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Home / History / The Diamond Years




Brief History of School Libraries &


The ISNS-UNI Laboratory School Library


By Gail Froyen



The Diamond Years: Second Librarian at the

New Campus School(MPLS)



Joan Englund Diamond  – Librarian 1957-1990

B.S. 1950 Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois

M.S. 1957 University of Illinois, Champaign



1950-1955 Hononegah High School, Rockton, Illinois (Joan Englund)

1955-1957 Champaign High School, Champaign, Illinois (Joan Englund)

1957-1961 MPLS librarian (Joan Englund)

1961-1966 MPLS Head librarian (Joan Englund)

1966-1968 MPLS Head librarian (now Joan Englund Diamond)

1968-1990 MPLS Elementary librarian (Joan Diamond)


Joan Englund was hired as the Campus School Librarian in the fall of 1957. She was responsible for library administration, for teaching and service to the Lab School faculty and students, as well as for Iowa State Teachers College (ISTC) teacher education students and student teachers. (The Iowa State Normal School had been renamed Iowa State Teachers College in 1909.)  Her appointment was for the academic year plus summer school.


She was the only librarian and/or elementary librarian for the following 33 years. She was the only librarian between 1957 and 1961. From 1961-1963, Carol L. Koehmstedt became the “assistant librarian,” working primarily with the secondary students. She left for a position working with secondary students in one of the Dakotas. About the time Koehmstedt left, Ms. Englund was injured in an automobile accident and was on leave for part of the 1963-64 school year. Helen Thornton Cowley was appointed as temporary part time librarian during that time. The need for a second librarian became clear and the position was filled on a temporary basis by Helen Frances Hoy, 1966-1967 and Avenelle McNait Howell, 1967-1968. (Miss Englund married Saul Diamond in 1966.)

In 1968,  Kent Alan McIntyre was hired and served as the librarian for grades 7-12 from 1968-1990.


Administration & Management (including Budgets)

The administration and management of a library is multi-faceted as will become clear in the paragraphs below.


The elementary and secondary materials budgets for the MPLS Library from 1962-1986, when Ross Nielsen was Head of the Department of Teaching and Director of the Lab School, was generous and stable. Diamond was responsible for the total management of the library during her first years at MPLS.  This included maintaining accessibility; making decisions regarding patrons and circulation; using four separate budgets to purchase print and non-print materials and the supplies needed to ready materials for circulation and in-library use; and supervising library merit employees and adult and student volunteers. Collection development (purchasing new materials and weeding out old and outdated ones) was a primary responsibility.  The MPLS collection was considered one of the University’s fiscal assets. Consequently, a complete inventory was required each school year with the report sent to the UNI Business Office during the summer. Eventually these responsibilities were shared with Kent McIntyre, the secondary librarian from 1968-1990.

Library Space and arrangement

Library space needs to be effective and efficient in its arrangement with good visual sight lines for student management. When Englund began her tenure in 1957, the library was inviting and divided with tables for the elementary students on the east end and secondary students on the west side. The center section was reserved for circulation activities, the card catalog, audio-visual materials, and desks for ordering, cataloging, and acquisition.  The collection had been set up according to the Dewey Decimal System with the 000’s beginning on the NE corner wall shelving.  Consequently all of the 300’s (basically social studies materials) were at the “elementary end of the space.” This meant that secondary social studies students often needed access to these materials while elementary classes or reading groups were occupying the east side of the library. Englund rearranged the space so that the folklore collection was in the NE corner, followed by intermediate and secondary fiction.  Books arranged by Dewey Decimal, beginning with Information and General Works, followed by Philosophy and Psychology, Religion and Social Sciences, Language, Science, Technology, Arts and Recreation, Literature and History and Geography were located on the west side of the main door.  Biographies were also on the West (secondary) side of the library. This arrangement stayed in place through 1998.


“Story Time” was one of the favorite activities of the primary students. In the late 1950’s, long time third grade teacher Edna Mantor, donated the plywood necessary to construct the three-tier “Story Steps” for this activity. The Steps were carpeted for safety and comfort. Later, in the 1970’s, the entire library was carpeted and the Story Steps were re-carpeted.


Diamond also had a “corral” made with plastic piping and canvas so students could sit and read quietly in the corral with the “Back Jack Floor Chairs,” seats with backs that could be placed around the floor.  There were about 10 of these chairs. As there were usually more students who wanted to sit on the chairs than chairs available, students wrote their names on slips of paper, put them in the drawing box and hoped to be one who got to use one of the chairs that day.

