Apologetic Postnominals: See Me? See My Letters!

PostnominalsI was looking at someone else’s website the other day.  If I thought I had a lot of postnominals, they had – ooh, easily three times as many, the whole width of their web-page.  They were Fellows of a vast number of societies, only one of which I’d ever heard of. Now, not all Fellows are equal: I worked hard to attain my FCLIP, and was elected into the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. The academic, music and librarianship qualifications were all earned after a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  However, it set me wondering.  There’s a place for postnominals, but maybe one can overdo it.  Suffice to say, for the first time I found myself embarrassed, not because I’m well-qualified, but because those hard-earned postnominals may come across as showing off – an almost paranoid demonstration of one’s own worth.  Or am I becoming tainted with the Scottish “I kennt his faither” tendency, which basically translates as “who do they think they are?”

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Establishing My USP

You’ll see from the pages on this website that I’m very enthusiastic about social media, and I author several other blogs.  However, they’re not all equally active.  At the same time, though, they all represent different aspects of me.

This KarenMcAulay.wordpress.com blog is going to be my main personal blog from now on.  Anything relating to my Scottish music research, or continuing professional development, will have its own place here, so TrueImaginaryFriends.blogspot.com, and AirsandGraces.cpd.blogspot.com will become dormant.

The successful performing arts blog, WhittakerLive.blogspot.com, which I author for the Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will, of course, be unaffected.  You’ll recognise my blogging “voice”, but it’s done in my daytime professional capacity.

I’ll maintain my Academia.edu page – it’s not a blog, and I think it’s worthwhile – but I intend to do a radical pruning of my LinkedIn pages.  They are beginning to look cluttered.

I can also be found tweeting @Karenmca. However, I generally use Facebook only for family and close friends. That’s my personal choice.

My USP?

Looking at my career, and my published output, it’s clear that I have a wide range of interests.  I’m an academic music librarian and a musicologist in equal measure. I’m a musician, an author, a teaching artist and a public speaker.

Commonwealth Games cushionCome Holy Ghost, clipAnd in my spare time, when having fingers in so many pies makes me think my head will surely explode, I chill out by doing dressmaking or patchwork, or sometimes arrange music for choral or instrumental ensembles.  I might tweet about that, but I don’t need to blog about it!

All these activities make it hard to decide what my USP (Unique Selling Proposition) actually is! Chameleon-like, I profile different aspects as the situation requires.  I’ll revert to this topic another day!

Officially a Teaching Artist, Author, and a Graduate’s Mum

 

In five days, I’ve seen our firstborn graduate, received a royalties cheque from my publisher, and scraped an Excellent in our recent Teaching Artist short course. Quite a week! Admittedly, the royalties only just cover my petrol costs for attending the graduation, but they’re royalties for all that. And my SCQF credits reflect the fact that it was just a short course, but it’s still great to have survived the course and come away with a decent mark! What next? Watch this space.

Students these days, part II

Meg Westbury did an anthropological study of students’ use of study space in Wolfson College, where she’s a librarian.  This is the second part of her blog – there’s a link to the earlier posting.  Interesting reading – it’s a different perspective on a perennial topic.

#UKANTHROLIB

ubc student 2 4093136283_b89704085c_oThis post is a continuation of last week’s post in which I described how, with no money and very little time, I successfully used a small survey and some ethnographic techniques to sharpen discussion about students’ technology and study-space needs at my college. It was remarkable how such techniques swiftly illuminated a host of previously unconsidered issues. In this post, I discuss specifically the ethnographic techniques that I used.

Cognitive Maps

At the end of the computer-room survey (discussed in last week’s post), I asked if the students would be interested in doing a quick 10-minute follow-up interview with me, and about a third said yes. I felt strongly that there was likely more to be said about their use of the computer room than my simple survey could get at. I’ve been inspired lately by the idea of cognitive mapping, discussed by anthropologists Donna Lanclos here and here

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I wrote an article once …

Actually, I’ve written at least a couple of dozen articles and published my thesis as a book, but this weekend I decided to write an article for submission to the Scottish Journal of Performance.  I started roughing it out yesterday, and sat down to work at it properly, late this afternoon.  Suddenly, a light went on.  Hang on, hadn’t I written an article about library ‘user education’ once before? Sure enough, there it was in my CV: ‘But how do I tell them?’, in the librarianship journal, Personnel Training and Education 8.3 (1991).  I was fascinated to discover that not only had it been cited in a lengthy Australian study, but I was even quoted as observing, 23 years ago!, the lack of pedagogical theory in librarianship writings on user education!

