Awards & Scholarships

More about the Bechtel Fellowship!

Are you familiar with ALSC’s Bechtel Fellowship? (Maybe you saw yesterday’s blog post?) The grant provides up to $7,500 to a children’s librarian to spend up to four weeks reading and studying at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature (University of Florida, Gainesville), which contains a special collection of 130,000 volumes of children’s literature published mostly before 1950.

Now, if your response to that is, “Nirvana!,” then maybe it’s time for you to seriously consider applying for the Fellowship.

Is the Bechtel for Me?

I know; it’s a big commitment. You may not be ready to take the plunge just yet. But this post provides food for thought if you’re contemplating this opportunity and even if you’re not quite there yet!

Christina H. Dorr, 2010 Bechtel Fellowship recipient, shared her experience recently for the ALSC Blog.

In a sidebar to Charmette Kendrick’s (2007 recipient) Children and Libraries (CAL) article, “The Goblins Will Get You!: Horror in Children’s Literature from the Nineteenth Century,” she explains, “I focused on horror in the nineteenth century. As a child, I scoured the shelves of libraries for stories about witches, ghosts, and vampires. As an adult, I still have a passion for these stories, and that passion is shared by the children I work with…I find that reading ghost stories to my after school kids as they make a craft is the surest way to keep them quiet and engaged. As I did my research, I kept my eyes open for stories that could be transformed into readers theater and puppet plays or were simply good for telling and reading aloud.”

You only need to read a CAL article from a past recipient to appreciate what a fascinating experience it must be. I’ve always enjoy reading about their adventures, learning about the books themselves, hearing about the recipients’ process as they followed their path of study or were taken in a new direction based on something they found (or didn’t find) in the collection.

Bechtel Inspiration

Back in 2019, I shared a few CAL articles by past Bechtel recipients. If you’ve never read one, I highly recommend them. Really interesting reads!

Here are a couple more favorites:

Weeping Bitterly: Death and Grief in the Baldwin Library’s Collection
J. Joseph Prince

The calamitous losses precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic inspired Prince (2022 recipient) to apply for the Bechtel Fellowship. “I was interested in how both death and grief had historically been addressed in children’s literature…I wondered if there were parallels or diversions in structure, in vocabulary, and in presentations of death and grief,” he said.

Where Fantasy and Facts Meet: Fairy Science Books from 1870 to 1900
Natalie Ziarnik

Ziarnik (2014 recipient) writes, “Rarely do we see the words ‘science’ and ‘fairy’ together. So when I first stumbled upon the 1887 volume of Fairy Land of Chemistry by Lucy Rider Meyer, I knew the direction my study of children’s science books would take.

“Illustrations show fairies mixing brews in a flask in the woods. Small fairies…flit next to text explaining how atoms combine to make compounds. Chemistry had never seemed more intriguing….”

What a breadth of topics! If you’re considering applying (now or down the line), more information is available on the Bechtel page. Or, if you just want to check out some interesting reads, find links to more Bechtel articles here.

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