Applying for LIS Bursaries & Awards

Application by is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

As a student or library assistant and during the first few years of working as a professional it can be difficult to gain the kind of exposure and recognition that you need to kick-start your LIS career. Unless you are attached to an institution which is flexible, progressive in its approach to employee CPD and very well staffed and resourced, attending or travelling to some of the bigger LIS conferences can be very difficult to organise and fund. Bursaries and awards offer a fantastic solution to this problem – many national and international library associations and committees offer some version of an ‘early career award’ or an annual bursary which will cover much of the costs of travel and/or attendance and provide you with exciting opportunities for networking, mentorship, and learning on a scale which would be impossible to finance on your own.

Having said that, winning bursaries is no easy feat – competition can be high and you have to find ways to make your application stand out from the hundreds and sometimes thousands received by judging panels for prestigious awards. With that in mind and due to requests, the CDG has put together a few resources for those keen to try applying for a bursary (with a little help from our friends!)

Below you will find a list of bursaries that come up every year open to Irish Library staff, followed by the experiences of a few lucky souls who have applied for and won bursaries, what they gained from applying, and their tips & advice for winning.* There are further links to useful resources at the end.

Let us know if we’ve missed any!

Bursaries and Awards


A&SL National & International Conference Bursaries

ANLTC Awards (Research Award & Library Assistant Award)

Bernard Barrett Bursary (HSLG)

BIALL Bursary

Cataloguing and Metadata Group Bursary (LAI)

CILIP Ireland Student Bursaries


CILIP Grants and Bursaries

IFLA Congress Fellowship Grant

John Merriman Joint NASIG/UKSG Award

LILAC Conference bursaries


Genevieve Larkin, CDG Secretary and Assistant Librarian at the Marino Institute of Education


gen-profile-picLast year I started making a concerted effort to apply for bursaries. Not only do they offer library professionals opportunities to attend huge international conferences where you can meet and listen to influential LIS leaders and see first-hand the range and diversity of issues affecting libraries globally, but the application process itself is a kind of self-imposed continuing professional development activity which encourages reflection on your career to date and where you want to be in the future. You will often have to revise your CV, write personal statements, or ask for academic or professional references. All of this information gathering and structuring is hard work, but if you see it as an ongoing part of your CPD, then none of it is wasted, even if your application is unsuccessful. It’s also good practice if you’re thinking about applying for an ALAI or chartering through CILIP, and the material can be re-used as interview preparation.

Some bursary application processes are akin to applying for a job. I’ve spent a month writing and re-drafting an application for an SLA ECCA  – the competition for these awards is so high and the prizes so staggeringly good that I felt that amount of preparation was necessary. I also spent a decent amount of time applying for an IFLA 2016 Congress Fellowship Grant which could have brought me to Ohio – but alas they were unsuccessful. The IFLA received over 3,300 applications from librarians and information professionals in 161 countries – which took the sting out of not winning!

I was delighted to be awarded a bursary (along with another winner) from the generous A&SL Committee to attend LILAC 2015 run by CILIP’s active Information Literacy Group, and was held in UCD in March 2016.

For my application, I had to write 500 words on why I wanted to attend and how it would support my professional development. I outlined challenges and opportunities that I faced in designing information literacy instruction in my workplace and listed the ways that I would benefit from a deeper understanding of best practice in teaching and learning in Libraries across the UK and elsewhere.

