Raising Readers in Story County

Our Board

2020-2021 Raising Readers in Story County

Board Updates Coming Soon!

Executive Committee

President: Jerri Heid, Ames

I have worked in libraries since 1991 when I was hired as a library assistant and then became the Children’s Librarian at the Cherokee Public Library in Cherokee Iowa, my hometown. In 2000 I was hired at the Clive Public Library, Clive Iowa, to assist in the opening of brand new library with collection and programming as their youth representative.  I worked there until I was hired as the Youth Services Specialist and now as the Youth Services Manager at Ames Public Library.  With each chapter along the way I have consulted and presented on topics such as Toddle on Over: using music in your programming when you can’t sing, Using Baby sign in your Programming, How to Read Aloud, Early literacy Skills and Practices, Youth Department Design, and Teen Services. I have been an RRSC board member since 2015 when I began my position at Ames Public Library. I believe that RRSC mission for 0-8 years corresponds directly with the library’s mission for this age group, only with more freedom for targeted and broader outreach in the county. 


Vice President: Lynne Carey, Nevada

Lynne recently retired from the Ames Public Library after 36 years of service. At APL, Lynne developed a strong passion for community building through collaboration. She has experience with strategic planning, human resource management, budgeting, fundraising, and policy development. While literacy efforts of every stripe are important to Lynne, she believes that a focus on early literacy and parent education is vital. Lynne received a BS from ISU in psychology and women’s studies. She is one of the rare Story County natives who stayed put.  She and her spouse, Navid Emami, live in Nevada in Lynne’s childhood home and appreciate the small-town living that Iowa offers.

Treasurer: Janeen Christy, Ames

Janeen joined RRSC as Treasurer in December 2021.  She is a professional accountant and lives in Ames with her spouse Jon.

Janeen’s love for reading started at an early age and has continued throughout her life.  She enjoys reading books that expand her understanding of other cultures and historical time periods.  When not reading, Janeen enjoys cultivating her garden, walking, cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones, traveling, attending live music and theater, and promoting community gardening and environmental stewardship.

Her favorite books are “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean and “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams.

Secretary: Carolyn Jons, Ames

My dream is a future in which all children grow up healthy, with loving relationships, and with a strong foundation in literacy and learning in order to maximize their potentials.  This passion has guided me as a parent and grandparent, a school board member, a member of Raising Readers in Story County and Story County Reads, a Rotarian, a neighbor, and a philanthropist. Every day I look forward to working with dedicated partners to contribute a little more toward this vision. 


Board of Directors

Malai Amfahr, Des Moines

Malai has over 20 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector dedicated to engaging
and supporting marginalized youth. She now serves as the Senior Program Officer of
Constituency Outreach and Engagement with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR). In
her role, she works with the network’s 400+ communities to support mobilization towards the
shared agenda of addressing generational poverty with children’s literacy as the primary
vehicle. Prior to this she was the Story County Reads Director with United Way of Story County
managing our local GLR community work. Malai serves on several nonprofit and philanthropic
committees and is a member of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation’s HealthConnect Fellowship
where she concentrated on a project involving equity in education and early childhood. She’s
facilitated workshops and conducted presentations at the national, state, and local level.


Connie Beecher, Ames (bio forthcoming)

Diana Claus, Ames

As a Raising Readers Board Member for ten years, Diana Claus is committed to supporting literacy achievement initiatives for children in Story County, with a special emphasis on working with the underserved population.  Diana has a B. S. in Elementary Education from Drake, an M. S. in Curriculum and Instruction from Drake, and Literacy Coaching Certification from ISU.  She taught elementary school for thirty-four years, supervised the administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress for seven years, and served at ISU in the School of Education as a lecturer and coordinator of the Duffelmeyer Reading Clinic. Interacting with families while working with students from preschool through college ages has provided a broad perspective of literacy development.  Diana enjoys designing literacy programs that focus on interventions for struggling readers by examining best practices, incorporating instructional strategies, and using assessment to inform instruction.  Being a part of the collaboration between Raising Readers and community partners has been a rewarding, synergistic experience. 

Samantha Cross, Ames (bio forthcoming)

Lynn Engen, Ames

I worked as an RN in my first career, serving in a variety of disciplines (pediatrics, pediatrician’s office, public health and mental health nursing) that contributed to my life work. Along the way, I initiated a community-wide effort to establish a family Resource Center focused on parent education, support groups and parent-child activities. As it began to take form, and with a board of directors in place, I was hired as director of People Place. In the early years of its existence, I obtained my BA degree concentrating on courses related to parent-child relations; and (as special topics coursework), I developed a program for parents using children's literature as a vehicle to understand children’s behaviors and how parents can communicate effectively. I take great pleasure in having served on the RR Board in several capacities ─ Governance Committee, leader of the Eastwood Team, leader of the Team for the “Underserved”, did some grant writing and editing, etc. The skills I nurtured as an RN and at People Place (overseeing/developing programs, marketing, working with staff, volunteers, the Board and community organizations) have served me well, as I contribute to the purposes of Raising Readers in Story County.

Dan Franklin, Ames

Dan Franklin has been a member of the Board of Directors since August 2018 and focused on the Little Free Library program.  He grew up in northwest Iowa and attended the University of Northern Iowa while planning for a teaching career.   After 1 ½ years at UNI, transferred to Iowa State University and graduated with minors in three areas of interest – Education, Math, and History.  Dan retired after 43 years with Iowa Highway Commission/Iowa Department of Transportation in June 2016 and immediately began volunteering with Raising Readers in Story County.

L. Wesley Harris, Jr., Ames (bio forthcoming)

Joni Kellen, Ames 

Joni Kellen is in her first year of service as a member of the Board of Directors. Having
grown up in northwest Iowa, she and her husband recently moved to Ames. She holds a
Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Design from Iowa State University and spent many years in
brand marketing. Later she went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Education in
Leadership and Learning (also from Iowa State) and spent time in institutional research,
strategic planning and also taught GED/HSED. Currently she is a wealth advisor at
Northwest Bank where she uses her creative and analytical skills to help clients find
simplicity in the complex. Joni is passionate about the arts and literacy and focused on
supporting her community.


Ellen McIntosh, Nevada

Ellen McIntosh works as a research coordinator at Iowa State University where she specializes in research with children, families, and schools. Ellen has a Ph.D. in Childhood Studies from Rutgers University, a Master’s in English, and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Children’s Literature. She has been a strong supporter of youth literacy and education for over fifteen years. She has also volunteered with a variety of programs at Raising Readers of Story County, including Story Pals and Reading Buddies. Ellen hopes to continue working as an advocate for youth literacy for years to come.

Kathryn Merseal, Fort Dodge (bio forthcoming)

Julie Popken, Ames (bio forthcoming)

Neil Rowe, Ames

Neil serves as a board member of Raising Readers in Story County. Neil is an Associate Researcher with the University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships and Research, working to optimize the well-being of children, youth and families through research and evaluation of initiatives in the state of Iowa and Kansas. He holds a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Iowa State University. Neil was the coordinator for Small Talk, an early literacy and language development program for parents of children under 30 months.

Marguerite Sibley, Ames

Marguerite Sibley has lived in Ames most of her life, and raised her two children here with her husband. She has taught every age from preschoolers to graduate students at I.S.U., but spent most of her career teaching Kindergarten, first, and second grades. Reading and teaching a love of reading are her passions!


*Photos by Brittany Barlow Photography  
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