Top Tips: Bursaries
Applying for Bursaries might seem daunting as a New Professional but they are an excellent way to attend conferences and events that are often financially out of reach. With the help of a few bursary winners we’ve created a set of top tips that goes through the process of finding a bursary, applying and making the most of the opportunity.
Helen Monagle, Assistant Librarian, Manchester Metropolitan University
Where to look for bursaries:
- Email discussion lists (these are also good for keeping up to date in particular fields) and social media (particularly Twitter) are a good place to look for bursaries as many are advertised in this way.
- Professional bodies (e.g. Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL)) provide a number of bursaries. CILIP members have opportunities to apply for grants, bursaries and awards such as the IFLA first timer grant and the Travelling Librarian Award. BIALL offers bursaries for courses and conferences.
- Associations (e.g. IFLA, Special Libraries Association (SLA) Europe, School Library Association (SLA) etc.). IFLA administers a number of grants and scholarships to enable aspiring library and information professionals from all over the world to enhance their training and to provide funding for new and exciting projects in the field of librarianship. The Special Libraries Association offer a number of awards including an Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) to provide the opportunity for those at the start of their career to attend the SLA Annual Conference (held in North America!).
- Special Interest Groups – If you are a member of professional body or association, you may be entitled to join special interest groups (e.g. Commercial, Legal & Scientific Information Group (CLSIG), Health Libraries Group (HLG), Information Literacy Group (ILG) and many more); most of these offer their members bursaries for their conferences, or sponsorship for other awards so it is worth keeping an eye out for these.
- Regional Groups (which you will be assigned to as part of your membership if applicable to the organisation) will also offer grants for conferences or bursaries to cover travel/costs to smaller events. You will need to check the individual groups for information on what they offer.
Laura Williams, Media Manager, BBC.
NLPN have asked me to share some tips on successfully applying for a bursary from a judges point of view. I’m SLA Europe Awards Chair so have experience of the difficult job of judging applications for awards.
- Are you eligible? – Check the conditions carefully to see whether the bursary is restricted by membership, sector, location or experience level. If you are eligible, tell us so we don’t have to guess.
- Take it seriously – Just like a job application, make sure you demonstrate the criteria with clear examples. Make sure you answer the question you’ve been asked. Be explicit so the judges can clearly see the reasons why you should be successful.
Always do your research ! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book
- Do your homework – We want to see that you are interested and passionate about what you are applying for. Research the conference or training you want to attend and show it in your application. Tell us about the bits of the programme that interest you.
- What can you offer? – Don’t just tell us what you have done, but what you will do in the future. How will you share what you learn with the wider profession? Are you interested in volunteering for the organisation sponsoring you? Bursaries are a big financial investment for organisations so tell us why you are a good investment in our funds.
- Ask for feedback – If you aren’t successful ask for feedback or talk through your application with someone. We give feedback on ECCA applications, if asked, which hopefully people find useful for future applications.
Lucinda May, Research & Learning Support Assistant, The University of Manchester.
Why you should apply for bursaries:
- You’ve got to be in it to win it: It’s surprising how many bursary opportunities exist, and how few people apply for them. Don’t assume that there’s no point applying because your fellow students and colleagues will. When I won one of two sponsored student places at LILAC 2015, the number of total applications was in the tens rather than hundreds. Just do it – you have nothing to lose!
- Priceless opportunities: Conference bursaries can be extremely generous. My UKSG 2015 student bursary included accommodation and travel in addition to full three day conference attendance and entrance to the conference socials!
- Demonstrate your passion: Bursary applications allow you to focus your mind and articulate your experience, abilities and passion for your subject or area to influential organisations. Try to set yourself apart: I had some great feedback that my LILAC application stood out by being original and lively in both content and tone.
- Mingle with experts: The atmosphere at both UKSG 2015 and LILAC 2015 was electric; I’ve never before been surrounded by so many enthusiastic library and information professionals. It’s amazing to hear first-hand talks from people highly respected in their fields, and delegates tend to be friendly and approachable.
- Get published: Bursary donors often ask for a written report of your experiences, which not only offers a useful reflection exercise, but may allow you to have a piece of writing published – great for your CV and LinkedIn profile. I contributed to a piece for UKSG’s Insights and interviewed other bursary winners for LILAC’s Journal of Information Literacy.
Rosie Hare, E-Learning Training and Support Adviser at the University of York
Writing your application:
- Treat the application seriously, like you would a job application. Make sure you meet the criteria for applications. Being able to tell them why you will benefit from attending the event/conference in a concise way is usually a minimum requirement even if there is no other criteria.
- Do your research. For bursaries such as the Early Conference Career Award provided by SLA Europe and various SLA Divisions, really research the division that is providing the award you want to apply for and ensure that your experience matches the kind of criteria they ask for. They will also be looking for what you can bring to the division and to SLA Europe after the conference. This award was one that I treated exactly like a job application and put a lot of effort into it because it is the most competitive but also the most rewarding if you are successful.
- Be prepared to do some work, after you’ve written your application. Many local CILIP groups will ask you to write a post for their blog afterwards so be prepared to follow this up after the event. It could even lead to more involvement with a group in other ways, which can only be beneficial!
- Don’t worry too much about whether you have a chance of winning or not and just go for it! I was able to win a funded place to LILAC in 2014 and to another event at Northumbria University by applying for bursaries offered by my local CILIP group at the time, even when I thought I had no chance of winning. Chances are there are fewer people applying for these bursaries than you think and you have just as much chance as anybody else.
Lyn Denny, Assistant Librarian, Manchester Metropolitan University
In 2016, I won the CILIP Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) bursary to attend the CILIP Conference in Brighton. The bursary fully funded my place at the two-day conference, including the social event and accommodation for one night. In return, I had to tweet live from the event and write a report afterwards for the Library and Information Research Journal. These are my top tips to get the most out of the bursary and ensure you give back to the group who has funded you
Making the most of the opportunity and giving back to the group who has funded you:
- Researching your group before you go. Set some time aside before going to the conference to research the group who have given you the bursary. Find out what their aim is and any current priorities. If you are required, as is often the case, to tweet, blog or write a report about the event for the group you are representing this will help keep you focussed on writing content that will be interesting to the group’s members. I also found it useful to look at the committee member photos and biographies to give me some background for networking at the conference.
- Using social media. Bursary winners are frequently asked to tweet live from the event. Get organised and have a list to hand of hashtags and Twitter handles that you need to include in tweets. Post a tweet on the first day explaining that you are attending the conference and will be tweeting on behalf of the organisation you are representing for however many days. This makes it easy for anyone looking at both your own and your group’s timelines to understand the story. I also think it is a good idea to keep your tweets relevant to the event and your group for the duration of the conference and avoid tweeting about other unrelated matters – all helps for a tidy (and professional-looking) timeline!
- Taking notes during sessions. Researching the group beforehand and focusing on their aims will help to ensure that any notes you take during talks are steered in the direction of the group you are representing. I find it hard to listen to a talk and tweet at the same time, but I found it helpful to annotate my notes as I took them, to highlight relevant nuggets to tweet. Then at the end of each talk, I stayed in the auditorium if possible and posted my tweets, before moving onto the next session.
- Writing up afterwards. If you are required to write a report or blog post for the group who have awarded the bursary, make sure you do this promptly after the conference. You can write about all aspects of the event, even the social events, but try to find a thread to link it to the aim and priorities of the group you are writing for. Be realistic with the group in terms of negotiating any deadlines but make sure you get it in on time!