Grace Hillis, CDG committee member and librarian, Daugters of Charity Disability Support Services (@graceih):

grace-hillisWhen I first started working as a Health Sciences Librarian, EAHIL was in Dublin. EAHIL is the European Association for Health Information and Libraries. Our own HSLG group, part of the LAI, had successfully bid for the EAHIL Conference to be held in Ireland. Aside from the fact that we and our European and international colleagues got to enjoy amazing weather, this was my first opportunity to engage with fellow health librarians on a large scale. It was on for 3 days, in City Hall and included a dinner and dancing in the Mansion House! I went to loads of talks and looked at wonderful posters. I learned then the value of attending conferences – you pick up so many useful tips from your fellow librarians. Among the most memorable ones for me were:

  • to set up email signatures for journal alerts if you send them out
  • to remember to include a table of contents in your newsletters
  • to put things in the body of an email instead of an attachment where possible (paste an article abstract in the body of an email)
  • to have an elevator pitch ready
  • to get out of the library and join committees in your organisation
  • to make the library’s goals reflect the organisation’s goals

Conferences also allow us to meet representatives of organisations looking for our business, e.g. database vendors and book sellers. Talking to them can be awkward at first, but rewarding as sometimes they generously have prizes on offer. I was fortunate to win a bottle of champagne from one stand at a HSLG conference, and to win a meal for two at another conference!

Attending conferences costs money, and while sometimes I’m comfortable putting in a request to go to my line-manager I have also at times paid myself and on one occasion I applied to the HSLG for a bursary. They had advertised it on the HSLG ListServ and I thought I would give it a shot. I had to apply in good time and fill in a form asking me what I expect to gain by attending. As it is several years ago now I don’t remember what I wrote, but I can say that meeting librarians at conferences sends me home with fresh ideas and renewed motivation. It helps to strengthen our network as we put faces to the names we see so often on email, it allows us to mix with colleagues who have been librarians for a long time and those just starting, and those who do not call themselves librarians at all, but perhaps Information Managers.

The conference also gave me the opportunity to share something I was involved with, in the form of a 5 minute lightening presentation. It’s always good to get public speaking experience, right?! I talked about a community book club we run in my workplace for people with intellectual disability. Another one also gave me the chance, just recently, to do a poster presentation.

I received a HSLG bursary the year I applied. A condition of receipt was that I had to write about the conference for the HSLG’s e-newsletter, HINT. This was a useful opportunity to reflect on the two days in Athlone, and gain some valuable writing practice, and I’ve had a few other things published in HINT since.

Information on applying for a HSLG bursary may be found here:

Looking forward to sharing ideas with you at the next conference!

Celine Campbell, Subject Librarian for Nursing, Dublin City University (@CelineCamp88)

celine-campbell-2I applied for the A&SL bursary at the end of October 2015. I quickly got a reply saying that I would hear back in early December. I decided to apply for the bursary because I was eager to attend this particular conference as I heard from people the previous year that it was extremely worthwhile. I followed the A&SL 2015 conference remotely but I felt that I would learn more if I actually attended. I was particularly interested in the theme of the conference too.

The application form was fairly short but filling it in took longer than anticipated. I was eager to convey what I could do for the actual conference (write a review, Tweet during the conference) rather than place an emphasis on what I would actually learn at it. I also asked a friend to have a look over it to ensure that there were no major spelling/grammatical errors. Like a CV I would advise anyone applying for a bursary to do the same.

The conference itself was brilliant. I really enjoyed the networking sessions as I could catch up with old colleagues and I make a conscious effort to speak to new people. Everyone was really friendly so that made networking really easy. The talks were excellent and were so diverse that it was really difficult to decide on what talk to attend.

I knew I would be asked to write a review of the conference so during the two days I took notes whenever possible. It wasn’t difficult though to pay attention because the talks overall were extremely interesting and practical. The other bursary winner, Saoirse Reynolds, and I are currently working on a review of the conference. We have communicated via email but it really helped that I knew Saoirse before the actual conference- we worked together in Maynooth University I think it would be slightly more difficult/awkward to do it with someone I had never met before.

The whole experience was really worthwhile and I would advise anyone to apply for a bursary for many reasons. It looks great on your CV and it’s also excellent for anyone who’s unemployed and can’t afford to attend or anyone who works in a library with little or no budget to attend such conferences.

