26 Apr 2022

Applying for an Award of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI)


Guest post by Helen Fallon and Jane Burns Jane and Helen have both served on the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Committee. Both have experience of assessing applications for LAI awards and have been very active in promoting the awards, since they were both awarded FLAI in 2010.

This blog posts contains tips/suggestions based on their experience as applicants, mentors and assessors, and the detailed guidelines provides on the LAI website.

If you are reading this blog post you may have already started investigating the various awards of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI). Here we reflect on the process and make some suggestions.  We both really enjoyed the process overall; at times it was challenging but the result was a significant achievement that we want to help our colleagues attain. We published a detailed article of our experience of applying for the FLAI in “An Leabharlann”, and also presented a poster at an LAI conference. Please note that the option of doing the FLAI by thesis, mentioned on the poster, no longer exists.

If you are an early career library professional now is the time to start thinking about the LAI awards. It does take time to have the experience to apply but from today you can start focusing on the process. If you have been working in a library for some time but have never considered applying for a LAI award, the application process is an excellent way to review where you are at, and plan forward.

We are fortunate in our field that no two days are the same, we work in varied and dynamic environments. We interact with so many different people that there are always opportunities to learn, get ideas, and to see areas where we can develop new knowledge or skills.

Talk to and observe colleagues within our profession, talk to colleagues outside of the library in your organisations to identify what are trends and changes in the workplace. Seriously consider what kind of CPD you want to do. Most of the CPD will be related to your current role but CPD can be targeted at future roles or topics you are interested in.

CPD doesn’t just meant degrees, certificates, etc. it can include writing, professional reading, participating in the LAI Job Swap scheme, taking on new projects at work, volunteer work or committee/event involvement for example.  Be targeted in how you spend your time and resources.  It is important to note not all CPD is funded by your employer so you may have to consider funding CPD yourself for own personal development and future goals. If your CPD option is future focused it may not be relevant to your current position and with limited funding this is a consideration your employer needs to take.

Also keep track of the CPD you engage in. Reading blogs, books attending conferences, etc. are things that people often forget to recognize as CPD. If you set up spread sheet and just keep track of dates, the topic and time involved this will help you keep track of things and also see patterns and most importantly how you used what you experience to contribute to your own CPD but also to our profession. Another annotation you might record is who you met and what their interests, specialties are. This information helps you network and reconnect with colleagues for future collaborations or advice.

 Our Experience

Firstly, we both had, at different times, applied for an achieved the Associateship of the Library Association of Ireland (ALAI) but our pursuit of the Fellowship of the Library Association of Ireland (FLAI) coincided, and that was very beneficial to both of us. We have both worked in libraries for a few decades, in different areas and different environments. We share common professional interests particularly in all aspects of writing: everything from creative writing, blogs, policies & procedures to academic publishing. It that really helps when you have a colleague with a shared interest in an aspect of the broad spectrum of library experience. As a profession we are very lucky to have so many talented members who have interests and experiences in different areas of librarianship. This diversity helps us pool these skills to help each other recognize the different areas of librarianship that we are contributing to and developing.

The reflections and suggestions here can be applied to the ALAI, SALAI and FLAI journey.

Some really helpful things we did in the preparation of our FLAI applications were the following;

Review the list of holders of FLAI to see what areas they work in, present on and volunteer in.  If you know them or would like to know them reach out and ask for advice.

Think about why you want to apply for the FLAI. Some reasons are to show commitment to our profession and to gain recognition for the contribution you are making. Another is to consider that the LAI awards are actually a peer reviewed process so having your application reviewed by librarians who understand the field and the relevance of your application can be very affirming.

Try to work with a colleague or group of colleagues. It is easy to get distracted or even frustrated in the process but having someone to support and who supports you is ideal.

Really reflect and celebrate your achievements that you included in your reflective statement. This isn’t being arrogant- it is a chance to reflect on what you have done, how you have achieved it but most importantly how you have impacted on colleagues and our profession.

If you haven’t already done so set up an excel sheet or a work file and keep a record of every piece of CPD you do.  Remember CPD isn’t just courses and diplomas or committee work. It can be attending events, writing a blog or projects you have been involved in.

