On the Eve of a PGCert Weekend Session

Tomorrow’s a PGCert Saturday Session

Since most of my cohort have presumably finished by now (and are anticipating graduation), I imagine I’m going to be a bit of an odd-man-out tomorrow, neither first year PGCert nor any kind of MEd student.  Nonetheless, if there’s anyone there in the same position as me, then we can commiserate with one another.  I had to ask for extra time, because I was under too much stress to cope with the course in Autumn 2016, was struggling with endless migraines, and that all meant my project plans fell behind quite severely.

I thought I was back on track with my revised schedule, but getting ethical approval for my project has taken much longer than I expected, so now I’m just hoping I will be able to get the project questionnaire out, processed, and interviews conducted before my target audience takes themselves off for their summer holidays.

I expect some of my cohort will have elected to continue their studies towards an MEd rather than stopping at Postgraduate Certificate.  I’ve decided to stop there, though.  I took first BA(Hons) Music and then MA Music in 1979-80, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship in 1983-4.   I didn’t finish my first PhD, because I rushed into librarianship rather than find a way to finish the PhD when the funding ran out.  I did finish the second PhD (Music) in 2009.  So I’m already dual-qualified in music and librarianship, and when I get my PGCert, I’ll be triple-qualified in music, librarianship, and higher education teaching and learning.  As one of the generation of women who narrowly missed out on retirement at 60 (I’m nearly but not quite there yet!), I really feel that my final decade of work should build upon and utilise the qualifications I HAVE got, rather than go on studying to improve my knowledge in education, when I can see my chances of teaching diminishing steadily with each year that passes.  I’m more likely to get part-time than full-time teaching, and even with a PGCert in higher education, then I shall still be a rather well-qualified librarian-researcher.

So, what do I have to look forward to, tomorrow?   The timetable doesn’t mention PGCert year 2 (obviously – they’ve mostly finished), but as mentioned above, I’m neither PGCert 1 nor any kind of MEd student.  Nonetheless, I might be able to reflect upon what I’ve learned in my project so far, and I’ve no objection to devising a poster.  I haven’t prepared one for tomorrow’s session in advance (I’ve not been asked to), but I can pull together some ideas in the next hour or so, in case the opportunity arises.

It also occurs to me that, if I find myself at a loose end, I can quite easily occupy myself with some focused reading, whether for the PGCert or for my postdoctoral researches, so the time won’t be wasted anyway.

Ideas for a Poster Session

  1. The context of my teaching (library, research and general academic skills)
  2. The constraints of my teaching (‘parachute’ lecturer; little knowledge of students and their educational backgrounds; the subjects I’m teaching are not perceived as particularly relevant by many undergraduates!)
  3. Further constraints:- often no choice of physical setting, nor of any kind of collaborative learning, and sometimes too large a group to entertain any active learning. Talking about online resources in lecture format is not ideal.
  4. My project: ways to maximise effectiveness of my teaching given these constraints. Questionnaire, two interventions, feedback, a handful of interviews, analysis, reflection upon answers and potential further developments in the context of my work.


I can’t imagine a presentation without images.  However, I can’t do a Powerpoint for a poster session in a room where students walk round from poster to poster.  A few images on my tablet or laptop are the best I can aim for.  So, I shall leave this blogpost for now, and try to find some suitable pictures!

Checking the Facts

I’m off to St Andrews again today.  Having amassed all my data about music borrowing from the University Library between 1801-1849, and codified it all, I know which volume was most popular, and why. But it’s not in the modern catalogue, and that raises more questions!

  • Is it missing or uncatalogued? (later: it turns out to be genuinely missing)
  • If the latter, why? Could it be in poor (heavily used) condition?
  • If the former, I know the last person to use it up to 1849, but were they the last ever? That would probably mean checking at least one more library receipt book, and the last one was 700+ pages long. Even for a geek like me, that’s probably too much effort when I’ve already defined my date parameters. (later: the Reverend Doctor returned it. I just have to accept that it’s gone, presumably forever.)
  • I want to check a couple of loan records.  (later: I checked.)
  • And a contemporary list of residents, predating official census records. (I have a long list of everyone who borrowed music from the library!)  (I checked this too, but ordered up a copy so that I could look again at my leisure, another time.)
  • And a book of flute parts, to see if there are any interesting markings of usage. I don’t expect any, but you never know.  (There weren’t!  Still, I was able to check the names of the quadrilles.)
  • And a couple of books in the Finzi collection – they may come from another place in the library, and I believe they were in high demand. Again, physical inspection is necessary.  (Checked these – pristine.)

