Importing your current reading lists

When considering a switch to Talis Aspire you will no doubt be thinking about what to do with your existing reading lists. There are typically two arguments here:

  1. Our existing lists are unloved and no one would miss them, so let's start from scratch.
  2. Our existing lists are used, but are far from ideal, but they do offer a reasonable starting point.

Migrating reading list content into Talis Aspire is paid consultancy. This guide outlines some key considerations in approach, but is likely to generate more questions. Our consulting team are available to talk this through and answer any questions you might have. Contact us at

Starting from scratch

Starting from scratch is always a valid option, it sounds drastic to leave content behind, but you have to think about the effort that you would need to put in to bring an unloved or abandoned list back into usefulness.

  • Identifying resources that should be on the list (usually by asking the academic) but which are missing.
  • Updating resources to use newer editions, or electronic versions.
  • Linking resources to the current stock in the library catalogue.

Starting from scratch could mean that bad practice can be trained out of your users, and new workflows and procedures can be brought in to set the scene for where you want the reading list service to go. The very act of creating lists can be used as a training exercise to familiarise staff with how to handle everyday situations and to test that those new workflows are having the desired impact. 

It can seem daunting to announce that you are starting from scratch, but if you have less than a thousand lists to import, then this might still be the best option for you. The effort required from you to test the import is broadly similar to the effort required to put a plan in place to create new lists as part of a training exercise.

Importing your lists

If you have significant numbers of lists - we'd usually consider significant to be one thousand lists or more, then it may be worth doing an import of your existing lists.

When considering whether an import is appropriate we would suggest applying the following broad guidelines.

  • Are there more than 1000 lists?
  • Have the lists been updated within the last 12 months?
  • Are the lists actively used in teaching?
  • Are there links to the lists in active use in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)/Learning Management System (LMS)?
  • Are there 'historical' lists from previous teaching periods which are important to have visible within the new system for students to access?
  • Do the resources on the list have good metadata?
  • Do the resources on the list have a local control number (which we can use to link back to your library catalogue)?
  • Do the resources have DOIs, ISBNs or other standard identifiers which can be used to look up a good quality record as part of the import?
  • Are all your lists available as a database export or structured data file?

If eighty percent of the above is true for your lists, then a good import could be expected. It is suggested that you have a word with our Talis Consulting Team who can use their experience of importing many thousands of lists from different systems to help you gauge whether an import is right for you.

Making lists better

We often find that when a customer brings a list into Talis Aspire, we can do a lot to improve the list by looking up better metadata using the information in the old list. For one customer we were able to relink things to the library catalogue. These items had become unlinked due to a data issue with the previous reading list system they were using.

These are a few of the data cleanup tasks that we can use in your import

  • We can remove unwanted data — for example, text strings that clutter up titles such as '[electronic]'.
  • We can remove unwanted external links — for example, a change of catalogue left a recent new customer with hundreds of links that were no longer relevant.
  • We can filter out unwanted lists — for example, empty lists, or lists before a particular date.
  • We can look up fresh data from your library catalogue and CrossRef.
  • We can add links to your library catalogue for ISBNs that were not previously linked.
  • We can make sure that every item on every list has an importance.

Once we have imported, is that all there is to it?

This very much depends on the quality of the list that you are importing into Talis Aspire. If you are happy that the lists are in good shape, then it might be enough to start handing them over to academics to use. However, if the import has highlighted areas that could be improved, or if you are aware of things that you'd like to change on a list, then now is the time to review those lists before you go let academics and students loose on them.

These are some of the tasks that our universities choose to do after a list import

  • Check for current editions.
  • Check for electronic editions.
  • Check that stock levels are sufficient for the current student cohort.
  • Link the lists to the VLE/LMS (If you are using something like our LTI tool, then this can be automatic).
  • Hand over the list to the academic.
  • Use the list as a 'seed' list. "This is what you had in the old system, but here's what you could do with it now". This can be an opportunity to engage with academics on the features of Talis Aspire that make this a game changer for them.

So an import of reading lists into Talis Aspire doesn't necessarily mean less work, but it might mean that the work that you do put effort into is targeted where it can make the most difference.




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