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The Big Read at Hallam Library


Q: What is the Hallam Big Read?

The Hallam Big Read welcomes all students (new or returning) to Sheffield Hallam with a special edition of a book. This year the book is We Belong Here by Anita Sethi. 

The Big Read is now in its fourth year, with previous titles being How to Save Our PlanetNatives, and Our Name is Leon.

Evaluation of Big Read projects has concluded that, by creating a community through shared reading, students feel more welcome, settle in quickly and adjust to their new life at university.


Q: Do I have to read the book?

Not usually, but have a try! Reading the book is optional for most people, but it will give you something to talk about with your friends and colleagues. You may find on some courses that the book is used as a focus for discussions where relevant to the curriculum. You don’t have to read the book in order to attend any of the associated events.


Q: Who is funding the project?

The purchase of the books is being funded by the Hallam Guild, a cross-university community of staff and students with shared goals and common interests, working together to develop a culture of educational excellence in the University, by building expertise and sharing best practice. The project has been supported because there is a strong evidence for its positive impact on the student experience, but it is new to Sheffield Hallam and our distinctive learning community.

The university has been able to negotiate a special arrangement with the publishers, so the cost of each book is very significantly below the normal sale price.


Q: is it available as an ebook?

It isn’t normally possible for universities to buy multiple copies of ebooks to distribute, because of complex licensing and digital rights management arrangements. We are also aware that people use lots of different platforms for accessing ebooks. So for the Hallam Big Read, we have opted to purchase customized print copies. However, if you require an ebook version for accessibility reasons, you can make a request by filling in this form.


Q: Why are you doing it?

There are lots of reasons. First of all, we want to encourage you to read! Reading is a key academic skill for all university-level courses, and the amount and nature of what you need to read can be a challenge to many new students, wherever or whatever they study. 

Secondly, by reading you extend your knowledge of the world and other people. Starting university can be a challenging time, and reading can be a way of finding understanding amidst all the changes around you. Numerous studies have shown that reading for pleasure increases empathy, happiness, income, safety, and articulacy. All of these qualities will have a positive impact on your time at university and your future career.

The university also wanted to find ways of building a community amongst our new students that is not based only around social events. A Big Read does this, by giving everyone one thing in common to discuss. Sheffield Hallam University is committed to transforming lives: the Big Read is one stage along this path.


Q: Has anyone else tried it?

Yes. In the UK, Kingston University started its Big Read in 2015. The approach has been adopted in different forms at the University of Wolverhampton, Edinburgh Napier University, Brighton, Edge Hill and more.

Kingston University won a Times Higher Widening Participation/Outreach of the Year' award in November 2017 for its pioneering work. The spread of Big Read initiatives across the sector is a testament to the positive impact of the project and its local implementations.


Q: What are the benefits of reading a book like this?

There is lot of evidence that teenagers and people with caring responsibilities don’t read as much as people at other stages in their lives. Yet studying at university requires both reading fluency and well-developed skills of understanding. Reading for pleasure helps develop your reading skills, and a book as good as this can make that reading a delight.


Q: The book covers some uncomfortable material. What do I do?

If you, or someone you know, are affected by any of the material, support is available from the university. In the first instance, you should contact Hallam Help, in person, by phone or online.  Email:;  Visit: Hallam Help point map; Phone: 0114 225 2222; Twitter: @hallamhelp and

Colleagues in Student Services are contributing to our Hallam Big Read-related activities, and we will be promoting the additional support available through our Big Read activities.


Q: Is it relevant to my course?

Well, it depends what you mean by relevant. For some of you, it will be directly relevant, and will feature in your curriculum so you will discuss the work in seminars and workshops.


Q: Why aren't you sending it out in advance?

Unfortunately, the way the book is printed and distributed to us means that we are unable to include it in the welcome pack that is sent to you by the university.


Q: Have you consulted students about the Big Read?

Yes. The university has worked with the Students’ Union and the student Reading Society during the project.


Q: Who is receiving a copy?

All students cam receive a copy, irrespective of your level of study. This includes students at partner colleges. There will be some additional copies available for interested students and staff. Both Collegiate and Adsetts Libraries have copies of the book to borrow.


Q: Can I use it as a teaching resource?



Q: Do I have to keep the book?

The book is a gift to you, and we hope it will remind you of the time when you started as a student at Sheffield Hallam. If you don’t want to keep it, there will be collection points at Adsetts and Collegiate Libraries and we will arrange for the book to be redistributed or otherwise disposed of in a sustainable and ethical way.


Q: Are you planning any events?

Yes, we are. Events are still in the planning stages, but we will support a range of events linked to the book and some of the significant topics it explores.


Q: How do I find out more or give you feedback?

You can contact us via Hallam Help, online here

Project funding

The Hallam Guild logo


This project has been supported by the Hallam Guild and the Library. We wanted to reassure you that this has been funded independently of how the Library resources course provision, books, journals and databases!