Thursday, 31 May 2012

Thing 5 Part 2 - Reflecting on Impact

23 Things for Professional Development: librarians' career development

Thing 5: Reflective Practice

I subscribe to THE in a personal capacity, so I get my own copy to read on the subway or at work-breaks.  But my reading isn't always totally up-to-date, and that's how I came to be reading Paul Manners' article, 'Ripping Yarns' in the audiology waiting room this morning, despite it having been published a fortnight ago.*

Now, Paul Manners is Director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, which 'supports researchers to develop the quality and impact of their engagement with the public'.  Impact and public engagement are therefore of paramount importance to him, and justifiably so.  And he believes that the REF (research excellence framework) process correctly asks researchers to identify the impact that their work has had, and the extent to which they have engaged with the public - which has, after all, helped fund their research.

Okay, where is this going?, you might ask.  We're librarians, not researchers.  True.  However, as I read on, I found myself asking, 'What am I?  And should I be demonstrating my impact, too?

I work as a music librarian full-time, but I'm also a musicologist.  Any research I do is done in my own time.  I have an academic affiliation, since I work in a conservatoire as a professional subject librarian, but research is not part of my job, unless it's a piece of small-scale research with a librarianly outcome - such as my recent 'Crowdsourcing the Celtic Bard' project, undertaken with the dual purpose of informing myself prior to writing a paper on a topic adjacent to but not the same as my own research interest, and to explore the merits and demerits of crowdsourcing as a modern research tool.  I gave that paper at the IAML (UK & Ireland) Annual Study Weekend at Cardiff last month, and it's due to appear in Brio, our professional journal, fairly imminently.

Thinking about impact and public engagement, I concluded that I would certainly expect to have an impact upon our readers, but 'public engagement' isn't something applicable to my librarianly role.  Engagement with the academic community that I support, most certainly, but not 'public engagement' in the sense that the REF process expects researchers to demonstrate.  Indeed, even 'impact' isn't a term we would normally use.  Nonetheless, it equates to effectiveness, when you consider the study and research support context in which  an academic librarian works.  If I am effective in my work as a subject librarian, then I would hope that my impact would evidence itself in students being better able to determine what exactly they need for an assignment; to find what they need (and know when to stop looking!); and to reference it appropriately.  Additionally, I need to ensure that the resources are there to support my academic colleagues' curriculum and research requirements, and that the catalogue is maintained to a high standard.  If I've done all that, I've demonstrated effectiveness.

So much for Karen the librarian.  However, Karen the musicologist, private researcher or otherwise, is very much concerned about public engagement.  My PhD topic was deliberately chosen to increase my expertise in a subject taught at our institution.  It was self-funded; I don't have an obligation to provide value-for-money now the graduation photo is on the wall, but since my own motivation was to undertake research in a subject that would be useful, then unless I share that knowledge, much of the effort has been in vain.  So, let's do a little reflective analysis on my success in that area.

I graduated in December 2009.  What have I achieved in the past 29 months, in terms of public engagement?  Actually, quite a bit!  I've done ten undergraduate lectures or seminars in three institutions.  Five research seminars within my institution, nine conference papers and seminar presentations outside my institution, two talks to historical societies, three 'proper' journal papers, three shorter articles and four book reviews.  (Some of it was on my research topic, some on librarianly topics or 'merged' papers on research and study skills.)  Oh, and I submitted my commissioned book manuscript on time, a month ago.  My research has given me something to write and talk about authoritatively, and I think I can safely say that I've found my voice. (I wish the same could be said for my singing voice, which sounds the untrained organ that it is!)   I've spoken to librarians, researchers, performers, and local historians.

So, actually, I think I've demonstrated substantial impact and public engagement.  It's reassuring to quantify it all.  When I first attempted a PhD, a quarter of a century ago, I used to wonder privately what use it would be to anyone else.  Indeed, I didn't finish it because I rashly started my librarianship career before writing up the doctorate, and the thesis was never written.  The 2009 PhD was a far better piece of work - and demonstrably more useful.  Not what they call a 'professional' doctorate, but a plain, ordinary research one.

I'm just metaphorically taking a breather right now, before deciding in which direction my research interests are going to go next. 

