Entries from the “Build Your Case to Attend MLA '14” Contest
The 2014 National Program Committee held a contest looking for winning strategies that MLA members have used to obtain funding from their institutions or employers for an MLA annual meeting. Two prizes of 500 dollars each were awarded for the most original, interesting, and compelling “asks” for funding.
Congratulations to the winners!
Emily Glenn, Chief Librarian, St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Geetha Sridaran, Assistant Director of Library, Sid E. & Nell K. Williams Library, Life University, Marietta, Georgia,
The funding story that I used actually did focus around building a new space for better services, and happens to align with this year's conference theme! The college had made a great investment in the new library facility, and it has been my pleasure to oversee the move from three separate branches to one central location. It has been inspiring to experience the way the campus community—particularly first-and second-year students—have rallied around the library during the move. During the past few weeks, library users have embraced the new, uncrowded space for group collaboration, quiet study, use of the computer lab, and use of the anatomical models. The move process also provided both an intellectual and physical “boot camp”: there were many conversations about the library’s immediate and future plans, as well as sharing of student’s concerns. Physically, we all muscled through piles of books and furniture to help the library reopen on schedule. Making the case, I suggested that I would flex my intellectual muscles as I learn about the latest trends in library technology, best practices in services, and leadership techniques to support the library team achieving greater competence and confidence. I plan to back many tools that can be used to years to come. This pitch was successful because the administration has the vision that what has been constructed is not just a facility, but a space for intellectual growth that will support the transformation of learning of the school. In my position, I will provide the library services and instruction to make this building this learning center. Support for my attendance at MLA was a natural fit: bring the best know-how to the new space and continuing the construction of services to meet the community’s needs.
Entry 2In tough financial times, obtaining funding to attend conferences is becoming increasingly challenging. My library has a standard request form that everyone fills out, and money is only allocated to those individuals who can demonstrate a clear purpose for attending and can outline the benefit to be gained. I was successful in obtaining funding because I was not just attending to learn from the conference keynotes and sessions. I was serving on the executive board of one of the MLA sections and had responsibilities to perform at our AGM. I was also presenting both a contributed paper based on a project conducted at my library as well as a poster based on the results of a Section project. This evidence of professional involvement on several fronts, as well as the obvious benefits of learning, visiting vendor booths, and networking with other health sciences librarians, led to my successful funding application! I encourage everyone to become active in a section or in sharing results of your work, as it can certainly help you build a case for obtaining support from your library.
Entry 3Proposal for Conference Attendance MLA 2014 “Building our Information Future” May 16 – 21, Chicago
Chicago beckons all health science librarians,
To reckon with deep dish pizza, wind and to meld with Chicagoans
And to harken those who will speak of the future spin
About the construction of information.
There will be continuing education with new topics to grasp
And engaging with colleagues who will share insights that last.
Lectures, seminars and meetings will keep all thinking
From early morning through late evening.
Learning about genetics, exploring clinical trial registers and investigating systematic reviews,
By attending educational presentations, librarians will be learning the latest news.
There will be many posters on display to view
And vendor exhibits where there will be much ballyhoo.
Mired steep in tradition with inspirational, unique renditions,
It would be a shame if attendance doesn’t come to fruition.
It would be a fabulous adventure that behooves librarians to attend
The conference called Building our Information Future, from start to end.
Key Points Outline with Supporting Details: 1. Purpose of Attendance Statement 2. Itemized Budgeted Expenses 3. Conference Dates—Friday, May 16–Wednesday, May 21 4. Flight Itinerary 5. Daily Agenda of Activities 6. Specific Objectives 7. Written Post Summary Upon Return 8. List of Significant Ideas Gained to Contribute
Entry 4Our Libraries Dean started to conduct informal annual meetings with librarians who will undergo a review toward promotion and permanent status. Before the meeting, each librarian was required to send the dean an updated Curriculum Vita (CV). When we met, I was a little bit nervous because I did not know what to expect from this meeting. As we started the informal conversation, the dean quickly melted the ice and said: “Your professional story really hit my heart with the fact that you have something unique to say about yourself and how you bring changes to the workplace.” She was referring to a sentence in my CV where I described my earlier career accomplishments as a museum curator in Europe: “Proposed the museum to replace the old typewriters with a new technology and successfully led the purchase of the museum’s first computer system.” The dean shared her vision about the strength in each individual at the workplace. You have to have a STORY to tell and the success is hidden in the new STORIES you can craft in the community you serve. Three years before that meeting, I was able to implement a new program to support and archive undergraduate research and the dean saw a continuum in my efforts over the years to create new stories that enhance someone’s academic life. During the conversation, it was evident that I needed more financial support to attend face-to-face workshops due to the fact that I am the subject librarian for two completely different subject areas. Both subject areas require attending different conferences. In addition to my subject obligations, I am dealing with the inconvenience of a hearing loss. The dean was impressed by my lip-reading skills and acknowledged that online courses/webinars are not accessible to me. She encouraged my professional development by approving extra funds to attend conferences and training sessions in person. Being able to share a unique story with the campus community, gave me the key to funding another conference attendance this year.
