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Home / History / The Froyen Years



Brief History of School Libraries &

The ISNS-UNI Laboratory School Library


By Gail Froyen


The Froyen Years

MPLS Library August 1990- July 31,1998


Gail Froyen, Librarian

B.A. 1967 Library Science, University of Northern Iowa

M.A. 1987 Library Science, University of Northern Iowa 1987


1967-1968 Librarian, Holmes Junior High School, Cedar Falls, Iowa

1980-1990 Library Media Specialist, Lowell Elementary School, Waterloo, Iowa

1990-1998, Instructor, Department of Teaching, Librarian Malcolm Price Laboratory School


Froyen brought to the MPLS position a passion for reading and for sharing literature with students of all ages, experience with a variety of cultures, and a delight in storytelling. She discovered her love of and ability for the art of storytelling as a student in the UNI class “Library Materials for Children” taught by Joan Englund Diamond. Presenting materials to children was one of the topics covered, and Diamond told the class several stories. Froyen remembers, “I was enchanted and that was my birth as a storyteller.”


The mission of the library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information. This mission is accomplished: by providing intellectual and physical access to materials in all formats; by providing instruction to foster competence and stimulate interest in reading, viewing and using information and ideas; and by working with other educators to design learning strategies to meet the needs of individual students” (AASL, p. 1).  Froyen sought to fulfill this mission throughout her MPLS days.


Administration & Management (including Budgets)

Library management at MPLS/NUHS involved determining the work of and supervising the two Merit employees and the UNI work study student/s so that the library ran in an effective and efficient manner.  It meant helping the library volunteers, both parent and student, engage in helpful and worthwhile tasks and assisting the student patrons to realize their research and study goals. The librarian was responsible for using four budgets to select, order, and catalog materials and for purchasing the necessary processing supplies. An important part of the job was also to make such purchases as were necessary for the teaching of the library skills curriculum and for the promotion of literacy.


From 1937-1957 the Laboratory School library was staffed by one professional librarian. Beginning in 1961 a second professional was added, sometimes on a temporary or part-time basis. In 1968 a secondary librarian was hired on a tenure track line. Over the years one or more merit staff were added.  After the retirements of both Kent McIntyre and Joan Englund Diamond in 1990, an administrative decision was made to hire only a single professional librarian with an additional merit staff member who was a certified teacher and very experienced in library work. However, after one year the additional merit staff position was terminated, ostensibly because of a statewide budget freeze. This change was announced by the Head of the Department of Teaching, Roger Kueter, at an emergency all staff meeting during the summer of 1991 without any prior consultation or warning. The staff stabilized with one professional librarian, and two merit staff FTE 1.5 and UNI work study students. Eventually some parents volunteered to assist in the library as well as did NUHS students. This help became essential during the 1996-1997 transition from paper card catalog and check-out to the Follett automated system.


Library Space and Arrangement

From 1990 to 1998 the library’s physical space was as described in the Englund Diamond and McIntyre Years.  However, as the collection grew, shelving units had been added on the west end perpendicular to the wall shelving.  These shelving units were necessary but posed a sightline problem. A section of study carrels near the reference collection provided some individual study spaces. Both sides of the library contained tables and chairs of appropriate heights for individual study and group work. The seating was sufficient for one class or more.


With the move to one librarian, sight lines needed to be improved for easier assistance and supervision. An immediate goal of Froyen’s was to strive to make the facility open, welcoming, attractive, and usable. Gradually the taller storage and shelf list units were moved from the middle of the center area to nearer the north windows. This enabled supervision from both the circulation desk and the librarian’s desk.  In addition to making supervision more effective, the library had a more open appearance and feel. Behind the circulation area were workstations for the clerk/typist, a cataloging desk plus a second desk for other library management functions.


The size of the primary collection had grown over the years so that the tops of most of the shorter shelving units were being used as shelves. These books on the tops were too tall for many of the nursery-kindergarten/primary students. Over the eight years Froyen was the librarian, judicious weeding, new shelving units and furniture arrangement gave a more spacious feel to the space and eliminated inaccessibility.  The tops of the shelving units were then used for attractive special displays either from the library collection or from classroom projects.


Since elementary classes often spent some library time listening to stories read or told, the three-step curved platform designed for a seated listening space was well used.  Individual students or small groups also used this for casual seating. Other cushions were available for floor sitting.


Some study carrels on the secondary end were converted to computer stations and, with automation, the card catalog was no longer needed. This opened up space for a hexagonal table for six computer stations specifically for accessing the catalog, periodical indexes, and/or research programs.


Acquisitions and Collection Management

Collection development is always in transition. The collection is built with constant consideration of curriculum needs and changes as well as of faculty and student requests. For instance, a 20th-century U.S. History course was added to the NUHS curriculum in 1995. Over the years materials related to the 20th century had been added to the collection; however, with the new course and  based on the evaluation of the current collection, targeted additions recommended by the social studies faculty were purchased.


