TMC6 Maliszewski

Toward an Understanding of the Impact of Youth Involvement in Purchasing Resources for the School Library Learning Commons and Issues of Equity in Participant Selection

by Diana Maliszewski

In this paper the author conducts relatively unchartered research around student involvement in the purchase of library books. Method, references and survey responses should encourage other school library practitioner’s to replicate and add to this area of research.

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Diana Maliszewski (OCT BA BEd MEd) is the teacher-librarian at Agnes Macphail Public School in the Toronto District School Board and has worked as a school library professional for over twenty years. From 2006 - 2018, she was the editor-in-chief of The Teaching Librarian, the official publication of the Ontario School Library Association. She served as the OSLA stream conference co-planner from 2018-2020 and currently is one of the directors of the Association for Media Literacy and planners for MakerEdTO. Diana has been honoured with several awards, and is a popular presenter at conferences throughout North America on topics such as gaming in education, graphic novels, popular culture, professional learning communities, makerspaces, and mentoring. Follow her blog and reach her on Twitter  @MzMollyTL.


  1. Hi Diana,
    I have always encouraged students to request books and make recommendations, but I admit that involving students in book selection in such a systematic way had never entered my imagination. I am inspired by this new way of elevating student voice. I agree with your list of benefits (empowerment/identity, financial/media literacy, social immersion and joy) but I would also stress that your project genuinely fosters critical thinking. By creating clear criteria for judgement and asking students to justify their purchases, you are truly creating opportunities for thinking and evaluation. I will definitely be sharing your article with my colleagues in sd38!
    A question: Coming from BC, I am unfamiliar with the GTA Resource Fair. Can you share more about this?

    1. Hi Rebeca,

      Thanks for the heads-up on Twitter that you had read the paper!

      I appreciate that you were able to see critical thinking as a key feature or benefit of getting students to buy books for the school library. I wish I could say that we co-created that selection criteria (that would make the task even MORE rich, if we added that element in) but the justifying is challenging for students but necessary (especially if/when they pick a book that either they are attracted to on a superficial level or they grab a book they think a sub-sector of the school population would like without really investigating the insides like representation in photos or reading level). My question is - how can I prove that taking students on these book buying trips builds critical thinking? How can I measure it? How can I show that the critical thinking skills developed in this task don't just disappear after the trip is over?

      I apologize if I didn't do an adequate job in the paper of explaining the Resource Fair. Let me rectify that here. Sometimes it's difficult to arrange time as a school library professional to visit different vendors to examine what new books they have to offer (and those companies that send boxes of new books to schools don't make any money on me, because I don't open the box for months or pick from the small selection they include). To offer all the teacher-librarians and other library workers an opportunity to shop at multiple vendors all at once, our Library and Learning Resources Department invites all the board-approved vendors that sell books to a large space (which for us, is usually the Queen Elizabeth Building at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds) to set up a few tables with copies of their newest items. Several school boards in Ontario do this (see The photos on pages 2 & 4 were taken at the GTA Resource Fair. (GTA just stands for Greater Toronto Area). You can buy copies of the books right there and then, and the Library Technical Services Department of TDSB (Toronto District School Board) is there to barcode your school's books right away. It is where I do most of my shopping because I like to see and feel the books I choose - as do the students.

      I hope this helps; let me know if I need to clarify anything else. Thanks for your interest!

      Diana M

  2. Wow! This is a brilliant idea. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Hi Diana
    I've been a witness to how long you've been interested in knowing more about student efficacy as it relates to students and reading. Kudos for you continuing to do the research yourself so that others can learn from you. Clearly there are still understanding to come but you've got us all thinking about the wisdom of involving students more in the book purchasing process. I imagine that you are certainly correct in saying that most of us choose the "good" readers to accompany us on book buying trips and literacy events. That's for challenging our thinking that those who do not embrace reading would benefit from these types of activities. If someone is that disengaged, how do you convince them to move outside their comfort zone and attend? One year, I took entire classes on a book-buying expedition at a local bookstore. It appeared to me that all students, regardless of their previous connection to reading/books enjoyed the experience and felt empowered by having been the ones to choose books for the library. That's what I like most about what you're doing - creating a sense of belonging, empowerment and student agency. This will go a long ways to develop a positive connection with literacy in the long run.

    1. Thanks so much Jo-Anne for reading the paper (and for being a long-time school library friend and inspiration). I suspect that the less-engaged readers would be perfectly happy to go on a trip, because that means at least getting out of school. I guess my biased worries are that they won't pick books for the "best" reasons. So, in other words, it's more about me than them! It's like the Forest of Reading festival - we've had our ESL students go (even though they "just" read the Blue Spruce books [the K-2 level] instead of the older programs) but they liked going with their peers and they had fun. I need to develop more opportunities because I still want the book-buying trip to be a benefit of being a library helper (otherwise, who will shelve the books??) but I need to create chances for those other students too.

  4. Hi Diana,

    Anecdotally, I know your research is valid. For reading enjoyment/entertainment who will pick better for 11 year old girls? 11 year old girls or a 50+ year old male? As TL, I did have the final say over student choices, but rarely did I have to do that. Also, I do purchase some materials that I have read reviews about.

    I have taken students with special needs (throughout the spectrum on behaviour and academics) with EA support and I invited my principals to attend too. The school secretary came once too. One student (behavioural) said it was the best field trip he ever went on.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Greg Harris

  5. Thank you, Diana. You have put your research course and other aspects of your MEd to good use! Taking students book shopping helps them engage in one of joys of reading. I hope you continue this research. A tl in Edmonton whose families include many new immigrants takes parents and their children on family field trips to local libraries and bookstores--I wonder if talk about book buying is part of her practice. I will have to ask! Dianne O

  6. Although we have always encouraged students to provide recommendations in purchasing books, I never though about how beneficial it would be to include some of them in the book buying process! Your research has inspired me to try this with some of our students (and I feel like our Leadership classes would be just the place to start) to help me the next time I am buying books. I think one of the critical elements is that students have to justify their choice, while keeping the needs of others in mind.

    I'm glad you kept on doing what you were doing, despite others not understanding your motivation for doing it. This level of commitment to equity and inclusion is what our students need and you have clearly demonstrated the benefits that including them in the process can have. I am so inspired to try this and I can't wait to talk about it with my fellow teachers, admin team and library staff. Love it!

    Warm regards,

  7. Diana,
    I loved reading your paper and how you’ve involved students in the purchasing for your library collection. So much to think about. Thanks for sharing.


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