Entry 5I would like to attend the MLA conference in Chicago because I wrote a research paper on expert systems in December 2013. These artificial intelligence systems can be used to assist clinical medical professionals find research and pinpoint diagnoses much more efficiently. Many medical databases and journals are branching out into expert systems that make decisions to search a certain topic or find solutions to multiple clinical choices and best practices. I want to teach the clinical medical staff here how to research more efficiently for journal articles online and how to use research portals to improve patient outcomes at this medical center. Customer service in the patient-doctor interface is a gap that needs to be addressed, and patient education can be achieved by expert systems that provide the best, most current guidance to patients. We rely on electronic resources because of budget cuts, so sifting through the thousands of electronic books, millions of journals, billions of electronic resources and CEUs will be of assistance to busy clinical medical staff. Like the folk song, Where have all the librarians gone, gone online every one......When will they ever learn? In our network, 45 years ago, there were 360 librarians, now librarians in our network number perhaps less than 100. Yet, online information is growing more complex and expert systems need to be understood by medical librarians who can teach clinical medical staff the how, where, when, what , and why of online research.
Entry 6Though this may not work for everyone, it worked for me. My boss, the chief of education, had lost his administrative assistant. He had asked me if I would be willing to take on her job until the position was filled. I was a hospital librarian with a technician (library clerk) so if I took on the job, the library would not be unattended. I agreed in the interest of being a team player. I spent part of my day doing AA type things and the rest of the day being the librarian for a few months. I learned a lot—this was the time when I learned how to use Microsoft Excel in order to create spreadsheets for him. I also learned a lot about the workings of the hospital from the education point of view which helped me in knowing how to serve our staff better. My boss was the person who decided what travel would be funded and because he was grateful for my help, he funded my attendance at MLA. I had never been able to get funding before but once it was funded the first time, that set a precedent and I was able to get funding for several years after that. I'm no longer at the facility and funding is tighter now where I am so I don't always get total funding now but usually get at least partial funding. I learned that being a team player and being willing to help out where I was needed canprovide unexpected dividends. I certainly did not expect to get funding for MLA as a result of taking on the AA responsibilities.
The objective criteria for securing funding include understanding the sources of funding, identifying the channels of power at your institutions, and articulating benefits to the institution. But the most important step is building genuine relationships. In my request to attend MLA 2012 I very clearly listed the benefits for the institution:
1. I will be the first librarian ever to attend MLA annual meeting from my university
2. I will be meeting other Chiropractic School Librarians
3. I will be participating in the Chiropractic section meeting
4. I will be looking for ideas to improve services at our library
5. I will be looking for new/innovative resources for efficiency and cost saving
Essentially, the institution should believe that rather than sunk cost, your attendance will be an investment in the institution that will bring greater returns. You can rightfully assume you will bring back useful information such as cutting costs for services you already have in place, putting your institution in forefront of a new innovation, and establishing relationships with key people in the field. Sharing all of this with your institution through an organized presentation upon your return is a good way to build continuity and secure future funding for similar requests. Other ways to strengthen your funding request is to serve on MLA committees, give a presentation, and publicize your institution. In a sense, I began the process for securing funding to attend MLA years before the conference by establishing key relationships within the institution and surrounding community. One of the most significant experiences I have had with this previously was establishing a community outreach program at our university through National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. This required me to understand the program guidelines established by National Network of Libraries of medicine (NNLM), seek out the support of colleagues and administrators, and reach out to community members to assess the need and interest. After that, applying the objective criteria in securing funds for conference attendance became a much simpler process because I had built trust, shown initiative, and produced results.
I was able to attend my first MLA annual meeting because I was involved in an MLA-funded project being presented. Looking for opportunities to get involved in research, projects, or even MLA itself is a great way to make the case for funding. I have always found it much easier to attend a meeting if I am presenting or if my involvement in the organization requires my presence. Employers, even with limited funding available, appreciate having the profile of their organization raised and being involved and presenting help you do this. So my bottom line—getting involved gets funding.