* Paul Manners, 'Ripping Yarns', in THE (Times Higher Education), 17 May 2012, No.2, 050, pp. 44-47.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Thing 5: Reflective practice

Treading cautiously!

I think I probably am quite analytical in my approach to my work, but I must confess I don't feel terribly comfortable reflecting publicly on a blog.  I mean, if I've interacted with individuals or groups, be they colleagues or readers, then this isn't the place to reflect on those interactions.

My CILIP Fellowship application a couple of years ago was the biggest personal "reflection" I'd done for a while, of course.  Then earlier this year, we applied for - and achieved - a IAML (UK and Irl) Certificate of Excellence for the Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  This similarly involved a fair amount of reflection on the part of myself and my line-manager.

Right now, I suppose it's fair to say I'm reflecting on my progress both as a subject librarian and as a scholar (musicologist).  I try to keep up to date in both the day-job and the research.  This is a continuing excellence thing, rather than a finite project.  And I do, constantly, ask myself the key questions: What am I doing?  How is it going? Have I achieved what I set out to achieve?  What could I be doing/ have done differently? 


Paul Manners' article, Ripping Yarns, in THE (17 May 2012) got me very excited in the audiology waiting room this morning. (I took THE with me, I hasten to add - the Southern General doesn't have an especially highbrow waiting room for hearing-impaired scholars.)  Scholarly impact and  professional effectiveness are surely two sides of the same coin. I shall blog about this shortly! 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Thing 4 (better late than never)

Thing 4: Current Awareness, RSS feeds and Storify

Right, this is my teabreak - it'll have to be a quick Thing!  (My wifi is down at home, so it's now or never.  A whole blog on the android would be a footer, to say the least.  "Foo-ter": Scottish for "fiddly".)

Twitter.  Ah yes, Twitter.  I've got a couple of hundred followers, so I'm fairly au-fait with Twitter, but you're never too old to learn, so I learned about lists, and following other people's.  If I follow you - watch out.  I now know where to find your LISTS!  (I'm @Karenmca, by the way.  Yes, I was gratified to get there early enough to snaffle it!)

RSS feeds.  Now, I must confess I get a bit confused with RSS feeds.  However, I've made a policy decision: from now on, I'll only use the Google one.  It's far too confusing using more than one of them!  I did set up a couple of feeds to fulfil the Thing requirements, though.

And then we come to Storify.  I wrote a story in my lunchbreak, and here it is:-

Musings on Creativity  It's a book-review of a book we recently acquired, The Fiddletree, by Otis A. Tomas.  But I won't tell you about it here - you'll have to visit my Storify story.  It's quite easy to use, and I can see myself using it again.  It's rather like blogging one-off blogs, I suppose.  Fun.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Thing 3: my brand admits a little entertainment occasionally!

Feeling fairly secure in my branding, I decided to let my hair down this evening, and write a few limericks for Whittaker Live, the performing arts blog I author for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  (There's no harm in a few innocent little verses for musicians, is there?!)  Actually, I wrote a few for my cellist son last week, but I'm working my way down the score; I've done woodwind and brass on Whittaker Live so far.  You can click on the link if you like!

Now I'm going to go and sort out other aspects of my life, so 'bye for now ...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Thing 3: My brand: is it creating the right impression?

Actually, I mentioned my online identity last night when I blogged about my various web presences.  So Thing 3 is really just an extension of that.

But the big question is, what do my fellow bloggers think of my brand, and are they receiving the message I mean to convey?  (Tell me, please do tell me!)

I Googled myself and thought it was quite accurate, to be honest.  (Having a distinctive name does help, of course.  Yes, there are a couple of scientists; and another Karen McAulay translates dictionaries; but I seem to be the one and only musical, scholarly librarian Karen McAulay!)   Anyway, I come up first on Academia, then on Twitter (which I keep professional).  There's a Facebook Karen McAulay who isn't me - can't help that - then comes Whittaker Live, the performing arts blog that I author at work.
After that I come up on LinkedIn (I don't use it much at all), then a researcher posting I did for Durham University.  Next, I'm found fundraising for Action on Hearing Loss, and then on

There's nothing there I wouldn't want a future employer to see.  Indeed, I believe it conveys the serious, research-minded, music information expert that I like to think I am.  I was quite gratified to find the fundraising venture came up - no future employer would object to charity activity AND serious swimming, and if they worked out that I have mild hearing loss, well, it plainly doesn't hold me back!

