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Catching Up with a Previous Bechtel Fellow

Applications for the 2024 Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship will open shortly, making summer an excellent time to think more about a research topic in children’s literature that might interest you.  

The Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship, awarded by the ALSC Professional Recognition and Scholarships Committee, 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 and other items 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. 

To give you more insights into the Bechtel Fellowship and the impact it can have on your work, Christina H. Dorr, the 2010 Bechtel Fellowship recipient, answered three questions about “Searching for Heroes,” her research project in the Baldwin.


Can you tell us a little about your project for the Bechtel Fellowship? 

Dorr: I’ve always been fascinated by (auto)biographies and memoirs, even as a child.  I grew up in generational poverty, and my view of who I could be in this world was very, very limited. I was number 8 out of 9 children growing up in a very rural, ultra conservative farm family, strict Roman Catholic. And I didn’t fit that mold at all. I poured over biographies to learn about options, others’ struggles, their triumphs, and I learned that I could be whomever I chose. As an adult I’ve been most interested in the roles women have been relegated to, and how they’re portrayed in books, especially children’s books. Thus my work with the Baldwin Library on how women are treated in biographies for children through the years. I published a piece in ALSC’s Children and Libraries afterwards, and the research has informed, or grounded, much of my writing since.


What were you doing professionally at the time you received the Bechtel Fellowship, and what are you doing professionally today?

Dorr: I was a school librarian, who also was teaching adjunct university courses in library science and children’s literature, while presenting at local and regional conferences and workshops. I was active in my state library association and had served on several state book award committees and had completed a two year appointment to ALSC’s Notable Children’s Book Committee. Today, I’m a retired school librarian who still adjuncts for Kent State University, presents seminars for the Bureau of Education and Research, is a national speaker and consultant, and has written or co-written four books. I’ve served on 10 years of ALA book award committees, concluding with the 2020 Caldecott Committee. Check out my website to learn more about my work. On the side, I’m a drummer in a Columbus, Ohio rock band with our first EP coming out soon…if you have a dream, do it! Don’t wait!


How did receiving the Bechtel Fellowship influence your work?  

Dorr: The Bechtel Fellowship has informed my teaching, writing, and speaking collectively by grounding my work in a historical framework of how women’s and girls’ lives have been treated throughout decades of images and stories of real females’ lives. I’m always on the lookout for how those images and stories have changed, and how they haven’t. Whose stories are told, and whose aren’t. Who is valued and who isn’t. It’s also broadened my scope to think about our many identities that we carry with us everyday, who else is marginalized and erased. I’ve finally told my story in my third book for ALA, Profiles in Resilience: Books for Children and Teens that Center the Lived Experience of Generational Poverty, and my work with the Bechtel Fellowship directly impacted it.


You can read more about Christina’s Bechtel project in the article, “Searching for She-Roes: A Study of Biographies of Historic Women Written for Children,” published in Children and Libraries 9.2 (Summer/Fall 2011), pages 42-49. 

Also, consider submitting your own application for a Bechtel Fellowship. More information is available on ALSC’s Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship webpage. 


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 ramonac@ufl.edu. 


This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

One comment

  1. Joe Prince

    I cannot endorse this fellowship enough, and working with Ramona and the collection is a dream!

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