I’m a postdoctoral researcher and performing arts librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I’m currently writing my second book, this time about Glasgow music publishers between 1880-1951. (The reason for the eccentric final date is perfectly sound. All will be revealed on publication!)
I took my Honours BA at the University of Durham, and embarked upon a research Masters at the University of Exeter, with a view to upgrading to a PhD. I wrote 60,000 words on English plainsong and graduated with an MA, then changed subject to mediaeval polyphony for the PhD (first mistake), deciding not to pursue an academic career but eventually to train in librarianship instead (second mistake). At the time, I could not envisage myself teaching students. (It took me until recently to realise that there had been no female role models in the department, and no opportunities to try teaching whilst I was a postgraduate researcher.) I never finished the PhD (third mistake), but did get a distinction in my postgraduate librarianship diploma, and embarked upon my librarianship career quite happily. However, it always niggled me that in the eyes of the outside world, reasonably enough, half-a-PhD counted for nothing at all.
Three children later, I started a fresh PhD at the University of Glasgow, working full-time and studying part-time. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that this time I would end up with a doctorate. I completed it – on time – in 2009. I wrote my thesis up into a book, Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era. (Ashgate, now Routledge, 2013)
I was seconded to be a part-time postdoctoral researcher on the Bass Culture project with the University of Glasgow. Subsequent to that, I was Principal Investigator of ‘Claimed from Stationers’ Hall: the United Kingdom’s Historical Copyright Music Collections’. This research network was funded by the AHRC from August 2017 for 14 months, researching sheet music surviving in British legal deposit libraries during the period 1710-1836 under the 1709 Copyright Act legislation. We identified patterns of survival in different libraries, and investigated the accessibility of the material through online catalogues. We were exploring what happened to the music, what was sent to libraries, what was retained, and what use was made of it once it got there. You can hear a brief podcast about the project here. I’m currently a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, assisting with reviewing applications for funding. It’s a great way of learning how good funding applications are put together.
I’m still a librarian 3.5 days a week, and a researcher 1.5 days a week. I enjoy working with and teaching students, but I am thoroughly tired of cataloguing! Way back in my Exeter days, I envisaged myself as a scholar-librarian, and I have ended up just that – but my failing at the outset was simply lacking the self-belief to aim higher. I thought that ‘just getting a PhD’ would satisfy me, but I’ve gone on researching and writing since then – there seems to be no end to what I get up to!