*The following are thanks to Shona Thoma (@shinyshona) who collated information from librarians in Ireland who were successful in their applications for awards and bursaries:

Award/Bursary name: Career Advancement Award

Awarding organisation: Leadership and Management Division of the Special Libraries Association

Award consisted of: Special Libraries Association Conference which included Flights and Accommodation to the value of 1,500 and registration to the conference.

Date awarded/fulfilled: Applied Feb 2016 Awarded in April 2016

Your tip/advice for anyone applying: 

Research the association or the particular division you are applying to. Know their goal/mission statement. Then build your application in a new format, one that stands out and that meets all the particulars of that group/division.

Siobhan McGuinness


Award/Bursary name: John Merriman Award

Awarding organisation: UKSG and NASIG

Award consisted of: Fully funded attendance at the UKSG Conference and Exhibition, travel costs on completion of an editorial for UKSG Insights, and funding to attend the NASIG Conference and Exhibition in America.

Date awarded/fulfilled: Applied February 2016, award comprised of events in April and June 2016

Your tip/advice for anyone applying: 

As soon as it even crosses your mind that you might apply, tell someone!

For this award and many others, you will be required to provide a written reference from an employer or someone who knows you in a professional capacity. Talking about the possibility of applying for an award has several advantages. It means you will be more likely to stick to your goal of submitting the application. Your chosen colleague or mentor can provide you with help and advice. If this person is your reference, it gives them time to write this part of the application and check with you about the submission guidelines. If the award or bursary is going to involve being away from work for a while, it’s a good idea to discuss this too.

Shona Thoma


 Award/Bursary name: A&SL National and International Library Conference & Bursary Scheme

Awarding organisation: Academic & Special Libraries Group, Library Association of Ireland

Award consisted of: Funding for a trip to the OpenRepositories Conference in Indianapolis 2015.

Date awarded/fulfilled: June 2015

Your tip/advice for anyone applying:

Just do it.

I have often procrastinated about applying for bursaries. Generally I would have two major doubts – firstly that my idea might not be very good and secondly that every other application would be fantastic.

You can spend ages worrying about both of these things but the best thing is just to get an application down on paper. Once you have a first draft you can revise and improve it. As to the second point I now know that from speaking to people involved in granting different bursaries that a common problem they encounter is a low level of applicants – so if you get an application in you are in with a decent chance!

Finally I would say to people to be ambitious. The conference I wanted to attend was in the States and I thought that I was chancing my arm a little. At the time I worked in a library which generously supported CPD and conference attendance but which wouldn’t stretch to fully fund a trip like this. In hindsight I think the fact that it was a conference I would have struggled to get funding for from elsewhere probably helped my case.

Padraic Stack


Award/Bursary name: UKSG Sponsored Conference Places for Students and Early Career Professionals (I got the student one)

Awarding organisation: UKSG

Award consisted of: The award covers the cost of attendance at the conference, including all meals, entertainment and accommodation. Travel expenses up to £300 will also be refunded on presentation of a report.

Date: March 2015

Your tip/advice for anyone applying:

When answering the questionnaire emphasise how the conference will be of benefit to you e.g. if you are a student emphasise how the content of the conference would be of interest to you as you are studying a certain aspect and specifically name the sessions you are interested in attending – this shows that you have read over the conference programme and know what is coming up.

Saoirse Reynolds


Both Shona and Saoirse have been recipients of the A&SL “first timers” bursary in the past. They echo Padraic’s advice of “Just do it”, you never know where it might lead…thoma

More advice is available at the following links:

Applying for the SLA Europe ECCA by @pennyb

CILIP Grants & Bursaries

CONUL ANLTC Library Assistant Award 2016 by Kathryn Smith on LibFocus

LAI events page: Updated list of upcoming events & conferences for the Library Association of Ireland

NLPN’s Top Tips: Bursaries: Great advice on applying for bursaries from the New Library Professionals Network (UK)

NPD Ireland often feature advice on career development and upcoming events for new Info Professionals in Ireland.


