Category Archives: Reflection

Annual Review, 2019

In some ways, it has been a strange year.  The AHRC funding for the ‘Claimed From Stationers’ Hall’ came to an end in 1818, but accounting for myself and uploading outputs to ResearchFish still continued.  Brio 56 no 2Moreover, I was guest co-editor of the forthcoming issue of IAML(UK and Ireland)’s journal, Brio, which entailed encouraging, cajoling and collaborating with article authors. not to mention authoring three book reviews myself.  It will appear very, very soon, showcasing not only Georgian music in legal deposit libraries from Aberdeen to Oxbridge, and Dublin to London,  but also some very modern developments in music copyright, too.

One big excitement for me was an invitation to be a guest speaker at a seminar at the Sorbonne in Paris – speaking about someone who had really only had a bit part in my doctoral research.  More research was plainly needed, but it paid off handsomely – and having given my scholarly paper, I was subsequently invited to speak about Sir John MacGregor Murray at the Clan MacGregor Annual Dinner in Killin.  It was thoroughly rewarding to learn so much more about an individual whom I had recognised as an important figure in terms of national song, but without realising quite how important he actually was on the wider stage – both in the East India Company and as a clan chieftain at home.

Speaking on a panel about paratext at ISECS in Edinburgh was also an exciting event, and introduced me to people whom I’m sure I’ll continue to collaborate with in future.

Autumn, however, was a different kettle of fish entirely.  My husband needed a hip replacement, and until we had the date for his surgery, I could accept no further engagements.  I find it profoundly distressing to back out of commitments, but it turned out to be a salutary lesson that the world does, indeed, keep turning even if engagements do have to be cancelled.  I hope that we’ll be able to reschedule one of them.

As though that wasn’t enough, I too needed surgery, not because I was ill (I wasn’t!), but it was recommended by my consultant to ensure I would not have problems in future.  My operation ended up two weeks before my husband’s.  Suddenly, there was the pressure of completing the work on Brio, and also submitting a grant application with literally hours to spare, before heading to hospital for my procedure.  I hadn’t been off work for as long as a month for more than 20 years, but my convalescence was somewhat impeded by the need to resume caring responsibilities simultaneously.  Anyway, fully recovered now, we look forward to a much healthier 2020!

I have plans to submit another grant application early in the new year, and then … well, let’s see what transpires!  My head may be full of fascinating historical and modern music copyright information, but my heart remains with national songs and paratext!

Notwithstanding my frustration that I continue only to be a researcher for 1.5 days a week (more would make me merrier!), I do try to remind myself that I’m not doing badly given the circumstances.  Someone who is a researcher 1.5 days and a librarian 3.5 days per week cannot expect to achieve as much as someone wholly occupied as a scholar.  I’ve done a fair bit of information skills teaching along the way, too.  Research skills and bibliographical training are particular strengths of mine.  But I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that I am heartily tired of cataloguing, after nearly 32 years in the same role.  I so urgently need fresh challenges!  I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to supervise an undergraduate research project this summer, and am looking forward to another such supervision in the new year.

Beyond 2019?

My aspirations are to do more research, more writing, more teaching.  To attract more grant-funding.  And, if only it could be possible, to increase my research activity as a percentage of my weekly work.  I’ve stayed in Glasgow all this time for very valid reasons, but the final outcome is that my curriculum vitae shows a vast increase in the scope of my expertise, but a totally flat line as regards career progression.  Ah well, still some years until retirement, so let’s see what I can achieve in them!

So, what do I have to show for 2019?

Blogpost: Romantic National Song Network: Scotland. Afton Water

Sage Encyclopedia of Music and Culture Sage Publications, 2019: ‘Borders’, print pp.382-384; ‘Librarianship’, print pp.1334-1336; ‘Wales: History, culture and geography of music’, print pp.2338-2341; and ‘Wales: modern and contemporary musical practice’, print pp.2342-2343.

May Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Centre d’études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du sud. Workshop: John Macgregor Murray (1745-1822): Persianate and Indic Cultures in British South Asia. Guest speaker, ‘Bagpipes, Ossian, Gaelic and Tartan: Sir John MacGregor Murray as a Mediator of Highland Culture’

June ICEPOPS (International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars, at University of Edinburgh): Pecha Kucha,  ‘Silence in the Library: from Copyright Collections to Cage’

July Athenaeum Award to attend and speak at the ISECS 15th International Congress on the Enlightenment

July After dinner speaker at Annual Clan MacGregor Weekend, Killin (‘Bagpipes, Ossian, Gaelic and Tartan: Sir John MacGregor Murray and Gaelic Culture’)

August  ‘National Airs in Georgian Libraries’, 104-114, in Old Songs, New Discoveries: Selected Papers from the 2018 Folk Song Conference, ed. Steve Roud & David Atkinson (Folk Song Papers, no.2), London: The Ballad Partners, 2019 ISBN 9781916142411

October Athenaeum Award – contribution to publication costs of Brio 56#2 (special issue dedicated to ‘Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network) – issue will be mailed to subscribers in January 2020.

December Scottish Music Review 5 (2019), 75-87, ‘Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections’


‘Library support to students on blended-learning courses: some thoughts on best practice’ (SCONUL Focus, next issue )

Two further articles have been submitted but are still in the pipeline!

Beyond Academia

It took me a few months to get round to it, but I decided to celebrate my 61st year by learning a new instrument! I began by borrowing one from RCS, but this summer – as a 61st birthday present to myself – I bought a reconditioned Gaudini.  My debut was with a church carol-singing expedition last week.  It took me a week for my knees and ankles to recover!

