Category Archives: General

Retrospective? Introspective? Prospective?

elderly-woman-311971_1280As a rule, I tend to think I’m too old to wax all introspective about my career trajectory.  So, why the sudden bout of introspection?  I’m about to celebrate my sixtieth birthday.  I don’t know how most people feel about the event, but for me, it leaves me questioning what I’ve done with my life, and whether I’ve fulfilled the potential I might once have been thought to have had.

I’ve written often enough about how I chose music librarianship before completing my first attempt at a PhD (a big mistake!  It never got completed).  I’ve been a music librarian for 33 years, but 19 years into the long haul, I registered for another doctorate.

The maths didn’t really stack up.  First time round, it was full-time research, then a diversion via a library graduate traineeship, followed by a postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship – with a Distinction in the Diploma, but no PhD.  Second time round, I was working full-time whilst raising a family, but I did complete the part-time PhD in five years, and I’ve since attained a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education, along with a couple of Fellowships.

The student who was expected to get a PhD in some aspect of mediaeval English music at the age of 24, never did.  To be honest, I had spent a summer teaching English at a language summer school immediately after getting my first degree, and after that experience, I couldn’t imagine myself standing in front of a lecture theatre, leading a seminar or taking a tutorial.  (Teaching English to a lively mixed assortment of teenagers and adults who were combining a foreign holiday with language classes, bore no resemblance to any kind of learning experience that I myself had ever had!)  And during my mediaeval scholarship years, I never wrote an article, gave a paper or had the chance to try any kind of academic teaching.  I do regret that these opportunities never arose.  On the positive side, I became the first music postgrad to collaborate with the Computer Science department in terms of a statistical analysis of some plainsong repertoire.  That felt quite good.  And I did a one-week course in Basic – an early programming language.  That was quite fun, too.

Academic librarianship seemed a good way to continue a career that was at least related to subject specialism.  But it didn’t take long for me to realise that someone who once might have completed a PhD, was actually just someone without one.  It didn’t compare with those of my peers who had actually gone and got one, and no-one was remotely interested in the polyphonic cantus firmus research that never got completed!  (Indeed, my first music librarianship post was in a public library, where I suspect I might not have got the job if anyone had asked just what my later university years had actually been devoted to.)

‘What does a librarian want with a PhD?’, someone once asked in a meeting.  I wasn’t at that meeting – I was told this years later, after I’d successfully completed my second attempt at the age of 51.  I just wanted to do research again, and most of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a PhD!  The subject seemed relevant to the institution where I work, and I could achieve most of my research without leaving Scotland. That was important, given the other pressures on my time.

Second time round, I’ve published a book and a number of articles (not to mention the social media and blogging); I’ve given papers on my subject specialism, I’ve talked about various aspects of the research process – and I’ve done no end of sessions about online-searching and bibliographic software!  The PGCert was the final validation for the timid music graduate who couldn’t see herself teaching in any kind of group situation.  Stand up in front of a group?  Well, yes – no problem!

Right now, I’m combining librarianship with a second postdoctoral research secondment, so I’ve moved in the right direction.  I successfully applied for a research grant – my first attempt.  I’m achieving quite a bit.  But a little voice inside me still nags at me.  Could I have achieved more?   I stayed in the same library job.  A colleague who didn’t stay long, said that you weren’t successful if you didn’t keep moving onwards and upwards.  Does that mean I failed, spectacularly and resoundingly?  Juggling working parenthood and other responsibilities, staying put seemed both pragmatic for myself, and fair to the family.  Someone else without those responsibilities really has no idea of the way one is tugged in all directions as a working mother.

I haven’t make it to a full academic position.   Does that count as failure?  I’ve got three music degrees, but the only performance I do is as a church organist.  That might be seen as failure, too.  Am  I even entitled to aspire to achieve greater things?  Does anyone expect me to?

A stupid, trivial occurrence yesterday was the final straw.  I went to see about getting a concessionary bus-pass, and that meant getting a photo.  The photo-booth didn’t seem to be working, and the enquiry desk man was derisive.  “Do you want me to come and look at it for you?  Sorry, folks, I’ll be back in five minutes. THIS LADY can’t work the photo-booth.”  So that’s it, is it? A wee, late-middle-aged lady who can’t even take her own photo, fit only to be humiliated in front of a queue of people?  Is that who people see?

Deflated, I took a little perverse satisfaction in the fact that THAT YOUNGER MAN couldn’t work the spanking-new, just-installed booth either.  (Truth to tell, I should have looked round the back to see if it was even turned on, but by this stage I was just a little irritated!)   I did manage to work the second photo-booth (I’m good at second-time-around opportunities, after all!).  Indeed, the machine refused to take payment – how good is that?

My concessionary bus-pass might even lure me off the trains and onto the buses for future research trips – I won’t be going on pensioners’ mystery trips “Doon the Watter” for a good while yet.  Bingo on the way to Blackpool? Not on your life!  I’d sooner spend a summer picking strawberries!

Meanwhile, folks, please don’t write older colleagues off as finished just because we’re sixty.  You might be surprised by what we achieve in the years that the government has determined will still be our mature working lives.

 

 

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Writing, writing …

temporal-distance-917364_640I’m playing the waiting game – I have had a veritable splurge of writing, and now I have to wait to see if anything is accepted.  I sandwiched two Georgian-era musicology pieces with a couple of pedagogical ones about teaching online research skills – this is what happens when a music librarian does a musicology PhD then a postgraduate certificate in higher arts education!

  • Earlier this Spring, I collaborated on an article about women and music in the Napoleonic era.  We’re waiting to hear …
  • More recently, I wrote up and submitted my PGCert project as a rather long article.  Again, I’m waiting for feedback.
  • I immediately followed that up with a shorter, more informal article about a recent teaching session I organised for our B.Ed students.  To date, this latter one has been accepted, so it should appear later this year.
  • And lastly, I wrote and submitted a book review over the weekend.

More news in due course ….

Librarian-Educator-Author

Office alcove (2)Ever since I got my PG Cert, I’ve been meaning to write up my project report into a journal article.  I finally did so last weekend, and it was submitted to an appropriate journal a couple of nights ago.  Now, I have to wait to see if it meets with approval!

There’s only one way to keep one’s hopes up at this point, and that’s to have more than one article submitted.  Flushed with success, I wrote a second one, this time not such a mammoth effort, but sharing a recent user education success.  That one has just been emailed off as well – to a different journal, I hasten to add.

What I need to do now, is some research-based writing.  Mind you, it’s only a few weeks since a joint collaboration was submitted to a historical journal; at least that article did directly touch on my recent researches, so maybe I shouldn’t feel too guilty…

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.

gal-photo
https://jewishstudies.div.ed.ac.uk/exhibition/global-conflict/

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 …

https://claimedfromstationershall.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/hans-gal-bibliographer-and-musicologist/

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.