Most of the secondary wing of the building was not occupied by classes during the summer months.  However, the library was open all day every day except for early August.  Summer school for elementary students was held during the mornings of June and July in the elementary wing. Students attending summer school came to the library for story time, research, and to check out reading materials. The heat and humidity was oppressive for the library staff and damaging to the bindings and paper of the books.


In the early 80’s, one merit employee’s husband, a science professor at UNI, provided a “web bulb” and a “dry bulb” thermometer to determine accurate library temperatures over the summer days.  One day the afternoon temperature went to 138 degrees.  This information prompted the University to air-condition the library although the process took several years and was completed sometime in the mid 1980’s. The cooler conditioned air was of great benefit to the collection, the summer school students, and the staff.

Acquisitions and Collection Management

Maintaining a viable collection includes learning the current collection, determining the curricular needs at all grade levels and in all subject areas, soliciting recommendations from faculty, reading a variety of professional book review journals to determine what new materials filled curricular and literacy needs, and ordering those selected.  New materials (books, magazines, newspapers, picture sets, film strips, slide sets, etc.) needed to be cataloged and prepared for use.  This meant preparing cards for the catalog and shelf list; filing the cards; and attaching spine labels, book pockets and cards, and property stamps.


As curricular needs and student interests changed, materials were added or withdrawn from the collection. Some materials were withdrawn because they were damaged or badly worn. Other items became dated due to societal understandings or incorrect information, i.e. countries change names, scientific advancement occurs, etc.  Consequently, as the collection changed, patrons needed to be made aware of new materials and ways to use the resources.


For the first several years of Englund’s tenure, she had no merit staff for either circulation or clerical work. Thus, she was responsible for both the professional and the clerical aspects of acquisition and collection management. Additionally, the collection grew from the approximately 14,000 volumes that moved from the Library Juvenile Room to the new building to approximately 30,000 volumes by the time she retired. Over time, two Merit positions were added to the library staff: an 83% Full Time Equivalency (FTE) to assist with circulation and catalog maintenance and a 50% FTE typist responsible largely for production of catalog/shelf list cards, etc. College/university students on the work-study program provided additional help with a variety of tasks, especially shelving of materials and shelf reading, which are never-ending tasks.


Englund Diamond kept the faculty and administration up-to-date on what was new in the library through monthly bulletins describing new books, magazines, and AV acquisitions and their possible uses in the classrooms.  At the beginning of each semester she offered a seminar (about 2 hours in length) for the elementary teachers on new materials, illustrating their fit with the grade level curricula.  These seminars were very popular with the teachers and sparked their creativity. She introduced the new books added to the collection over the summer with book talks and suggested some possible ways teachers could use them with students.  Englund’s extensive knowledge of the collection and classroom curriculum contributed greatly to the development of curriculum guides with MPLS colleagues, most notably in foreign language and English language arts.


Teaching and Literacy

The teaching role of the MPLS librarian was complex due to the wide range of patrons served. These library users included nursery through 12th grade students, classroom and subject matter teachers, and also guidance counselors, college faculty, students in field experience classes, student teachers, and visiting public school personnel.


Much instruction in the use of books and the library was individual as needed. For example, a student might enter and ask about finding information on stars.  Englund Diamond would conduct a reference interview, i.e. ask a series of questions in order to narrow and focus the student’s purpose. After determining that the student was in 9th grade earth science and needed to know constellations in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, she might refer the student to an encyclopedia article, help the student understand how to find an article or to scan the topics within the article that would be most helpful. Or the student might be guided to the card catalog to find books and/or a filmstrip on the topic. Library research skills needed would be taught throughout the search.


Price Lab School faculty also often requested that the librarian schedule time with the entire class to teach and/or review the use of particular reference materials. Often Englund Diamond would prepare a bibliography of books on a particular topic.  Those books might be pulled together in a collection and checked out to the classroom or put in a display for use within the library.


Reading groups within elementary classes came to the library on a fixed schedule. Englund Diamond used these sessions to introduce and share literature while reading a book or telling a story. She introduced the author/illustrators, shared other works by the same person, discussed awards won etc.  Then students spent time browsing the shelves, choosing books to check-out, and reading their choices. Some of the pupils knew what they wanted but didn’t know where the item was shelved. Others relied on Englund Diamond to suggest something she thought they would enjoy.  Her knowledge of the collection and how to match books to students was a great gift.  She sometimes was able to find “the book with the green cover you read to us last month.”


