Collaboration with teachers tops the list at Jefferson HIgh School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Iowa is the first state on the Vision Tour that I had never visited before and I was anxious to see what it was like.  Iowa has some interesting things going for it, one being the Iowa Caucuses which have gained in importance each time.  Iowa has also had a tradition of staffing their school libraries with certified school librarians per state mandate for many years.  And my friend Jean Donham, a professor at Northern Iowa and formerly University of Iowa, has been a leader in the school library community for years. There is also a one to one laptop initiative in Iowa.  I was ready.

Becky Johnston’s program at Jefferson High School did not disappoint.  When I walked into the library there were congratulatory flower arrangements everywhere.  I noticed one of Becky’s strengths to be teacher collaboration.  It’s something that is talked about a lot, but Becky walks the walk.  Many teachers I talked to described collaborative projects they did with Becky and how they built from year to year. 

Another strength of this program is the data collection that Becky does.  She analyzes a lot of data and uses it to improve her program.  As it said in the local paper, “She strives to empower learners to think for themselves and develop location, organizational and evaluation skills to help them throughout life.

Several members of the Iowa school library community turned out to join in the celebration including Erin Feingold of the Iowa Association of School Librarians.  We sat around and talked during lunch about the aforementioned staffing mandate which lapsed for about ten years but was back in the school code.  It was stated that some districts are using one librarian for multiple schools which is not the spirit of the mandate.  Others, such as Marshalltown School District, are employing a full-time school librarian and a full-time aide in every school. It’s a high poverty district with a high number of English Language Learners so I was happy to hear that.

Most of us who are librarians have gotten teased and called “Marian the Librarian” at least once.  Marian is a character in The Music Man.  I had forgotten that the musical was based in River City, Iowa until the group of school librarians I met during the Iowa Vision Tour stop reminded me. It turns out that River City is based on the actual Mason City the home town of its composer Meredith Wilson.  And I drove right past it on my way from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids!  Talk about disappointed.  There is the Music Man Square in Mason City dedicated to Wilson - complete with a museum and his boyhood home.  I would have loved to have seen it.  Next time.

Jefferson High School librarian Becky Johnson receives the Vision Tour plaque in 2011 but the school library also won the AASL Encyclopedia Award in 1969.

Iowa

March 17, 2011