Be sure to read all of the information on the LAI website, if you have questions ask for clarification and assistance.


Read the guidelines on applying for any of the three awards on  the LAI website. This is very important. The submission requirements and the assessment process - double blind peer review - are clearly articulated, as is the timeline you need to allow for assessment (six to eight months).

The Awards
When you have read the guidelines, consider which award to apply for.  There are three: Associateship, Senior Associateship and Fellowship.

The first, Associateship, is for people with a minimum of two-years post qualification experience.
You must be a member of the LAI for at least one year before applying for this award.

The second level of award is Senior Associateship – SALAI. This is a mid-career award for librarians with a minimum of ten years post qualification experience, who hold the ALAI for five years, and have been engaged with the Association for at least five years. However, applicants without the ALAI, who hold over 10 years professional experience can apply for the SALAI for 2022 only, if they apply before 31st October 2022.

The third award is Fellowship – FLAI. This is a senior-level award, for librarians with more than 15 years professional experience, who hold the SALAI for a minimum of five years. However, in the case of librarians who held the ALAI on or before 2016, there is not a requirement to achieve the SALAI, before applying for FLAI.

Applications are made online. For each award you need to complete the relevant application form, and submit the required portfolio and the appropriate fee.  As of March 2021, this is:
Associateship   €50
Senior Associateship €125
Fellowship €150

There are five parts to your application regardless of which award you apply for.
These are: the online application form; your CV; the list of professional development activities you have undertaken; a reflective statement; a record of involvement in the Library Association of Ireland and other cognate bodies. There is also an option to include any other documents you feel are relevant.  For the ALAI you must include a scanned copy of your library qualification

Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Most librarians will have a CV.  Ideally you should update this every year, regardless of whether you are applying for a post. When doing your CV for an award, try to demonstrate the breadth of your library experience and engagement. If, for example, you were applying for a post in Special Collections, the focus of your CV would be on your experience/knowledge in that area. Use broader brush strokes here that demonstrate the totality of your experience.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

The LAI website lists the following as examples of forms of CPD: workshops, seminars, conference, publications, academic qualifications, Internet-based learning, training from industry suppliers, on the job learning, shadowing and job exchanges, professional reading, committee membership, informal networking.
In the case of events attended, include details such as date, location and hosting body.
Many libraries will keep records of staff attendance at events, but you should endeavour to keep an up to date listing yourself.

Record of engagement with the Library Association of Ireland and other cognate bodies
Your membership denotes a level of involvement.  However, it is good if you can illustrate a deeper level of engagement. Perhaps you have you attended the LAI/CILIP conference? Do you follow @LAIonline on twitter? Do you read the open access journal An Leabharlann?   All of these are valid forms of engagement. Of course, you may have done more, such as serve on a committee, written a book or conference review for An Leabharlann or presented a paper or poster. You should also give details of engagement with similar bodies to the LAI, such as CONUL, in the case of the University sector.

Reflective Statement
Each award requires a reflective statement. As stated in the guidelines, this such demonstrate your learning from your CPD and other activities and how this helped you change/develop as a professional. Guidelines on putting together a reflective statement are available on the LAI website and as noted there “a key aspect of reflective practice is that experience along does not necessarily lead to learning but that learning follows from deliberate reflection on such experience.”

In the case of the ALAI, the reflective statement required is 500 words; while the statement for the SALAI is between 500 and 750 words and the statement for FLAI is between 750 and 1,000 words.

Other documentation
It is up to yourself to decide if you wish to include additional documentation. You should have certainly noted awards, publications etc. in the CPD document, but you could choose to scan copies of these, however this is not essential.

Final comments
We found the process challenging, interesting and a learning experience. It gave us time to reflect on our careers to date and to identify @gaps or areas for future learning. It also helped us connect further with our profession and our professional body, which we are both deeply committed to.

Contact details

Helen Fallon  Helen.B.Fallon@mu.ie  / @helenfallon

Jane Burns jane.burns@tus.ie  /@JMBurns99


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