I make occasional forays into composition in my spare time.  Having said this, I’m not a professional composer – and I’m surrounded by too many career composers to imagine that I’ve got anything very dramatic or genre-bending to say!  Nonetheless, when I look at my output just from 2019, I begin to see where the time went!  You’ll find quite a few of these pieces on Soundcloud, and some of the music is also on Sheet Music Plus – I’ve even sold some!

Compositions Performed or being Considered for Performance

  • Apart: a lament, for reeds quintet
  • Anthem: Bless this child today
  • Blueberry Enchantment: song, recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton
  • Epiphany: a carol, to be performed at Killermont Parish Church Jan 12th 2020
  • Pan and Syrinx: flute solo, performed by Ashley Westmacott, London College of Music (Prequel Concert – Pan – Lunchtime flute music. Chamber Music Concert at University of West London, Weston Hall, St Mary’s Road, Ealing W5 5RF 1.10pm Weds 27th November)
  • The Spinners and the  Habetrot: song, recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton

Dance Tunes

The least said about these, the better. I wrote half a dozen tunes – they haven’t got much to recommend them!


  • Auld lang syne for cello quartet
  • East India Volunteers Country Dance
  • I’m glad I ever saw the day (choir)
  • Jock o’ Hazeldene (piano)
  • John MacGregor Murray and the East India Company
  • The Lass o’ Patie’s Mill (piano)
  • The lone wanderer (2018, but I think recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton in 2019)
  • Native land adieu (piano)
  • O Come all ye Faithful: new descant (performed 22 Dec 2019)
  • Scots Wha Hae (cello quartet)

2019-11-26 16.08.05

Composition and arranging are great stress-busters for me.  But when I’m not at my computer, my other relaxation is sewing, whether by machine or by hand.  The above picture is my “cloth book for grown-ups”, which attempts to show graphically just how many legal deposit scores survive in the various Georgian legal deposit libraries.

Research also met needle and thead in various other guises!  Other sewing projects end up in my wardrobe or as gifts.  There really is a limit to how many fabric fantasias a normal house can hold!

Living with the Guilt (Being a Part-Time Researcher)

I originally posted this reflection on the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network blog, but it has a place here, too, since not all my followers share my Stationers’ Hall musical interests. Please click on the link below, to read it:-

Living with the Guilt

Ambition Stairs

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!



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!

Face to Face Study Day

On Saturday, the PGCert and MEd cohorts had a “live” study day at Speirs Locks.  We talked about ethics and forms of questioning, and about sourcing reading material, and citing it.

Questions of ethics are a new area for me.  Really, ethics feature more in the social sciences; they hardly crop up at all when the subjects of your research are not only very, very historical, but their descendants- if traceable – are usually flattered that you’re researching their ancestors!

Forms of questioning?  Well, it made me think about my research project, because I’m beginning to think I’ll need to use several modes of information-gathering.

  1. Draw on anonymous library surveys already done
  2. Use Survey Monkey – probably surveying the students in my own cohort, because they will appreciate what I’m doing (and why), and will also have a vested interest in anything I can organise to help them with their own research efforts!
  3. A few short interviews.  If – at the end of my Survey Monkey survey – I can ask whether respondents consider themselves “highly techie”, “moderately comfortable with online technologies”, “quite uncomfortable” or “tech-averse”, then hopefully I could conduct interviews with one or two of each.

When it came to discussing sources of information and referencing, though, I quickly found myself halfway between teacher and student, because librarians really do have a head-start in this field.  We had some interesting conversations – and it became quite clear that if students don’t initially have a satisfactory experience, they’ll quickly look elsewhere, or use Google/Google Scholar, or beg assistance from a friend at another institution.

My concern, therefore, is that students should learn how to use what we have, even allowing for the fact that our syndicated subscriptions do mean we have patchy coverage of some e-resources.  If a publisher allows the SHEDL group full access to certain journals but not others, or certain years, then it can be a frustrating experience for the reader.  We can’t avoid that, but we can try to ensure that students know what they’re doing so they won’t fail at the first login request.

It would be lovely to go to Waterstones with each student and their tablet/laptop, to help them practise logging in from outwith the Conservatoire.  Sadly, there aren’t enough of us library staff to do that!  (Nice idea, though ….  I wonder if it would be feasible with groups of students?  But then again, distance learners aren’t all local and certainly aren’t all around during office hours. Ho-hum … )

It’s always good to get together with the rest of the cohort, though.  It helps make our studies feel “real”.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re doing a certificated course, unless you meet the others and talk about common interests.

Literature Review? More a Reading Record!

I’ve already blogged about what I’ve read recently. Not nearly as much as I should have read, I must admit.  However, what I’ve read, has been relevant, and is listed in full bibliographical detail on my Resources page:-

  • Bowskill – Student-generated induction (noted 25 August 2016)
  • Brabazon – Press Learning (noted 16 September 2016)
  • Smalle – Better Engagement = Better Results (noted 26 July and 24 September)
  • Starak – What is a Podcast? (noted 16 September)

I’ve been getting a lot of migraines recently, which has meant I’m even further behind than I thought I’d be with regard to my project.  However, I have logged a few relevant “critical incidents”, and must just try to catch up with myself in the near future!

Reflecting upon my Practice

As a librarian, part of my practice is to help train our students in effective learning and use of our library resources.  Let’s not forget – anything in a library is a resource, whether it’s a book, score, recording or library staff, not to mention the e-resources that don’t actually live “in” the library but are accessible through our website.  A library IS a resource!

I decided to pull together a reading list about reflective practice and being a reflective practitioner.  Then I blogged about it, and used the blog text for a MailChimp message to all our staff and first-year students.  Here’s the blogpost, on our WhittakerLive performing arts blog:

E-journals, E-portfolios and Reflective Practice