A Long, Long Time Ago – a Library

I’m quite interested in the early history of Scottish libraries. My own current part-time sabbatical is concerned with the published music that legal deposit libraries (the University of St Andrews in particular) claimed from Stationers’ Hall in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and I’m particularly curious to know what happened to the music, and how much it was actually borrowed from the university libraries who received it.

Now, St Andrews isn’t that far from Dundee – or Innerpeffray, come to that – so I was interested to see a link to a new blog from the University of Dundee’s Centre for Scottish Culture.  PhD student Jill Dye is studying this historic library, and posted an informative blog entry a couple of weeks ago.  You can read it here:-

Beginning “Books and their Borrowers” at Innerpeffray Library

This might be about a different kind of library, and books rather than music, but I’m still interested in this important part of Scottish library history.  We both touch on book history, though mine is a story of books containing music, more than books containing words.  Indeed, the books about learning music were also preserved carefully at St Andrews University Library.  I wonder how much overlap there might be of that particularly niche repertoire?!

Informal Teaching Opportunities

Informal? Well, should I just say, this posting concerns normal teaching opportunities rather than events deliberately set up for my PGCert studies.  In the past week, I’ve spoken to our research students about bibliographic referencing tools and general good practice – that turned into a great discussion lasting just under and hour – and two groups of first year undergraduates (one surprisingly large class and one small), about useful online resources for their first proper essay assignments.  Even the course-leader was gratified by the turn-out for the first session, and although I only had 10-15 minutes, I thought I got quite a lot across.

I’ve also done two 1:1 sessions on citation and referencing for an undergraduate with particularly challenging reference sources, and a distance-learner on one of our taught postgrad courses.  These were more like tutorials than lessons, obviously.  The students provided details of the materials they needed to cite, and I helped them to format them.  We encourage students to use the Harvard system at the Conservatoire – it’s not the system I use myself, but hey, it’s just a question of formulating the citations and bibliography in accordance with a set of rules.  I’ve spent decades with cataloguing rules, so citation and referencing really isn’t a problem for me!  Hopefully I’ve made things a bit clearer for our students.

Copac and RISM – a natural friendship

I’ve been conversing with two bibliographical organisations via Twitter this week.  Things are looking very promising, so I decided to make a Storify of the dialogue so far. I’ll reproduce the introduction here, but you can read the rest on Storify:-

As a musicologist of 18th-19th century British music, and also a music librarian, I think it would be fantastic if all early English printed music indexed by RISM, had those RISM numbers entered in COPAC catalogue records. I have recently started the conversation via social media….

IKEA T-Shirts in Reverse

Today, I started a new adventure: the joy of grant-writing.  Well, I exaggerate slightly.  By ‘started’, I mean that I looked at all the headings requiring to be completed, and sat in silent, awe-struck contemplation.  (I think I’ll take my new book on the train to St Andrews with me: Carr’s The Nuts and Bolts of Grant Writing.)  The’joy’ is a bit of hyperbole, too.  It feels a bit like someone telling you that diving off a very high board for the first time is exhilarating and probably won’t hurt as much as you think.  (Unless you bellyflop into the water?)

One thing was clear to me, however.  The section where you have to put your research idea into layman’s language.   If I was allowed to use a hyperlink, I could do that straight away!  You know the IKEA advertisement where the T-shirts find their way home, despite freezing winds, booming ship’s hooters and sundry other adventures? (‘The Joy of Storage’, they call it.  It’s for all the world like the triumphant end of The Lord of the Rings.)

Well, imagine the shirts are sheets of unbound music, and then play the video backwards.  Scores of assorted pieces leave Stationers’ Hall in London, and begin their journey by land and sea, scattered if not to the four winds, then certainly far and wide to an uncertain future in eighteenth-century Britain’s legal deposit copyright libraries … that is what I want to research next.  Where they all went, and what happened to them in their various destinations, from the University of St Andrew’s careful parcelling up and ultimate cataloguing, to Trinity College Dublin’s instruction that Stationers’ Hall was not to send them any more music, thanks.  Very different attitudes to ‘The Joy of Storage’, indeed!

