One of the things that make me most proud to be a member of ACRL is that we care about our own and we try to help them succeed professionally. One of the ways our association does that is by providing scholarships to academic librarians so they can attend our biennial ACRL Conference. In 2013, ACRL provided 75 scholarships for deserving individuals. The challenge is that there were over 250 applications for the scholarships, so too many of our colleagues could not receive the assistance that can make the difference between attending or staying home. We can do better — and we will.
In conjunction with ACRL’s 75th Anniversary, our association leadership has announced the Kick Start the Future Campaign. According to the official fundraising website for the 75th Anniversary celebration, ACRL seeks to raise $50,000 by December 31, 2014, to provide 75 additional scholarships for these members to attend the conference to be held March 25-28, 2015, in Portland, Oregon. Members have already raised more than $33,000 during the advance phase of the campaign. This is great progress but we still have a long way to go to reach the goal over the next few months. The good news is that our ACRL division-level committees and Communities of Practice groups have made commitments and begun to raise funds for named scholarships.
As chair of the Kick Start the Future Campaign, I am encouraging every ACRL member to take this opportunity to give back to the association and profession by making a personal contribution — or joining with others for a group donation — that will enable a deserving colleague, whether it is an early career academic librarian, support staff or library school students, to experience ACRL 2015. To further encourage and inspire you to make this commitment I wanted to bring your attention to two donors worthy of recognition for achieving a distinguished “first” as a contributor to the campaign.
Stephanie Davis-Kahl, the Scholarly Communications Librarian and Associate Professor at the Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University was the first ACRL member to submit a donation during the public phase of the campaign and is also contributing to the College & Research Libraries Editorial Board named scholarship. Flora Shrode, the Government Documents Librarian and Subject Librarian for Sciences at the Merrill-Casier Library at Utah State University, was the first ACRL member to submit a donation as part of a section (STS) named scholarship contribution. I’d like to share some insights from Stephanie and Flora on why they were eager to make a pledge.
Why did you decide to contribute to the campaign?
Stephanie: Last year was a banner year for me professionally, and when you have those good moments in your career, you definitely stop and think about the people who supported you at the beginning of your career and throughout. Colleagues at my previous positions at the University of Southern California and the University of California – Irvine, played a huge role in encouraging me to attend ACRL and, more importantly, showed me through their own involvement that ACRL was a wise investment. As I became more engaged with ACRL committees and task forces, ACRL members helped me find role models and connected me to a larger community of colleagues, peers and friends. So when the campaign started, I couldn’t not give back. ACRL has been my professional home, and my hope is that new librarians will find their professional home in ACRL as well.
Flora: I gave money to the ACRL Kick Start the Future Campaign because involvement with the ACRL Science & Technology Section (STS) and attendance at ACRL conferences have been among my most rewarding professional activities over the years. The ACRL conference’s size and themes are both more manageable and relevant to my work as an academic librarian than the larger ALA meetings, although I attend those too in order to fulfill committee membership and chairperson duties (which have mostly been with ACRL STS). This is my 25th year in the profession, and I’m celebrating that by donating to scholarship and other career development funds.
What are your aspirations for the members who get these scholarships to the 2015 conference?
Stephanie: Learn and participate! Attend sessions outside of your usual work to broaden your horizons and get a new perspective, go to the reception to meet new colleagues, and ask questions – especially ask questions!
Flora: I hope that scholarship recipients find ACRL to be a valuable organization to belong to and that the conferences enable them to learn from other librarians’ ideas, research, and programs. Some of the most meaningful personal relationships within librarianship that I’ve formed over the years have resulted from chance meetings, conversations, and follow-up contacts after ACRL events. I wish for scholarship recipients to have similarly positive experiences.
What would you say to other members to encourage them to contribute to the campaign?
Stephanie: There’s power in participation – contributing to this campaign in the short-term helps one person attend, but long-term, we will all gain from sharing our expertise and knowledge with one another. Whether we each give a little or a lot, it’s helping our new librarians become our colleagues and leaders.
Flora: If many of us give a little money, we can develop a fund that will go a long way to assist people who may not have the financial means to pay their own way to conferences like ACRL and/or whose employers’ budgets cannot support many professional development opportunities. I would ask STS members to consider the benefits they have enjoyed from participating in the section, and I’d remind them that a way to give back is to donate to the scholarship fund so that others may benefit as well.
Thank you Stephanie and Flora for sharing your stories and inspiring others. I hope it will encourage them to join in and support the campaign. For more information on how to do that, see ACRL’s Kick Start the Future FAQ.
– Steven J. Bell is ACRL 75th Anniversary Campaign Chair