FAQs for staff who teach

These FAQs provide key information based on questions from staff. If you can't find the information you're looking for please get in touch with the librarian for your department.

Book-related questions

What should I consider when recommending textbooks for my students?

The library will try to obtain your recommended books in electronic (ebook) format wherever possible. If an ebook is not available, the library will purchase print copies.

However many ebooks are only available under restrictive licences (which may limit the number of students who can access an online book), and the cost of access is often higher than print equivalents. Many popular textbooks are not available in a suitable online format.

When planning your teaching, please contact the library as early as possible about your recommended reading. We will be happy to advise on access to textbooks and other resources, and flag up any potential issues before teaching starts. In particular, please check with the library before recommending a book for use by large numbers of students (for example for an open book exam).

Where possible, consider using open educational resources in your teaching. Some useful sources of open textbooks are:
https://ukopentextbooks.org/resources/
https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/
https://openstax.org/subjects/view-all
https://libretexts.org/
https://pressbooks.directory/
https://www.oercommons.org/

Open monographs can be found in:
https://www.oapen.org/
https://www.doabooks.org/

To explore the issues surrounding textbooks further, see the University Library blog posts Ebooks for students at the University of Sheffield: challenges and opportunities and Unleashing Academic Freedom: the Case for Open Educational Resources.

How can I check whether an ebook is available for the library to purchase?

There isn’t an easy way to check availability for institutional purchase. Please complete and submit the library resource recommendation form and we’ll be happy to check for you.

The publisher website says that a title is available as an ebook; does this mean that the Library can purchase it?

There is a difference between individual and institutional access. Platforms such as ebooks.com and the Kindle Store provide ebooks for individuals to buy, but they can’t be used by academic libraries that need to make the books available to multiple users.
The University Library uses a range of suppliers and platforms that provide institutional access.

Many publishers have separate models for institutional access to the textbooks that they publish, or they may not allow institutional access at all. These models often require the payment of annual fees, or may be part of a collection of titles, some of which may not be needed. These models are generally expensive and likely to be unsustainable in the long term.

Some publishers are reviewing their models in response to pressure from the HE sector, and discussions are ongoing in the University and across the sector about how to respond to the challenges of etextbook provision. However, it may not be possible to provide digital access to all recommended textbooks, and it may be necessary to seek alternatives.

If I can’t get the exact book title I want, what are my options?

You can look for alternatives that are already available using StarPlus, or look at open access options such as Open Textbook Library, Libre Texts, Directory of Open Access Books and the Pressbooks Directory.

Will all my students be able to access the book I’ve found on StarPlus?

Printed copies of books that have a waiting list will circulate quickly among your students because loan periods are shortened for resources in high demand.

Regarding ebooks, there are lots of different ebook models. Some allow unlimited numbers of students to access them simultaneously, while others are more restrictive and only allow one or two users at a time.

If you have a large number of students, and you expect them all to access the book at the same time, we recommend getting in touch with the librarian for your department to check the model. It’s likely that a limited access ebook will be fine for smaller cohorts of students or for wider reading, but we would always suggest offering a range of titles to avoid students becoming frustrated.

How can I support student access to ebooks through my publishing practice?

When talking to publishers, please check the model under which they will sell your work, and aim for the most permissive model possible. Publishers often place restrictive or expensive licences on digital books which may limit access to your work.

For example some publishers may limit the number of readers who can access your ebook at once, or only sell it as part of an expensive ebook collection. The cost of access to ebooks is often higher than print equivalents, with prices in excess of thousands of pounds per year for some titles.

A good ebook model which is easy for your students to access is one which charges a fair (one-off) price in comparison to the print equivalent, which has unlimited access for your students, and one which allows individual titles to be purchased by the institution. Consider publishing open access if you can. The library is happy to advise on publishers, funding and alternative routes to sharing your work.

Some further reading:

Nelson, M.C. & Enimil, S.A (2016) How to negotiate a publication agreement
McCluskey-Dean, C. (2021) Responding to the effects of ebook availability/pricing
Anderson, J., Ayris, P. & White, B. (2021) Textbooks – scandal or market imperative?

Reading list (Leganto) questions

How will content for key reading be supplied? We will seek to provide key reading electronically where possible. If your requested content is not available as an e-book, we will provide one print copy per ten students to a maximum of ten. It may be possible to provide a digitized extract under the terms of our copyright licence. Digitised extracts can only be requested for modules where the student number exceeds one hundred.

How do I provide recommended reading to students?

The online Reading List system, Leganto, provides students with access to their recommended reading via Blackboard. You are required to create your reading list on this system for each module. Using Leganto will help you to provide access to your reading materials in a stable, accessible and legal form and will provide a consistent student experience across modules.

A quick guide Creating an online Reading List for your students in Leganto (PDF) is available.

How to re-use a list from last year.

Further guidance is available on the Library page Using the University’s Reading List system.

What if the Library doesn’t have the book or paper I want to recommend to my students?

If the material that you want to recommend to students isn’t available within the Library collections, the Library will try to obtain an electronic copy for you. You can either add details of the item to your reading list, perhaps from an online bookshop, or you can request it using the Library resource recommendation form. See our guidance about adding items to reading lists.

How long should my online reading list be?

Length of list will vary by discipline, programme and curriculum design. A succinct list is advisable, including key reading and a limited selection of supplementary materials, since usage data suggests that most students don’t engage with long lists. In Leganto, academic staff can check student usage of individual resources. 

Embedding a link to StarPlus at the top of your reading list, along with the accompanying video tutorial Using StarPlus - University Library discovery, will encourage students to develop independent searching skills and discover further resources themselves.

What if an item I want to recommend isn’t available digitally?

Not all print materials have an online equivalent and you may need to select an alternative title. We may be able to work with you to identify alternative material, including open textbooks.

The Pressbooks Directory offers 3,000 titles and the Open Textbook Library contains over 700 peer-reviewed titles. You can add a book to your reading list or you can choose sections to embed in your teaching.

Directory of Open Access Books lists thousands of peer-reviewed items which are free to read and share.

How can I comply with copyright legislation in my learning and teaching?

To understand how copyright may impact your teaching, see the Copyright and your teaching page, which will help ensure that your use of copyright material for teaching is legally compliant, sustainable and fair.

When will students be able to see my online reading list?

Click “Publish” to make your list visible to students.

The Library will provide material digitally, where possible, so please allow us time to supply these resources. At peak periods, such as before the start of the semester, we recommend that you allow six weeks for new resources to be made available.

Contacts for further support

For support with your reading list please contact the Library:

Speak to the Librarian for your subject.

Email us at readinglists@sheffield.ac.uk.

Sharing reading with your students: using the University's Reading List system