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Linking Reading lists to Acquisitions

Heather Sherman from Dawson’s talking about how they have ‘reading list’ funcitonality in their dawsonenter application. Item’s can be added to the reading list from Dawson’s database of bibliographic records, and then turned into orders directly without re-keying data.

Can import from a spreadsheet – just need an ISBN basically.

At the moment just ‘book’ type data (but includes e-books), but looking at extending beyond this. Also interested in looking at possibility of an API or similar to make it possible to populate and/or publish reading lists.

Emerald ‘Reading Lists’

Emerald have been looking at how to build ‘peer reviewed reading lists’. This is building reading lists – but currently from Emerald collection – although may look at including things from other publishers in the future.

This is a free of charge service (not a product) – something giving back to the academic university. Intended to improve workflow, and assure quality via peer review.

List creation process:

  • Identify key subjects
  • Journal/book editor recruited
  • Student recruited
  • Student follows set methodology to create list (this is documented in a booklet)
  • Editor reviews list, writes editorial
  • Revised reading list and editorial submitted to Emerald
  • Project team review list and request amendments before approving
  • Lists distributed to faculty – i.e. to academics on the ground
  • Measure usage

Case study carried out. Trial readling list built on the syllabus of ‘Services Marketsing’ course taught by Dr Mei-Na Liao at Bradford School of Management. List created using a structure devised by the project team. List peer-review within the project, List sent to Pro Liao in July 2009. 21% of Pro. Liao’s 2nd reading list taken from our list. Feedback was very positive….

Emerald see the benefits to end-users as:

  • Workflow improved with this tailored teaching aid
  • Complementary and personal service that adds value to Emerald’s products and provides a better service to end-users
  • List approved and reviewed by our experience editors
  • Value for money for librarians (increased usage of Emerald subscriptions)
  • Opportunity to build relationships


Ian Mulvany going to talk about Mendeley, and particularly the new API… Ian started at Mendeley 3 weeks ago, so learning as he goes!

Mendeley – intends to “help researchers work smarter”. Desktop client software (on all main platforms – Win, Mac, Linux) – helps you manage your research papers. Also have a cloud based service – can ‘scrobble‘ usage from client, and also use cloud based storage for references and papers.

Mendeley now 16 months old – 400,000 users, and real-time data on 28m research papers. Using Hadoop (basically Open Source MapReduce).

Mendeley provide an API. You can register for an API key at (invitation only until the end of July 2010) http://www.mendeley.com/oapi, and documentation at http://www.mendeley.com/oapi/methods.

Finally Ian talking about a new graphical ‘build a reference style’ tool – which will be built into next client (October) – this will allow users to build new styles. Uses CSL behind the scenes and once users have created new styles, they can share back to central list of styles.

Resource Lists and Collective Intelligence

Chris Clarke from Talis asks “How can we use collective intelligence to improve resource lists?”

Talis have product Talis Aspire – hosted ‘resource list management’ service. Talis found resource list management was a collaboration between Academics, Library and Students. Need all three involved – and academic engagement is key. Libraries also need to be able to get and manage stock. Talis wanted to avoid overheads – rekeying data etc. Also wanted to give students v high quality experience.

‘Collective Intelligence’ – aggregating information across many users/uses to find patterns of use etc. and use this to generate information. E.g. ‘Which items are frequently referenced together by the experts?’; ‘If we by this book, will learners actually use it?’; What items to learners substitute for when the guided resource are not available?’; ‘Can we guess the loan strategy upfront, instead of waiting for an item to be heavily borrowed?’

Can only do this across largish datasets – and Talis is able to aggregate over Talis Aspire customers who contribute their data. At the moment have a trial dataset made up over 4 customers – but still millions of transactions.

Chris mentions Talis use MapReduce to process large quantities of data (this approach was developed by Google, although now there are open source implementations (Hadoop) and Amazon provide an elastic MapReduce service).