2015 Retrospective

If I were a young American academic, I’d be writing frantically in my efforts to secure tenure.  But I’m neither young nor American, and I identify both as a librarian and an academic: I sit on the fence between music librarianship and musicology.

Despite all this, I feel it’s good for my academic profile to get as much published as possible, so with that in mind, and the fact that only 40% of my work-life is spent on research, here’s my 2015 retrospective.  To put it in context, October saw the end of my Bass Culture postdoc secondment, so I was busy finishing off that, and writing/speaking was often centred on the project and its resultant website.  Public engagement seems to be a regularly recurring theme, which pleases me.  There’s no point in doing research if it stays locked up in an ivory tower.


  • ‘Wynds, Vennels and Dual Carriageways: the Changing Nature of Scottish Music’, chapter in forthcoming book edited by Gary West and Simon McKerrell, Understanding Scotland Musically (pending)
  • Scottish Musical Review (pending) ‘Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections’
  • Box & Fiddle Magazine 39.1 (Sept 2015), 7, ‘Bass Culture in Scottish Musical Traditions’
  • Post-Lib (CILIP Retired Members Guild) no.76 (1 June 2015), 3-4, ‘From Where I Sit’
  • Reference Reviews (pending), ‘Show me a Strathspey: Taking Steps to Digitize Tune Collections’ http://www.emeraldinsight.com/loi/rr
  • Fontes Artis Musicae Vol.62.1 (2015), 17-25, ‘Following the Bass: a New Digitisation Project for Scottish Fiddle Tune Resources
  • Library Review Vol.64, Iss.1/2, (2015), 154-161, ‘Sexy Bibliography (and Revealing Paratext)’ http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/LR-09-2014-0104
  • Reference Reviews, Vol.29 no.3 (2015) 41, Review of Nardolillo, Jo, illustrated by T. M. Larsen and edited by David Daniels, All Things Strings: an Illustrated Dictionary (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
  • Reference Reviews, Vol. 29 no.1 (2015) 47-49, Review of Collins, Irma H., Dictionary of Music Education (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2013), DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RR-07-2014-0186
  • Times Higher Education. What are you reading? 9 contributions to this column since 2012.


  • Scots Fiddle Festival, Edinburgh, ‘Fiddle books by the dozen’ (Nov 2015)
  • Edinburgh Central Library, ‘An Entertainment Altogether New: a celebration of Edinburgh’s First Musical Festival’ [Bicentenary of the first Edinburgh Musical Festival held between 30th October and 05th November 1815] (Oct 2015)
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Exchange Talk: ‘Common Threads: From Sacred to Secular, Ancient to (nearly) Modern’ (Oct 2015)
  • Dundee Central Library, Speaker at Friends of Wighton series of Cappuccino Concerts: ‘The Importance of the Wighton and Jimmy Shand Collections’ (Sept 2015)
  • University of Glasgow, Speaker at Robert Burns Song Project Symposium (September 2015)

Blog Categories

I had a meeting with my Teaching Artist course tutor this morning.  Amongst the many useful things we discussed, this blog itself got a mention.  I have been vaguely aware that I was getting categories and tags mixed up, and if my tutor herself is confused by my categories then plainly I’ve got it wrong somewhere.

This evening, I sat down and listed all the categories I’ve created.  It’s completely out of control!  So, I shall turn over a new leaf and restrict my blogposts to just nine categories.  Does that sound excessive?  Not compared to the present tally, it doesn’t!

From now on, I’ll use the following categories, and I’ll let tags take care of the rest:-

  • General
  • CV and CPD
  • Music, Practical
  • Music, Research
  • Librarianship
  • Teaching
  • Speaking & Presentations
  • Writing & Publications
  • Reblogged