22 Jun 2017

The CONUL Bursary winners reflect on #conulac17

For this year's CONUL Conference CONUL decided to award two bursaries to current LIS Students. Below are the reflections from the two winners, Louise Wasson and Sophie Lynch, on the application process and the conference itself. And a call to LIS students to apply for any bursary that comes up. A call that we at Libfocus wholeheartedly echo - when you see a Library Bursary, apply for it! Though it may take up some of your limited and precious time, the reward, if you are successful, more than makes up for the effort.

Sophie Lynch is currently an MLIS student at University College Dublin and holds a BMus (Hons) from the CIT Cork School of Music.

My name is Sophie Lynch, and I am currently a full-time Masters of Library and Information Studies student at University College Dublin. Prior to my MLIS, I completed my Bachelor of Music at the CIT Cork School of Music. While in Cork I had the pleasure of completing a summer internship at the CIT Cork School of Music Fleischmann Library and was also afforded the opportunity to visit the main CIT Bishopstown Library. These experiences were my first proper forays into the world of librarianship and gave me the confidence to pursue this career path. After I moved to Dublin to further my studies, I began working as a part-time student shelver for UCD Library working in both the James Joyce Library and the Health Sciences Library respectively.

I first heard about the CONUL Student Conference Bursary through Twitter. At the time, I was absolutely swamped with assignments and deadlines to meet and did not pursue it further because I felt that I did not have time to write an application. It was only when the deadline for applications was extended that I decided to apply. At this point, a few of my lecturers had encouraged my class to apply. One of the main reasons I decided to apply for the bursary was that as an MLIS student on the verge of graduating I wanted to learn first-hand about current developments and research in the profession. I also wanted the opportunity to research potential career paths by listening and speaking to established practitioners. Above all else, I was intrigued by the topics that would be covered under the conference theme “inspiring and supporting research.”

At the CONUL conference, I experienced what it was like to be part of a social media team for such a large event. I gained some insight into the inner workings of the conference while also having the opportunity to speak to delegates. This meant that I was constantly engaged and not simply passively listening. At each of the presentations I attended, I always felt that I learnt at least one interesting piece of information or discovered a new resource that I had never encountered. In addition to this, as I knew very few people at the conference, I was forced out of my comfort zone having to speak to more people. From carrying out tasks behind the scenes to speaking to people during breaks, there were many natural opportunities to network. As a result, I have had many stimulating conversations and have made new professional contacts.

I would highly encourage other LIS students to apply for the CONUL Conference Bursary. The application process was straightforward requiring only a one-page letter, and it did not take me as long as I expected to complete my application. I was initially a bit intimidated at the thought of applying for a bursary to attend one of the most prestigious library conferences in Ireland. However, I need not have worried as the CONUL Conference is one of the friendliest conferences I have encountered for newcomers and students.

Sometimes as an LIS student I become so immersed in my studies (particularly around deadlines) that I lose sight of what was going on around me. I find it difficult to keep up to date from afar on new research and exciting projects that are happening in the library and information profession. For this reason, I think that going to conferences and seminars encourages you to learn more about what is happening in your profession and can also help you stay abreast of new developments and trends. After the CONUL Conference, I felt inspired by the professionals I had listened and spoken to and was brimming with ideas for the future.

Attending conferences can be very expensive. As a student, without the help of the CONUL Conference Bursary and the support of my lecturer Jane Burns I would not have been able to attend this conference. My main piece of advice when it comes to applying for bursaries is to make time for your application, be brave and apply!

Louise Wasson currently works as a Library Assistant in the Queen’s University Belfast Medical & HSC Library.

Having now completed my PG Diploma in Library and Information Services Management by Distance Learning with the University of Sheffield iSchool, I was only too delighted to step away from my laptop and final assignments in order to make the journey down to Athlone for this year’s CONUL conference on the theme of Inspiring and Supporting Research.

Having already undertaken an MA and PhD in Medieval Literature, research support is an area which I have a vested interest in, and so this was an invaluable opportunity to meet established and experienced information professionals and learn from their ‘on the ground’ perspectives.  I certainly was not disappointed.

Like many LISM students, I completed my library qualification while working full-time.  Despite the numerous challenges associated with this method of study, the main drawback to distance learning was always the lack of face-to-face interaction which could at times be quite isolating.  Therefore, the opportunity to meet other bursary winners and LIS professionals was incredibly appealing and a great incentive to apply for the CONUL conference bursary.

Over the course of the conference I spent an enjoyable two days chatting and engaging with librarians at all levels and stages of their career, and from a range of different professional perspectives.  For example, the opportunity to engage with publisher representatives was particularly useful and insightful as my current role as library assistant does not require or allow for this sort of networking.  Therefore, the combination of formal and informal networking opportunities provided by the conference was an ideal way to ease into what could otherwise have been a potentially daunting situation.  Nevertheless, the friendly, welcoming atmosphere and hospitality from the CONUL social media team, organizers and delegates was evident from the outset and throughout.

As one of two lucky bursary winners I was delighted (and pleasantly surprised!) to be given some immediate responsibility for live tweeting the conference sessions from the official @CONULconf account (as well as my own personal account), and also for recording Periscope videos and short sponsor videos.  The opportunity to ‘learn on our feet’ so to speak was one that I really appreciated and would highly recommend.

The freedom to choose parallel sessions of interest was another bonus as this ensured that while all sessions were covered, each person could choose sessions of specific professional interest.  Particular highlights were the innovative Day 1 ‘Show & Tell’ presentations, Day 2 Keynote from Danny Kingsley, ‘Presentation Skills for Researchers’ and closing Open Access Panel Discussion.

Having attended previous conferences outside of the LISM field, energy and enthusiasm often tends to wane on Day 2.  This was not the case at CONUL 2017.  Lively and engaging discussions and ideas characterized the entire conference and provided the opportunity to take away new ideas and perspectives about ongoing challenges facing the profession.

Although it might be overwhelming to add bursary applications to the long list of administrative activities already undertaken by those working full time and completing their library degree, I could not recommend the experience enough.  Professional posts will involve significant competitive funding applications, report writing etc., and so any practice in producing this sort of documentation will be invaluable in your future career.  While it might be tempting to presume that conference bursaries will be oversubscribed and too difficult to obtain, I would strongly encourage LISM students and early-career professionals to apply and make the most of all available opportunities, as the exposure to different practices in different institutions may well be one of the best and most useful CPD opportunities you will encounter.

Overall, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable and insightful from start to finish with a rich programme of speakers and a wide range of expertise across a spectrum of relevant, timely and challenging issues.

A fantastic conference with an impressive online following and presence, I look forward to returning in the coming years and remaining a part of lively and important discussions.


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