Lead to Succeed: envisioning leadership in Irish libraries

Following on from Tuesday’s keynote recap, our second post below on Lead to Succeed: a vision for Irish libraries on Friday the 14th October in the RCSI is written by Committee member Andrew Moore and describes the remaining three speakers urging the Irish Library community to embrace leadership in all its forms. 

Speakers included Siobhán McGuinness, John Lonergan, Kate Kelly (RCSI), Hugh Murphy (NUIM) & Marie O’Neill (DBS).

siobhanmcguinness-3After a short break…Siobhán McGuinness gave her presentation entitled “Learning and developing leadership: opportunities, influence and motivation.” Siobhán gave real world examples of how she has forged a professional profile winning national library awards in career development. She stressed the importance of being “bold and brave” at the level of new, and mid-level management positions, within libraries. She then gave evidence of her recent achievements winning a prestigious award in career development, the Career Advancement Award from the SLA (Special libraries association) Leader and Management Division. Despite a temporary setback in her career, she has continued to liaise with her professional network; by having a library mentor, being involved on committees and teams, attending conferences, having a lively website, as well as blogging and tweeting about events. It is abundantly clear that Siobhán fully understands how to actively promote yourself as an important voice in the library profession. She gave sound advice:

 “No matter what your rank – we are all leaders”

and recommended that all junior library staff should break the mould of what a librarian is, or should be: turn your obstacles into opportunities, exert influence, set challenges and deadlines. That Siobhan had achieved all these things, and more, made her advice prescient, she clearly knew what she was talking about.
Hugh Murphy, Senior librarian at NUI Maynooth then followed with his talk entitled “Leaders, managers and power mongers.” Hugh delivered his talk with great humour as well as providing some food for thought regarding theories of leadership in libraries. He began by showing that culturally and professionally we have a problem with the term ‘power’ in Ireland. Historically a “Great Power” suggests colonialisation, invasion, occupation, and culturally it suggests exerting pressure on the weak by the ‘powerful’. Power is therefore ‘bad’ in cultural terms, and as a profession, librarians are prone to shy away from power.
Hugh stated that very few people are born leaders, and that he himself was wary of becoming one, but after attending a “Future Leaders” course he learnt about it in detail. He now leads a team of over 25 members of staff. He then gave examples of some negative aspects associated with leadership: ‘Role blur’ (information overload); ‘Energy theft’ (when a negative comment can deflate a meeting); and Gender politics and power. He then went on to describe one of the key skills of being a leader, the ability to be ‘self-reflective’ as well as to demonstrate ‘capacity and view’ and show empathy. He characterised librarianship as not being a ruthless work environment, in comparison to being a lawyer. He however countered this by asking if consensual management is any good if something goes wrong, and that therefore, leadership is a vital component of effective management.
marieoneill-1The ever engaging Marie O’Neill, Director of DBS Library, ended the day’s talks with a lively session which really made us all question our roles as leaders, and if we were doing enough to show leadership in libraries. In her talk  “Developing a leadership style and brand,” Marie discussed some of the problems of library training;  and that there is no recognised framework for the education of library leaders in Ireland. She asked those present the provocative question:

“Do we fully embrace leadership?”

Marie then went on to point out how our profession is detrimentally associated with the anachronistic image of introverted, shy & retiring type; a ‘cat-loving-cardigan-wearing’ librarian stereotype! She questioned if we are doing enough to break this association. She then gave an impassioned call for greater self-motivation, as librarians too often are satisfied with “generic management approaches,” and are anonymous in terms of political lobbying. She added that the library profession is doing too little too late, with closures and mergers in Ireland and the UK, and that although CILIP has issued an “Impact Toolkit” to help us counter these threats, the “horse may already have bolted.” She concluded by admonishing librarians for not putting our heads above the parapet, as we are not taught to be adversarial – and recommended that we begin developing leadership in Irish libraries by having a debating competition and debating cup!

Lead to Succeed: a vision for Irish libraries

Need an inspiring library event to ease you into Autumn? The CDG is proud to present this year’s seminar/AGM in association with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Library – Lead to Succeed: a vision for Irish libraries.

