Last IMLS Grant Cohort to Graduate

Last IMLS Grant Cohort to Graduate

Nineteen Iowa teachers will bring new skills to their positions this May as they graduate with master’s degrees in Library and Information Science. Four years ago, SLIS was awarded a grant by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) providing for two cohorts of students to become certified teacher librarians. In most cases, these students were already working in school district libraries across the state.

The first cohort to benefit from the $881,692 grant graduated twenty students in Spring 2010 and the second cohort will graduate in Spring 2011.

The idea for the grant started because of a change in Iowa Code. In 1995, the requirement that each Iowa school district have a degreed librarian on staff was “left out” of the code. For the next 11 years, it was not voted back in.

In 2006, Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack was instrumental in lobbying for its inclusion in Section 281.12.3. Now, each district in Iowa must employ a librarian with a master’s degree in library and information science who has completed an articulated, sequential K-12 library curriculum.

SLIS Director Jim Elmborg said well over 100 districts in Iowa did not have a degreed librarian when the code was changed.

Now, thanks to the IMLS grant, that number has shrunk.

“I heard about this grant and knew this would be about the only way I could become a certified teacher librarian,” said Donna Salton, teacher librarian at Emmetsburg Catholic School in Emmetsburg, Iowa and May 2011 graduate. “I had checked other colleges in the area and the only colleges with this program were too far for me to travel to and still keep a full-time job.”

Now that Salton has almost completed her degree, she realizes the importance of meeting user needs with a variety of formats.

When UI SLIS first got the grant, the department targeted districts that were without at least one degreed librarian. They then selected applicants who had successful teaching experience and were looking to be leaders in the implementation of technology.

“Throughout my teaching degree, literacy and technology have always been my first passion,” said Lisa Lode, Hartley Melvin Sanborn Community School District K-12 teacher librarian and May 2011 graduate. “This program allowed me to focus on my two passions and share them with the students I teach.”

“I wanted to get a Master's from Iowa, because I feel the university offers very strong degree programs, and the grant was icing on the cake,” explained Matt McKee, Burlington Community High School teacher librarian and May 2011 graduate. “The more practical classes we have taken have helped me as a librarian immensely. Classes like Collection Management, Multimedia, and the Research Methods class we took were great because they gave us an overview of the skills we need to be teacher librarians.”

Jae Dwyer was not working in a library when she started the program but had always had the desire to be a librarian. She mentioned this to a colleague at Marshalltown High School, who told her about the grant.

“I gained the knowledge needed to gain a new job in a school library and the confidence to become a librarian,” Dwyer, who will be the teacher librarian at Franklin Elementary in the Marshalltown School District next year, said.

Dwyer said the grant cohort she was placed in at Iowa was by far the best part of her experience: “They are wonderful colleagues who have helped me, supported me, and become life-long friends.”

Others agreed that the relationships developed at SLIS will carry on after graduation.

“The cohort has been the best thing about the program. I really feel like we have formed a professional learning community, and I also think we are fairly good friends, even though we are spread out across the state,” McKee said.

“The camaraderie and support that our cohort has developed is fantastic. We know that we can call on one another for support in work or personal issues,” Lode said.