Virtuosity? Librarians do it, too!

Feeling a bit rattled at a recent exchange in which I felt I had been very much dismissed as a mere librarian by someone nearly one third my age – not a colleague, I hasten to add! – I expressed due thanks for the advice, then fumed and raged (mainly internally) for a few days until a thought occurred to me.

Have I not got a certificate of excellence from one of my professional associations?  And a fellowship from another two?  Okay then, here it is.  May I introduce myself, modestly, as a virtuoso music librarian?  No concert platforms for me.  My postdoctoral research is shared with musicologists, librarians, book and library historians, and although I’m a published author, I very seldom – though by no means never – perform my research.  But it doesn’t make me less good at what I do.  I’ve been a music librarian for 34 years – I generally know my stuff.  I have three music degrees, professional qualifications in librarianship and teaching and – surprisingly enough – a performing diploma in an instrument I no longer play.

Why do some people assume librarians are unskilled?  I wouldn’t tell any of our community how to perform, compose or dance, but in my own areas of expertise I like to think I’m pretty competent as I approach my thirtieth anniversary at my workplace!



When I’m not a librarian …

As you know, I wear various hats. I’m a subject librarian 3.5 days a week. Well, a Performing Arts Librarian, but my specialism is in music.  As such, I also train our music students in using online resources, compiling bibliographies, and similar academic-related topics.

The other 1.5 days a week, I’m a postdoctoral researcher, currently leading an AHRC-funded research network, Claimed From Stationers Hall.  It’s all about the music deposited in Georgian libraries under the legal deposit legislation.


Today, I blogged about Hans Gal and his music catalogue at the University of St Andrews.  You can read it here.  I’m very keen for this early printed music to be more widely known about, and I’d love to see students exploring it for themselves.  But first, we need to know exactly what’s out there …

Biteable Videos – I’ve been playing!

When I did my mini-research project for the PGCert, some of the responses to my questionnaire expressed the desire for animated videos to explain the concepts I was introducing. So when I came across Biteable animations, I thought they might come in handy.

But by way of an experiment, i thought I’d try making a couple for my research project, first. So – here’s today’s attempt.  Because this is an economy WordPress website, I can’t the video to activate within the blog, so I’m afraid you’ll need to click on the hyperlink!

Out of the Stacks: Georgian Musical Heritage – my second Biteable video!

I’m still very much a beginner at this animated video thing, but it’s quite fun to play around with.

I had an idea – and it worked!

Doc mugI have often thought that when students have problems using Shibboleth institutional logins for our e-resources, the best solution would be to go for a Costa coffee – then we could practice logging in and searching the different resources.  There’s only one problem – I can hardly ask students to take me out to coffee, and also, they’re often distance-learners.

Yesterday, we solved one of those problems.  We took a class out to coffee, admittedly not Costa, but by arrangement with a nearby cafe – they sold 30-odd coffees, and we all played with our various electronic devices in search of specific keywords that I had set the students in advance.  I won’t go into detail here – it might turn into an article later! – but suffice to say, I was delighted by how well the exercise went.  It had involved a bit of advance preparation, first on my part and then on the students’, but it was certainly worth the effort.  Away from the usual instant access via Eduroam, there was no option but to engage with the institutional access process, and these students had remarkably little bother with it.

Funnily enough, in years gone by, when I tried to teach catalogue use in a computer suite, there seemed to be too much temptation for students to play with Facebook or other social media.  But yesterday, I didn’t give that possibility a thought, and because the students had an engaging task to do, it didn’t seem to happen.  (If it did, then certainly not to any noticeable extent!)

Active learning? Certainly.  Scaffolded learning? Arguably, yes.  We started with what the students knew, then I offered some more suggestions, and these were added into students’ own search strategies, with improved results.