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Home / History / The Weber Years




Brief History of School Libraries &

The ISNS-UNI Laboratory School Library


By Gail Froyen

The Weber Years

August 1999—May 2012


Mary Lou Weber, Librarian, 10 month Professional and Scientific appointment

B.A. 1975 American History, University of Maryland, College Park

M.A. 1999 School Library Media Studies, University of Northern Iowa

7-12 Teaching Endorsement in English, Wayne State College, Nebraska

7-12 Teaching Endorsement in History, University of South Dakota

Studies in Native American History, University of Maryland, College Park


Administration & Management (including Budgets)

Lou Weber’s appointment brought the library staff back to two professionals for the first time since 1990. She and Tallakson shared responsibilities for management as well as for serving patrons, and for teaching and literacy.


Tallakson left MPLS at the end of the 2001 academic year to return to a Cedar Falls Public Schools school library media position.  The second librarian position was filled by Ann Gumz, an adjunct professor for the 2001-2002 school year.  Her contract was not renewed due to many budget cuts and that position was lost.  From 2001 to 2012 Weber was the sole MPLS librarian. Over the ensuing years the merit positions were cut and the library operated with Weber as the only professional, assisted by UNI work study students, student and parent volunteers.


While the library budgets were stable through 2001, the materials budget declined during the following years from $30,000 to less than $17,000 during Dave Smith’s Directorship in 2007-2009. Monetary support for the entire school declined every year after 2001 affecting all areas including library staffing and materials budgets.


Library Space and Arrangement

The rearrangement of the library materials begun during Tallakson’s first year was completed during Weber’s first year so that all elementary materials were housed on the east side of the library with secondary materials on the west.  This change eased supervision of the elementary students, especially during scheduled class time. Weber loved the Reading Steps, but the carpet was so torn and worn it became a health and safety hazard. New carpet was requisitioned for several years but was never granted.  The summer after Weber disposed of the steps, workers arrived to put on the new carpet.


Eventually a decrease in enrollment resulted in fewer Nursery/Kindergarten sections being needed. Each of the three rooms had a free standing loft. With one fewer section, there was one loft with no home.  With the Reading Steps gone, this loft found a new home at the elementary side of the library and became a motivator for students who wanted quiet reading time after they had completed checkout. Other additions to the elementary side of the library were a claw-footed tub as a single reading space, and a Reading Cabin that accommodated 2 children at a time.


Before 1990, Diamond had purchased about 10 BackJack Floor Chairs.  Weber increased the number so as to accommodate an entire class. After checking out their books, elementary students could pick up a BackJack, find a place to put it and read independently until whole class activities resumed.


The carpet in the library had come to the end of its useful life. One summer, with very little notice, the library carpet was replaced.  To prepare for this work, all the books needed to be placed in boxes and put on one side of library while the carpet on the other side was removed and replaced. Then the process was reversed. Weber picked up boxes from MacDonald’s and other retailers and put the word out that the library needed help boxing books during the last week of the school year.  Some high school classes responded to the call. Weber had two work study students (both male) that summer who helped with the heavy lifting.  The free-standing shelving also had to be moved and members of the football team stepped up to that challenge. The logistics of this operation were tricky but the old well-worn carpet was gone and the new carpet markedly improved the look of the library.


Acquisitions and Collection Management

During earlier years most library books were purchased through the Baker and Taylor vendor.  Beginning in1999 and thereafter, purchasing was done through Follett Library Resources (FLR). This move provided access to Follett’s Collection Management tools. This change, along with moving from in-house processing to purchasing already processed materials, enabled the reduced library staff to operate more efficiently than before these changes.

Very little weeding of the collection was done until after Weber’s second year. Thereafter, with assistance from FLR’s tools and Excel, weeding was maintained so that the collection remained a stable size.

Elementary collection materials were purchased with elementary curriculum units specifically in mind, along with puchases of general materials well reviewed in professional journals. Secondary art and social studies teachers requested specific topics to expand for the collection, and again, professional reviews were also consulted.

Teaching and Literacy

While earlier librarians taught units on library skills at the elementary and middle school levels, Weber developed a full curriculum including units for each grade level. N/K-2nd grades worked on literary appreciation. Grades 3 and 4 completed units on the Dewey Decimal system, Caldecott award winners, dictionary skills using a class set of dictionaries, and retrieval of information in a variety of formats using a class set of World Almanacs for kids as well as nonfiction books from the Library collection. With Weber’s assistance, students in grades 3-6 wrote letters to authors of favorite books for the State Library of Iowa’s Letters About Literature program. One year a letter from a MPLS student was a state-winning letter. Grades 5 and 6 completed units on map and atlas skills, including Google Earth, as well as on searching, retrieval, and citing information sources. They also used World Almanacs as well as non-fiction books from the Library collection to find information in a variety of formats.

Very good cooperation existed between the middle school and high school faculty and the library staff.  However, collaboration was most often initiated by Weber, then implemented by all parties. Weber frequently took the lead in coordinating and reinforcing the partnership. She is especially proud of the collaboration with Julie Creeden in 6th grade computer work; Judy Lemke, in Family Living; and of many creative lessons that supported classroom needs

Weber worked with middle school and high school Language Arts, Art, and Social Studies classes in the library on a variety of topics and assignments.  She assisted Language Arts middle school and high school students with choosing books to read for various writing assignments and helped middle school students with research and creation of a display of their Bloom’s taxonomy projects.  High schoolers’ history fair projects benefited greatly from Weber’s knowledge, imagination, and suggestions.

