Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Website URL
Music, legal deposit, Scottish song collecting, cultural history
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Karen 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 graduated with a PhD in Music from the University of Glasgow in 2009. Her book, Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era, was published by Ashgate in March 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 on her new project into the Stationers’ Hall music collection at the University of St Andrews, and her research role has since been extended until August 2018.

Karen lectures on Scottish music, research and bibliographic skills, and holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education.

Karen has co-organised Musica Scotica conferences; 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 been looking at 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 has recently started work on a successful AHRC Networking grant, aimed at widening research into historic British legal deposit music. She has already made significant steps in her research into the collection at the University of St Andrews, and has now created a network to look at the other collections in similar depth, not just along similar lines but also 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, and can be followed on Twitter @ClaimedStatHall

Recent Publications

‘The Cinderella of Stationers’ Hall: music (and metadata) in Georgian legal deposit libraries’ Catalogue and Index 201 (Dec 2020)

‘A Music Library for St Andrews: use of the University’s Copyright Music Collections, 1801-1849’, in Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society15 (2020), pp.13-33.

‘Library support to students on blended-learning courses: some thoughts on best practice’ (SCONUL Focus 71, February 2020)

‘Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections’, Scottish Music Review 5 (2019), 75-87

‘National Airs in Georgian Libraries’, 104-114, in Old Songs, New Discoveries: Selected Papers from the 2018 Folk Song Conference, ed. Steve Roud & David Atkinson (Folk Song Papers, no.2, London: The Ballad Partners, 2019) ISBN 9781916142411

Sage Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (Sage, 2019): ‘Borders’, pp.382-384; ‘Librarianship’, pp.1334-1336; ‘Wales: History, culture and geography of music’; ‘Wales: modern and contemporary musical practice’, pp.2338-2341, 2342-2343.

‘My love to war is going’: Women and Song in the Napoleonic Era’, Karen McAulay, jointly authored with Brianna Robertson-Kirkland, Trafalgar Chronicle, New Series 3 (2018), 202-212.

Libraries reaching out to distance learners / McAulay, K. (23 Apr 2018) IAML (UK & Irl)

Wynds, vennels and dual carriageways: the changing nature of Scottish music / McAulay, K. (22 Feb 2018) Understanding Scotland musically: folk, tradition and policy. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, p. 230-239

Legal Deposit (Copyright Behind the Scenes) – and Scores of Musical Scores / McAulay, K. (20 Feb 2018) UK Copyright Literacy


Media Coverage
Country Focus
United Kingdom
Expertise by Geography
United Kingdom
Expertise by Chronology
18th century, 19th century
Expertise by Topic
Book History, Libraries & Archives, Local & Regional, Material Culture, Women