Wearing my Pedagogical Librarian Hat …

I’m gratified to have an article accepted for a special issue of Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice. It arises from a paper I gave at the International Women’s Day Conference hosted by the University of the Highlands and Islands earlier this year. You won’t find the article online yet, but bookmark this space for when the special issue does appear. My guess is it’ll be in 2023.

(This is what happens when a librarian – who is also a musicologist – decides to spend a day with pedagogues for a change!)

Interdisciplinary Research, Anyone?

When I graduated with my PhD in 2009, there was a flurry of interest in me as a ‘mature’ postgraduate, and my ‘portfolio career’. There’s only one problem – it isn’t a portfolio career! I work in one place, full-time, on a full-time salary. I’m not self-employed, nor do I do a little bit of this and that for different employers. It’s correct that I spend 0.7 of my time as an academic librarian, and 0.3 of my time as a researcher. If I had any aspirations at the start of my librarianship career, it was to be a scholar librarian of some kind, and as you see, that IS where I’ve ended up. I don’t claim that it exactly reflects who I am now – in my head, I’m more scholar than librarian.

So, if I don’t consider myself a good example of a portfolio career, then here’s another conundrum: do I do interdisciplinary research? If at some times I’m writing about librarianship, and at other times I’m writing about nineteenth to twentieth-century music publishing, does that make my research interdisciplinary? I guess it probably does, even if the librarianship and the music publishing seldom meet! I’m often contemplating the social context of whatever I’m researching. And just occasionally – like my recent article about Clarinda Webster – I manage to mention librarianship, music publishing AND social history in one fell swoop.

At other times, my research finds its way into the librarianship quite naturally. This week, the RCS Library is having a series of events throwing a Spotlight on Diversity. I’ve written a short blogpost about Scottish Women Composers as one of my contributions. The names I’ve suggested are just a start – and I haven’t attempted to include every Scottish woman who wrote a tune, because I’m assuming our students are basically looking for recital repertoire. My research has led me to several more women who made their own unique contribution, but they’ll get a mention in the book I’m currently writing. Their pieces aren’t necessarily recital repertoire, or even easily sourced today.

See my Scottish Women Composers in the Spotlight library blogpost.

A Badge from CILIP

When I’m sent an e-badge by my professional organisation, it would be churlish not to use it, wouldn’t it? But I wasn’t quite sure where to put it, so I’ll leave it here for now. I’m a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals; a music librarian; and a musicologist.

Which half of me is winning?

Librarian. Time mainly spent cataloguing and working on the library equality and diversity project. In connection with this, I’m commited to giving a talk next month, and to submitting a librarianship-related journal article arising from a talk I gave earlier this year.

Musicologist. [2nd] book proposal submitted. Already committed to producing two book chapters for essay collections being edited by other folk.

Librarian meets Musicologist. Article straddling both worlds, due out in the next month or so. Also giving a talk in Edinburgh in June, in my capacity as Honorary Wighton Librarian.

If only I had a garden big enough for a secluded Writing Shed!

Book Review: James Porter’s ‘Beyond Fingal’s Cave’

Today, I was pleased to receive notification of the latest issue of Brio, the journal of my professional association. I’ve been a member of IAML(UK and Ireland) for – well, over 35 years now! The latest issue has my review of a book by a scholar whom I admire greatly – it was a privilege to review his book, and of course I am delighted to add the review copy to my own bookshelves as well! I’ve uploaded a copy of the review to our institutional repository – it’ll go live in the next few days – but for now, here’s the citation, and a direct link to my review:-

Brio vol.57 no.2, Autumn/Winter 2020, pp.74-76,

Review of:- James Porter, Beyond Fingal’s Cave: Ossian in the Musical Imagination (University of Rochester Press, 2019)

Retrospective: Research in a Pandemic

Someone on Twitter asked, ‘What have you achieved this year that you’re proud of?’

DISCLAIMER (also posted on my Teaching Artist blog). It troubles me slightly that earlier in the pandemic, reading other people’s updates about all their achievements just made me feel guilty. All I was doing was working from home and keeping everyone safely looked after. Nothing heroic, nothing remarkable. I’ll be honest, my kneejerk reaction to such postings was a combination of, “come on, guys, do you have to?” and “well, I can’t be seen to be slacking here!” But the truth of the matter is that no-one fully knows other peoples’ situations – how much they’re struggling, whether they have caring responsibilities, or indeed, what their work-life balance is – whether they’ve chosen it or found it forced upon them.

Comparisons are Futile

I suppose the moral is that it’s pointless to try to compare oneself with other people. I’ve been in Glasgow nearly 33 years, still on the same grade, despite having gained a doctorate, a teaching certificate, and two fellowships. Written a book, published a lot, given plenty of research papers. Still – in terms of time allocation – more of a librarian than a postdoc researcher.

“You’re a bloody librarian, woman!”

I was once told, “You’re a bloody librarian, woman!” In the west of Scotland, the “I kennt your faither” philosophy – not allowing someone to forget their place or where they came from – is still alive and well, and if I’m on the same grade, I’m forced to conclude that my value has not increased. It’s very depressing.

Failed in the Eyes of One who Climbs Ladders

A former colleague once said that if one wasn’t moving jobs and climbing the ladder, then one was a failure. This philosophy favours men and people without children. I do admire people with ambition. I also admire and envy people who are less ambitious, but who are content with where they’re at. As for me, I’m still struggling with thwarted ambition, three and a half years before retirement! I should very much like to have moved jobs and climbed the ladder – anyone who thinks I’m unambitious, really doesn’t know me. However, I’ve raised three sons (who have benefited enormously from the Scottish education system, which is why we didn’t want to leave Scotland!) and I got those extra qualifications whilst working full-time. (Apart from statutory maternity leaves, I’ve always worked full-time.) If I’m a failure for not getting promoted – guilty as charged – then I do have a few good excuses. And I did recently get a Special Note of Commendation from my CILIP researcher colleagues, which was heartening.

Coast Downhill? No Way!

During the Covid pandemic, I’ve pushed myself to achieve as much as I could, because I didn’t want to find myself sliding towards an unwanted, age-related slowing down. I am not yet of retirement age, and I can’t bear to think that inactivity might see me slipping out of the research scene before I’m ready. So this is posted in the spirit of demonstrating that I’m still here, still research-active, and not yet ready to be written off!

So here goes!

Not everything is a ‘research output’, obviously. I stitched my lockdown journal, for a start. (I even made a video about it.) I learned the concertina, and I wrote tunes for it.

I broke my foot, baked banana bread, put on weight, and once my foot was better, I put myself on a diet and exercise regime to lose some pounds. I’ve made gallons of soup, and done 95% of the housework. (Two of the three of us are over sixty – and two are oblivious to housework or the absence of our weekly cleaner!)

But in terms of research? Working from home since March, I’ve benefited from a mostly peaceful dining room (albeit a thoroughfare to the kitchen), and gained my commuting time along with the new responsibility of cooking most weekday meals. The allocation of my time to library (70%) and research (30%) is unchanged. I’ve done my user education and made several training videos in my library role, and I love this side of it. But I fight a compulsion to answer library emails at any time of the day or night (even the day after Boxing Day) for fear of being considered unhelpful if I don’t – whilst research would swallow me up whole, without any resistance from me, if I didn’t occasionally get dragged away from it! I freely admit that I have absolutely NOT limited my research activities to ten hours a week. It makes me excellent value, but I’m reaching the point where I feel I cannot try much harder, and it won’t really make any difference to my career trajectory. If one can have a flat trajectory in the first place!

Quite apart from wanting to achieve “outputs”, I have tried to take the attititude that it is easier to attend a Zoom conference than to arrange for everything to run smoothly in my absence attending a “real” live event in a diffferent city.

