A Metaphor of Three Boxes

Imagine that when we came to Glasgow in 1988, I was the perfect size and shape for the box that represented the post I had applied for.  (Well, I got the job, so that seems reasonable to assume!)

Since then I’ve accumulated loads of experience, and a couple more qualifications – a Musicology PhD and a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education.  And a couple of fellowships into the bargain.  I’ve been research assistant on an AHRC-funded project, and PI (principal investigator) on an AHRC networking grant.  I’ve published articles and a book, and given a lot of papers.  So … it would be equally reasonable to assume that I’ve slightly outgrown my box!

cardboard boxesUnfortunately, it feels as though, at the same time as I’ve been outgrowing the box, the box itself seems to be shrinking.  Shades of Alice in Wonderland?  Don’t be silly, that’s just a children’s story!  No, it’s more a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress, as I look this way and that in my efforts to find a bigger box (fresh challenges) without having to relocate.  That’s not even a remote possibility, for personal reasons.

Indeed, you could say we’re looking at four boxes, not three.  The one I started in, the bigger one I ought to be in, the little one I AM in, and a bigger box still for my future aspirations.

boxesI love my research, and I love working with students.  I can’t honestly say I love cataloguing with the same passion.  Squeezed into my present little box, I’m like Schrodinger’s cat: at once alive, and moribund!

Never let it be said that people over sixty suddenly lose their ambitions. If anything, it makes it feel more urgent that I fulfil my potential before I reach pensionable age!  I jokingly call myself an underachieving high-achiever, but it’s not entirely a joke.  If I met St Peter at the pearly gates tomorrow, I’d be apologising that I hadn’t managed to climb higher up the career ladder!



Digital Literacy – Useful Article in THE

“Digital literacy initiatives are required for teaching today’s student” says an Adobe article in Times Higher Education today.  This is a really interesting article – I’ve just added it to my Mendeley account, but I’d like to share it more widely.  Here’s the link:-



(Usually, you need a Times login to read any article, but this link appears to take you directly there without any need for that.)


Nothing to do with teaching, and all to do with creativity ….

To my delight, some musical librarian and research friends in England have been trying some of my musical arrangements.  Let me share:-

Ruth Carlyle and David Barton perform The Lone Wanderer (an arrangement of an old Scottish tune) and The Spinners and the Habetrot (words and music entirely by me).

Another of my recent compositions currently only exists as a computer rendition – Not a Standard Minuet, for 2 clarinets and piano.

Recent Reading (CPD)

I know, I know.  I do use Twitter a lot.  However, in my own defence, it’s a great way of keeping abreast of professional developments.  So my Twitter feed has more current awareness, research, educational and musical content than fluffy kittens (although there certainly are a handful of cute animal accounts – just to lift the spirits!).

Interesting educational links that I’ve encountered in the past few days?

I have always been keen to share what I find with colleagues – hopefully most find it an endearing rather than an irritating habit!  I do the same with alerts that I’ve set up to notifiy me of new research articles.

Speaking, Publishing and Reflection

I maintain two blogs – this Teaching Artist one, and the blog for the research network that I established – Claimed From Stationers’ Hall.  I also upload “outputs” to Pure, which is the Conservatoire’s institutional repository.  (Click here to see my profile page.)

However, I’m posting here today because I had some good news this week.  When I did my PG Certificate (Learning and Teaching in Higher Education), I did a project about providing library support in the form of training videos for distance learners, and I’m pleased to say that, after a bit of editing and moving sections around, this has just been accepted for publication in a library managers’ professional journal.  I don’t know exactly when it will appear, but I am delighted that it will!

Actually, I’ve had a busy writing time recently.  I’ve given several talks since June this year – two research ones, one professional pecha kucha, and an after-dinner talk at Clan Gregor’s annual gathering.  That was a new departure for me.  A colleague sent me into a complete panic by suggesting I had to have plenty of jokes up my sleeve.  Well, if there were any, they were largely unintentional! I couldn’t work out how to be comical when talking about a clan chief who died nearly 200 years ago.  The talk was a revision of an earlier research paper that I was invited to deliver at a seminar in Paris, and I was able to use the same PowerPoint, but without some of the detail that had been in the first one.


We’ve talked about putting presentations and training materials online. before.  This time, I saved my Clan Gregor PowerPoint with a very, very brief summary recorded over each slide.  I like this format – it’s informative, and means you can have a prepared script which you read over the slides – but unlike Screencast-o-matic, your face isn’t in the corner of the screen.  Whilst I know some students like to see the face of the person speaking to them, my own feeling is that it works best if you can appear to be speaking TO the viewer, but not if you’re demonstrating something on screen. That just means your eyes are looking at whatever you’re talking about, and NOT at the viewer!  I felt that my own eyes-down-concentrating frown added no value to to a presentation at all! If I was to use the PowerPoint with recording option for a training video, I could always put my own photo on a slide at the beginning, then viewers could see who was speaking to them, just at the outset!

Quite apart from the talks and presentations, I’ve been writing book reviews and my share of a journal article, for the Brio journal special issue that I’m guest co-editing for a music librarianship journal.  Since this is one of the major outputs for the Stationers’ Hall research project, I’ve also been chasing up everyone else’s contributions, too!

On my days in the library, I’ve been inching my way forward with another project that we have ongoing – producing mini-induction videos on different topics for our Deaf/deaf student cohort.  This has involved thinking about accessible formats and liaising with other people who can help us.  It’s actually rather nice to know that whilst the library input is to produce the information, we’ll need a BSL interpreter to “sign” for us, and subtitles in place of verbal commentary.  I’m looking forward hopefully to seeing the finished product in a few weeks’ time.