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Session Notes: Think You Can’t Afford to Attend a Conference? Think Again!

This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Lisa Underwood
Lisa Underwood

 

by Lisa Underwood,
Youth Services Director, Lower Macungie Library

After spending nearly two decades working in various library paraprofessional positions, I finally earned my Master of Science in Library Science in May 2015.  Like most new graduates, securing my first professional librarian position was my top priority after graduate school.  My first year as the Youth Services Director at the Lower Macungie Library was a whirlwind of activity as I worked hard to best serve my library and community.  After the dust settled on my first year, I knew it was time to set a new professional goal for myself: attending a professional conference.

The Pennsylvania Library Association’s annual conference was an obvious choice for my first conference.  Not only did the conference offer a number of interesting session topics (many specifically geared for Youth Services librarians), but it also provided an excellent opportunity for me to network with other librarians from Pennsylvania.  I eagerly read the conference brochure when it arrived, highlighting which sessions would be most beneficial.  However, the library’s budget was only able to support sending our Director and Assistant Director to the conference.

On a whim, I visited the Pennsylvania Library Association’s webpage, and learned that a scholarship opportunity funded by Boyds Mill Press was available to Youth Services librarians attending the conference for the first time.  The application process was straightforward.  In addition to my contact information, I wrote a personal statement explaining how conference attendance would benefit me professionally.  My director also needed to submit a statement, which she readily provided.  In mid-September, I learned that I was selected to receive one of three Boyds Mill Press scholarships, in the amount of $500.

While I was thrilled to receive the scholarship, the award only covered a portion of the total cost to attend the conference.  I had read about Professional Development grant opportunities available through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and quickly began to prepare an application through my library.  The grant application was more detailed than the scholarship application; however, it was not difficult to apply.

Although notification of approval for funding arrived several weeks after I returned home from the annual conference, I am happy to report that I was able to attend the conference with no cost to either myself or my library.  Many libraries or librarians dismiss the idea of conference attendance because it is not included in the library’s budget.  However, with a little bit of extra paperwork, it is very possible to secure funding for the majority of your professional development.

Aside from learning about the funding opportunities that exist, I was able to take home several great ideas from the annual conference.

  • My first session, Supporting the Social Emotional Development of Young Children, provided excellent resources and information for any professional working with young children. Presenter Brandy Fox (PA Project LAUNCH Coordinator) presented an in-depth look at early childhood brain development and the role libraries play in supporting healthy growth.
  • Librarians from the Middletown Free Library presented an excellent overview of their Techni-Gals STEAM program, and gave examples of how libraries can implement similar programs.
  • Rebecca Smiley’s The Amazing Library Race was the most fun, hands-on session at the conference, and I am looking forward to offering her wild and wacky tour of the Dewey Decimal System to families at my library this summer.
  • Reaching for the Stars: How to Become a Recognized PA Forward Star Library presented an overview of why Pennsylvania libraries should utilize a branding system when supporting the five PA Forward Literacies in library programming. I have already begun implementing some of the core actions in my program planning and marketing.  Prior to this session, I was not aware of the resources available to librarians on the PA Forward webpage.  Run – don’t walk – to check out the program ideas available at the PA Forward Commons (http://www.palibraries.org/page/PaFwdCommons)!
  • Paula Gilbert and Margie Stern outlined a great framework in Take the Old and Make It New – Using PA Forward to Rebrand Your Youth Services Programs. Using both PA One Book Every Young Child and the 2017 Collaborative Summer Reading theme, participants in the session brainstormed programming ideas which could tie into each of the five PA Forward literacies.  I left feeling energized and ready to plan for a new year of programming!

In addition to learning within the sessions, I was able to meet so many librarians from around Pennsylvania.  I look forward to continuing idea exchanges online, and hope to reconnect at future conferences.  Attending my first professional conference was an overwhelmingly positive experience for both me and my library.  I hope the tips I have shared will help someone else attend an annual conference for the first time!

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