Ok, so I wouldn’t necessarily call Durham to Leeds “far”, but when you’re trying to get books out of the library, or someone recalls them (even more annoying), it is pretty far. Well, a couple of hours by train or car. The annoying things first, then, before I take it all back and tell you why it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. I miss out on most of the socials, even when I happen to be in Leeds for the day, as I don’t want to stick around and get a train home at around 10pm. I miss most of the research days, unless I make a special effort to go for them. I don’t get to use the postgrad room for working, so most of my work has been done at home – I think I would have prefered a “going to work” sort of approach when I started out full time.
When I first started the PhD, there was a weekly seminar we had to attend about sociological research or some such (I forget, it wasn’t directly relevant to my book-based research), which meant a couple of hours on the train there and back. This actually is not entirely negative, as it generally provided good reading time, except for when I failed to book a seat or when other people were extremely disruptive (I remember two occasions very well). This proved relatively reasonably priced, providing I booked well in advance. The alternative, driving to Leeds, was also not too pricey, though it did take away the reading option. Going to Leeds meant I met with other research students in Theology and Religious Studies, and had the opportunity to visit the library weekly. I was also able to catch up with friends in Leeds, and sometimes stayed over with a medic friend from school. Once this module finished, however, I only tended to trek in about once a month.
When I had a full time job and couldn’t get to Leeds during the week, I had my supervisions via skype, which is just as good as face-to-face, without the convenience of being able to visit the library. The advantage of the library system in the modern world, too, is that many of the books I requested were acquired in electronic format, so I could read them from the comfort of my study, merely by signing in. Google books has also proved to be a valuable tool. I was also able to use Durham Uni library with my SCONUL card, but that seemed to expire every time I wanted to use it! Mostly, though, I’ve just bought the books, which means I now have a bookcase full of theology book that are of great interest to me, but not much interest to others.