Agony aunt

February 26, 1999

Q:I have just had my first textbook published and want to recommend it on my students' reading list. Is there any ethical difficulty with that?

Penny Holloway. Librarian, Ulster University

"Unless your book is highly controversial or not well reviewed - and only you can be the judge of that - in my opinion there is not a problem provided two basic conditionsare met.

First, your book must be clearly pertinent to the course. And second, it should be accompanied by other texts fromdifferent authors.

The important thing about reading lists is that studentsread widely around their subject. If students are being taught by eminent scholars, it is inevitable, at least when they are teachingin their own specialist area, that they themselves will have written some of the key works in that area of expertise. In most cases students would expect that and would not have a problem with it.

Of course students do not have to buy books any way and lecturers should not insist on that in my view.

Many lecturers are findingit increasingly difficult to keep reading lists up to date these days.

The proliferation of literature, particularly on the web, causes as many problems as it solves. But do not forget that one of the most critical skills students can learn is judging which works are relevant to their studies.

More and more academicsare using librarians, particularly those with subject specialist knowledge, as part of the teaching team. Students must learn how to select books properly.

This is all crucial to the student learning process today.

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