Posted by: cyndera | August 9, 2010

How to write a winning scholarship essay

Today I was notified that I was selected for the 2010 Catherine A. Jones Memorial Scholarship, sponsored by IOP Publishing, and awarded by the DC Chapter of the Special Library Association (SLA). Although I do not consider myself an extraordinary writer, I am posting my essay so it may help others who are applying for a scholarship and need an idea on what an essay should look like.

Statement of Interest

Aileen Marshall

Submitted for the 2010 DC/SLA Scholarship

June 2010

Three months after moving to the United States in February 2007 from Germany, I started volunteering at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredericksburg, VA. Shortly after, I completed their training to become a reference assistant. I became increasingly interesting in being a librarian, and although I already hold a Master’s degree from the Westfaelische Wilhelms-University in Muenster, Germany, I decided to go back to school once again. In May 2009 I enrolled as a distance education student at the University of South Carolina (USC) to pursue my master’s degree in Library and Information Science. With only four classes left, I am maintaining my GPA of 4.0, and I strive to finish the program as one of the top students and become a leading within the library community.

After graduating in May 2011, it is my goal to work in the field of information analysis and business intelligence. I have been taking classes on business and government information resources as well as special libraries. They provide me with the theoretical knowledge I need, and the practice that helps to sharpen my research skills and improve my knowledge of the best sources available for a particular task, both in print and electronic format. I have also learned how to manage a special library, how to prepare budgets, how to develop marketing strategies, how to develop, implement and eventually evaluate library services. In addition to my coursework I constantly look for opportunities to extend my knowledge and experience.

In December 2008 I was hired by the Peumansend Creek Regional Jail in Bowling Green, VA to serve as their correctional librarian. I had the opportunity to assist inmates with their research, which was oftentimes focused on business-related issues such as how to open a small business and obtain licenses. Unfortunately the economic situation force the jail to reduce their forces, and I was one of seven people who had to leave in April this year. However, I learned a lot during my time at this special library, and I consider it to be a valuable experience in many ways: I learned how to work with diverse population groups, how to perfect my reference interviews and how communicate difficult information in a way laymen can understand. I believe that this knowledge will serve me well when working in other special libraries.

Currently I am one of two interns at the Business Research Division, Library of Congress. Under the supervision of Carolyn Larson, Head of the Business Reference Section, and Ellen Terrell, Business Reference Specialist, I work on questions from the public and different government departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency, and conduct research for people that contact the library via mail or QuestionPoint. Each day I spend time at the reference desk and help patrons in the reading room to find appropriate business resources, navigate the library’s catalog and databases, and to learn about business research strategies. As my long-term project I am revising an online guide for entrepreneurs to small business information by updating, replacing, and annotating the sources that have been selected by business reference specialists about ten years ago. This guide will then again be available on the division’s website. In addition to this I attend meetings to learn how the division operate, and I meet with staff to hear about their various areas of expertise. This is of tremendous value to me as I learn about many new web and print resources.

I share what I experience and learn on by blog, and I post regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. I was contacted by the co-editor of SLISten Up!, the newsletter of the Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) at USC, who asked me if I was interested to write an article for the newsletter once my internship is complete. The summer edition will contain my blog URL so students can follow my updates, and my final article will appear in the fall edition.

About a year ago I met Dr. Kendra Albright, and we have been in contact since. I enjoy her classes, and I find it extremely interesting to discuss issues of business librarianship with her. After my internship we plan to do some research together and eventually publish a paper on our findings. I find it rewarding to contribute to our profession by discussing and researching topics of interest as well as by serving as  member on  committees. I have been a member of the VLA Continuing Education Committee since 2009, and I have recently been appointed to the BRASS Membership Committee and the MARS Virtual Reference Discussion Group. I attend conferences, read professional literature and keep up with current events to ensure that I am always up-to-date. I recently submitted an article on library services in correctional settings to the Library Journal, describing my experience as a jail librarian. I love being engaged in discussions about my profession and never tire to advocate for our mission. In June 2010 I was selected as recipient for the 2010/2011 Chesterfield Manufacturing Corporation Scholarship. It makes me proud that my work was recognized as meaningful contribution to our profession.

A particular interest of mine in the field of business information services is the question of how librarians can deliver virtual reference and research services to users with business information needs. I am currently part of two projects that explore the possibilities of virtual services in Second Life. The University of South Carolina, under the direction of Dr. Feili Tu, has created the Davis 2.0 Virtual Campus to deliver reference services, research assistance, and to help students connect with each other and explore immersive, interactive learning.  I also work with Dr. Bryan Carter, Associate Professor at the University of Central Missouri, Dept. of English and Philosophy. He has created Virtual Harlem, one of the first virtual reality environments for use in the humanities. I have the opportunity to add to this internationally recognized project by developing a bookstore that will support Dr. Carter’s classes on the Harlem Renaissance period. Through one of the librarians at the university library, Carol Smith, I received the offer to speak about my project at the next gathering of the SLA Virtual World Advisory Council in August. I believe that virtual reference services are becoming increasingly important for librarians and users alike. I plan to return to Dr. Albright as a PhD student in the next five years, and we have already discussed the program and my research interests.

After I finish my internship with LoC in late August, I am assuming the position of part-time law librarian at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. I have been chosen from a large pool of qualified candidates. Under the supervision of Michele Brown, Head of Reference, I will be responsible for delivering legal reference service to attorneys and the public, maintaining and developing the law collection as well as the collection of business-related items. I will also provide training on demand and introductions to legal research strategies. Ms. Brown, as well as Ann Haley, Adult Services Coordinator, feel that I will be a great asset to the library and their patrons, especially because I take a great interest in new technologies, social media, and a customer service oriented approach. Working part-time will give me the opportunity to still gather experience while focusing mainly on my studies. The DC/SLA 2010 Student Scholarship would be a tremendous help to cover some of my tuition. More importantly though it would be proof that I am on the right path to becoming a valuable member of the library community, and an outstanding information analyst.


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