Our thanks to Laura Woods, who kindly accepted to write some thoughts around bursaries and awards offered by SLA Europe. Laura won the Bonnie Hilditch International Librarian Award earlier this year. She is Subject Librarian for Allied Health and Engineering at the University of Huddersfield, and she has been a member of SLA since winning an ECCA from SLA Europe and the Leadership & Management Division in 2009.
I have been lucky enough to attend two SLA conferences so far in my career: in 2009 I went to the Washington DC conference, thanks to an Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) from SLA Europe; and in 2011 I attended the conference in Philadelphia, thanks to the Legal Division’s non-US law librarian travel grant.
I therefore feel incredibly privileged to now be planning to attend the 2015 conference in Boston, thanks to the Engineering and Sci-Tech Divisions’ Bonnie Hilditch International Librarian Award. I applied for this award as, having started in a new job as subject librarian for Engineering (and Human and Health Sciences) at the University of Huddersfield in October, I am new to the field of engineering librarianship. I am well aware of how much I need to learn in this role, so am looking forward to meeting my fellow Engineering Division members, and attending the division’s programming to learn more about the specific challenges within engineering librarianship.
As I have been lucky enough to win several awards and bursaries for this fantastic conference, I thought I should share some tips for anyone else looking for sponsorship or funding to attend SLA (or any other conference really!):
- Keep your eye out for opportunities
There are more of these awards around than you think. I have spoken to some people who have stated that they never bother looking for these things because they are only available for students and new professionals – while there are probably more sponsorship opportunities out there for those at the start of their careers, these certainly do exist for those later in their career as well. SLA in particular has numerous awards for overseas members, regardless of career stage, so that is a great place to start: check with individual divisions and chapters to see what awards they offer that you might qualify for.
- Think about why you want to attend
This is an obvious one, but: do not just apply for an award or bursary for the sake of it, make sure you know why you want to attend and what you will get out of it! The awards judges will want to know you will find the experience valuable so make sure you have articulated this in your entry. Have a look at previous years’ conference programmes, or the current year if it is already been released (in some cases, the deadline for awards entries may be before the full programme has been announced). Think about other advantages you will get from attending as well: a conference is not just about the programming! You may want to network with contacts in a particular field of librarianship, or meet colleagues or clients from another country who may be attending. You may also want to talk to specific suppliers at the Info-Expo. These are all good reasons for wanting to attend – so talk about them!
- Explain what you can offer your sponsors
This is a big one. The division or organisation offering your award is making a financial investment in you, so they will want to know what you can do for them. After winning the SLA Europe ECCA in 2009, I went on to join SLA Europe’s Board as blog editor, moving on to take over as Digital Communications Committee Chair and leading the redesign of their website. You might not necessarily want to take on that level of responsibility, but that is the great thing about volunteering with a professional body – you can choose your level of involvement. Even if you have other commitments and cannot volunteer too much time, some is better than nothing: organisations like SLA are run by members who donate what time they have, when they have it.
- Share your knowledge!
Communication and knowledge-sharing are key to the information professions. Your award sponsors will want you to demonstrate how you will disseminate the knowledge you gain from the conference once it is over – many awards require you to write up your experience for the sponsoring organisation’s newsletter or blog. Of course, you can always choose your own route for publishing your thoughts as well: either on your own blog if you have one, or via social media. Live-tweeting conferences can be a great way to publicise some of the great ideas you will hear at the conference. If you plan to live-tweet or blog your experience, say so in your award application – your award sponsors may want to know how far the information you gain from attending will travel.
Those are my top four tips – but I am sure there are others I have missed! Does anyone else have suggestions for applying for library conference bursaries and awards?
Good luck to anyone applying for awards this year – and I hope to see you in Boston!