We have a funded PhD studentship opportunity in the Division of Literature of Languages, Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The successful candidate will work with Dr Katie Halsey on a project entitled ‘The History of Scottish Reading: Innerpeffray Library’s Books and Borrowers 1855-1968’, and will join a cohort of researchers working on historical Scottish libraries on the AHRC-funded ‘Books and Borrowing 1750-1830: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ project, of which Halsey is the Principal Investigator.
The University of Stirling is advertising a funded PhD studentship opportunity in the Division of Literature of Languages, Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The successful candidate will work with Dr Katie Halsey on a project entitled ‘The History of Scottish Reading: Innerpeffray Library’s Books and Borrowers 1855-1968’, and will join a cohort of researchers working on historical Scottish libraries on the AHRC-funded ‘Books and Borrowing 1750-1830: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ project, of which Halsey is the Principal Investigator. The studentship’s expected start date is 1 October, 2020, and the duration is 36 months.
The successful candidate will work with a supervisory team consisting of Dr Katie Halsey and Ms Lara Haggerty (Keeper of Books, Innerpeffray Library) and one other member of the ‘Books and Borrowing’ team.
Aims and objectives
Innerpeffray Library (located in rural Perthshire) is Scotland’s oldest public lending library, established in 1680 by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie. Books from the library were made available to the local community from 1747 to 1968. Borrowers came from a wide variety of social backgrounds, from local laird to shepherd and schoolchild. The library was also, and continues to be, a site for local, national and international visitors, with Visitors’ Books dating from 1859 to the present day. The library owns manuscript ledgers, containing borrowers’ records from 1747 to 1968. These records are unusually full, containing not only details and dates of the books borrowed and returned, but also information about the name, address and (sometimes) occupation and / or social status of the borrowers. These rich records therefore allow for analysis of the reading (or at least borrowing) habits of a cross-section of the local population, including many labouring-class readers and borrowers for whom (as Rose 2001 points out) evidence is not usually available in the historical record.
The manuscript borrowers’ ledgers of Innerpeffray Library hence provide the starting ground for an investigation into many different areas. From the bare bones of the information contained in the ledgers – the date, the borrower’s name, his/her occupation and address, and the books he/she borrowed – this doctoral project will reconstruct the role played by an institution of this sort in the life of its community and the wider world. The long historical range of the ledgers (1747 to 1968) does provide valuable material for comparative analysis, and provides a rare opportunity to chart the interactions between borrowers and books over a period of more than two hundred years. However, a completed PhD thesis on the early records (1747-1855) is already in existence, and, in order to keep the proposed new doctoral project both manageable and tightly-focused, this new project will focus on a roughly one-hundred year period (1855-1968). The existence of relatively extensive records of other kinds (Census, Estate, Church) in the Strathearn area offers the opportunity to link a number of different sources of information together in order to provide the fullest possible picture of the life of this region.
This case study will take place within a comparative study of libraries with extant loans registers across Scotland, and the doctoral project will also be embedded in the scholarship on other libraries in the UK from the period under scrutiny, such as that of Towsey (2011), Crawford (2002), Manley (1996, 2012), Attar (2012), Halsey (2017), Sangster (2018) and Black & Hoare (2014). In addition to creating a case study of rural working class readers over a one-hundred-year period, the project will therefore place the Innerpeffray Library borrowers’ registers in relation to other known extant loans registers to build up a picture of library usage in Scotland, and function to shed further light on the history of reading in Scotland more broadly. It will also make use of Innerpeffray’s Visitors Books to explore the question of how heritage sites were created and understood in the nineteenth century.
The successful candidate will use the interdisciplinary research methods of book history – i.e. combining quantitative and qualitative research to draw his/her conclusions. The student will combine in-depth historical research with careful attention to literary context, such as genre, form and type of publication. More specifically, the student will also be encouraged to consider the insights of reader-response theory in relation to the historical findings of the project. Because some users of the library (in the 1940s onwards) are still alive, some methodology will also be drawn from studies of oral history, where appropriate, and depending on the student’s academic background and decisions, s/he may consider developing new approaches combining literary analysis and historical research.
Research questions will include, but since the student’s own research interests will necessarily need to dictate the final shape of the project, are not limited to: What do the borrowers’ registers of Innerpeffray Library contribute to our knowledge of the history of books and reading? What can Innerpeffray Library tell us about the shifts or continuities in the reading behaviour of communities and individuals over time? How can we map the effects of book borrowing/ reading on the practice of individuals, or on their social mobility (social/cultural history), or geographical mobility? What role did rural libraries play in disseminating knowledge in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? How typical is Innerpeffray (through comparative analysis of other Scottish/English/Welsh libraries)? How does the local relate to the national and international? How does a library become a heritage site?
Outputs: Clearly, the major output of this studentship will be the PhD thesis itself, although the PhD student will have the opportunity to be involved in collaborative writing of articles with the Principal Investigator (Halsey), the Co-Investigator (Dr Matthew Sangster, University of Glasgow) and the Research Fellows of the wider AHRC project, should they wish to do so.
Impact and Knowledge Exchange Activities: As Innerpeffray Library is now a heritage library, visited by large numbers of both British and international visitors, the prospective PhD student will have many opportunities for knowledge transfer and impact. They will spend one day a week in Years One and Two at the Library, conducting archival research and acting as a volunteer guide, thus disseminating their research findings ‘on the ground’ to visitors. In addition, the student will write a monthly blog, hosted on Innerpeffray Library’s own website, and will give a talk to the library’s supporter group, the Friends of Innerpeffray Library (FOIL). They will also organise an exhibition at the library, tentatively entitled ‘Historical Visitors’, and based on the Visitors’ Books, early in Year Three of the PhD, and will contribute as asked by the Keeper of Books to other events involving volunteers, Trustees and Friends of the Library. The student will also be involved with the Library’s existing schools outreach programme.