Sunday, 15 June 2014

Alison Northover Bursary 2014

I'm all smiles!
Image by Ben Smith
This time next week, I will have arrived at the University of Sussex in Brighton, ready to attend my very first conference. Conferences are something I’ve always had an interest in attending, but due to the cost of tickets it is has never been plausible. Until now…

Towards the end of last year I decided to apply for bursaries with the hope of securing a sponsored place to a conference. Whenever a bursary was advertised I considered applying for it, and in the end I applied for three. All three were to attend CILIP’s Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG) conference, entitled ‘Academic libraries: the final frontier’. One of my applications was rejected as I fell outside the geographical boarder for applications, but my other two applications were both successful. Both bodies contacted me to say I’d been successful within a week of each other, and I accepted the bursary with the more substantial financial package. I was incredibly flattered and humbled to win both. I won’t name the bursary I turned down out of respect for the person it was then offered to, but I am both surprised and pleased to be the 2014 recipient of ARLG’s Alison Northover Bursary.

I thought national bursaries only ever went to the ‘best of the best’, so I didn’t think I stood much of a chance of winning, but my desire to attend the conference was so great I applied anyway. The application process was quite tough; as well as an extended CV, covering letter and a proposed breakdown of bursary expenditure, you had to provide a rationale of how attendance would be beneficial. Two supporting references were also required, which necessitated a different element of thought. After considering my options, I asked one person I work with and one person I do not work with. This came together quite nicely as one referee focused on my performance at work and the other referee focused on my activities out of work. The references had to be submitted in signed/sealed envelopes; I didn’t actually read the references and do not know their exact contents. Hopefully, they contained details which complemented each other to provide a wider picture of my dedication to libraries.

Still smiling!
Image by Seanbjack
The focus of the conference this year is on library staff, whereas in other years it has been more geared to supporting library users. The college in which I work is currently undergoing a joint drive with another college to share procurements, so I found the theme of sharing services to be particularly interesting. The timetable of workshops and talks looks interesting – I want to go to them all – if only I could split myself in two! My excitement is mounting but so are my nerves. Although I’ve asked on Twitter and found a few other attendees, I don’t personally know anyone going and, as an introvert, I find that quite scary. I’m trying not to worry about that aspect too much and hope I’ll meet some friendly faces at the conference. As well as the knowledge I’ll gain and the increase in awareness of various issues, the conference will provide opportunity for me to practice my networking skills by meeting new people. Comfort zones – we all like them but it does us good to leave them at times, and this is one of those times.

I intend to use social media to amplify the reach of the conference. I’ll be live tweeting daily (@caraclarke / #ARLG14) and will blog about the experience too. I’ll also write a report for ARLG, so if anyone is interested in the conference but can't make it, there should be plenty of chances to keep abreast of the happenings!

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