Elaine Shelly: Library Clerk, Opener of Libraries & Minds

We had the pleasure of speaking with Elaine Shelly, who opened up her students’ universe by re-opening their library! After two long years without a library, Hoover Elementary School has another reason to get excited about reading, and a seriously driven Library Clerk. Learn more about Elaine in her bio at the bottom of this post.

What is the proudest moment of your career?

Recently, it was opening our library. The library at our school has been closed for two years, so when I was hired, we got the library organized and opened. When a second grade class came into the library, when one of the boys in the class discovered that there was a Harry Potter book in the library, he literally screamed, he was so excited!

How do you envision the role of the school library in education?

I think the library is the core, and that information literacy is at the core of education. The children not only read the books, but know how to find the information that they need, and glean that information from the books! It’s the absolute core of what we do here.

The library is not just a book place, but a resource place. I’m in the process of incorporating blended learning in the library, so learning to use the computer efficiently and effectively is a part of library literacy. My kids do use ChromeBooks in other classes and I think the library needs to be a part of that. For next year, we’ll have a makerspace in the library, too!


How has the integration of technology impacted or enhanced your library?

We’re still at the beginning stages of that. The library opened in January, so I wanted to get them comfortable with checking out books and exploring what’s here- now the next step is to incorporate technology. Using Buncee is going to be our first step. I will roll out the pilot with the fifth graders right after we come back from Spring break. There are so many possibilities in not only the creative aspect of using Buncee, but the social-cultural aspect of being able to share work with their peers around the world. Technology has opened up the world to my students.


What do you feel is the best method for engaging students and inspiring them to read?

I think there are several methods; and it depends a lot on the particular student. For some students, the best method is simply putting a book in front of them, and they’ll take it from there. For others, it’s a little more of a guided process. For some, I do a lot of read-alouds in the library, and I’ve tried to do a variety of books, so that will help. Another method that I’ll be incorporating is the peer recommendations. I want them to start doing book reviews and coming up with a formal process for them to recommend the books that they love to their friends.


What are some resources that you use that you’d suggest to others?

I have become a real pinterest fan. There are a lot of good resouces there. I have a pinterest board to gather info on makerspaces, one to gather resources for teacher-librarians, and one for library ideas. When I was looking at some of the results of information that I’ve pinned, I found so many ideas from other teachers. We’re doing a unit on Dr. Seuss, and I saw that some teachers had made truffala trees for their classrooms, so I’ve created some, too. Now we have the Lorax hiding in our library, and I’ll put it his mustache in different spots because we know he’s there, but we never know where he is.  

What is your best piece of advice for librarians?

The thing that I keep telling myself, to stay encouraged (because there are those days), is that this is a marathon, and not a race.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

There are only 24 hours in a day. If only there were 30! I’m in the process of building programs, so it’s going to take time. It’s not going to happen in a month. I have a longterm commitment to my kids, so, I will see that commitment through and make sure that they have the best library. Period.

Why is creativity an integral piece of the quality of a student’s education?

Students aren’t truly educated if they’re not allowed to use their creativity. The initial purpose of public education was to have a more literate citizenship who could participate fully in the democracy. If children aren’t allowed to be creative and aren’t encouraged to be creative, their ability to fully participate as adults is hampered. Creativity is vital.

How has a student inspired you?

They inspire me with their resilience. Many of my students come from very challenging home lives, but they’re here every day smiling. They inspire me with their insights. For example, I was reading a book to a class the other day, and one boy said, “that doesn’t make sense”, and he explained to me why he felt that what the character was doing didn’t make sense to him. And I was happy that he was that engaged and paying close attention, but just his natural ability to think critically about the story, and to question it was inspiring.


Elaine Shelly Pic (1)
Elaine Shelly is a Library Clerk who is passionate about getting books into the hands of children and discovering ways to enhance learning by using technology at Hoover Elementary School in Oakland, CA.
She has launched her journey to becoming a teacher-librarian.


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