By: Diane Stirling
Students in the School of Information Studies (iSchool) library information science master’s program have an avenue of professional development and networking available to them in their student years that can continue after graduation and long into their career paths.
Pi Lambda Sigma is the Syracuse University chapter of Beta Phi Mu, the international library and information studies honor society. With more than 35,000 members, Beta Phi Mu was founded at the University of Illinois in August 1948. Forty five years before that, however, Syracuse University formed Pi Lambda Sigma as its library studies honor society. The SU group formally affiliated with Beta Phi Mu in 1959, and remains as the international organization’s oldest chapter.
Chapter officers Linda Galloway, president; and Gary Maggi, scholarship program co-chair, are working to promote greater awareness of the organization, the scholarships and needs awards it offers, and the professional opportunities membership presents for those in library studies and the library professions.
The Syracuse Pi Lambda Sigma chapter has some financial resources available to help those completing their studies, Galloway and Maggi noted. The Joseph and Marta Dosa Scholarship is a tuition grant for full- or part-time MLIS students. A Special Needs Award is also available that provides assistance. Another way the chapter helps students is through the Marion L. Mullen Travel Award, a stipend for a student to attend the American Library Association conference as a chapter representative. Nationally, Beta Phi Mu offers additional scholarship opportunities.
Maggi, a retired medical librarian and now an independent researcher, noted that while Syracuse University’s library program “is stunningly good,” it can also be expensive to attend. “There are people in this program that the profession of librarianship is going to benefit from for the next 50 years. There may be some students who are doing really well, that may either have to get out of the program and go back when they get some more money, or who can’t borrow for some reason. Whatever their scenarios are, tell us your story and see if we can help you,” he suggested to students. “We want to connect those people with some resources to make their academic time here a little bit easier and to recognize them early on as achievers and contributors to the profession.”
Barbara Settel, executive director of alumni relations for the School of Information Studies and an SU MLIS graduate, noted that several recent graduates were awarded the Dosa scholarship. They include Mary McGregor ’12, now library media specialist at the Bayard Taylor School; Brianna Pannell, who is library director at the Alliance Academy International Quito Ecuador; Andrew Fleming ’11, editorial assistant at Organic Letters, American Chemical Society; and Christina Lupo ’06, school librarian at the Auburn Enlarged City School District.
Seeking Members, Raising Funds
Galloway, who serves as biology, chemistry and forensic sciences librarian at the Syracuse University Library, also said the chapter is working to attract new members, and Pi Lambda Sigma has much to offer those entering or working in librarianship of all types. “We represent people who are active in the profession, so we’re interested in adding people who will give back to the profession, who are going to be real leaders in the field and who are willing to go the extra mile, because that’s what we all do,” she said. “We try to give back to the profession we care very deeply about.”
Maggi noted the importance for library professionals to have a network for discussion and debate, because the present times are filled with charged public policy issues, informational challenges that librarians are at the forefront of championing, and huge needs for the kind of help which librarians uniquely can provide. “There has never been a time in the history of civilization where librarianship, and 21st century librarianship, is more important,” in part because “we are the role models and teachers of information literacy,” Maggie said.
The organization holds quarterly meetings and hosts special programs at other times that offer unique professional networking opportunities. Since the whole spectrum of library fields are represented in the chapter, its nature permits members to interact with professionals who might not normally be part of their work environment or library routines, Galloway suggested. “We are not all academic librarians, so we represent a very broad and diverse group,” she said.
The local chapter also is continuously accepting donations and members work on fundraising efforts in support of chapter efforts, Galloway added.
SU Chapter dues for Pi Lambda Sigma are modest, at $10 per year. There is also a cost to become a member of the national organization.
Eligibility requirements for the chapter’s scholarships, plus more information membership, special projects, and others who are involved is available on its website. More information on the national organization of Beta Phi Mu is available here.