23:1 (2008:03) Profiles: Awards & Recognition

February 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Posted in Awards & Recognition, Profiles | Leave a comment


Susan Davis, Profiles Editor

The Awards & Recognition Committee began life as the Student Grant Committee in 1987, when we only offered conference grants to library school students. The name changed in 1996 when NASIG added the Horizon Award and began investigating additional awards.  The committee was also given responsibility for the recognition gifts presented at each conference starting in 1997.  A&R was last profiled as this transition was taking place, so it seemed like an update was quite overdue!

I asked current co-chairs Clint Chamberlain and Patrick Carr to share some insights about the committee’s activities.

Susan: What does the committee do?

Clint/Patrick: The committee currently administers these awards (beginning dates in parentheses)

•    Conference student grants (1987)
•    Horizon Award (1997)
•    Fritz Schwartz Serials Education Scholarship (1998)
•    Marcia Tuttle International Award (1999)
•    Conference Mexican student grant (actually began in 2001 under the auspices of the Continuing Education Committee and was transferred to A&R in 2003/04)
•    NASIG Champion (2005, awarded every 5 years)
•    Serials Specialist  (2006)

Some of the key activities the committee engages in to accomplish its charge are:

•    Promoting the awards, via discussion lists and the NASIG website, as well as contacting ALA-accredited library schools and other organizations (e.g., IFLA) to ask their help in spreading the word
•    Reviewing applications and selecting recipients for each award
•    Arranging travel, conference registration, etc., for each of the recipients
•    Arranging for plaques to be presented to award winners, as well as recognition gifts for outgoing chairs, board members, and president
•    Surveying the recipients for their experiences
•    Reporting to the board and general membership

Susan: How do you organize the committee’s work? Does everyone participate in reviewing applications for all the awards, for example?

Clint/Patrick: Everyone participates in reviewing applications for the awards, except for the Mexican Student Grant, which is handled a bit differently (see below).  Everyone also participates in contacting library schools; those are divided up among committee members so that each person contacts just a handful.  We also divide up relevant listservs so that again each of us is responsible for posting the award announcements to just a few.

Other duties are given to specific individuals.  For example, Carol Ficken has been handling the travel arrangements for award winners for the past couple of years, while Marcella Lesher has been updating the list of library school contacts.  We try to pair newer committee members with ones who have been on the committee so that the more established members can show the newer members the ropes.  This year, for example, Chris Brady has been paired with Carol so that he can learn how she handles the travel arrangements.

Susan: How do you determine how many awards will be given in a year?

Clint/Patrick: It pretty much all comes down to how much money is in our budget.  Last year we were able to give an additional Student Grant because we didn’t have any applicants for another of the award categories.

Susan: Describe how the applications are reviewed, and the criteria for selecting the award winners.

Clint/Patrick: The review of the applications begins immediately after the deadline (which this year is in mid-February).  The chairs “blind” copies of the applications by removing the applicants’ names and other sorts of identifying information.  These copies are then made available to all the members of the committee.  The members do an initial ranking of the applicants based on criteria such as academic background, professional goals, their statements about why they want to attend the conference, their references, and other information from the applications, though criteria vary depending upon the type of award.  Members then send their results to the co-chairs, who compile the results and return them to the committee.  The applicants with the highest overall scores are offered awards.

Susan: The Mexican Student Grant award is handled a bit differently than the other awards.  Could you describe that process?

Clint/Patrick: Currently committee member Alan Diehlmann acts as liaison between A&R and the judge for the Mexican Student Grant.  He sends all of the promotional material, etc., to his contacts in Mexico.  Applicants for the award submit their applications and supporting materials, including letters of recommendation from a professor and from the director of their school or program, to a contact at AMBAC, Mexico’s oldest library association.  Three judges then evaluate the applications, select a winner, and inform Alan.  The winner then has to go through the process of applying for a travel visa, which we do our best to facilitate.

Susan: How do new awards get established?

Clint/Patrick: The establishment of a new award is ultimately a decision made by the NASIG Board. The board’s decision might be the result of a variety of factors, including funding and the identification of a segment of the serials community in need of support and recognition. For example, the most recently created NASIG award, the Serials Specialist award, was established in 2006 to reflect the outstanding contributions that paraprofessionals make within the serials field.

Susan: What sorts of benefits/experiences are award winners hoping to gain from attending the NASIG conference?

Clint/Patrick: Winners most often say that they hope to interact with those of us who are more experienced in the field.  Of course, they also look forward to learning from the many fine presentations at the conference.