Four prototype APIs (all REST based):

  • “Appears with” recommendations
    • Based on co-occurrences of items on resource lists. Academics who reference this, also reference…
  • “Borrowed with” recommendations
    • Based on the patterns of what students actually borrow. Learners who borrowed this also borrowed…
  • Loans
    • Show me how popular this item has been over time, across all institutions
  • Holdings
    • Which institutions actually have this item

Chris has posted further description of the API functions to the Reading List Solutions JISCMail list.


Ben Charlton relating how List8D was a project started at a Dev8D event – aimed at developing a new ‘reading list’ system. They then got funding under the JISC Rapid Innovation funding, and now being developed by the University of Kent for their live reading lists (hopefully from September). List8D has a Google Code page.

Now Matt Spence demonstrating the basic functionality. List8D has a very nice looking interface (although Ben notes that the use of complex CSS and javascript creates performance issues in IE). List8D allows you to search several sources at one time to add items – but has hierarchy, so you can display e.g. library catalogue results first. Also includes some admin functions – e.g. a ‘request a scan’ feature to get an item digitised for online delivery (nice idea), and a ‘note for librarian’.

Some technical details – built using ‘Zend‘ framework. Connection to other systems are handled via bits of code List8D project christened ‘Metatrons‘ – each metatron has a few functions:

  • Find resources
  • Load Metadata
  • Pass types (lists what types of resource the source contains – e.g. books, journals, etc.)
  • Unique (says what unique key the source uses)

The interface can be restyled – but generally advise doing basic stuff like colours and logo, as a bit hacked together.

Matt also talking about applying ‘reference’ styling. Something that they’ve not been able to spend a lot of time on but would love to be able to do better – very similar issue to Telstar here I think.

Reading List Hackday

For the next two days I’m at a ‘reading list hackday‘. This is a joint event between DevCSI, List8D and TELSTAR projects – all funded by JISC, and is definitely very much a ‘doing’ event – we are hoping to have people produce ideas, and realise some of those ideas as software – hopefully by the time we wrap up tomorrow.

What is a ‘Reading List’? Generally in an academic context it is a list of recommended or potential reading that tutors give to students. The format of these can vary wildly, and they can range in length from one book, to hundreds of books, articles, websites, etc. etc.

I’ve written quite a bit about how TELSTAR has been integrating reference management tools into Moodle, so what has this got to do with Reading Lists? The TELSTAR project has seen the use of reading lists, and the production of bibliographies in student essays as all part of the same workflow. Anecdotally we’ve found that the materials that students are most likely to reference are those that they’ve been recommended by their tutors, so it makes a lot of sense to make it as easy as possible for students to make a record of what has been recommended, what they have read, and finally what they are citing/referencing in their work.

So, part of the toolset TELSTAR has created is tools for tutors/lecturers to collect together lists of resources, and publish them on their course website. When they publish the lists, we can process the details to do a number of things such as adding links to online resources (using OpenURL) and providing a ‘styled’ version of the reference (whether that is in a formal citation style, or something simpler).

I hope over the next couple of days we can get some ideas and even perhaps get some new developments to TELSTAR. However, the best thing we could get out of the event is the start of an activity developer and user community interested in using and developing the TELSTAR code.

The day has started with Mahendra Mahey (UKOLN and DevCSI) talking about the event – how it came about, and picking up on issues around reading lists – using examples raised on the newly established ‘Reading List Solutions‘ JISCMail list. Then each delegate was asked to give a ’60 second pitch’ outlining why they are here, and what they want to get out of the day. Mahendra summarised a number of themes coming out of discussion on the mailing lists as follows:

  • Interoperability with several systems, particularly Library management systems (e.g. flagging items that are on list)
  • Moving away from platform dependence
  • Intended purpose and usefulness of reading lists
    • should/could read?
    • purchasing/collection management tool
  • Academic vs Student created lists
  • Lists as social network
  • Reliable stable links / Keeping lists up to date
  • Duplication of effort
  • Metadata Magic