So, how have I done this very weird year? I am not dissatisfied.


  • ‘The Cinderella of Stationers’ Hall: music (and metadata) in Georgian legal deposit libraries’ Catalogue and Index 201 (Dec 2020)
  • ‘A Music Library for St Andrews: use of the University’s Copyright Music Collections, 1801-1849’, in Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society no.15 (2020), pp.13-33. 
  • Romantic National Song Network blogpost, 9 Sept 2020, ‘Revisiting the Achievements of Song-Collector Alexander Campbell’
  • ‘The sound of forgotten music: Karen McAulay uncovers some of the great female composers who have been lost from history’. The People’s Friend, Special Edition, 11 Sep 2020, 2 p. Dundee : D C Thomson.
  • ‘Performative Silence in the Library’, Icepops Annual 2020: International Copyright Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars, ed. Chris Morrison and Jane Secker, p. 32-33
  • ‘Library support to students on blended-learning courses: some thoughts on best practice’ (SCONUL Focus 71, February 2020) https://www.sconul.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Karen%20McAulay%20FOCUS%2071.pdf
  • Guest co-editor (and contributor) of Brio vol.56 no.2 (Winter 2019), dedicated to Claimed From Stationers Hall network-related writings.

PRESENTATIONS (whatever would we have done without Zoom and Teams?!)

  • University of Glasgow Scottish and Celtic Studies Department, ‘Alexander Campbell’s song-collecting for Albyn’s Anthology’ (17 November)
  • Traditional Song Forum, ‘Scottish song-collector Alexander Campbell and his ethnomusicological exploits’
  • EFDSS Conference, London, ‘All the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order’: musical resemblances over the border.’
  • CILIP Metadata Group Conference, ‘The Cinderella of Stationers’ Hall: Music (and Metadata) in Georgian Legal Deposit Libraries’

I’ve also facilitated an event for the Friends of Wighton, made a mini video presentation about my research for a Scottish research event …

… and made the aforementioned video about my stitched lockdown journal. I’ve done quite a few training videos with my library hat on, too, but I’ll spare you the details of those!

Sharing News: Early Music Monographs Digitized

This is a piece of news that I received via IAML (International Association of Music Libraries) and the MLA (the Music Library Association, an  American organisation).  Copying and pasting shamelessly, because this is news that’s bursting to get out, I offer you this exciting snippet:-

The Music Division of the Library of Congress has launched a new site with scans of approximately 2,000 books on music published before 1800.  The scans were made from microfilmed versions of the books.


Karen C. Lund is the Digital Project Coordinator for the Music Division.

Silence in the Pecha Kucha

I’ve already mentioned that I would be attending Icepops 2019 at the University of Edinburgh yesterday – a conference about copyright literacy, and providing appropriate training to students, researchers and other staff colleagues.

(Icepops = International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars).

My challenge was to deliver a Pecha Kucha which mentioned my research into historical legal deposit music, and ALSO touched on library user education into matters pertaining to copyright.  ‘Silence in the Library: from Copyright Collections to Cage’, did just that.  I have never spoken about John Cage’s controversial piece, 4’33” before.  Neither have I deliberately inserted six seconds of silence into a format DESIGNED for brevity and concision!  If you Google how many words you can fit into 20 seconds, you’ll find it’s just 60 words.  That’s if you don’t use long words!  So giving up a third of a slide to silence was, I felt, a calculated risk, but how else was I to demonstrate what you might hear during a silent episode?!  All went well, and my calculations worked out – what a relief!

The conference was about a playful (lusory) approach to copyright education.  In that regard, I discussed how Cage’s piece – silent though it was – still has copyright in the concept, and how students could be encouraged to contemplate how intellectual property can reside in the most unlikely situations – whilst also pointing out that 4’33” cannot be performed or even hinted out without dire legal consequences.  You don’t believe me?  I’ll put my presentation on our Pure institutional repository, and you can follow the references for yourself!

