Karen McAulay

Performing Arts Librarian


Karen combines three roles as librarian, musicologist & educationalist.  She has curated music materials at RCS since 1988, initially as Music and Academic Services Librarian and since 2017 as Performing Arts Librarian. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. 

Karen's PhD is in Music, from the University of Glasgow (2009). Her book, Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era, was published by Ashgate in 2013.

From October 2012-15, she was seconded as part-time postdoctoral researcher to the Bass Culture project looking at accompaniments in Scottish fiddle music, an AHRC-funded project spearheaded by Glasgow University. Between October 2015-April 2016, Karen was awarded an Athenaeum Award by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, enabling her to commence part-time research into the Stationers’ Hall music collection at the University of St Andrews, and her research role has since been extended until September 2019.

Karen lectures on Scottish music, research and bibliographic skills. Recently graduating with a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education, her personal 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 is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  (HEA is now part of Advance HE)

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; she can be found on Twitter as @karenmca.

Research interests

Karen's research interest has always been in the transmission of repertoires, in various musicological subjects - plainsong and mediaeval polyphony, 18th-19th century Scottish song collecting, historic Scottish dance music publications and now early legal deposit music in British libraries. At the University of St Andrews' research library facility in Martyrs' Kirk, Karen has explored the decisions the University professors took with regard to the copyright music, and the way it was subsequently used by professors, their families and friends. Key findings identify what was most popular, who used it most, and who catalogued it. 


Karen's recent 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 that might open up interesting research in due course.  A network workshop took place in March 2018.  The 'Claimed from Stationers' Hall' network blog is at Claimedfromstationershall.wordpress.com/, and can be followed on Twitter @ClaimedStatHall

Professional highlights

The 'Claimed from Stationers' Hall' network commenced in August 2017.  Karen is also on the steering groups of two recently-founded research networks based at the University of Glasgow, EAERN (Eighteenth-Century Arts Education Research Network) and Romantic National Song Network.

Forthcoming speaking engagements:-

  • International Congress for Eighteenth Century Studies, Edinburgh University, (14-19 July 2019), Panel member on Paratext, 'Reading Between the Lines: Paratext in National Song and Fiddle Tunebooks of the Georgian Era.' (Some of my earlier work on paratext can be viewed on my Claimed From Stationers' Hall blog:- https://claimedfromstationershall.wordpress.com/?s=Paratext)
  • British Commission for Military History: War and Peace in the Age of Napoleon Conference, Kings College London (13-14 Sept 2019), 'Napoleonic Songs: the Artistic Responses of Composers and Performers to Contemporary Current Affairs'
  • Centre for Scottish & Celtic Studies, University of Glasgow (12 Nov 2019), guest lecture: 'Scottish Song Collecting in the Context of Cultural Heritage: "A Mission of National Importance" (to quote Alexander Campbell)


  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

    Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education

    Sep 2015 - Oct 2017
  • Aberystwyth University

    Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship, College of Librarianship Wales

  • Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

    FCLIP (Fellow of CILIP)

  • Higher Education Academy

    Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

  • BA, University of Durham

    BA in Music (II:i)

  • MA, University of Exeter


  • PhD, University of Glasgow

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

Beyond the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland...