I describe myself as a Librarian/Musicologist. That’s not my job-title, so I’d better start by explaining my pendulum-like career trajectory to date. Since graduating from Durham in 1979, I’ve gone from research to librarianship (academic, then public, then academic) – before resuming research on a part-time basis alongside the library day-job.
I started by doing a Research Masters into Mediaeval English plainsong at Exeter. My first mistake was to change subject from plainsong to polyphony for my PhD. I’m not sure why I decided to switch – it’s all back in the mists of time now. I don’t remember anyone trying to stop me, but maybe I was too headstrong to have listened! Suffice to say, I hadn’t finished it by the time I went to library school. And that was my second mistake: I’d have been wiser to have taken a part-time job for a year while I finished the PhD.
After a year of concentrated study for my postgraduate librarianship diploma at Aberystwyth, I tried to resume the threads of my research, but somehow I’d run out of steam. By now I was working towards becoming a chartered member of the Library Association, and to be honest, it was hard to continue doctoral studies at the same time. I paid my writing-up fees for a couple more years, before admitting defeat.
Twenty-five years later, I discovered some nineteenth century flute manuscripts at work, and did a small research project into their origins. A chance coffee-break conversation with the then Head of Music at RSAMD led to my decision to resume doctoral studies again. This time, I did a PhD part-time, in my spare time, at the University of Glasgow. I was advised to do my research at Glasgow, because the subject didn’t fit my own institution’s practice-based research ethos. I was more than happy to do this: it helped me keep my working and my research lives separate, and there was no risk of bumping into my supervisor and being tempted away into research activity during the day!
In 25 years, I had moved some 500 kilometres north both in real and research terms, and five centuries forward for my research subject. I’d also acquired a husband, three sons and a full-time job. Notwithstanding these distractions, I submitted my thesis on 18th and 19th Century Scottish song collecting, five years to the day after registration as a doctoral student.
Going into research as a recycled postgraduate was completely different to the first time around. In future postings, I‘ll expand on this further.