Archive for the ‘PhD’ Category


Academic on Sabbatical

October 7, 2015

The observant amongst you may have noticed a new link in the sidebar “Academic on Sabbatical“. Rather than keep boring / rubbing it in that I don’t need to teach or do administrative duties (just research) until April 2016, I set up an Instagram to use as a bit of a photodiary:

Academic on Sabbatical

I’m particularly interested to see if my suspicion that I do less socially because of workload is borne out by the once-a-day posts I make. Normally in the Autumn term, when most of my teaching is scheduled, I book nothing – not even trips to visit family – until the Christmas break.

I won’t promise not to blog or tweet my sabbatical at all – but those who feel under the kosh of their own workload can avoid the worst of it, while those who are interested can see the photo diary. I won’t be offended either way.

One final caveat: I won’t be instagramming the inevitable hell that I’m going through, like everyone else, in writing up the PhD. Partly because it’s a trope (so boring), partly because I want to track what I do socially (so it’s irrelevant) and partly because as far as I can gather, Instagram is about sharing (usually) pretty pictures (so it’s inappropriate). As a result, that Facebook effect we sometimes experience, in which the lives of others look only sunny and bright, will no doubt feature here. Remember: PhD write-up drives pretty much everyone temporarily insane … even if they still make it to the ballet or theatre occasionally!


Phyllis T.M. Davies Collection

September 11, 2015

ULThanks to the staff in the Munby Rare Books Room at the University Library for servicing my many requests for many items from Phyllis T.M. Davies’ collection, which I am working my way through as part of my research into Walter de la Mare’s books.

Although my PhD is centred on the Working Library at Senate House, I need to contextualise this within evidence of de la Mare’s activities as a book owner more generally, and it was rumoured that, as one of the documented collectors of de la Mare, Phyllis Davies had acquired some of de la Mare’s library from the sale in 1980. Her collection is now to be found at the UL.

Still about a hundred to go through, so I’ll be back next month, but last week was an excellent start. Apart from the serious research, it was lovely to be reminded of some of my favourite de la Mare publications, and, in particular, his collaborations with artists of varying kinds.

And, what an excellent fetching service the UL has: ideal for readers like me who have to access hundreds of items in the course of a few days.


Conference Recap: What Is Scholarly Editing

January 27, 2015
The Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan's College, Durham

The Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Durham

Not a conference per se, but some training postponed from November when my Dad passed away, What Is Scholarly Editing (WISE) was a two day course organised by the Institute of English Studies and Institute of Historical Research in collaboration with the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research (Cardiff University), and the English Department at Durham University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Having missed the London course, I was permitted to attend the course in Durham, at the Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, which was a really comfortable and well-equipped venue, with great biscuits (always an important conference consideration).

As a bibliographer, it was brilliant to meet people from other areas of Arts and Humanities already engaging in textual scholarship, including Music, History and, of course, Digital Humanities. Although I signed up for the programme under the auspices of my PhD study, my personal interest was in garnering ideas for future research and to consolidate my knowledge for teaching, and I was not disappointed in either goal. Jane Winters (IHR) and Anthony Mandal (Cardiff) were both really inspiring in presenting the work in which they have been engaged (digital editions of source texts and print and digital critical editions respectively), and Wim Van Mierlo (IES) provided a good perspective on the history of textual scholarship and its importance in scholarship and the curriculum.

Moving into the final stages of writing up my PhD research and starting to scope out projects post-PhD, I’m sure this is a training course on which I will look back as having consolidated my learning so far and given me formative ideas for the next stage in my career.

As with all courses I’ve attended via the IES, highly recommended.


Posted in August 2015, from my research diary notes.


Friday Lunchtime Roundup

October 10, 2014

This weekTerm is well under way now, and already I have fallen off the wagon when it comes to reflective blogging: Sunday evening I was too busy preparing for the week ahead. To be fair, this week has been pretty busy, so I had a lot to prepare!

In case I get swept up in “schoolwork” this weekend, as I almost certainly will, I thought I’d take a moment to share the headlines this week:


Monday morning saw the first full-on INSTG004 Cataloguing practical, in which students investigated the RDA Toolkit. (Many thanks to UCL Libraries for sorting out the new form of access we needed this year).

Monday afternoon I was flying solo with the new INSTG012 Historical Bibliography class, after Fred Bearman’s excellent introduction to book handling at UCL Special Collections last week. A seminar on Darnton; a lecture on ‘The Coming of the Book’ (whistle-stop tour from the birth of writing to the cradle of printing) and a practical session on printed bibliographies, which will set the class up for their upcoming sessions at St Bride’s Printing Library and the British Library.

Events for Current Students

Tuesday evening saw the launch of our Journal Club. This year we are discussing three articles on the theme of Information Literacy and three on more general topics. We kicked off with a piece on workplace relations between librarians and library technicians: Hill, C. (2014). The professional divide: examining workplace relationships between librarians and library technicians The Australian Library Journal, 63 (1), 23-34 DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2014.890020

George Bray has blogged about this for the Student Blog.

Also on the blog: University College School Library Visit by Joanne McPhie, Emily Delahaye and Catherine Ascough.