I still await news on my funding application. I have a conference paper to write, and it would be nice to finish up with (hopefully good) news, but I shall just have to continue to be patient … (And, a week later, I’ve written the conference paper.  With no news to impart yet. Ah, well … it’s a waiting game.  More on the paper another time, since it’s ridiculously late at night!)

Survey Monkey? Hunky-Dory

monkey-474147_640While I was waiting for confirmation that I could submit my project proposal to the ethics committee, I started thinking about Survey Monkey versus a paper questionnaire – and it did feel as though Survey Monkey had much to recommend it.  It’s more streamlined and saves anyone having to email completed questionnaires to me.

Since the questionnaire already existed, I reasoned, what could be easier than to turn it into a Survey Monkey one?

They don’t tell you about the ten question limit until you’ve input ten questions.  And then …  well, let’s say this was annoying. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go for a personal upgrade (at several hundred £££ per year, this is a relief!), so once I’d made my arrangements, I began all over again, until I finally had a whole questionnaire ready to go.

Now I have to submit all the “paperwork” (documentation) to be signed off and submitted for ethical approval.  I’ll try to do so tomorrow, depending on whether I get a clear break at lunchtime.

The Missing Book

Musard Cherubs Quadrilles“You only miss something once it’s gone”, they say.  So it is with one particular volume in the historical Copyright Music collection at St Andrews.  I transcribed and tabulated every single loan of music between 1801-1849, and I’ve been calculating which were the most popular books.  To be truthful, there’s a lot more to be done with my data, but I began with the most popular book of all.  And as luck would have it, the most popular music volume isn’t in today’s online catalogue.  Did the last-known elderly borrower – who was both a professor of logic, and a local church minister – not return it after he borrowed it on Christmas Eve, 1842?   (What was an old minister of 73-4 wanting quadrilles for, anyway? For a relative? For a party?  He did have fifteen siblings who made it to adulthood!)  At any rate, I’ll need to double-check the loan records to see if the loan was crossed out; if so, this would mean that he did return it!  Clearly if he did, then it went missing some time later;  I stopped checking loan records at the end of that particular book, because music loans were markedly tailing off after the legal deposit legislation changed.

(Since you can take the music librarian out of the job title but not the music librarianship background out of the researcher, I’ve taken the precaution of enquiring whether the book is really, truly missing, or just uncatalogued.  It doesn’t make much difference whether the book’s completely gone or lying in fragments in some cataloguer’s nightmare box, but the romance of the story requires that we know one way or another. At the time of writing, it’s something of a Schroedinger’s cat, which would probably upset Revd. Professor James Hunter mightily!)

First_Quadrille_at_Almack's, WikipediaThe book’s contents consist entirely of dance music for the piano.  I have a good idea what was in it, because the original 1826 catalogue lists the contents.  By comparing these sketchy details with volumes in other libraries, and sometimes, with matching instrumental volumes in the St Andrews collection, I am reasonably confident that I can identify nearly every piece, and if I had a mind to, I could see nearly all of them in libraries as far apart as Aberdeen and London.

It would be fun to reconstruct the volume by getting copies of every item.  Getting digital copies of it all, and permission to “publish” it, even online, could be quite expensive. However, I suspect it will all be fairly functional music, and maybe quite unremarkable.   At the same time, it was indisputably the most borrowed music in St Andrews University Library.  We might consider the music mundane, but it clearly had appeal for its contemporary borrowers!  So – I’m debating how far to take this:-

  • I could get pictures of the title pages (where they exist) and first page of music in each item, which would at least show what they looked like.
  • Knowing my penchant for paratext, I could scour each item to see if any interesting commentary was hiding amongst them, including dance steps.
  • I could record whole or partial pieces to give an idea how they sounded.
  • I’ve had a brilliant idea!  A workshop!

I shall return to this posting if further ideas occur to me!  Meanwhile, I’ve started looking at what I can in Glasgow Uni’s collection …. and  genning up on quadrilles, balls and assembly rooms, not to mention characterising the music I’ve looked at so far.