline for requesting resources. What can I do?

If you joined UCL close to, or after, the latest deadline for reading list resources, and are leading a module next term, we appreciate that you won’t be able to request resources prior to the deadline. Contact your Subject Liaison Librarian or Site Library team to let them know the resources you need and we’ll order them as soon as possible. It will take time to check whether a resource is available and to process it, but knowing that this is a new module will help us prioritise it as best we can.

Can I request resources that are recommended rather than essential?

While we are prioritising essential resources for the 2024-25 academic year, we will also accept requests for resources which are recommended readings for students, rather than essential. These will be purchased if funds permit and will be ordered as online resources where possible. Please let us know when you request these that they are recommended (by setting the importance to ‘Recommended’ on your list in ReadingLists@UCL).

Library Services has purchased a significant number of e-textbooks, ebooks and digital collections in the past few years. We suggest searching in Explore for recommended readings that may already be in our collections.

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How will I know when a resource I requested is available?

If you have added the resource to a list in ReadingLists@UCL, we will update the list when it arrives, so we recommend checking your list to see if it has been updated. If you don’t have a list in ReadingLists@UCL, you can search for the resource in our online discovery tool, Explore. If you aren’t able to find it, or have any questions, please contact your Subject Liaison Librarian or Site Library team.

Note: Resources requested prior to the deadline should be available by the start of term, unless you have been contacted to inform you otherwise. For resources submitted after the deadline, we will do our best to order these in time, however, depending on how easy it is to acquire the resource, and how many requests we have received, we cannot guarantee this.