Weeding is always a part of collection management and with the Follett system, keeping track of  the usage of various materials aided in making wise decisions.


Teaching and Literacy

Nursery/kindergarten students began coming to the library during Froyen’s first year as librarian.  Prior to that time, library services were provided in the N/K classrooms through personal visits by the librarian and through N/K room collections. First through third grade students came as classes on a one time per week schedule with fourth through sixth grade classes coming once every other week during the 1990-1991 school year. The staff reduction in August of 1991 resulted in all classes scheduled every other week.  During the class visits, students were introduced to a variety of books through reading, book talks, storytelling, and help in book selection. Other topics covered include care of materials, library manners, location of materials, i.e. primary and general fiction and non-fiction, biography, etc.  The upper elementary students were also taught the use of the card catalog and specialized reference tools such as the almanac and the Junior Book of Authors and Illustrators as needed and in conjunction with the classroom teacher.


Froyen was an active member of the Iowa Education Media Association  (Now the Iowa Association of School Librarians). By 1990 she was on the IEMA Iowa Children’s Choice Award Committee (ICCA) and worked with the promotional video several years.


The ICCA began in 1980. In the spring, 3rd through 6th grade students across Iowa take part in the nomination of books for the Iowa Children's Choice Award.  The nominations come exclusively from these students to ensure the books are the favorites of students in this age group. Nominations are not allowed from authors or publishers. After the suggestions are submitted, these books are reviewed by the Award Committee and volunteer readers and the list is narrowed.  During the summer, the adult readers read and rate the titles. The Committee members finalize the list a year ahead of time.  A video featuring students doing book talks about the current year’s books is made and distributed by IEMA members. Froyen was active on the ICCA video committee for many years. MPLS students were featured on the 1991-1992 video.


Several copies of each ICCA title were purchased for the PLS library and introduced to students via the video early in the fall and the favorites voted upon in the spring. Throughout the school year, students were encouraged to share their thoughts about the books they had read in the library and in their classrooms.


A complementary program, the Iowa Teen Award (ITA) for 6th through 9th graders, began in 1986 and followed the process of the ICCA. These two programs, along with the emphasis on literature in PLS classrooms, encouraged and enlarged the students’ interest in reading.


Student  of all ages had open access to the library before and after school and during classroom time as teachers permitted. Faculty and students were encouraged to use whatever materials suited their needs regardless of specific collection placement.


Information Problem Solving

Computers and the Internet substantially increase the availability of information and disinformation. Library skills instruction, integrated with the regular classroom, enhanced the outcomes of library research activities. Many librarians and school library media specialists, including Froyen, began using the Big6, a systematic approach to information problem solving that relies upon critical thinking skills. The approach, developed in the 1990s by Mike Eisenberg (Dean Emeritus and Professor, University of Washington Information School) and Bob Berkowitz (School Library Media Specialist with the Wayne Central School District, Ontario Center, New York), guides students through information problem solving as well as provides a basic framework for teaching and promoting information literacy. The Big6 process encourages teaching partnerships of library media specialists and classroom teachers as was mandated by Iowa media center standards (12.5 (22)) calling for life-long learning strategies and critical thinking skills.


Secondary students and classes accessed the library in many ways. At the beginning of the school year, the secondary Language Arts classes were invited to an orientation session. This was especially helpful to the seventh graders who were somewhat new to the west end of the library.  Individual students came from study hall or classes for research, reading, and/or social time (not encouraged).  Small groups who were working on projects for a class would come together to facilitate and coordinate their efforts. Through partnerships between the librarian and subject matter teacher, Froyen would go to the classroom to teach information problem solving skills or classes would come to the library to become acquainted with specialized indexes or other research tools. Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Spanish, Physical Education, Home Economics, and Music classes were among the subject areas matching library experiences with classroom needs.


One instructor commented, “Froyen and I have worked together on a variety of interdisciplinary projects. She encourages academically challenged students, has an understanding and acceptance of culturally diverse populations, and aids students to gain skills needed to acquire information from a wide range of sources.”


UNI Students/Student Teachers

Each semester Froyen offered an orientation to the library for MPLS student teachers and field experience students.  After the orientation she assisted these students as they prepared units of instruction that included appropriate library materials and ways to use them.


In addition to supervising and mentoring Library Science practicum students and field experience students, Froyen also welcomed the opportunity to give presentations on storytelling and a variety of other topics to UNI classes in the College of Education.



In 1990, when Froyen began her tenure at MPLS/NUHS, technology at the library was limited to one IBM computer for the librarian’s use and a Wheelwriter Series II typewriter used for creating catalog cards, materials ordering, and producing New Book lists for faculty.  During the summer of 1991 ordering via computer was improved and several CD-ROM subscriptions for information access and periodical (magazine) indexing were available for patron use. Throughout the years, as budgets permitted, additional computer workstations were added. At first the workstations were housed in the study carrels. Eventually special furniture was designed and built to house the computers. Internet/World Wide Web connections became available. Instruction in the use of the various formats was needed for faculty and students.