High on Weber’s priority list was that of encouraging reading. One way she did this for the elementary level was by reading books to children. Faculty praised her outstanding talent in this regard.  Beginning in 2002 and ending in 2005 The American Girl Company put out a series of 8 books with accompanying display dolls.  Weber purchased this set and displayed the dolls on the tops of shelving units to make the library more attractive and inviting.

Weber often gleaned and adapted ideas from her own professional literature to promote reading with MPLS students. For instance, she created a set of Literacy Bags—themed bags each containing several picture books, a notebook with suggested activities, and a prop. The bags were housed in the Library. The Butterfly bag, for example, included non-fiction and fiction books about butterflies, an activities notebook, and a small stuffed butterfly. She created “buddy” pairs between the 6th and 2nd graders (Unit II). To prepare for meeting with their partner, the older students read the books and chose activities to complete with their “buddy.”  The pairs met in the library, read a book or two, and completed at least one activity from the Bag. To the delight of all, the meetings finished with a snack for everyone.


UNI Students/Student Teachers

Weber, as was true for all MPLS librarians, supervised Master degree and teacher education candidates from the School Library Media Program at a variety of levels.


Beginning in about 2009, through a one-to-one initiative, each high school student was given a personal laptop or Ipad. Technology was well funded, but not through library budgets. Computers new to the library came largely from UNI. Computer projection systems (Smart Boards) were given to each unit/department and to the Library. The Smart Board took up quite a bit of space.

Weber received an Ipad and Apple's Ipad training so she was able to assist students. The Lab School closed before one-to-one went below high school, but there were computer carts for each Elementary Unit of teaching, and the 5th grade demonstrated a Smart Board for classroom use.  Weber assisted students with UNI's databases, especially EBSCO, for research purposes.


Service and Outreach

Weber was heavily involved each year in UNI’s College of Education Beginning Reading Conference. Most years she chaired the Promotions Committee.  Two years she chaired or co-chaired the Conference.  Each year the Conference offered books for sale by the featured author/illustrator. From 2010-2013, Weber purchased the books for sale and organized this sale. Weber co-presented on newly published recommended children’s books at the Conference for several years.

Lab School students had opportunites to read and hear the following nationally-known writers who keynoted the Beginning Reading Conference during the Weber years:


Pat Moira (1999)                                          Jerry Pallotta and Ray Reutzel (2006)

Tomie DePaola (2000)                                Faith Ringgold (2007)

Lois Ehlert (2001)                                         Rosemary Wells (2008)

Denise Fleming (2002)                               Herman Parish (2009)

Patricia MacLachlan (2003)                       Brian Cleary & Mary Fried (2010)

Janet Stevens & Tim Shanahan (2004)     Marc Brown (2011)


Over the Weber years, Beginning Reading Conferences featured authors Tomie De Paola, Brian Cleary, Denise Fleming, Lois Ehlert, Patricia MacLachlan, Herman Parish, Faith Ringgold, Marc Brown, and Sara Weeks. These nationally-admired writers all met with MPLS students in the Library with the exception of Rosemary Wells, who spoke to students in the Library from campus via technology.

The MPLS Library hosted the African American Read-In for area 1st and 2nd grade students in 2011 and in 2012.  UNI sponsored the African American Read-in, and brought in guest speakers as well as UNI professors. All Cedar Falls and Waterloo first and second grades were invited. They cycled through the library for the speakers, and ate lunch in the gym.

Weber and Dody Olson, the school nurse, worked cooperatively to initiate a program entitled “Bonding in the Classroom.” This program was an advisory program where each faculty member in the building was assigned a group of students with whom they met monthly. These meetings focused on working on Skills for Success such as interest/strengths analysis and resume development. Initially implemented at the senior high level, Lou Weber and Olson created modules for the advisors to complete with their students. J. D. Cryer subsequently formed a committee, including Weber, that created lessons for middle school advisory groups.


The chair of the Social Studies department, Lee Weber, was instrumental in creating the MPLS Teacher Institute for UNI Teacher Education students. Presentations on children's literature recommended for use in the elementary social studies curriculum were featured.


Lou Weber collaborated with Denise Tallakson, professor of Children's Literature at UNI, on a special activity: author study displays and events held in the MPLS library. The university students created author study displays for elementary students. Each presentation included an activity students could do. Students, with their parents, visited the fair, completed activities of their choice, and snacked on cookies and punch. The UNI students did an amazing job, complete with costumes of book characters.

Lou Weber served on UNI’s Energy Conservation Committee for 3 years, as part of a sub-committee that organized a campus-wide forum on energy issues.

Sometime after the decision to close MPLS was made on February 27, 2012, Weber contacted Deb Tidwell, head of the Literacy Education Program at Schindler Education Center and Maxine Davis, head of the IRTS (Instructional Resources & Technology Service), to ask them if they wanted materials from the MPLS library collection. They each took current materials. The Literacy Education Program also took the literacy bags created by Weber as well as the book characters she collected as decorations. Everything else in the Library was sold at the MPLS auction.



Department of Teaching Heads during Weber’s tenure


Wendell McConnaha, 1997-2001

Nadene Davidson, 2001-2004

Bill Callahan, 2004-2007, Dave Smith Associate Department  of Teaching Head

Dave Smith, 2007-2009

Bridgette Wagoner, 2009-2010

Lyn Countryman, 2010-2012

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