Here’s the problem: How does Suzie Senior find out about the local Kiwanis scholarship? Or the one offered by the local hospital? Or the one offered by the local cancer support group?
Who in your community collects information on scholarships offered by local clubs, service organizations, and other mostly nonprofits? Not the college or high school awards, not the Tylenol ones, but the really local ones. The answer: probably no one. Oh, sure, they appear in the local paper, timed just like dandelions—every year in early spring. But, unlike dandelions, those local scholarship notices disappear with the weekly trash pick-up.
A reference librarian can gather this information and perform a great service. It is a way we can enhance the library’s value to the community—especially in these economic times. It is easy.
I know you librarians out there are busy. There are more and more people needing our instruction, guidance, and services, not to mention our ears at times. But someone at the reference desk can collect and publish this information and make it available to the community. You can do it between reference questions. It will help hone your techie skills.
How? Collect the scholarships that are offered in your geographical area. (I limit ours to Medina County, Ohio.) Gather information from your local newspaper, newsletters, school award blurbs from last year’s ceremony, or wherever you find it. E-mail your contacts in and out of the library. Ask them to tell you about any local scholarships they hear about.
Don’t gather the ones offered by the local high schools. Students can find out about those from their guidance departments. Do not include the national ones (Tylenol, Walmart, etc.) that are commonly found using Fastweb or other online scholarship search sites. Do not include ones offered by the colleges themselves. Do not include ones offered by your state board of regents. Those are the four other places students should look, but they are already accessible.
Do list ones offered to adults and not just high school students. There are a lot of out-of-work folks returning to school and they appreciate scholarships also. They might remember our help at levy times.
It is the local nonprofit types of scholarships that are sometimes hard to find. Often these have fewer applicants for that very reason. I had a patron connected with a local theater group tell me that they had only three applicants for a $500 scholarship. Compare those odds with the Tylenol scholarship.
Start out by literally clipping and pasting in a notebook if need be. Soon you will realize the power of those small clippings and want to share them with the world. That is why Al Gore invented the internet, and Google started its “Sites” application—just for this moment!
So, go to Google Sites and begin a website. You can do this. Or use another site-creation program if you’d rather. Try to list as much pertinent information as possible: Who offers the scholarship, the amount of the scholarship, the deadline, a link to the organization’s website or contact information, and where students can get an application.
You can mostly rest from June to December. The hot time for local scholarships is January to April. The local groups want the kids to get them before they graduate and get kudos from the community so they can raise funds for the next go-round. But, come late winter, start reading the local paper for those little two-inch columns.
Keep the site simple, with just the information students need. I did, however, add my favorite educational quote to my site, from Derek Bok, 1971–1990 president of Harvard: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
View my simple site and let me know how you like it. The scholarships listed there were worth about $48,000 last time I counted. The technical parts can probably be improved, but the focus is to get started collecting this information and making it available. It’s what librarians do.
BARB CHASE is reference librarian at Medina County (Ohio) District Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.