We circulated the eventbrite for our first speaker event, which takes place on 17 November. Dr Paul Ayris will speak about Open Access, which is obviously a popular topic as free tickets were snapped up quickly.

Events for Potential Students

The Department’s Open Day took place on Wednesday. In the picture, you can see UCL’s main quad, and also the door opening into our teaching room, where the LIS session took place. We started off with a lovely open horseshoe, but in the end had to fill in the central space with extra chairs. Kate Whaite came in to speak about LIS as a discipline and share her journey from MA LIS student to senior library assistant to PhD candidate. Naomi Percival spoke about work placements, and last year’s Lambeth Palace Library work placement student, Molly Kernan shared a little of her experience. Jo Maddocks arrived in time to answer some questions on how she found it balancing her full-time work with part-time study. It was also great to have some of the current students with us, especially for the reception.

This isn’t the only opportunity to visit UCL this year: our Faculty Open Day takes place on 19 November. I’m also taking part in events organised by CPD25 and the CILIP East of England / Cambridge Library Trainees Group (for which booking is open).

Research, Writing, Editing

Now that term has started, I’m finding some time to progress my own research, pushing on with a PhD chapter on the quantitative analysis of Senate House [WdlM] and writing up the paper I gave at CIG 2014. That section of the to-do list definitely needs a lot more attention, so I’m scooting back offline to get on with it.


The Benefits of Reading, According to Ms Dutton and Mr de la Mare

April 15, 2013

Here’s Ellen Dutton‘s latest Stop Motion animation, on the benefits of reading. I thought it would be nice to set this alongside some of the thoughts Walter de la Mare shared in his anthologies for young people. Here’s an extract from Come Hither, a book of poems and prose extracts he published for young people in 1923, which was republished again as recently as 1990:

That is one of the pleasures of reading – you may make any picture out of the words you can and will; and a poem may have as many different meanings as there are different minds. (p. xxv-xxvi).

And these are from the introduction he and Thomas Quayle gave to their Readings of 1927:

That is really what it comes to: there is not really time enough in our short lives, with so much to be done, to waste much of it or our minds on what will not prove of lasting joy and use and service to them. (p. xx).

One simply cannot pay too much attention to what we see around us and in particular to living and beautiful things. And more especially when we are young. If possible, then, when you read about anything in a book, see it as clearly as you can in your own mind; then do your best to find that thing in the world around; then compare it with what the writer has said about it. Make your own discoveries. Explore! (p. xx)

A good book, indeed, is the next best thing in this life to a true friend. It gives all it has to give solely for the asking – and wants nothing in return but just a thankful blessing on the man who wrote it. (p. xxi).

The methods of information literacy for young people may have changed, but the sentiments are very much the same. As de la Mare and Quayle put it, “To be able to read is to be able to explore – as far as we will and can – the World of Books.” (p. xvii). Capital ‘W’, capital ‘B’.


Serendipity, or, Why There’s No Such Thing as a Waste of Research Time

February 21, 2013

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 14.21.59

Today my main goal is to complete the marking of the Historical Bibliography essays submitted a week and a half ago, and I am rewarding myself (and keeping my focus) by breaking after every four essays and sorting through some of the extra research photos I took in Oxford a couple of years ago.

What do I mean by “extra” photos? Well, the purpose of the trip was to build up a swatch of handwriting samples from the de la Mare papers to compare with the writing in the annotations in the books at Senate House. I finished this with a couple of days to spare and instead of heading off into the summer sunshine like any normal person might, I took some photos of some of the pocket books in the archive. I didn’t need them for the handwriting sample, but I thought they might come in useful at some point later in my research.

Analysing de la Mare’s handwriting proved to be pretty dismal as far as dating is concerned. There’s a clear shift in the last couple of years of his life, and his teenage writing is very like his mother’s and becomes more distinct when he starts work at the oil company, but that leaves a span of around fifty years in which nothing changes so drastically that I would like to look at an annotation in one of his books and date it with any feeling of confidence beyond “not very old and not young either”.

So, in the end, the trip felt a little bit of a cul-de-sac. I proved a negative: that handwriting analysis was not going to be helpful to me. I learned a little bit more about that sort of analysis, and I got some good practice in the palaeography of de la Mare’s quite distinctive hand. Nothing more.

I assigned sorting through the “extra” photos to be my marking displacement and wake-up task. (It’s really important to refresh yourself regularly while marking, so that no student suffers impact from boredom with the process on the part of the marker).

Fast forward to this morning. And lo! Notes from one of the early notebooks about what he’s reading. The very thing I have on my seek and locate list for the summer, as described by Whistler:

At about this time too he began making exercise books on waste sheets of paper from the Oil Office. The first is in an alphabetical notebook for November 1892. (The Life of Walter de la Mare: Imagination of the Heart. Duckworth, 1993 (2003 imprint), p. 50)

I’ve not got images of them all, and I hope the years I don’t have are waiting for me in the boxes at the Bodleian, but it’s pretty exciting to find some of the very things I am seeking sitting on my own hard drive.

Thank goodness for the Bodley’s policy for researchers to take their own images. And thank goodness I didn’t go off in the sunshine once I’d finished my main research task. What was the focus then turned out to be not so important, while the marginal, the extra activity, could be really very useful indeed.


Image: flicking through images on my hard drive