Kate Spencer-Bennett

Doctoral Researcher

Kate Spencer-BennettResearch Topic

Libraries in Women’s Lives: A Rhythmanalytical Study

Research Summary  

Kate is researching the library’s place in women’s education and everyday life. Her research suggests that there is a connection between these two things, and it investigates this by attending to rhythm, as understood by the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre. It captures rhythm through an analysis of narratives told by 25 women in public libraries in the Hall Green area of Birmingham. Through an examination of place and time and the energies which women have expended in and around the library, her research argues that libraries rhythm the lives of the women who use them. Libraries take their place in relation to other aspects of women’s everyday lives such as work and family. Through the library, women enter into shared, social rhythms. The study addresses a gap in understandings of the library’s educational significance. It offers a richer account of the importance of the ‘social’ in the value of the library than is sometimes presented. And, through this attention to rhythm, and to women’s accounts, her research furthers a conversation about conceptualisations of time.

Research Interests 

  • libraries
  • women’s education
  • everyday life
  • language
  • childhood

Research projects

  • Assistant Researcher on Transcultural Reading Project lead by Dr Danielle Fuller (American and Canadian Studies, The University of Birmingham)
  • Associate Researcher on research project investigating School Leadership lead by Kay Fuller (School of Education, The University of Birmingham) 

Research Supervisors

Professor Ian Grosvenor and Dr Kevin Myers


Kates' PhD research is ESRC funded.


  • Master’s in Social Research (University of Birmingham)
  • M Ed (University of Birmingham)
  • PGCE (University of Birmingham)
  • MA English Language (University of Edinburgh)


Kate is an ESRC funded Education researcher in the School of Education. In December 2020, she will submit her thesis Libraries in Women’s Lives; A Rhythmanalytical Study. During her doctorate she has had her work published and has presented research at national and international conferences. She has enjoyed a wide range of teaching, supervision and marking responsibilities. As an associate researcher, she has conducted literature reviews and policy searches, most recently on the Transcultural Reading Project in the College of Arts and Law. During her studies, she has also been the editorial assistant for the international education journal Paedagogica Historica.

Before undertaking her PhD, she taught English and Drama, co-ordinating reading lessons across the school and promoting schemes such as The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge. At this time, she wrote an award-winning Master’s in Education dissertation which explored the reading practices of the children at the culturally diverse school at which she taught. She also won an award for a presentation given at the British Library; ‘Reading practices at a Birmingham Secondary School’.

Membership of Research and Professional Organisations

  • British Educational Research Association
  • British Sociological Association 

Additional Information 

Kate teaches on modules within the School of Education and within The Department of English Language and Applied LInguistics. She also leads workshops on the Secondary English PG Dip Ed. 

During her doctorate she has:

  • Taught on 1st and 3rd year modules on the Education BA
  • Supervised 2nd year student projects in English Language
  • Tutored students on the Access to Birmingham scheme
  • Guest lectured on the Secondary English PG Dip Ed
  • Led Masters workshops on Research Methods
  • Taught PhD students from across the university about teaching in the Centre for Learning and Development

During her studies Kate has taken on the following additional roles:

  • Member of Learning and Engagement at Birmingham Museums Trust research group                       
  • Reviewer for Paedagogica Historica  and Museum and Society Journal
  • Postgraduate representative on Doctoral Research Consultancy Group                                                             
  • Member of School of Education Doctoral Conference Committee 2016
  • Member of the Friends of the Library of Birmingham


  • The University of Birmingham School of Education’s Sue Leach prize Prize for M Ed dissertation 
  • National Association for Teachers of English Terry Furlong Award for conference paper 

Conference Papers

  • 2019 International Standing Conference for the History of Education, Porto. Spaces of Learning, Spaces of memory; The Library and the Child
  • 2019 International Standing Conference for the History of Education, Porto. Libraries in Women’s Lives: Rhythming the Everyday
  • 2019 School of Education Summer Conference, University of Birmingham. Libraries in Women’s Lives
  • 2016 British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference, Leeds. Using narrative to investigate the value of libraries
  • 2011 National Association for Teachers of English (NATE) conference, British Library. Reading practices at a Birmingham Secondary School
  • 2011 School of Education’s 10th Annual Research Conference, University of Birmingham. An exploration of Year 8 girls’ out-of school reading habits


  • Kate Spencer-Bennett and Ian Grosvenor, On Silent Feet; The Library and the Child. Oxford Review of Education, Special Issue Places and Spaces of Schooling (Forthcoming)


Email: Kes709@bham.ac.uk

Twitter: @KateSpenBen