The Free Library Mourns the Loss of Former President Elliot Shelkrot

By Julie B. RSS Mon, March 21, 2016

The team at The Free Library of Philadelphia was deeply saddened to hear of the passing earlier today of our former president and director Elliot L. Shelkrot. Elliot was a wonderful and dynamic individual who we were all lucky to call both a leader and a friend.

Elliot served as the Pennsylvania State Librarian from 1980–1987. He took over the helm of the Free Library from 1987–2007, and under his guidance the institution took great strides forward.  He will long be remembered for launching our renowned Author Events Series program; greatly enhancing our programs and services for children; undertaking the massive Changing Lives campaign, during which all neighborhood libraries were renovated and modernized; and overseeing the installation of computers and Wi-Fi at every library location in the city.

Elliot then embarked on a major transformational plan to renovate and expand the Parkway Central Library—the hub of the Free Library system—into a dynamic center of urban life. Always interested in the latest technology and how it could guide customers to information, he oversaw the creation of a new website, which today, as, is our largest “branch,” receiving more 145 million visits monthly.

Elliot’s legacy of hard work, innovation, and compassion will never be forgotten. His former staff and colleagues, as well as our very supportive boards, remain grateful for his passion and commitment. He will be sorely missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all of his friends, family, and loved ones.  

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Something like the Author Events alone would be a considerable accomplishment inasmuch as it's grown to be among the country's very best, but he pushed the system forward on many, many fronts. Though a steady presence at the flagship Central Library, he pushed the branches forward and kept an eye on the overall system, not just the crown jewels. He left the system in much shape than he found it, and paved the way for many of the wonderful innovations that followed, the ultimate assessment of any leader. A Librarian in the fullest, most expansive meaning of the term. Very sad to hear this.
Ed Dougherty - Logan Square
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"I love my library" is something I say a lot. Reading about the innovations in our system spearheaded by this man ... The reasons, primarily, why I have this love. Thank you so much. Much love to all those who knew him and will personally miss him. Our city and beyond are indebted to this man. Wish we could have had conversations when he was still around. Maybe all the Knight Foundation innovation attempts (and, hopefully, successes) will be able to help with the positive momentum he created. Thank you.
LF - Philadelphia
Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Condolences to the Shelkrot family at this sad time
Sheila Whitelaw - Philadelphia
Sunday, March 27, 2016

It has been a pleasure working under Mr. Shelkrot's - Leadership at the Free Library for last 10 years of his tenure as part of the Executive team in a clerical position. Elliot always included you in on all programming and luncheons. The many speaks that he gave about reading being the corner stone of education in the lobby area and front entrance steps had a powerful message that truly had a profound impact on me as well as my then three years old daughter. I did just what Elliot said with my young daughter and enrolled her at the Coleman Regional Library reading programs and checked out numerous books at her reading level and when enrolled her at Parkway Central Library her first usage of computers games for children. Today Elliot's impact speaks have transcended my when little girl into a beautiful young lady that loves to read and has been a honor student thought middle school and high school honor student she has received academicals distinguished honors awards over $20,000 to various universities in Pennsylvania. In the words and I quote of one of Elliot's speaks that I love like it was yesterday. "If you don't open the book and read the words you will never know the wonders of were reading can and will take you to and the impact it can have on your life to transcend you into a love of reading." May you rest in internal peace, we love you and will never forget all the greatest that you have done for the citizens of Philadelphia and the lives that you have touch then and forever. Forever in our hearts to the Shelkrot Family
Sally Bells - Philadelphia
Monday, March 28, 2016

My first professional job was working in the Free Library's Development office in early 1990's. My team worked side by side with Elliot Shelkrot, and everyone valued his guidance. His passion and vision for the Free Library helped propel it to where it is today.
Ashini J. Desai - North Wales, PA
Thursday, March 31, 2016

I am so sorry to hear this. Although I never got to know Mr. Shelkrot while I worked at the main branch on a volunteer basis, I became very familiar with his unusually pleasant disposition and friendly smile anyway. Every time I encountered him he greeted me as you would a friend. This was always the case also each time I showed up to browse or for a lecture. You knew he was a very special human being. I never knew just what he did there until I saw this. It's even more remarkable that although his work ethic and commitment kept him very busy, he never allowed himself to take people for granted, always making us feel valued. My most healing thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones, colleagues and friends now. People like Elliot Shelkrot are not replaceable.
Valeria Bleistein - Philadelphia
Friday, April 1, 2016