Right, other questions that Thing 3 asked me to consider:- 
  • Name used.  My real name clearly comes up in the right places.  Whittaker Live is named after an early professor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (when it was the Athenaeum), and I'm blogging at work anyway, but my real name is there for all to see, if they look for it.  I'm Karenmca on Twitter, but I often sign myself as that on memos etc, so it's accurate enough. and Linked In are spot on, too.  If some of my other blog presences don't show my real name so prominently, it doesn't matter quite so much - they don't come up at the top of the Google search in any case.  However, I've just tweaked my True Imaginary Friends blog, so now my name features along the top.
  • Photograph.  I always use a smiling but businesslike picture.  As for other images; well, they're mainly serious ones, but occasionally a frivolous or quirky one to demonstrate a sense of humour.  There are no embarrassing pictures of me because I avoid getting into embarrassing situations!
  • Professional/personal identity.  See last night's post!  I keep my professional and personal identities relatively separate, and don't want too much of my personal life broadcast on the internet. 
  • Visual brand.  Generally, you'll find a photo of me (see above).  My business-cards are themed with purple flowers, because of my research work on floral and other natural metaphors in connection with historical Scottish folksong collectors.  However, I don't have flowers on any web presence.  Maybe I should - but that's open to debate, though.  I don't know that it would suit my persona as a scholarly author.  Do I really want flowers on a website that might be visited by academics or publishers?
  • A late postscript.  Today my publisher asked me to choose a colour for my book cover.  Well, what else?  I thought of my CPD23 friends, and it had to be ... the same colour as my business cards!  (See my True Imaginary Friends blog, about the forthcoming book.)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Thing 2 again: When you author several blogs!

The Multi-Faceted Blogger!

I already have several blogs, but I started this one, Airs and Graces, for continuing professional development purposes.  

None of the others were really suitable.  Whittaker Live is the blog I run on behalf of the Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  And I have others for my persona as an author: True Imaginary Friends; and as a working mum: PseudoSupermum. So that's four blogs, and I'm perfectly comfortable with that.  Occasionally, I allow Whittaker Live and True Imaginary Friends to interact with one another, and that's okay too. PseudoSupermum doesn't have much to say for herself these days, having realised that it's actually virtually impossible to be even a 'pseudo' supermum.  (Also, as time has gone by, I've decided I don't really want to write much about my family life.)

Where the fun begins is in the other blogs I occasionally interact with.  Oh, golly, it's almost embarrassing how many corners of the internet I've got into!

I have an inactive Wordpress blog, Multi-Taskers Anonymous.  I only set it up when I was contemplating migrating Whittaker Live, a while ago.  But I use my Wordpress login when I contribute occasional guest blogposts to The Thesis Whisperer, and I must have been logged in when I made a comment on the Victorian Librarian's cpd23 blog last night.  That's unfortunate, because it means I've directed the VL to an inactive blog, rather than to Airs and Graces.  Not to worry - I've listed all my active blogs as a new posting on Multi-Taskers Anonymous (what an apt name that turned out to be!), and I'll tweet the VL explaining my schizophrenic web presence!

But there's also the occasional blogpost for (the Music careers blog).  That's a different Wordpress login, purely via, so I can't get confused there!  And I make odd comments on my page - usually just updates, but occasionally a blog entry.  Lastly, we use Moodle and Mahara on the virtual learning network at work.  That offers me the opportunity to keep a blog, too.  Not surprisingly, I only make occasional postings there.  

The truth of the matter is that I just love putting words down on paper, or indeed in cyberspace.  Given the slightest encouragement, I'll write about musicology, music librarianship, music current awareness or  information literacy, and I've been known to pass observations on working parenthood, or being the sole female in a male household (three adolescents and a retiree).

For now, however, I'll just insert a few hyperlinks and call it a day. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Thing 2 continued (CPD23)

Write about the blogs you've visited, it says.  Well, I visited several before I remembered that I ought to keep a note of whom I'd visited/commented upon!

