As a librarian working at an academic institution there are certain expectations in regards to professional development and contributions to the profession such as service on committees, presentations, and publication. There is somewhat of a division in the way academic libraries deal with this. Some academic libraries operate on a system of tenure holding their librarians to the same or similar standards as the faculty. This is especially true for large research institutions, but is not limited to them. Other institutions like mine encourage these activities, but my job is not dependent on fulfilling them. I personally fall on the side of the argument against librarian tenure, and so appreciate the balance that is struck at my library. However, that is whole argument that I’m not going to get into here.
Since the time that I became a professional librarian just over 5 years ago, I have attempted to get involved with the profession serving on committees both locally and nationally and presenting at conferences both locally and nationally. Almost all of this work involves travel expenses and conference registration fees, which is not cheap. With the economy the way that it has been the past several years, my library’s budget has been cut drastically and the professional development budget which was used to support staff members’ attendance at conferences was cut to the bone. Thus some years it was limited to people who were presenting or being sent by the library for a specific purpose or like this year cut so severely that there was no money for this support. As my job does not specifically require me to do these things, if I want to do them I given the time off but have to pay out my own pocket to attend. I personally feel it is important to be engaged in these activities for my own career development, so this year I was resigned to spending a significant chunk of my own money to travel to both ALA Midwinter in Dallas and ALA Annual in Anaheim to fulfill the committee commitments I have made.
In order to help mitigate these costs I looked into conference scholarships. There are several scholarships out there to attend various conferences and I have applied for them in order to supplement or cover my costs. EBSCO, which is a vendor that sells various products to libraries, provides a handful of scholarships to both Midwinter and Annual every year. I have a applied for the scholarship a number of times, but have never received it. This year I was really proud of the essay I wrote for the application for their scholarship to Annual and told my husband if I didn’t receive it this time then there was probably no hope that I would ever get one. It turns out I had a right to be proud, since yesterday afternoon I received a phone call letting me know that I had won one of the scholarships to this year’s Annual conference. There’s nothing more happy making than feeling proud of an accomplishment as well as saving yourself a significant amount of money.