Awards & Scholarships

“An Energizing Break”- Apply for a Bechtel Fellowship

Has anyone ever been jealous of your job because “you get to read all the time” and you wished they right? Apply for the Bechtel Fellowship and you can spend a month reading, researching, and writing! The Louise Seaman 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.

Here is the last of our Bechtel Fellowhip memories, which we have been sharing this past week…

Kathy East, 1998 Bechtel Fellow

The overall theme of my study is “One-Room Schoolhouses, McGuffey Readers and Values”. In my county in Ohio, there are two well preserved one-room schoolhouses equipped with McGuffey Readers.  Classes dress the part and visit and “experience” lessons, lunch, games and the idea of every grade being in the same room!

kathy-east-imageWilliam Holmes McGuffey, developer of the famous readers, was a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, so the connection of being familiar with these readers made me wonder about other books published for youngsters in the mid-1800’s. The Readers were full of devotions and catechisms, the alphabet, Roman numeral lessons, lots of repetition, phonics, pronunciation and spelling lessons. And many stories demonstrated and emphasized exemplary behavior.

I used the Baldwin Collection to search for titles which were not textbooks or books of prayers or the like, but sounded like “recreational” literature.  My success was satisfying!  For example, handling The Diverting History of John Gilpin (1865) in which the artwork for the Caldecott Medal is found, followed by a visit to St. Augustine where Caldecott is buried were highlights of my stay.

It was delightful to have a study carrel and devote time to handling, reading and taking notes on this diverse collection of picture books.  It was an energizing break from the fast-paced world of the Children’s Place at my library.  And the staff could not have been more accommodating.  I am thankful for the funds from Louise Seaman Bechtel to make my adventure possible and for all those in the future.

 Mary Elizabeth Land, 2008 Fellow

Photo courtesy of Mary Elizabeth Land

I studied holiday books, and my research was published in the Winter 2011 Children & Libraries as “Home for the Holidays: The Depiction of Holiday Themes in Historical Children’s Literature.”  As a mid-career librarian, I so enjoyed the chance to immerse myself in the academic side of librarianship for five weeks.  It was such a change from the day-to-day running of a rural library system.  I came back to work more knowledgeable, more motivated, and even more excited to share great books with our young patrons!

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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