Take 2.  If I look at a CPD23 blog, I shall save it to a special Diigo list, tagged appropriately!

So, some of the blogs I've looked at so far are listed below.  Three in Scotland, one in Wales, and more in England!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Thing 2: Introducing CPD23 to other Scottish librarians

SALCTG meeting in Dundee tomorrow - Scotland's academic libraries' cooperative training group.  I'm going to talk about the 23 Things initiative!  So - watch this space.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Thing 2: explore (and why not share?) other blogs

I'd like to introduce you, my new CPD23 buddies, to one of my colleagues.  Lucy Robertson is our Performance Librarian.  No, that doesn't mean she makes a song and dance about the library - rather, she is our orchestral and choral librarian.  She's going to an orchestral librarians' conference in New Orleans in just a few days; she won a bursary to get there!  Not bad, indeed.

Lucy agreed to blog her trip.  So here is her blog so far: Lucy's letters from America. It'll be much more enjoyable for Lucy if she feels her blog is being read, so please do follow it.  Who knows what you'll find out about the secret lives of orchestral librarians - a very special, rare breed.

NB I realise I've actually blogged twice today.  A bit excessive, maybe.  But I thought this was a worthwhile addition to my Continuing Professional Development 23 Things blog, so hopefully I'll be forgiven!

Thing 2: Explore other blogs

Please, fellow CPD23-ers - it's proving hard to find out who tweets.  Please do put a Twitter link or give your Twitter handle, then your fellow Tweeps can keep up with you! (I'm @karenmca, by the way.)

Equipped for giving talks!
Looking at other blogs, I've spotted my friend Yi-Wen, and also (I  th-i-n-k) Annabel? Though she's going incognito at the moment!  It's interesting to see what pictures people are posting.   Beautiful landscapes are popular, as are library-themed backgrounds.  Suddenly I realise that I haven't got ANYTHING remotely interesting on mine.  A mouse, oh yes, but that's not exactly original.  Let's see ... ah, that's better.   I bought these baroque recorders so I could play Highland tunes when I lecture on Scottish music.  (The oboe doesn't sound right in this context.  I've never learned how to play the tin whistle with all the ornamentation that a trad musician instinctively does.  The piano sounds so staid.  So a pair of handsome recorders is just fine - at least they sound nice!)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Prior experience of using social media? Yup!

Here's the link to a follow-up blogpost that I wrote after my talk at the IAML (UK and Irl) Annual Study Weekend earlier this month: Scottish minstrels and Welsh bards - 'Whittaker' went to Cardiff.

I talked about various social media tools -

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Thing 1. Start a blog (Karenmca ticks the box)

Thing 1: Create your own blog, write about what you hope to get out of the programme.

I'm doing this for professional development.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm into professional development in a big way.  I did my Music PhD part-time from 2004-2009.  Then I became an FCLIP and an FSA Scot.  I had a go at learning Gaelic (well, I do work at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where we do a Scottish music degree), but my efforts weren't very successful.  And I've just submitted my first book manuscript, which I suspect is going to be a significant learning experience.  However, that develops me as a musicologist rather than developing my library skills as such.  So - here I am.

I already blog and tweet fairly intensively.  Whittaker Live is the Whittaker Library's performing arts blog.  True Imaginary Friends is my book project blog, and I used to write PseudoSupermum until I realised that really, it was impossible!  (The concept, not the blog.)

More recently, I had a go at using social media and crowdsourcing for a small-scale research project earlier this year: Crowdsourcing the Celtic Bard - I did it in preparation for my talk at the IAML (UK and Irl) Annual Study Weekend in Cardiff last month.  I'll put some links up later, but I need to get on with my librarianly day right now.  Back later ...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Introducing the Music and Academic Services Librarian

My name's Karen McAulay, and I am Music and Academic Services Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  Our Library is called the Whittaker Library (after an early Principal), and I have been blogging as 'Whittaker Live ' for over a decade.  As such, I share performing arts links for our staff and students here.  From time to time I assume the persona of 'Whittaker' himself.

The blog you're looking at right now is my new CPD (continuing professional development) blog, which I've started as part of the CPD23 initiative.  You'll find out more about me in due course.  Do come back to see how I'm getting on!