Essential Reading

CONNECTED discovers how the University ensured students could still access the books that are integral to their studies during the lockdown last term, and the important role University donors played in this process.

The pandemic has impacted us all in different ways, including our students. The nationwide lockdown imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19 meant that the University of Reading Library had to close its doors while our students were in the middle of looming coursework deadlines and exams.

CONNECTED shares how University donors were essential in helping students access the books needed to complete their studies, and finds out more about the Library’s new ‘Click and Collect’ service.

Improving remote access

When lockdown prevented students from physically going to the Library and accessing hard copies of books which were essential to completing their studies, University donors stepped up to help; donating £17,200 to help the University improve remote access to books so students didn’t suffer.

CONNECTED speaks to Stuart Hunt, Director of University Library & Collections Services and University Librarian, to find out more about how important these donations were to students.

Stuart said: “The Library received funds from donors in two instalments: £10,000 was donated in May to support access to learning resources during lockdown, and a further £7,200 was donated in August, giving us an incredible total of £17,200.

“This money enabled us to purchase 120 e-books which were urgently required for exam revision or dissertation research.”

The e-books purchased ranged from ‘Home Truths: The UK’s Chronic Housing Shortage’, to ‘Comparative International Management’.

Stuart explained: “Some of the e-books were requested by groups of students who required it for essential reading on their course, and many of the requests were labelled as urgent.

“It was vital that we were able to purchase these e-books and we’re so grateful to the donors who enabled us to support our students to access important reading materials.

“These books were also used by students at the University of Reading Malaysia campus and the Greenlands campus in Henley, showing that the Library really is a resource for everyone – and even more so now that donations have enabled us to improve our remote access.”

Some Reading students, who wish to remain anonymous, shared what the purchase of these e-books meant to them:

“This is great, thank you so much for getting me access to this book. It will really help my project, so I’m very grateful you helped me get it.”

“Thank you so much for all your assistance. This will be really helpful and I really appreciate the Library’s support.”

‘Click and Collect’

The University understands how integral books are to our students’ studies and worked hard to get a system up and running to enable students to access physical books, as well as improving remote access.

Stuart explained:

“Since 9 July, the Library has been operating a ‘Click and Collect’ service. This service enables students to request items from the Library catalogue which staff will then collect from the shelves, before emailing students to let them know their collection is ready.

“We’ve worked hard to put procedures in place that will keep everyone safe. This includes a queuing system providing a one-way contactless route in and out of the building, social distancing signage, and requirements such as staff wearing gloves when handling books and wiping down the collection point between visitors.

“We are then quarantining all returned items for 72 hours before they are processed. The Library’s loans structure has been modified to reflect this quarantine period.”

Recognising the need for continued social distancing and the increased numbers of students on campus now that the new academic year has begun, the ‘Click and Collect’ service will continue during the autumn term.

As of 14 September, the Library also opened bookings for study spaces, enabling students to select the type of study space they want, with bookings able to be made up to seven days in advance.

Supporting students

Improving access to books during the pandemic is just one of the many ways our students need support to continue their studies during COVID-19.

Find out more about our Student Hardship Appeal, or how you can get involved, through the IMAGINE campaign.