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Decolonising@Lincoln: Library toolkit

A toolkit of resources

Why decolonise reading lists?

Reading lists are valuable teaching and learning tools. They provide the basis of many of the concepts and topics discussed during lectures and tutorials, and they are used by many students as the jumping-off point for research for essays and assignments. They reflect the content of the module and the perspective of the academic curating it, and as such they are not neutral.

Inclusion on a reading list signifies to a student that these texts radiate authority and expertise - terminology even indicates that these are 'key' or 'core' texts. This can inevitably highlight or elevate some voices and ideas over others, or even exclude some entirely, giving students a narrow, incomplete perspective. Some students will see their own identify reflected back at them, others will be excluded entirely.

Questions to ask

These questions can help structure a discussion on the reading list:

  • What are the dominant voices and narratives in your areas of study?
  • What voices and narratives are excluded, and how can they be identified?
  • Are the texts Western-centric, or Euro-centric?
  • Are bodies of knowledge distorted? Can discourse affect the way that we look at groups of people?
  • Who is the author of the work? Are the majority of the authors the same gender and ethnicity?
  • What is the relevance of the author’s identity in this context?
  • Who is talking about whose experience and/ or culture?
  • What is the place of publication and geographic coverage of the text?
  • What is the language of the text? Is it a translation or in its original language?
  • What kinds of sources do we perceive to be of most academic value and why?

Where to start

All of the Colleges and Schools at the University of Lincoln have an Academic Subject Librarian who work directly with them to ensure that there are appropriate resources available.  They provide inductions to the Library services and resources, run workshops and attend meetings, including subject committees where the student voice is heard.  The Library prioritises the essential and recommended reading on electronic reading lists, and therefore, more diverse reading lists will result in a more diverse collection overall.

Find out who your Academic Subject Librarian is and invite them to take part in a review of reading lists and any decolonising activities you have planned.

The Library is a good start for finding resources including:

Subject guides which include key database resources

Complete list of databases 

Advanced search for multiple databases

Journal Browsing service (Browzine

Reading lists and wider library collections are important. They provide the basis of the ideas discussed during lectures and seminars, and they are used as the foundation for essays, assignments, and research generally. Reading lists in particular are purposefully curated lists. Texts and materials included on reading lists give the authors, and their ideas and discourse power and privilege over those that are not included -  unintentionally or not.

To empower staff and students to undertake their own audits of their lists and collections, the audit method and data collection spreadsheet has been made available on this page. Use the data you gather to start a conversation about the diversity of your reading lists, library collections, and wider curriculum.

Consider doing an audit of your reading list - so you can see easily and visually how diverse your list may or may not be. You can use our pre-prepared spreadsheet (below) to audit your lists by type, format, gender, ethnicity and geographical location.


Mainstream publishing tends to favour those established within the academy, and we know that some people are underrepresented, particularly staff of colour. This is slowly changing and it is important to stay abreast of existing and new scholarship by academics of colour.

It is important to recognise that the vast majority of material used in academia is published by a narrow circle of publishers, based mainly within the US and UK. English-language publications inevitably predominate, and this reinforces the prevailing dominance of the Western-centric worldview.

Consider using a wider variety of media sources, which are often more inclusive of emerging voices. The library can help you access the following resources to support you in diversifying the format of materials on your reading lists:


  • Journals and magazines: the library has many international titles
  • Films: DVDs are available in the library
  • TV and Radio Content: via Box of Broadcasts
  • Blogs, web sites, open resources
  • YouTube/TedTalks


You can also consider including references to special collections and archives. Although historical archives may be predominantly white there are archival collections that offer a rich source of alternative material in certain areas.

Sector research on closing attainment gaps via curriculum development states that ‘it is vital that any reviews are undertaken in partnership with students’ (NUS and Universities UK, 2019).

Here are some points for consideration:

  • Reflect on what training, preparation and guidance students need to effectively participate in curriculum decolonization
  • Agree how to do this, be that alone, with librarians or with academics
  • Think about what will incentivise students, in particular those who are disengaging as a result of their marginalised identities, to participate in curriculum decolonization work. Can you offer an award?
  • Reflect on what opportunities exist to embed reading list review and decolonization into the assessed curriculum. Consider whether this can be aligned to learning outcomes and assessment criteria

Activity: Staff-Student discussion on the disciplinary canon, areas of exclusion, and alternative narratives.

Activity: Ask students to critique the reading list and suggest new content from their own research and experience. 

We recommend...

Decolonising reading list button

Click on the above picture to link through to the reading list.

Reading lists from other institutions


It is important to recognise that the vast majority of material used in academia is published by a narrow circle of publishers, based mainly within the US and UK. English-language publications inevitably predominate, and this reinforces the prevailing dominance of the Western-centric worldview.