Category Archives: Speaking and presentations

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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This is your Librarian Talking: not a “shush” to be heard!

Okay, feeling more alive now, I decided it was time to wrap up my project “interventions” – the two user education guides that I’ve undertaken to devise as part of my PGCert project.

Initially, the intention was to create just one.  It didn’t feel enough, and it didn’t offer the chance to experiment.  Moreover, it didn’t really address the problems that I perceived our students were experiencing.

I decided I’d create two.  I had bold ideas of podcasts, vodcasts, powerpoints with recorded voiceovers, and screencaptures.  I even toyed with the idea of combining a YouTube and screencaptures.  I went to the park one lunchtime and played with YouTube (it’s anonymous, and there weren’t many people around). Then commonsense kicked in.

  • Who wants to listen to me explaining something, without seeing what I’m telling them about?  This is about using electronic resources, guys!
  • Who wants to see me talking about e-resources, without seeing the e-resources?
  • I asked my more technically-minded son how difficult it would  be to combine a video of myself, with screen-captures of our e-resource pages.  “Who wants to see your little face in a circle in the corner of the screen, Mum?”   He wasn’t being unkind.  “We want to see what you’re explaining about”, he continued.  He had confirmed my misgivings.

I decided my first intervention would be something I felt comfortable with: a powerpoint.  I have hardly ever recorded a voiceover, but at least the powerpoint would be easy.  Simplicity itself, in fact.  I spent hours sourcing suitable images, made a presentation about referencing and citation, got it approved in principle by my project supervisor, and scurried home to write and record the script.  Six migraines and a viral infection later, I had a free evening and got the mic/headset out of its box … took a deep breath, and got on with it.  I had a complete intervention – put out the flags!

It had been so easy, I had more time left over than I expected.  So I started my second intervention.  I sourced screencapture software, made a handful of powerpoint slides, and wrote the script.  This morning, I seized the gift of some more free, peaceful hours, and started recording.

Even with a new, more robust internet connection, my computer didn’t load up pages as fast as I needed them to load.  I tried again, this time pausing the recording until they did load.  There are parts of our webpages that seem to occupy half the screen before sliding up again.  Not helpful.  Moreover, flipping between a handful of powerpoint slides and the e-resource pages was clunky, and I wasn’t entirely sure that my guinea-pig cohort (still innocent that they are to be invited to be guinea-pigs) would see exactly what I wanted them to see, or whether they’d get all the recording clutter around the edges of the screen. This wasn’t going well.

I thought again.  What, actually, was wrong with another powerpoint-plus-voiceover? I’m good at powerpoints, I can read a script confidently, and I know the recording will work. Is there really any merit in trying anything else that won’t look as good or flow as smoothly?  It took minimal time to turn all my scripted online demos into screenshots in the powerpoint.  Recording it was easy – why, I’d even practised the words several times already on the functional but ugly screen-capture attempt.  garden-1825638_640

Finally … I have two interventions.  (I wish I could show them off here straight away, but that would spoil the project, so you’ll need to wait! But here’s a picture, just as a teaser.)

And I can put the kettle on!

Update: Claimed From Stationers Hall, Music Research

I’ve just written a summary, partly as a record for myself and my department, but also as a progress report for all the researchers and librarians that I’ve been talking to about my latest research project.  One year on, it felt like a good time to write a short summary of progress so far.  Read it here. (It’s on a separate page on this blog – see the tabs above.)

I made a WordCloud: Educational Music

Tagul Wordcloud
 I’m doing a presentation at WELEC in September, and I’ve spent the day playing around with data prior to actually starting writing the paper.  I’ve been looking at the instructional music in the St Andrews Copyright Collection, and this wordcloud shows some of the words that occur frequently in late 18th and early 19th century books. (There’s another wordcloud to go with this one, but I have to leave some surprises for the workshop!)

Shared Thinking

Yesterday, I saw on my Twitter feed that royal_york_hotelUniversity of South Wales librarian Sue House (whom I don’t know, apart from following her on Twitter!) was attending a conference about student induction, in York, run by a company called Shared Thinking.

When I realised she was sharing lots of references to names I’d never heard of, about things that might be relevant to my teaching practice, I decided I’d need to keep a note of them.  After all, she mentioned buzzwords like experiential learning, and student engagement and so on.

I decided I needed to hoover up as many relevant tweets from that conference as possible. I don’t know if others there were tweeting, but I think I have enough information to be going on with!   Bits of paper get lost, even saved Word documents can be forgotten. So this time I saved the whole thing to Storify and can go back to it relatively easily, as well as sharing with other people.  (I also looked up most of Sue’s citations and posted links to them. Might save time for me or someone else later on!)  Here it is:-

Shared Thinking: Student Induction Event (mainly as reported by Sue House)

(I might add that this actually validates much of my social media activity, because I am often thinking about quite serious professional issues as I tweet or react to tweets!)

 

A Finale Flute Trio: French Fraternity

French Fraternity

It has been a busy weekend! I’ve arranged three late 18th/early 19th century tunes about the Napoleonic Wars, for flute trio.  I’ve thought about and interrogated data for a possible paper later this year.  I’ve attended a Musica Scotica Board meeting.  Played at church.  Done the domesticity stuff.  And spent about five hours revising a paper for a workshop on Friday.  It was a perfectly good paper, but I felt that I needed to go over it, highlighting keywords etc. Somehow, some bits got rearranged in the process.

The flute trio was a bit of an indulgence, in one sense, but I’m giving a paper at the ISME music education conference in July, and my arrangement demonstrates that you can find unexpected gems in old music sources, not only finding nice pieces to perform, but also informing yourself about many aspects of cultural history into the bargain.  That’s the subject of my paper, so why not arrange some music to prove my point?!