IMLS-RBS Fellowship Program

For information school students and early-career librarians, the path toward specialization and professionalization in special collections librarianship can seem both confusing and dauntingly competitive. At the same time, it is precisely this group that represents the future of the profession. Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services, RBS is introducing a new program, the IMLS-RBS Fellowships for Early-Career Librarians, that will help address the needs of this community. This fellowship will allow young professionals to attend an RBS course and to increase their professional involvement at the national level through participation in the conference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the ALA. The aim of the program is to help fellows acquire skills relevant to professional work in special collections and build important professional networks.

Building on the existing opportunities for learning and network-building at RBS and RBMS, this program aims to attract to the field early-career librarians with excellent potential for professional achievement. RBS awarded the first 20 fellowships in 2015 and the second cohort of 20 in 2016. Although the fellowship program is open to applicants from any racial or ethnic background, it does have a special emphasis on recruiting participants currently underrepresented in the field of rare book librarianship.

Please note, the IMLS-RBS Fellowship Program is no longer accepting new applicants.

Financial Support

Fellows attend a course at RBS for free (tuition is currently $1,295 or $1,395, depending on the course), receive a year’s membership in RBMS, and a stipend for covering the costs of travel and housing at RBS and the RBMS conference.

IMLS-RBS Fellowship Program Components

During their fellowship tenure, IMLS-RBS Fellows will receive intensive, hands-on training at RBS and may pursue further learning opportunities offered as part of RBMS’s annual conference. Through these activities, IMLS-RBS Fellows will enter into a professional community of likeminded individuals interested in special collections librarianship. The fellowship program includes the following benefits:

  • One week-long, 30-hour course at Rare Book School (contingent upon acceptance into the course by the instructor; admission is competitive)
  • One-year’s membership in RBMS
  • Registration fees for the RBMS conference the year of the fellowship
  • A stipend covering the cost of travel and housing at RBS and at RBMS

Application Process

The application process for 2015 has now closed. A total of twenty IMLS-RBS Fellows will be selected; successful applicants will be notified on or around 5 January 2016.

Preference will be given to applicants who:

  • have a demonstrable interest in special collections librarianship, shown through course work, internships, professional activities, paid work, &c.;
  • identify with underrepresented racial or ethnic groups (or work in institutions that primarily serve such groups); and
  • demonstrate excellent potential for professional achievement.


To be eligible for the 2016 IMLS-RBS Fellowship, as of 30 October 2015 an applicant must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States and must:

  • be currently enrolled in an MLIS program; or
  • be currently enrolled in another MA program and currently working in a library (including unpaid internships); or
  • have received the MA or MLIS within the past 5 years and be currently working in a library (including unpaid internships).

Applicants must be able to take an RBS course during the year of their fellowship, contingent upon their admission to the course, and will be expected to attend the RBMS preconference the same year. NB: the 2016 conference will be held in Coral Gables, FL.

The following classes of applicants are ineligible for an IMLS-RBS Fellowship:

  • anyone who has attended three or more classes at RBS

  • past or present members of RBS’s full-time, year-round staff.

IMLS-RBS Fellows

2016 Fellows

Twenty IMLS-RBS fellowships for 2016 were awarded in January 2016. (Press release)

2015 Fellows

Twenty IMLS-RBS fellowships for 2015 were awarded in February 2015. (Press release)