This half-day seminar will focus on sharing experience and knowledge in Irish libraries with a focus on leadership in times of change. It will be opened by keynote speaker Mr. John Lonergan (former Governor of Mountjoy Prison) who speaks passionately on social-justice issues, the importance of maintaining a work-life balance and community-building within your organisation. We’re also excited to announce speakers from four different Irish libraries and further details will be released here over the next few weeks.

When: Friday 14th October 2016 9.30am – 4pm

Where: RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), 123 Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin

Lunch will be provided and you’re welcome to head off after or stay on for the LAI CDG AGM 2016 with reports by committee officers on a busy year of events and activities as well as our plans for the future, and of course our ritual networking in the local pub!

Get your tickets now so you’re not disappointed!

Lead to Succeed: a vision for Irish libraries/CDG AGM 2016

€12 for students/unwaged
€20 for LAI members
€30 for non-LAI members
(plus booking fee)


CDG talk at LAI/CILIP conference 2013 – Part One

On Wednesday 10th of April Croke Park Conference Centre, the Library Association of Ireland, Career Development Group got together to organise an event for Professionals in work and how to enhance or renew their skills. In addition advice was given to guide Professionals that have recently been out of work along with the emergence of New Professionals into the world of Librarianship.

screenshot start preziTwo of the committee leaders Giada and Daniel were our speakers for today. Giada led the conversation with a very engaging Prezi presentation, where she gave a background to the establishment of the CDG which was something that amazed me; the group really have only begun to emerge in the last 12 months! My perception was this was a long established committee, so I was very eager to see their plans for the future.

Giada and co, have many ambitions for the group one aspect is to embed a job’s forum within the LAI’s website, and to work in conjunction with employers in order to establish another platform to seek us as potential employee’s.
This is a positive ambition of the committee as the establishment of has given me and my fellow classmates from SILS in UCD a lot of hope and encouragement for the future.

In addition future ambitions include the “libcamp”. I had not heard of the English version, however as Giada illustrated the event seems very engaging, the day is very informal, a topic is chosen beforehand within a group with similar ideas and you “pitch” this topic/idea to the floor! It sounds delightful, as there are so many issues surrounding our profession that you don’t always get the time to engage in debate, or even find people with similar or contrasting ideas. I am really looking forward to this event and I hope I can be a part of it!

screenshot prezi 2

Giada’s presentation then focused on Professionals within work, and she had a positive message. “Learn, Go, And Do”! This message would be a great workshop for any library to engage in. Libraries today are facing many restrictions, however if you brought this plan into your institution you can change the outlook within the Profession and view these challenges as road block you need to divert from not stop at!

The procedures in which Giada outlined is to constantly keep up-to-date with the issues/topics/challenges surrounding you and your position. Get involved with the many debates that are being held via social networking. Personally I find Twitter an essential tool, even if your knowledge of the topic is sparse you still gain a lot from these conversations. I do take part in the Irish Libchat (#irelibchat) and it is great as you may not know these people but you build an online rapport with them. This is extremely beneficial when you attend conferences as this connection is already well established and you have found the links you need to help you within the issues and challenges facing you.

coloured buttonsAnother way to build your network is through Mailing lists and Newsletters; these illustrate the current issues and challenges facing this Profession. The people established within the various institutions need to engage with these issues in order to find solutions. So build up your social network, engage with the debates at conferences and keep up-to-date with issues and challenges, it is the only way to find solutions to the many problems facing Library and Information Studies!

This model Giada created is what she adopted as Professional Activism which is very true. The Professionals that are in the Professions need to renew their skills at a time when this profession is being threatened, and engage in dialogue with their colleagues from various institutions nationwide and worldwide to see how these have managed and used these challenges to be more effective for their community.

by Siobhan McGuinness
(Masters Student in the school of Library and Information Studies UCD)

Part Two coming soon… 🙂