Budget restrictions caused difficulty during this period.  If one purchased a book, periodical, newspaper, or other print material, after cataloging and accessioning, the item was ready to be used.  However, with CD’s (compact disks), CD-ROMs, and other digital items, equipment was also needed.  A shiny small disk filled with information was useless without a means to access that information.  The materials budgets, while generous, could not be used to purchase computers, printers, paper for same, etc. Negotiations were ongoing and deals were struck with the MPLS director, Department of Teaching Head, the UNI accounting department, and others.


Froyen began investigating integrated library information systems during her first year at MPLS.  Immediately she began getting the collection ready for automation, first by a thorough weeding of the entire collection. In addition to weeding, the ISBN and/or LCCN number for each volume needed to be added to each shelf list card.  This procedure was included as part of the annual inventory done each summer as required by the State of Iowa.


Early on Froyen met with the head of the Rod Library, Herbert Safford, to discuss the possibility of including the MPLS collection on the UNISTAR union catalog (including many libraries in the Cedar Valley).  They agreed that MPLS needed its own integrated system that could serve as a model for other school libraries in the state. Many of the available systems were investigated; funding sources were identified; and input was sought from the College of Education and MPLS technology staffs and other faculty before the decision was made in 1996 to purchase and install the Follett system.  Follett provided training sessions. The library staff, parent and student volunteers, and UNI Library Science majors spent much of the spring and summer of 1997 preparing the collection for the transfer from card catalog to digital.  Dr. Leigh Zeitz, Coordinator of Educational Technology, and technician Steve Noyes provided invaluable assistance during the changeover and throughout the year. By the fall of 1997 the system was fully implemented.


At this time a patron needed to be in the library to access the catalog and other digital information.  Between 1998 and 2012, with improvement in technology and the expansion of the Internet and the World Wide Web, that information became accessible throughout the building.


With increased reliance on information from the internet and the World Wide Web, students needed to be more aware of the veracity of this information and methods needed to determine the reliability of the sources. This verification is done in print media through editors and publishers.  Librarians work with teachers and students to teach skills and the questioning methods needed to vet their research results.


Service & Outreach Activities

Within the school, Froyen’s activities could all be considered service.  Whether she was visiting with teachers about their current teaching activities, then recommending helpful library resources, responding to requests to purchase new books, preparing the monthly list of new library acquisitions highlighting items of special interest to various departments/teachers, scheduling time to work with classes, small groups or individuals, service was at the heart of who she was and what she did.


One example was her realization that students doing research had difficulty securing information from reference materials without extensive hand-copying. She investigated the possibility of acquiring a coin-operated copy machine for the library.  Secondary students were pleased to see the new machine when they returned to school in fall 1996.


Her work with peers often led to presentations within the University and into the local community, the state of Iowa, and the nation. She worked diligently to continue the success of the UNI Beginning Reading Conference. Yearly the featured authors spoke to the MPLS students in the library and their books were featured in displays within the library and in classrooms.


The following nationally-known writers keynoted the Beginning Reading Conference during the Froyen years:


Mem Fox (1990)                                           Gail Gibbons (1995)

Dr. William Teale (1991)                             Aliki (1996)

Steven Kellogg (1992)                             Jena Fritz (1997)

Kevin Henkes (1993)                                   Donald Crews (1998)

Ed Young (1994)


As a member of various sub-committees of IEMA’s Iowa Children’s Choice Award, Froyen read yearly more than 300 nominated books to help determine the year’s reading list and participated in the development of the promotional video tape. From 1990-1994, she served as chair of the ICCA Video Committee and directed the development of the promotional video, from writing the  script to choosing student reviewers and arranging and supervising the shoot and editing the tape which was then distributed to Iowa’s Area Education Agencies. The finished product was presented to the rest of the organization’s members at the annual IEMA conference. As noted, MPLS students were featured on the 1991-1992 video.


Multi-cultural diversity

During Froyen’s years as a library media specialist at Lowell School in the Waterloo Community School District, she received extensive training in multi-cultural diversity.  Her understanding increased and enabled her to evaluate collections and expand their inclusiveness.  She put this knowledge  to use while building the MPLS collections and encouraging the use of multicultural materials in classroom units of instruction.  In letters written by teachers for her tenure file, several mentioned Froyen as a change agent regarding inclusion and in increasing the use of culturally diverse materials in literature and through instruction in their classrooms. At one time one of the Muslim students asked why the library had copies of the Bible in the collection but not of the Koran or any Hindu texts. Very soon that discrepancy was remedied.



Department of Teaching Heads during Gail Froyen’s Tenure

Roger Kueter, 1990-1991

Linda Fernandez, 1991-1997

Wendell McConnaha, 1997-2001

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