Jennifer De Lillo
"After my degree I got a job working at the British Library, and went on to study librarianship – first at the Vatican, and then at UCL. This gave me an interest in medieval manuscripts, which I then pursued through a doctorate in the Italian department at Royal Holloway.
"In the first week of my doctorate, my supervisor sat me down and said, ‘This degree won’t guarantee you an academic job’. I was happy about this as I did not want to be an academic, and to be honest it had not even crossed my mind – I wanted either to do research or go back to library work. My experience of teaching made me sure that I did not want to teach at university. Students were not motivated, and most wouldn’t apply themselves – especially not to literature.
"In the last year of my doctorate, while I was writing up, I moved to Leicester as my partner was working here. I was interested in electronic editions of manuscripts, and I found someone at the University of De Montfort to put in a grant application with. The grant was not successful, but I got a job working on an electronic edition of Dante’s Commedia as part of an international project. Funding ebbed and flowed around this project, so I initially combined this work with working as an assistant librarian, and with stints on other similar projects.
"With medieval manuscripts there is often no definitive version. Our electronic versions enable scholars to access all of the different versions so that they can compare and analyse them. My experience of working with manuscripts through my librarian and doctoral training has been essential to doing this kind of work. In 2005 the project moved to the University of Birmingham, but the job was not full-time – so I used Fridays to do my own research. Since having kids, I have given up my own research – there just is not time. I have also gone down to three days a week, which fits in with my children well."