Volunteering Expertise

Anyone who knows me would not be surprised that I’m honorary librarian for a charitable trust looking after an historical collection of Scottish music in Dundee.  The Wighton Collection belongs to the City of Dundee and resides in the public library – but the Friends of Wighton support and promote the collection.  In recent years we’ve also acquired the late Scottish accordionist Jimmy Shand’s music collection.  I have to be honest and admit that it really is the perfect charity for me to be involved with!  Not only do I have the Scottish music and librarianship expertise, but I also started my music librarianship career in a public library, and it feels right that I should be giving something back to the public sector, even if I’ve subsequently spent 31 years in an academic library.  And I totally agree with the aims of the charity in promoting classes in traditional Scottish musical instruments, even if I am not involved with that side of things.  (It’s in Dundee – I can only go over there on occasional Saturdays, even for the bibliographical work I do voluntarily.  Going across weekly wouldn’t be feasible, really.)

I was happy to come back from today’s visit – which included enjoying hearing a friend playing at one of the Cappuccino Concerts this morning – knowing that I’ve got a quantity of music listed and boxed up with instructions for a bindery to transform them from rather tired old scores into smart cloth-bound volumes.  They represent some of Jimmy Shand’s repertoire, and although people today can be rather dismissive about early to mid twentieth century “Scottish” songs, they are nonetheless a link in the chain of our history, and as such, worthy of preservation.  Strangely enough, some of the material I’ve handled today was by BIG Scottish music publishers (in their day), but on cheap paper, mass-produced, and despite that, rarely surviving in today’s libraries.  I like to think we’re doing a good thing in attempting to preserve them!

(Image is my own accordion, not Shand’s.  But he’s partially to blame for my recent acqusition in any case!)


Something came up on my Twitter feed this evening – it looked interesting, so I’ll share it here, and read it when I’ve got a spare minute later on this week.  It’s about e-portfolios, and it’s from our friends at Jisc.  (They’re the team who ran Copac before upgrading it to Jisc Library Discover, earlier this summer.)

How to enhance student learning, progression and employability with e-portfolios

Case studies and guidance on e-portfolios for UK further and higher education (July 2019)

I believe I may have mentioned that one of our sons suggested I should follow his example and turn my CV into an Issuu e-publication – well, I did do that, but I wonder if we’ll be revising our efforts after I’ve looked at this!

Conference: Talking Technical

Last week, it was our Learning and Teaching Conference – and this year, the focus was on technology.  I was suitably impressed by demonstrations of gaming – and the employment opportunities the industry could offer our students.  There were two demonstrations of audio-visual projects in Gaelic.  I attended an Adobe Connect demonstration, and then later on donned my headset to participate in an online conferencing session with a colleague in …. oh, okay, it was another part of the building! – but the whole purpose was to demonstrate how  the technology could be used in the context of distance learning.  And we talked, in other sessions, about how technology could be used to enhance our teaching.  The department in which I spend most of my time (Information Services) gave updates on our electronic resources and a Moodle enhancement – whilst the head of the other department that shares me (Research and Knowledge Exchange) gave updates on opportunities open to all colleagues.  Forgive me, these are just edited highlights – I won’t attempt to summarise the entire three days!

So there we were, all up-to-date and raring to go.  I felt quite pleased that I seem to be reasonably au-fait with the technology as it affects my various roles,  Not complacent, but certainly not panicking.

Now, what about that Biteable video I was going to make …. ?

Missing the Point: a Question of Accessibility

I’m not an accessibility expert, but as an academic librarian I’ve had opportunities to work with disabled students, and to attend workshops about best practice in terms of accessibility.  Some years ago I published an article on the subject which – to my surprise, since I’m hardly a specialist – has probably attracted more attention than most of my musicology papers!

McAulay, Karen E.  ‘Studying with Special Needs: Some Personal Narratives’ (Library Review 54(8), Oct 2005), 486-491

A couple of things in the past week prompt me to commit a couple of thoughts to a quick blogpost.


Visual disturbance

Why would anyone think that black-on-red is a good combination for a poster?  I’m a bit long-sighted with good corrective specs, but I’m thinking of people with poor vision, or dyslexia.  If I can’t clearly read a gig announcement on Twitter, then what about folk with greater challenges?  Please! Don’t do it.


My ears are a bit worse than my eyes – not much, but I do wear hearing aids for minor hearing loss.  If I’m in a noisy place, even using the ‘noisy place’ settting on my hearing aids, then I am not going to hear everything that’s said to me.  The noisier it is, the more I’ll miss.  Imagine missing maybe two words per sentence, or more if it’s very noisy.  After a few sentences, the effect is cumulative – I’ll begin to lose the gist of what’s being said, and eventually, I’ll zone out.

I’ll say that again, missing out every tenth word …

My ears are a bit worse than my eyes –     much, but I do wear hearing aids for minor         loss.  If I’m in a noisy place, even using     ‘noisy place’ settting on my hearing aids, then I    not going to hear everything that’s said to me.      noisier it is, the more I’ll miss.  Imagine missing       two words per sentence, or more if it’s very      .  After a few sentences, the effect is cumulative – I’ll       to lose the gist of what’s being said, and            I’ll zone out. 

Now, if it gets noisier – say I’m missing every eighth word …

My ears are a bit worse than    eyes – not much, but I do wear         aids for minor hearing loss.  If I’m in a       place, even using the ‘noisy place’ settting    my hearing aids, then I am not       to hear everything that’s said to me.      noisier it is, the more I’ll miss.          missing maybe two words per sentence, or       if it’s very noisy.  After a few          , the effect is cumulative – I’ll begin to      the gist of what’s being said, and           , I’ll zone out. 

Of course, this is a rather artificial example because some words are harder to catch than others, and some voices are easier to hear than others, but you begin to see the problem! (YouTube: Hear Me Out)

Additionally – and this is a layperson’s observation, but I think a valid one: if someone’s concentrating on the process of hearing (or reading) something, then there is less cognitive power available to process what the message actually is, so understanding won’t be as deep as it might otherwise have been.

I don’t have any answers to suggest – but I would just like to put the thought out there – ‘breakaway groups’ in different corners of a room are really difficult for someone with poor hearing.  (It can also be tricky hearing ‘questions from the floor’ if we’re part of an audience. Sitting near the front to hear the speaker, anyone at the back of the auditorium is very hard to hear without amplification.)

Featured Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Am I a Composer?

I have this problem – I have great difficulty claiming to do something, or be something in an amateur capacity.  For example, I know people who’re brilliant at patchwork and quilting.  I just do patchwork as a hobby, and I wouldn’t claim to be a quilter at all.

Similarly, I certainly am an organist and choir director – indeed, I’m paid to be.  But it’s not my day-job.  Can I call myself an organist and choir director? Well, just about.

And then there’s my attempts at composition.  I certainly do arrange music with a modest amount of success, but call myself a composer?  That bothers me!  I have colleagues who are professional composers, accept commissions, are performed at concerts and festivals – who am I to claim to be a composer, then?!

Anyway, I’ll be brave and share this one.   Worrying about Brexit a few months ago, I wrote a quintet for reed instruments (oboe, clarinet, cor anglais, saxophone and bassoon) and called it, simply, Apart.  The Brexit mess has got much messier since then, so I had another listen to it.  I think I dare share it publicly.  It’s only a Finale computerised rendition, because I haven’t tried to find five instrumentalists willing to humour me with a run-through.

‘Apart: A Lament For Reeds Quintet’ on soundcloud.com/karen-mcaulay/…

If you go to SoundCloud, you’ll find more of my efforts.  See what you think.