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Home / History / The Tallakson Years




Brief History of School Libraries &

The ISNS-UNI Laboratory School Library


By Gail Froyen



The Tallakson Years

MPLS Library August 1998-June 2001


David  R. Tallakson, MPLS/NUHS Librarian, Faculty Academic Year Appointment

B.A. 1977 Education, Arizona State University

M.A. 1992 Library and Information Science, University of Iowa



Elementary teacher, Special education teacher, Librarian, Cedar Falls School District.


During the spring and summer of 1998, Dr. Wendell McConnaha, head of the Department of Teaching from 1997-2000, hired thirty or more new faculty. One of these was David (Dave) R. Tallakson as librarian.


Administration & Management (including Budgets)

The library materials budget of $30,000 remained so during Tallakson’s three years.

During his first year at MPLS Tallakson visited with McConnaha about the need to return to two librarians and McConnaha agreed. There were three levels of employment at UNI: Faculty, Professional and Scientific employees, and Merit employees. While the MPLS librarian positions had historically been Faculty appointments, McConnaha felt the position would be approved and filled more quickly if it came under Professional and Scientific (P & S) designation. This position was approved, posted, and filled during the 1999-2000 school year. P & S positions did not require research and had no tenure expectations. UNI work-study students, NUHS student volunteers, as well as parent volunteers, filled out the staff.


Library Space and arrangement

While the library space remained the same as before, Tallakson decided to re-catalog and rearrange the Primary & General collections to follow the Primary, Elementary, and Secondary School Library model. At this time the school was divided into Elementary grades Nursery - 5th, Middle School 5th-8th grades, and High School 9th - 12th grades. Using the Follett’s Circulation Plus/Catalog Plus with the Alliance Plus, and beginning to use complete Follett-produced Cataloging, re-cataloging was done. The Primary and Elementary print materials were totally housed on the East side of the library with the General collection (Middle and High School) on the West side of the space. This change enabled students, especially younger ones, to become more independent in their selection of fiction and non-fiction books.  It also lightened necessary supervision.


Acquisitions and Collection Management

After Tallakson’s first year, the librarians shared ordering, cataloging, and weeding. The need for an accurate and updated inventory reported to UNI remained strict but was somewhat easier to manage with the automated system.



Teaching and Literacy

Elementary classes were on a fixed schedule and Tallakson primarily used the scheduled time for literature enrichment—reading stories and/or doing related art projects. He loved matching students with good books that would capture their interest.  The “Tallakson Guarantee” was “Give me three chances and I will find you a book you’ll love.”  After stating his guarantee, he conducted a brief interview with the student and proceeded to suggest one, two or three titles. “At the time,” he recalls, “Brian Jakes’ Red Wall series was usually a winner.”


One of Tallakson’s favorite activities was involvement with the Beginning Reading Conference. Pat Mora, Lois Ehlert, and Tomi DePaola were featured authors/artists during his time at MPLS.  He began early each school year to feature their books, incorporate related art projects, and maintain displays in the library.  He especially enjoyed developing activities related to each of the authors and the primary curriculum.  Before Pat Mora's visit in 1999, Mary Guenther's 4th grade class read Mora’s book Pablo's Tree. The fourth graders then built a paper tree in the library. Tallakson remembers Mora’s delight with the tree. It remained in the library for some time following her visit.


Another year, in conjunction with 4th grade teachers Kay Treiber and Diane McCarty, Tallakson developed the Lunch Time Book Club. Students in grades 4 & 5 were invited to join the Loving Literature Club. The faculty hoped for a 10% positive response but were delighted when 48% (31 students) became members. About 25 students met every other week to discuss the title for that meeting. After the discussion, students were given the book for the next meeting. The books were purchased through a UNI College of Education Scholarly Activity Seed grant made possible by the Rosa Janssen and the Henry P. and Nancy Meyers Funds. The club continued through the summer led by McCarty and Maribelle Betterton.


During Tallakson’s tenure the Harry Potter series began.  Student response was great. One student checked out the book but didn’t return it in a timely fashion. After investigation, Tallakson learned that the whole family was reading the book. Each family member had a scheduled reading time and the student’s time was from 7-8 p.m.


Tallakson, with J.D. Cryer (Middle School Language Arts teacher ) and Paul Horton (Middle School Social Studies teacher), wrote a unit about the Caribbean. Tallakson focused on the cultural life (books, food, music, art), Horton on the World Bank and monetary lending, and Cryer on the literature/language.  Cryer and Tallakson presented this project at the National Middle School Association conference in Florida.


Tallakson frequently introduced secondary students to a variety of print and non-print library resources and taught the research process to middle schoolers with Rick Vanderwall (Language Arts teacher) and Horton (Social Studies).


UNI Students/Student Teachers

Tallakson worked with and mentored UNI field experience students and several UNI Library Practicum students.  Dr. Judy Finkelstein, former MPLS early childhood teacher, also brought her university early childhood classes down each semester. “She made me feel like a superstar!” Tallakson says.



Instruction at the secondary level during the Tallakson-Weber years moved from instructor presentation to research based learning. The Follett System had been in use for one year before Tallakson became the MPLS librarian.  Each succeeding year the system was updated and user certification was renewed. Tallakson changed from internal cataloging and processing to external full processing with the Follett Company.  The impetus for this change came from the re-cataloging of the collection, as noted earlier.The Follett System installed during Froyen’s tenure was later upgraded to the Follett Destiny System.


Budget difficulties remained, which hindered obtaining technological hardware.  Area Educational Agency (AEA) 7 offered many on-line resources to the school libraries during this time. Tallakson presented many in-service faculty programs, including use of Info-Track, Pro-Quest, and Robook onLine. These programs could be accessed both in the library and from teachers’ offices.  Additional Reference CD’s (compact disks) were purchased and available for use; this supported the move from print and CD research resources to on-line data bases.


Service & Outreach Activities

Like his predecessors, Tallakson worked actively with the UNI Beginning Reading Conference and with UNI faculty and students.  Lab School students had opportunites to read and hear the following nationally-known writers who keynoted the Beginning Reading Conference during the Tallakson years: (Donald Crews, 1998; Pat Mora, 1999), and Tomie DePaola, 2000).


Tallakson also presented at conferences. His collaborative papers included:


Cryer, J.D., Horton, P., and Tallakson, D. (1999, October). Developed and Developing Countries: Approaches to Reading, Writing, and Research. Presentation at the Annual National Association of Laboratory Schools Regional Conference, Cedar Falls, Iowa.


Cryer, J.D., and Tallakson, D. (1999, October). Developed and Developing Countries: Approaches to Reading, Writing, and Research.  Presentation at the 26th Annual National Middle School Association Conference, Orlando, Florida.


Tallakson takes pride in his collaboration with Dr. Ross Nielsen’s effort to create a Human Rights collection in the Plainfield Public Library in memory of Ross’s wife Jeanne. She grew up in Plainfield and had a vital and lifelong interest in Human Rights. The collection of quality books recommended by Tallakson is housed in a beautiful bookcase.



Head of the Department of Teaching during Tallakson’s tenure

Wendell McConnaha, 1997-2001

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