Nursery and Kindergarten students did not usually come to the library. Englund went to their classes for story time as well as providing faculty with books and other materials for use in the classrooms.  This practice had been begun by Campbell.  The N/K teachers at that time were Dr. Dorothy Koehring (1933-1961) and Georgia Adams (1955-1959) who “maintained their own kingdom” at the South East section of the building.


In addition to her comprehensive knowledge of school libraries, of all that is involved with serving the school population, and of ways to build and manage a collection, Englund came to ISTC fluent in Spanish and French. Her knowledge and use of foreign languages benefited the early Lab School implementation of Spanish at the elementary years.  She supported conference presentations arranged by the Lab School Foreign Language faculty for students from around the state. During one foreign language day, she used her knowledge of Spain and Spanish culture to demonstrate Papifoflexia, the paper folding tradition in Spain. She said, “Before the day was over, there were students of other modern languages wishing to learn so we had a session in Spanish, French and another one in English.” Englund notes “The library had a copy of “Inch by Inch" in Spanish, and I read that to some of the kids on occasion. Also, one of my favorite stories to tell was called (I think) "The Flea.”


Another time when a team of Columbians visited UNI, additional translators were needed, so Englund filled in and had a good time.


Shortly after Englund arrived on campus, Professor Nellie Hampton asked her if she would talk to her Children’s Literature classes about storytelling. Englund had never told stories or taken a class on storytelling.  Englund accepted the challenge and proceeded to learn a story or two.  “Bed Just So” was one of them and it has remained a favorite story to tell since that time. Englund largely told folktales or stories from picture books. Over the years she developed a repertoire of about 100 stories. She incorporated her skill in the arts of Calligraphy and Origami into storytelling, into her work with students, and as a service for others.


UNI Students/Student Teachers

One of the responsibilities of MPLS faculty was supervising Student Teachers. By 1957, Iowa State Teachers College offered a B.A. in Library Science (School Libraries).  When Englund arrived on her first day, Jim Liesener, was waiting outside the library door. He became her first student teacher. She had not been informed she would have a student teacher her first semester and had been given no information relative to supervising student teachers. Liesener went on to be a leading expert in planning school library media centers, budgeting, and programing. Over the years, many additional future school librarians had the benefit of her guidance.


UNI students who were teaching or participating in elementary or secondary classrooms often used the MPLS library as a resource for lessons or units they were preparing to teach. Englund Diamond assisted them in the same ways she served the supervising teachers, with book collections, bibliographies, etc.


During an interview in 2015, Englund Diamond was asked about changes and activities in the MPLS program between 1957-1990.  She particularly remembered the introduction of multimedia materials, beginning about1970, and their increase in number, type and usage over the years. The introduction of computers for student and faculty use (beginning with 48K) in about 1980 began the digital age at MPLS.


Service & Outreach Activities:

All faculty members of the Department of Teaching, including those at MPLS, had responsibility for service and outreach.  Diamond gave presentations at professional organization meetings in several states, plus Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba) as well as presentations to schools in Iowa at the request of the University Extension Service. Diamond served on the statewide North Central Association (NCA) evaluation committee and many Iowa schools benefited from her work on school NCA teams.


On campus Diamond was a member of the University Professional Development Committee and member and chair of the General Education Committee. She was in on the development of UNI’s  Beginning Reading Conference in 1968 and active for the next thirty years of its growth. In addition to frequently hosting the featured author’s appearances, she also gave “break-out” sessions in Storytelling and Puppetry.

Following the initial Hampton request, Englund Diamond continued to develop her talent and became an avid and esteemed storyteller. She was chosen to be on the roster of the Iowa Arts Council (IAC) and served from 1980-85. Through the IAC she became “an artist in residence” working with students and teachers at the request of Iowa schools . These residencies were usually for a week-long period.



Department of Teaching Heads during Joan Englund Diamond’s tenure


Dwight Curtis, Head, 1945-1960 (died of a heart attack September 20, 1960)

Ross Nielsen, Interim Head, 1960-62

Ross Nielsen, Head, June 11,1962-May 30,1986

John Tarr, Interim Head 1986-1988

David Else, Head, 1988-1990

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