Awards & Scholarships

“A Complete Professional Game Changer!” Apply for a Bechtel Fellowship

Yes, children’s librarians have a fellowship of their own! The Bechtel Fellowship provides a $4,000 grant to a qualified children’s librarian to spend a total of four weeks or more reading and studying at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature of the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville. The Baldwin Library contains a special collection of 130,000 volumes of children’s literature published mostly before 1950.

We have been sharing the stories of past Bechtel fellows over the last couple of days and here are two more…

Allison Kaplan, 2011 Bechtel Fellow

Photo courtesy of Allison Kaplan

In short, the Bechtel fellowship was a complete professional game changer! I went to the Baldwin collection looking to explore the evolution of board books and ended up entering the world of historic children’s literature research. I should preface my remarks by saying that I am not a building level librarian; I am a library education faculty member and so my experience might be different from that of a building level librarian. I came to the idea of exploring board books from my experience teaching children’s literature classes and wondering about the explosion of board books that are edited versions of larger picture books. There is so much to look at in the Baldwin collection, I have to say the worst part of the fellowship was having to stay focused! The best part of conducting this research was realizing a research program that I am continuing to pursue, now at an international level, five years later. My article on my research was published in Children and Libraries, 10 (3). It can be tricky to arrange work and life needs around a four-week stay in Florida but it is totally worth it!

Jane Marino, 2001 Bechtel Fellow

Photo courtesy of Jane Marino

As a children’s librarian with an intense interest in songs and rhymes and their use with babies and toddlers I decided to apply for the Bechtel Fellowship in order to study the history and evolution of children’s songs. The experience was nothing like I had ever imagined. Rita Smith, then the curator of the collection, her staff and other faculty and staff were welcoming, kind, helpful and eager for me to succeed in my research.  The opportunity, for a month, to be a part of the University of Florida life was so much fun.  I walked around the campus, attended sports events, and generally soaked up the collegiate atmosphere.

But it was the research and the opportunity to hold in my hands these tiny chapbooks that were created in the 18th and 19th century, many of them made by hand, was a unique and singular experience.  The connection that so many of the songs we sing today have with songs from 200 or 300 years ago was thrilling for me. I wrote an article about my experience which is available on the ALA website here.

You too can apply to be a Bechtel! Please review the guidelines here: Applicants must be members of ALSC. Applications and supporting materials are due by Novemeber 1, 2016. See a list of past Bechtel Fellowship winners here:

Questions? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at

Rachel Payne
Chair, Special Collections and Bechtel Fellowship Committee

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