I mentioned playing the piano during the evening social?  Oh boy, did we play?! I wasn’t alone – there was also a clarinet duet, and I staggered through a piano duet, unknown to both of us, with one of the (multi-talented) clarinet duo.  The same clarinettist, on clarinet, kindly gave the premiere performance of a piece I’d recently written. That was definitely a first – I’ve never had an instrumental composition (as opposed to an arrangement) of my own performed publicly before.

Definitely an out-of-the-ordinary conference, then.  I seem to be making a habit of this!  Better get back to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, now …

Edinburgh, Dundee, Paris …

I’m a bit of a juggler at the moment!  The Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network has a dedicated Brio issue forthcoming in November, which I’ll be co-editing with Martin Holmes, the regular editor.  Various articles have been promised, and I need to do some writing as well.  Not to mention needing to do some book-reviews.  I have several ideas there – I need to order some books that I’ve recently come across, to decide if they’d be usefully reviewed for our music librarian audience.

I also need to revise an article for another journal – I first wrote it a couple of years ago –  to reflect the fact that the network came into being and more work has since been done.

Solvyns, Franz Balthazar, 1760-1824; The 'Charlotte of Chittagong' and Other Vessels at Anchor in the River Hoogli
Solvyns, Franz Balthazar; The ‘Charlotte of Chittagong’ and Other Vessels at Anchor in the River Hoogli; National Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-charlotte-of-chittagong-and-other-vessels-at-anchor-in-the-river-hoogli-175648

But before that – next week I’m heading to the Sorbonne in Paris, as an invited speaker, to talk about Sir John Macgregor Murray’s involvement in Gaelic culture and song-collecting.  The man who got a couple of passing mentions in my thesis and book, has been a major focus for historians interested in his involvement in commissioning and collecting Persian manuscripts on Indian customs and culture, whilst he was active in the East India Company’s private army.  I’ll be the only musicologist there – I’ve polished my paper within an inch of its life, so hopefully it will be of interest to scholars from a different discipline and with a different focus.  I made a page about Sir John, which you can visit if you’d like to know more about the man.

I’ve been awarded an Athenaeum Award by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, to enable me to attend the whole of the International Society of Eighteenth Century Studies conference in Edinburgh in July, where I’ll be joining a panel on paratext.  I think paratext is probably one of my all-time favourite research topics, so this is very exciting.

But to clear the decks for some serious writing about paratext, I got my next speaking opportunity all written up and timed well ahead of schedule: I’m talking about copyright and John Cage in a Pecha Kucha presentation at the CILIP Icepops seminar on copyright literacy education towards the end of June.  Writing to fit 20 slides each lasting for 20 seconds is a rather different challenge to writing a conference paper!  Here’s a hint: if you Google it, you’ll find yourself recommended to write 60 words per slide.  However, if you use a lot of long words, then this advice is not for you!!  Take it from one who [now] knows!

I’m attending the Icepops conference in Edinburgh with my librarian hat on.  In fact, I was at Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago for the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase roadshow – an interesting update – and a couple of days ago, I went to Dundee for a Rare Books Scotland meeting.  Again, I wore my librarian hat, but had the opportunity to share an update on the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network whilst I was at it.

And what else?  As I mentioned, I have a glorious idea for a new grant application … but I’ll keep that under my hat until plans are a bit more advanced….

Pathways, Outputs and Impacts: Being a Librarian-Researcher Today

gold-cobblestonesIAML (UK & Ireland) Guest-Blogpost

At last year’s Annual Study Weekend of my professional organisation (the International Association of Music Libraries, UK and Ireland Branch), I spoke to members about my experiences of successfully seeking research-grant funding.  And now here’s my guest-blogpost reminding colleagues about it:-

via Pathways, Outputs and Impacts: Being a Librarian-Researcher Today