In February 1999 the University’s Teaching & Learning Committee proposed that reading lists be made available online and linked to the module specifications. A project was set up to produce such a service involving representatives from the Teaching & Learning Committee, the Associate Deans (Teaching), Corporate Information Services and the University Library.
Major benefits of service
- Enable taught course students to view reading lists (including lecturer’s annotations) from a variety of sources e.g. Module specs, Learn server, lecturer’s web pages, Library catalogue (OPAC), etc.
- Enable users to check availability of material on reading lists against the Library catalogue
- Avoid duplication of effort by academics, departmental administrators and the Library in maintaining separate reading lists
In March 2000 the Library’s System Team took on responsibility for the development of the reading list system. Open source software (i.e. Linux, Perl, MySQL, and Apache) was utilised with the hope of allowing a production version of the software to also be made available via open source. By June 2000 the basic functionality was in beta test.
In the first year of its operation temporary staff were employed to key in the 857 reading lists submitted by academic departments into the system. Thereafter responsibility for updating the reading lists on the system was transferred to the academic departments. Currently the system holds some 1,800 active reading lists (including sub-lists).
In June 2002 a version of the software was made available to Nottingham University under the General Public License. After some enhancements to the installation process the software has now been publicly released to a wider audience under the name LORLS (Loughborough Online Reading List System). Since the first public release there has been 3 revisions of the system adding new features.
In May 2007 we first began to consider a fundamental overhaul of the underlying data model of the system. This was because we felt we had reached the limits of what the existing data model could effectively support. However due to other commitments we were unable to progress this until November 2008, when we began the redevelopment of LORLS.
In the new version we sought to achieve greater levels customization through out the system (e.g. interface, metadata, etc.) and greater interoperability with other systems such as Library management systems, virtual learning environments and third party resources. In order to achieve this we split the system into back end and front end functionality which communicate through a set of APIs.
Other benefits of the new version are:
- Consistent citation format (by default Harvard)
- Library holdings embedded in page
- Display of book covers, table of contents and sample chapters where available
- Drag and Drop reordering of items
- Tailored data entry forms
- Easy creation of sublists (e.g. week 1 reading list, week 2 reading list, etc.)
- Ability to add items to reading lists from other websites
We went live with the new version in February 2011 and over the next 4 months bugs were fixed and the system was tweaked. In June 2011 we had ironed out the majority of the bugs and so decided to release version 6 on the rest of the world.