ISSUE | ELLIOT L. SHELKROT
A librarian for all needs and tastes
As president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia for 20 years, Elliot L. Shelkrot, who died on March 21, placed a huge bet on investing in branch libraries, particularly decrepit facilities in the lowest-income neighborhoods, for children and adults with the greatest needs for literacy and access to information (" 'Visionary' library chief," March 22).
He tirelessly raised money to renovate buildings, install Internet access and computers, build child-friendly spaces for story hours, respond to community interests, and add staff (often tech-wizard teens) to help adults use technology to search for jobs, learn about public benefits, and improve literacy. He also modernized the iconic Parkway Central Library and initiated programs, including authors' talks, which attracted thousands of people who, like me, had never had a reason to visit because we bought books and had the luxury of home computers.
Shelkrot left a remarkable legacy on which his successor, Siobhan A. Reardon, has built with great insight and vision. He taught us that the public good is not a question of "either/or," but a synergy of "both/and." His professional life was a lesson that has special urgency in these divisive and divided times.