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Judith Peacock, From Trainers to Educators: Librarians and the challenge of change (1999)

Emboldened by my early success, I’m now feeling much more optimistic about the paper I’m working on today.  Today’s effort is so very obviously better – I can tell that my writing has matured – although, after 23 years, I shouldn’t really be surprised.

However, this is interesting:  Peacock quotes me noting the absence of something that I’ve only just, THIS YEAR, had the opportunity to make good.  The wheel comes full circle, you could say!  Except that, in one sense, it’s like looking down the other end of a telescope.  23 years ago, it was six years since my postgraduate diploma at library school, four since I’d reluctantly abandoned the PhD that I’d set aside during my librarianship training, and electronic resources consisted largely of databases for scientists and lawyers.  Now, having completed a PhD on a totally different subject, and gained Fellowship in my professional body (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), I’m in the mature years of my career.  E-resources are for everyone, and I’ve finally had the opportunity to do the Teaching Artist short credit-rated course that occasioned the writing of this blog.  In the article I’ve been writing,I’m addressing the same subject again.  But it’s like standing outside the Conservatoire knowing the land was once occupied by tenements.  Same territory, but completely different environment!

Debriefing: the Research and Bibliographic Skills Seminar

My session with the research students went well last night.  There were six students, a few apologies, and the course leader was present.

I had been asked to cover research skills using electronic databases, and also to talk about bibliographic software.  My one-hour lesson-plan accomodated all this, but in retrospect, it was all rather tightly packed in. The feedback afterwards was practically unanimous in this regard; and it has been suggested to me today that it would have been good to have had a similar session, or two similar sessions, at the start of the academic year in September.  I’m inclined to think that we could have occupied two, two-hour sessions, perhaps a week or two apart.

My major change to the session, which I’ve now given several times, was in endeavouring to embrace constructive alignment theory, and to have the students much more involved.  I was delighted how successful it was, to divide the students in pairs, getting them to ask each other three simple questions and then to report back to the group (a) what their partner found to be the most useful e-resource; (b) how their bibliography was progressing; and (c) whether there were any aspects of digital resources that they found challenging.  Discussion was frank and animated, and I partnered with the course leader to talk about similar questions meanwhile.

I took notes as the students shared each others’ answers; some were quite surprising to me.  The students make much use of the University of St Andrews’ e-resources (being far more numerous and interdisciplinary than we, a small institution, can afford); they also make quite a bit of use of Google Scholar.  Naxos and JSTOR featured, not surprisingly, and also a couple of unique resources suiting the researchers’ own subjects – one from the Piobaireachd (Pibroch) Society, and the Chinese National Library.  We don’t have a large enough research cohort to expect every e-resource on offer to be mentioned; it obviously depends on postgraduates’ research subjects as to what they will find useful.

More students had encountered Zotero, but were interested in what Mendeley could do; and the less technically-adept students were content with their Word document bibliographies, but again, hopefully emboldened to experiment with bibliographic software once they’d heard me and their peers talking encouragingly about their advantages.

The students’ course leader talked a little about Prezi as an alternative to PowerPoint, and one of the students engaged in dialogue with me about Scrivener as a writing tool for constructing and envisaging large pieces of written work.

Surprisingly, out of six postgraduate students, two had learned the hard way about the urgency of backing up documents and preferably keeping a copy on a USB stick, or using some kind of cloud storage.  That’s 33%, which I found quite a worrying percentage!

FEEDBACK FROM THE RESEARCH AND BIBLIOGRAPHIC SKILLS SEMINAR

Peer-reviewFeedback form 001 from the course leader: “Many thanks for a lively and helpful session last night, I am interested to view the feedback
with you…”

I was keen to get feedback from the students themselves, and decided that a simple 3-question survey would give the best chance of everyone completing it on the spot.

Liked:-

  • overall structure very clear;
  • hearing what my colleagues use to create their biblios and find articles;
  • lots of experiences about bibliography software.  I haven’t used any before, but it sounds very convenient and easy to produce the thesis later;
  • hearing about Zotero and Mendeley;
  • the useful information about software of bibliography;
  • diversity of resources.

Disliked:-

  • The timing – prefer stretch over 2 or 3 hours;
  • the session felt slightly rushed, but I would rather see a longer session than less content;
  • —–
  • that it was so short;
  • —–
  • too brief focus on each element!

Would like more of:-

  • Bibliographical information (Zotero, etc);
  • … this session! It was hugely helpful;
  • practical sessions or more longer session for experiencing softwares together;
  • Zotero/Mendeley training;
  • details of bibliography (the way of how to use it).

I'm a musicologist disguised as a librarian. I've been writing this blog as part of my PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Arts Education, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.