Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Behind the books, with Teacher Librarian Diana Maliszewski

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Diana Maliszewski

When we think of the people behind the books we love, we generally think of writers. But many people work in a variety of professions to get those books onto your shelves. In our new series, Behind The Books, Open Book speaks with the printers, publicists, book sellers, book bloggers, event programmers and many others who work in the publishing industry.

Today we speak with Diana Maliszewski, a teacher-librarian at Agnes Macphail Public School in Toronto. She is the editor of The Teaching Librarian, the official magazine of the Ontario School Library Association.

Open Book:

How long have you been at your current job?

Diana Maliszewski:

I have been a teacher-librarian for seventeen years. This year is an anniversary of sorts for me — it’s been ten years that I’ve been at my current school, Agnes Macphail Public School (in the Toronto District School Board).

OB:

What does an average work day look like for you?

DM:

It’s hard to define “average” when it comes to teaching. I have eight periods of classes (that are between 30-40 minutes per period), and I see every student in my school, from junior kindergarten to grade 8. Although I’m in the school library most of the time, I’m not always doing library-related things. During my library classes, I’ll do read-alouds, help operate the circulation desk, show students where and how to find books of interest to them and conduct lessons on research skills, reading selection strategies and inquiry-based investigations, to name just a few topics. As the lead ICT (Information and Communications Technology) teacher, I also trouble-shoot computer issues, co-plan, collaboratively teach and assess technology-infused work alongside other classroom teachers. Like many teacher-librarians, I am responsible for other preparation time coverage for classroom teachers; I teach media literacy to many groups in addition to my library and computer assignments. Recess times are often filled with students eager to talk with me about the latest Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading book that they’ve read, so that they can earn a signature on their passports and secure their place for the big field trip in May to the annual Festival of Trees celebration. Recess, lunch and after-school slots are devoted to supervising students as they use the library to finish homework, find a new book or practice their dance routines. It’s also likely on a typical day that I have a division, administration or committee meeting with my fellow teachers to plan school-wide events, examine our teaching practices or participate in some professional learning. There’s also yard duty to remember — when I actually do remember to do it!

OB:

What's the best thing about your job?

DM:

I love the variety and the freedom that being a teacher-librarian offers me. I can sing songs that bring us to circle time with four-year-olds and 30 minutes later, I can be discussing issues of censorship and intellectual freedom with thirteen-year-olds. Classroom teachers are constrained by the specifics of their curriculum, but because I am focused more on transferrable, lifelong skills instead of content, I can be innovative and creative in the ways I approach lesson planning. I also enjoy working with different students and teachers, which is good, because in the study “Exemplary School Libraries in Ontario” suggests that “The most successful [school library] programs are characterized by teacher-librarian and classroom teacher collaborations in terms of teaching, learning, and library use.” (page 36) Another plus is having access to, and purchasing, all those fantastic books and resources!

OB:

Tell us about a memorable work experience.

DM:

There are almost too many to mention! This year, I was really proud of my primary division students. Only two months into the school year, they created videos that we uploaded to YouTube to teach others about the definition of media. You can see them on my YouTube channel.

Another highlight for me was watching my students on stage at the Ontario Library Association Festival of Trees. I helped them prepare their speeches, in which they introduced authors, and it was incredible to watch amazing author Kevin Sylvester lead the audience in cheering my student and his introduction, turning him into a minor celebrity that day.

OB:

When you were a kid, what was your dream job?

DM:

When I was a child, I wanted to be either a teacher or a radio announcer. I loved acting and reading, so being a teacher-librarian combines all of these occupations, and more!

Visit the Open Book Archives for more Behind The Books interviews.

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