DO IT WHILST YOU CAN: Applying for student awards or bursaries & attend conferences for free…

DO IT WHILST YOU CAN: Applying for student awards or bursaries & attend conferences for free…

Ok, so you are student, super busy with studying and assignments, and not to mention the dissertation looming over you like the sword of Damocles. You may even be a distance learner or part-timer working as well.

OR you might be a new professional… either searching for a job or trying to get to grips with your professional role. Either way, you are busy, don’t have time to apply for these bursaries and you’re not even sure how going to a conference would benefit you?!

Why, oh why, would you think about applying for a bursary to go to a conference?! There conference takes time away from study or work and the application itself… well, who has time to do that?!


Well, reader, take two minutes to read this and see if this can change your mind… I will tell you why you should apply and then how!

Firstly, why you should apply for student/new professional bursaries/awards. Well, simply put, it is well worth it. It looks great on the old CV AND it allows for that all important networking, so people get to know your name and face. This, dear readers, is a serious gold cache in this tough industry where job vacancies have a high number of applicants and standing out from the crowd is very necessary… and a little bit of who you know won’t hurt!

The talks are also typically amazing, some awe-inspiring and you are sure to come away with a suitcase full of ideas! Yes, there might be one or two talks that aren’t your thing or sound, well brutally put, boring, but this is really the minority!

So. On to the applying part.

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Me in the middle (flower dress w/white sleeves) with all the organisers for Cambridge Libraries Conference, Jan 2018.

What credentials do I have to write this blog post? Well, not many granted but I won last year’s LILAC student sponsored place and this year I was lucky enough to win the first student bursary for Cambridge Libraries Conference.

Thing to note: Some conferences just offer students the chance to apply, others open it up to students or those who have just qualified as a professional (typically within 5 years of getting the library/information science qualification). Keep an eye out for the terms & conditions!


How to apply:

  1. Well, firstly, I applied! Seriously important stuff. You have to be in it to win it, as they say.
  2. People get put off by the word count. DON’T! It is always less than 1000 words, but mostly it is about 500 words…and let’s face it we can all bash out a 3,000 word essay thanks to Library School. On the plus side, the fact that only 22 people applied for the LILAC student award last year might work in your favour… giphy (3)
  3. The awards and bursaries come with a very specific set of instructions about what they want you to show in your application. STICK TO IT and make sure you COVER IT ALL THOROUGHLY.
  4. Don’t think you’re not good enough. I am one of the world’s worst culprits for thinking I am not good enough for something, but this is NOT the time for it. APPLY BECAUSE YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. giphy (2)
  5. Always say what you hope to get out of the conference. Is there a particular talk you are interested in? A speaker? What is the theme of the conference?
  6. The above leads me nicely on to this next one: RESEARCH. Do your research. Have a look around the conference webpage. They often have their keynote speakers announced way in advance and more times than not, a suggested programme of talks. Use this in your application to highlight somethings you’d like to attend. And mention why you’re interested in those things.giphy (4)
  7. Use examples. This is a very inarticulate way of my saying illustrate your point. For example, how will this help your work/studies, say that your dissertation is on such and such, or you’re really interested in going into X, Y or Z area… How do you plan to use the information gained at this conference? You can say that you plan to implement the ideas at work, share with colleagues, etc etc etc… A clear plan of action following the conference is always a good thing!
  8. ENTHUSIASM. Do not under estimate the use of adjectives and sheer enthusiasm in the application. It may sound like your application veers into the realms of hyperbole, but the person reading it doesn’t know you and they do not know your enthusiasm for this conference or librarianship. It has to come through your words, so make it happen!
  9. The word count is limited when you consider you’ve got to fit all the above in, so make it succinct, clear and enthusiastic.
  10. Get a friend to read it through. A helpful editor to check for typos and be your enthusiasm-radar.


SO GO AND APPLY! There’s plenty of opportunity out there:

  • LILAC student sponsorship:

CLOSES: 16th Feb 5pm.  (Neat thing to note: I got to write up my interviews with bursary winners in the Journal of Information Literacy another thing to add to the CV/LinkedIn profile!)

CLOSES: 28th Feb 5pm

CLOSES: 28th Feb midnight

And keep an eye out for CILIP’s conference in July in Brighton, where they offer bursaries…

Best of luck with your applications!

