Karen McAulay

Performing Arts Librarian


Karen combines three roles as librarian, musicologist & educationalist. 

LIBRARIAN.  As a Performing Arts Librarian, Karen has curated music materials at RCS since 1988.   A major preoccupation at the present time is in developing the library's music stock composed by women and by BIPOC composers; Karen has given presentations and published on this topic.

MUSICOLOGIST. Karen's PhD is in Music, from the University of Glasgow (2009).  Since 2012, she has been partially seconded to Research & Knowledge Exchange at RCS.  Her book, Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era, was published by Ashgate (2013).  She has contributed chapters to Understanding Scotland Musically (2018). and Music by Subscription (2022), both Routledge, and has two further commissioned chapters in the press.  She has recently completed her second Routledge monograph, this time with a working title of A Social History of Amateur Music-Making and Scottish National Identity: Scotland’s Printed Music, 1880-1951.  Anticipated publication date will be in 2024, subject to the revision/editing process.


September-December 2023, the first holder of the honorary Ketelbey Research Fellowship in Late Modern History, in the University of St Andrews’ School of History. 

August 2017-Ocotober 2018, awarded AHRC Networking Grant: The Claimed from Stationers' Hall network, exploring legal deposit music in British libraries.

October 2015-April 2016, An Athenaeum Award by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, enabled Karen to commence part-time research into the Stationers’ Hall music collection at the University of St Andrews.

October 2012-15, part-time postdoctoral researcher to the Bass Culture project looking at accompaniments in Scottish fiddle music, an AHRC-funded project spearheaded by Glasgow University.

EDUCATIONALIST.  Karen is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. (HEA is now part of Advance HE), and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education.   Her PG Certificate project explored the best ways to maximise student engagement in such topics such as electronic resources, bibliographic citation, or historic Scottish music books, in the context of library instruction.  Karen lectures on Scottish music, research and bibliographic skills. 

Karen has co-organised Musica Scotica conferences; has reviewed books in a variety of periodicals including Times Higher Education's 'What are you Reading?' column; and is a keen advocate of networking in connection with research and career opportunities.

Research interests

Karen is interested in the transmission of repertoires - plainsong and mediaeval polyphony; 18th-19th century Scottish song collecting; historic Scottish dance music publications; early legal deposit music in British libraries; and fin-de-siecle/early 20th century amateur music making and pedagogy in Scotland. 


Karen's  AHRC Networking grant prompted increased interest in historical legal deposit music in the UK.   Having made significant steps in research into the collection at the University of St Andrews, the network looked at the other collections to explore other dimensions, and a workshop took place in March 2018.  The 'Claimed from Stationers' Hall' network blog is now at https://karenmcaulaymusicologist.blog/ - this and Karen's subsequent research can be followed on Twitter @Karenmca

Karen has also been  on the steering groups of two research networks based at the University of Glasgow, EAERN (Eighteenth-Century Arts Education Research Network) and Romantic National Song Network


  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

    Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education

    Sept 2015 - Oct 2017
  • Higher Education Academy

    Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

  • CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals)

    FCLIP (Fellow of CILIP)

  • PhD, University of Glasgow

    Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish song-collecting c.1760-1888

  • MA, University of Exeter


  • Aberystwyth University

    Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship, College of Librarianship Wales

  • BA, University of Durham

    BA in Music (II:i)

Beyond the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland...