ALCTS Launches the Support Staff Travel Award Program

Rhonda J. Marker, Rutgers University

In 2005, ALCTS instituted a new award program, the ALCTS Support Travel Award, a SAGE Publications Staff Development Grant, to be given to full-time library support staff with at least three years experience in an area of technical and collections services who have not previously attended an ALA Annual Conference. The purpose of the award is to provide support staff an opportunity to broaden their perspective and to encourage their professional development.

The response to the award announcement far exceeded our expectations, resulting in 114 applications from library staff who were hoping to attend the 2005 conference in Chicago. The four-person jury (Pamela Bluh, chair; Harriet Lightman; Rhonda Marker; and Dale Swensen) was extremely impressed by the candidates. They are all accomplished in their own libraries, as well as in local and regional professional associations. They also successfully completed a daunting application process that requires a cover letter, resume, a brief essay summarizing the benefits of attending the ALA conference, and a letter of support from the applicant’s supervisor. Each of the support staff who applied for the award, and the supervisors who spoke highly of their contributions, should be commended.

Three outstanding support staff were awarded the grants, which covered conference registration, airfare, and hotel costs of attending the Annual Conference. The first award recipients were Linda Christine (Christie) Ericson, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska; Heidi Jensen, Pioneer Library System, Canandaigua, New York; and Lydia C. Williams, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia. Christie is a copy cataloger for a consortial library who has also worked in the serials department on a serials conversion project. Heidi has responsibilities for collection development, ordering and copy cataloging in a public library system. Lydia has over twenty years of experience in an academic library, most recently with the archival collection and her university’s records management system.

Mentors for the award winners, drawn from the ALCTS Membership Committee, contacted them prior to the conference and helped the first-time conference attendees navigate the complex array of offerings. The mentors and the mentees both enjoyed the experience. One mentor, Sheila Smyth said, “It was a great opportunity to review what I have received from ALA in my service work. I also was able to see for myself my professional growth and all the wonderful people I have met along the way, and one of them is Lydia.” Judith Hopkins spoke of her mentee’s “carefully planned schedule, which was a good one with a nice mix of work and play.” The three mentees spontaneously formed a support network during the conference, noted mentor Natalie Somerville, adding that this should be facilitated among the award winners each year.

Following the success of this first year, SAGE Publications expressed an interest in continuing their sponsorship of the program, and has increased the level of support for the grants so that additional awards can be made this year. ALCTS has established a standing Support Staff Travel Award Jury to review applications and select winners to be announced at the Midwinter Meeting. It is clear that both ALCTS and support staff benefit by their increased participation in our division, and we hope that the Travel Award will encourage more support staff to attend Annual Conference and become more active participants in ALCTS.