Paying it Forward: The Beverly M. Knower Fund

This is the first in a four-part series of blog posts about four recent recipients of the SLA Philadelphia Chapter’s Knower Fund Travel Award. The posts will explore the early-career experiences of the four award recipients and the role SLA has played in their success.

For almost 40 years, the SLA Philadelphia Chapter has been encouraging students in library and information science programs to consider careers in special librarianship through its Beverly M. Knower Fund. The Knower Fund supports activities designed to further students’ interest in careers in special libraries and acquaint them with the benefits of participation in SLA.

The fund was founded in 1978 in memory of Beverly Knower, who served the Philadelphia Chapter in many capacities, including a term as chapter president. The fund’s mission reflects her abiding interest in encouraging students to seek careers in special libraries.

One of the primary aspects of the Knower Fund is a travel stipend, known as the Knower Fund Conference Travel Award, to help one or more local SLA student members attend the SLA Annual Conference. Many travel award recipients have pursued careers in special librarianship and become involved in SLA in a variety of ways.

Chrystelle Browman, who attended the SLA 2012 Annual Conference in Chicago, currently works as a legal research analyst at Fenwick & West, a law firm specializing in intellectual property and technology matters. This is her first permanent library position since graduating from Drexel University with an MLIS degree. She has been with the firm for three years; she spent the first 18 months after graduation in odd jobs and library internships while relocating from Philadelphia to Mountain View, California.

Erin Nagawiecki used her Knower Travel Award to attend the SLA 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego. An MLIS graduate of Drexel University, Erin is a competitive intelligence research analyst at Morgan Lewis in Philadelphia, where she supports firm, practice, and client development needs through research, analysis, and outreach. Erin says she “kind of fell into CI, but I love the work!”

Like Erin, Marrette Pearsall earned her MLIS from Drexel and attended SLA 2013. As the systems librarian for the Montgomery County (Pa.) Law Library, Marrette manages the library’s website, assists public patrons, lawyers, and court personnel with legal research, and maintains the catalog and acquisitions information. Previously, Marrette worked in part-time positions at the Biddle Law Library of the University of Pennsylvania and for Library Services Group (LSG); she also worked for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ law library as a temporary assistant librarian.

Michelle Klaw, another MLIS graduate of Drexel, used her Knower Travel Award to attend SLA 2015 in Boston. She is a technical services librarian at the Philadelphia law firm of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, where her duties include acquiring, cataloging, and managing the library’s print and electronic resources. She is also responsible for docket monitoring and supporting the needs of the research librarian. While at Stradley Ronon, she has built an online public access catalog for the firm.

Future blog posts in this series will explore why Chrystelle, Erin, Marrette, and Michelle joined SLA as students and how being student members benefited them during their MLIS studies. The posts will also address the following:

  • how attending their first SLA Annual Conference benefited the four women;
  • how SLA membership helped them (through connections, job leads, professional development activities, and so on) make the transition from school to the workforce;
  • their current level of involvement in SLA and the primary benefit they derive today from SLA membership; and
  • their advice for students and new information professionals about getting involved in SLA early in their careers.


To read the other posts in this series, click on the links below:


— Valerie J. Ryder
2016–2017 Membership Chair
SLA Philadelphia Chapter


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