Susan: What benefits does NASIG gain by offering these awards?

Clint/Patrick: There are a variety of benefits to NASIG.  One benefit is that some of the awards allow people to attend the conference who otherwise might not have been able to afford to attend.  It helps those people learn more about NASIG and the work that it does, which in turn can help us in recruiting new members with fresh ideas who then go on to become active in the organization.  It also provides an opportunity for an expanded view of the world of serials for those who are currently or potentially interested in serials, and that can only benefit the profession and the organization.  And, last but certainly not least, the awards help further NASIG’s good reputation.

Susan: What is the biggest challenge for the committee?

Clint/Patrick: Publicizing the awards adequately has been a big challenge for us.  We’ve had an especially difficult time getting applicants for the Marcia Tuttle International Award.

Susan: How could the award program be improved?

Clint/Patrick: As was indicated in the previous answer, promotion has been an ongoing difficulty. The committee is always trying to explore better, more innovative ways to get the word out to the serials community about the wonderful opportunity that the NASIG awards offer.

Also, the focus of the awards has mainly been on students and people working in libraries.  Should NASIG consider a specific award for people working in other segments of the profession, or is there a need for better marketing to the non-traditional library community because in some cases, they may be eligible to apply for an award?

Susan: For new members to the committee, were there any surprises, misconceptions, or illuminating moments?

Clint/Patrick: One great thing about the committee is that it reminds you how much talent there is within the serials field. With so many outstanding applications to choose from, new members are often surprised at how difficult it is to select the most deserving candidate.

Susan: For any committee members that are past award winners, what is it like being on the other side reviewing applications?

Chris Brady (2004 Student Grant Award winner):  Illuminating – the difficulty of choosing the best three or five candidates for student awards when about nine appear deserving of the award.  Also, I wondered how my application would have stacked up and what may have jumped out for the committee who evaluated my group (i.e. I realized how lucky I was… and what a coup it was to receive the honor).  Finally, one moment that happened in Louisville: a couple of award winners were talking with me and another NASIG member when they asked if we wanted to go somewhere for lunch.  We told them that lunch was upstairs (it was the business meeting lunch) and was already taken care of.  It reminded me of how new to everything a newly minted MLS grad is (or for that matter, a first-time attendee at NASIG).

Clint Chamberlain (2000 Student Grant Award winner):  “It has been extremely gratifying.  I remember feeling so lucky when I was selected as an award winner and got to travel to San Diego – I met so many people then who became friends (and, in two cases, bosses).  That conference solidified my desire to work with serials.  Being on A&R allows me to have the chance to help do the same thing for others.

Sarah Sutton (2003 Horizon Award winner) Very illuminating!  I think it makes me much more empathetic to what the applicants are going though, not only during the application process but also while preparing for the conference and during the conference.

Susan: Does the committee try to keep track of former winners?

Clint/Patrick: To our knowledge, the committee has tried off and on over the years, but there hasn’t been an ongoing effort to do so recently.  That’s something the committee may want to establish as a regular procedure in the future.

Susan: What do you like best about serving on this committee?

Elizabeth McDonald:  I like the fact that we get to give to people.  We provide recognition for achievement and help people learn about and attend NASIG.  It’s like being the NASIG Santa Claus in a way.

Carol Ficken:  Providing opportunity for new persons to attend a conference.  Spreading awareness of the organization.  Making travel arrangements because I emailed or spoke with each [winner] during the scheduling.  Meeting the winners in person!

Chris Brady:  Meeting some great people.  Working with even more great people.  Seeing new librarians just embarking on their new profession.  Giving back to the NASIG community.

Sarah Sutton: Getting to know the award recipients and working to make their conference experience as wonderful as mine was when I was an award recipient.

Patrick Carr: Serving on the A&R committee is a lot of fun. It gives you a great opportunity to bring new people to the serials field and to recognize the efforts of those that are making significant contributions to the profession.

Clint Chamberlain:  I can’t think of anything more to add to what the others have said!

Susan: What should NASIG members know about the committee that I haven’t asked?

Clint/Patrick: The committee’s activities vary significantly according to the time of the year. During the fall, the committee is busy updating announcements and then promoting the awards. Once the awards submission deadline passes in the winter, the committee’s efforts shift to selecting and notifying recipients, making travel arrangements, and preparing for the presentations of awards at NASIG’s annual conference. During the summer months, the committee reflects on the previous year’s award cycle and plans for the year to come.


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