It’s definitely the season for making summer plans. As you’re finalizing summer reading programs and coordinating vacation schedules, this is a good time to think about your professional goals, too, and to consider whether applying for the Bechtel Fellowship might be part of your plans.
Awarded by the ALSC Professional Recognition and Scholarships Committee, the Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship funds qualified children’s librarians to spend up to four weeks reading and studying at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida. The Baldwin contains over 120,000 books published for young people, many before 1950, and offers countless opportunities to undertake historical research and to explore contemporary questions about children’s books through a different lens. ALSC’s Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship webpage provides examples of successful past projects, application information, and links to the Bechtel Fellowship Manual, which contains detailed instructions and tips for preparing your application.
The application portal for the 2023 Bechtel Fellowship will open on July 15th and remain open until October. Early as it may seem, late spring and early summer are ideal times to begin thinking about your application in terms of the topic you may want to research, the time you’ll need to spend in the Baldwin to explore that topic thoroughly, and the time you’ll need to share your findings after your research is completed.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider whether this is the right year for you to apply for the Bechtel Fellowship:
- Do I meet all of the application requirements?
These requirements are listed on the Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship webpage.
- What questions and topics within children’s literature and programming am I especially curious about right now? How could time spent in the Baldwin help me to find answers to these questions? How do I build upon a research question in order to create a strong application?
The manual contains a sample application form, as well as helpful application tips from previous Bechtel Fellows.
- How much time is my proposed research project likely to take? When would be the best time(s) for me to undertake my research if I receive the fellowship?
A fellowship recipient must spend at least one week in the Baldwin and can spend up to four weeks there, with the $7,500 stipend prorated depending on the amount of time spent conducting research in the Baldwin. The weeks spent in the Baldwin do not have to be consecutive; based on fellows’ needs, research weeks can be used anytime between January and December of the year in which they receive the award.
- How will my proposed research project enhance my work and library, as well as my professional development? If I were to receive the fellowship, would I be able to satisfy its requirements, and how will my library support me in doing so?
In addition to spending one to four weeks conducting research in the Baldwin, the fellowship also calls for recipients to write a report on their research project for potential inclusion in ALSC publications and to present a minimum of three public programs, such as an exhibit, lecture, or workshop, based on their research to librarians/teachers, children, or the community. A signed Supervisor Acknowledgement Form addressing these requirements is part of the application, so it’s important to discuss your interest in the fellowship, its benefits to your work, and its impacts on your schedule with your supervisor as soon as possible.
Starting to think about your application early is advantageous and will hopefully make the process more manageable and fulfilling. As part of the early stages of assembling your application, the manual suggests contacting the Baldwin curator about your proposed topic, and as the new curator, I’m more than happy to help you determine how the Baldwin can best assist with your research questions. I’m looking forward to welcoming Bechtel Fellows to campus!
Ramona Caponegro is the Curator of the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida and a member of the ALSC Membership Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.