Through the generosity of an anonymous donor with a passion for public librarianship, MLA is poised to offer a travel grant for any public librarian or paraprofessional in any type of library with an interest in attending an MLA meeting. The donor specifically indicated that librarians currently working in public libraries have been negatively affected by the recent trend to eliminate subject specialists. Likewise, few paraprofessionals (academic or public) receive professional development support, whether to attend meetings or join organizations. Further, even public librarians and paraprofessionals at institutions with significant or unique music collections may not have the resources to attend an annual meeting.
The Public Libraries Committee recently conducted a survey of 100 public librarians, and 83% indicated lack of involvement with MLA for various reasons including: not being aware of MLA (39%), benefits not applicable to work (36%), lack of institutional support for membership dues (26%), and lack of institutional support for conference attendance (23%). Comparable survey data are not available for paraprofessionals and MLA, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the barriers are similar, if not higher. This award will address two of the reasons 83% of those surveyed are not involved, by providing the possibility of funding that otherwise would not be available for many of these individuals.
With this grant, paraprofessionals and public librarians will have the possibility for greater access to MLA annual meetings, including working with committees and attending presentations. Grant recipients will have the registration fee waived, and travel costs (up to $1,000) covered for the annual meeting. Travel to chapter meetings is not included in this grant. Similar to the Diversity Scholarship, winners will receive a complimentary one-year MLA membership at the regular member level. The current plan is to fund the award so that MLA can paraoffer it to one recipient per year. Over time, more than one librarian/paraprofessional could potentially receive the grant each year.
The fund will be seeded with $25,000 from the anonymous donor and fundraising to reach the endowment of $50,000 will commence in the fiscal year 2018–2019. MLA President Mark McKnight has tasked Development Officer Lindsay Brown, along with Terry Lewis (Chair, Paraprofessional Interest Group) and Kristie Nelsen (Chair, Public Libraries Committee) to lead fundraising efforts. The goal is to have this award fully funded by 30 June 2019.