Freshers’ Week: The Five Things Every Academic Librarian Will Understand

by Leanne Workman, Information Consultant (Sciences) at Royal Holloway, University of London. @notsospotless 

This weekend the summer vacation lull has been ended by excited new and returning students flooding our campus and bringing it back to life once again. For us librarians at Royal Holloway, University of London, it is an incredibly exciting time as we’re opening our new £50+ million library and getting students’ reactions to the new space! It must be said, however, that during Freshers’ Week it can be hard to get students excited about libraries and the resources available to them!

Whatever it may be called, “Freshers” or “Welcome” week, is something that happens at every university at the start of a new academic year and it does provide an opportune moment to get the library on the students’ radar.

So here is my short guide written with 5 years’ experience of working in academic libraries and facing my 6th Freshers’ Week at Royal Holloway. And truthfully? I am still learning…

1) Meeting students – old and new – is always my favourite part of the job as an academic librarian.

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The start of session is a fun time of year and we have an opportunity to meet hundreds of students. It makes me remember my own Fresher days and then I face the stark realisation that my references are no longer cool and I secretly have to look up what some words used in a conversation mean.(Peng for example. And I am still not quite sure I know the answer…).

Cool or not, academic librarians love to get stuck into Freshers’ Week!

2) Students can find academic libraries intimidating. I was really surprised by this myself, as I love libraries and find them comforting, awesome places, but they do not always inspire these feelings in everyone.

Library anxiety is a recognised issue and has been widely written about, but it is something you can actually see in action on campus, particularly at this time of year. Many, I find, have never used a library in their life before and the size and scale of an academic library can be downright daunting. So you have to be understanding, even if they are in their third year and only just rocking up to the library now. Meeting a friendly, understanding librarian will make all the difference to their experience of the library.

3) Library inductions are a common feature of many a Freshers’ Week and seek to impart key messages about library services (e.g. opening times, how to find books, how to loan books, online resources, etc!) Library inductions, in short, need to be useful and informative. The librarian here has a tough job, as these inductions are often squeezed

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into a tight timetable in a week where students face information-overload at a time of incredible change for them. They’ve probably left home for the first time, realised they don’t know how to cook or do laundry, and they have to get to grips with a whole other level of studying in a truly alien environment. The library services, unsurprisingly, probably come lower down in their priorities.

That said, it doesn’t mean that librarians cannot try to impart this information and there is a myriad of ways librarians have found to make the induction as effective as possible. There are a lot of schools of thought on teaching by librarians (check out the Journal of Information Literacy and the number of articles on library inductions! Also see here for a blog post from UKLibChat on increasing student engagement in library inductions.)

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At Royal Holloway, we try and make library inductions fun with as little text as possible, complete with some humorous images to make it memorable. We use an interactive quizzing tool at the end (Kahoot) to see what they can remember from the talk. There is a chocolate-based award for those scoring highest. This year I will also trial using an augmented reality app called “Aurasma” to get students navigating their way round the library. It is a bit like Pokémon Go and my use of it was inspired by several talks at the LILAC conference this year!

4) Reading Lists – from having worked on the helpdesk and now as an academic liaison librarian, I know that reading lists can be problematic. The first (and main) problem is often getting the list in the first place and therefore having the right books on the shelf. (And between you and me, having the right books on the right shelves is bloomin’ important to students and their studies!)giphy (5)

Academics will often send lists at the last minute no matter how far in advance you ask and remind them. They often think that you can “just use Amazon Prime”, but unfortunately, that really isn’t the case and book orders can take 4-6 weeks to arrive. Most universities are part of a purchasing consortium, which invites suppliers to bid for our business. These bids are then ranked and those in the consortia then must use those suppliers ranked highest.

Many academic libraries use an online reading list system (we use one called Talis Aspire) and this has helped improve transparency to students about what texts the librarians think are on the reading list for that course. Reading lists systems link up to the library catalogue so students can see how many copies of that text the library has or where to access an article. In short, it is quite frankly amazing!

5) You will likely get Freshers’ flu from all the student interaction. It is known.

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Stock up on Lemsip, cough sweets and boxes of tissues now! In the meantime, drink orange juice or sink Vitamin C tablets like there’s no tomorrow.


So here concludes my top five things to know about being a librarian in Higher Education during Freshers’ Week! It is an immensely busy week, but filled with fun, interacting with students and excitement. I love this time of year (though I often need a long lie down after!) I hope I haven’t scared any of you off, and do tweet us if you have any questions @lisnpn as I am happy to help in any way I can.

(All gifs are taken from