Category Archives: Writing and Publications

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…

Three roles – or is it four?

Four days a week, I’m an academic librarian.  One day, I’m a postdoctoral researcher.  In August, the emphasis will shift slightly to three and a half days and one and a half, for the duration of my AHRC network funding grant.

A couple of days ago I realised my SCONUL Focus article was now in print, describing how my three roles in librarianship, research and pedagogy serve one another.  I find it quite easy writing about process, and I’ve often been asked to write or speak about this kind of thing.   In fact, my PGCert project also had a focus on process: I was contemplating the best ways to support distance learners in their information needs and skills development, and although the project gave me insight into how social scientists conduct educational research, and conducting the survey and interviews was an unexpected eye-opener, at the end of the day I was writing not only about my research findings, but about process, ie, the best ways to support learners.

However, it’s more challenging and perhaps more satisfying to write engagingly and accessibly about my musicological research, because it goes deeper into my specialism.  I have several pieces of writing submitted and awaiting publication at the moment, but what’s missing is something actually on the drawing-board, being written right now.  That’s largely because I was completing the PGCert portfolio.  Librarianship happens four days a week, research a fifth, and the PGCert had to fit around family life and my spare time.   Which didn’t, to be truthful, leave any spare time for writing!

However, I remembered the other day that I gave a paper earlier this year for which I have not yet sought a published home.   Maybe, just maybe I ought to dig it out and see what needs to be done to turn it into a proper paper for submission.

Librarianship, research, pedagogy … and author.  Well, after my annual leave, anyway!

 

Spoken Paper Becomes Footnoted Article

I gave a paper about my most recent researches into St Andrews’ historical legal deposit music at the Musica Scotica conference, a couple of weeks ago.  I was subsequently asked by another organisation if I would write a paper for a journal.  Luckily, the Musica Scotica spoken paper had been typed out in full, complete with reasonably good footnotes, so with the approval of the committee, I worked it up into a proper paper for submission, and now I await a decision.  It would be good to see it published.

Pending decision:- ‘A Music Library for St Andrews: Use of the University’s Copyright Music Collections, 1801-1849’

Writing about my multi-faceted role

My line-manager suggested I might consider writing an article for SCONUL Focus (a journal published by the Society of College, National and University Libraries*), since a forthcoming issue is focusing on supporting research. There was a call for writing by librarians who combine research with librarianship – and that’s me to a “T”.
I wrote my piece over the past few days, but felt that something was missing; eventually, I realised that I needed to write about my current pedagogical activities as well as my librarianship and ongoing research. I submitted it late last night; now I need to wait to see if it is what the editors were looking for!

2015 Retrospective

If I were a young American academic, I’d be writing frantically in my efforts to secure tenure.  But I’m neither young nor American, and I identify both as a librarian and an academic: I sit on the fence between music librarianship and musicology.

Despite all this, I feel it’s good for my academic profile to get as much published as possible, so with that in mind, and the fact that only 40% of my work-life is spent on research, here’s my 2015 retrospective.  To put it in context, October saw the end of my Bass Culture postdoc secondment, so I was busy finishing off that, and writing/speaking was often centred on the project and its resultant website.  Public engagement seems to be a regularly recurring theme, which pleases me.  There’s no point in doing research if it stays locked up in an ivory tower.

PUBLICATIONS

  • ‘Wynds, Vennels and Dual Carriageways: the Changing Nature of Scottish Music’, chapter in forthcoming book edited by Gary West and Simon McKerrell, Understanding Scotland Musically (pending)
  • Scottish Musical Review (pending) ‘Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections’
  • Box & Fiddle Magazine 39.1 (Sept 2015), 7, ‘Bass Culture in Scottish Musical Traditions’
  • Post-Lib (CILIP Retired Members Guild) no.76 (1 June 2015), 3-4, ‘From Where I Sit’
  • Reference Reviews (pending), ‘Show me a Strathspey: Taking Steps to Digitize Tune Collections’ http://www.emeraldinsight.com/loi/rr
  • Fontes Artis Musicae Vol.62.1 (2015), 17-25, ‘Following the Bass: a New Digitisation Project for Scottish Fiddle Tune Resources
  • Library Review Vol.64, Iss.1/2, (2015), 154-161, ‘Sexy Bibliography (and Revealing Paratext)’ http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/LR-09-2014-0104
  • Reference Reviews, Vol.29 no.3 (2015) 41, Review of Nardolillo, Jo, illustrated by T. M. Larsen and edited by David Daniels, All Things Strings: an Illustrated Dictionary (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
  • Reference Reviews, Vol. 29 no.1 (2015) 47-49, Review of Collins, Irma H., Dictionary of Music Education (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2013), DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RR-07-2014-0186
  • Times Higher Education. What are you reading? 9 contributions to this column since 2012.

PAPERS AND TALKS

  • Scots Fiddle Festival, Edinburgh, ‘Fiddle books by the dozen’ (Nov 2015)
  • Edinburgh Central Library, ‘An Entertainment Altogether New: a celebration of Edinburgh’s First Musical Festival’ [Bicentenary of the first Edinburgh Musical Festival held between 30th October and 05th November 1815] (Oct 2015)
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Exchange Talk: ‘Common Threads: From Sacred to Secular, Ancient to (nearly) Modern’ (Oct 2015)
  • Dundee Central Library, Speaker at Friends of Wighton series of Cappuccino Concerts: ‘The Importance of the Wighton and Jimmy Shand Collections’ (Sept 2015)
  • University of Glasgow, Speaker at Robert Burns Song Project Symposium (September 2015)