January 14, 2018

Kelly McElroy | Movers & Shakers 2017 – Community Builders

Kelly McElroy


Student Engagement and Community Outreach Librarian, Oregon State University Libraries & Press, Corvallis


MLIS, Master of Archival Studies, University of British Columbia, 2010


@kellymce (Twitter); critlib.org; kellymce.info; osuitaly.weebly.com

Photo by Hannah O’Leary


Critical Mass

In high school, Kelly McElroy and her best friend, both daughters of librarians, made a pact that neither would follow in their mothers’ footsteps. Fortunately for her students and fellow librarians, McElroy didn’t keep her promise.

Taking into account the needs of her students from marginalized communities, as well as those who are veterans, transfers, and scholars from diverse backgrounds, McElroy brings a range of creative and compassionate ideas to her work at Oregon State University (OSU). These include giving students hands-on opportunities to explore issues of human rights and equity, from OSU’s Information and Global Social Justice Study Abroad Course, which she coleads, to zine-making at the library—McElroy has been one of the key organizers of the Zine Pavilion at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference for the past six years.

McElroy recognizes that engagement in these issues is crucial for library practitioners as well. She is one of the founding creators of the critical librarianship movement, an informal online community that brings together librarians dedicated to incorporating social justice principles into their practices and discussing critical perspectives on library practice. Using the hashtag #critlib, librarians globally have been convening on Twitter since 2014 to talk about approaches to labor solidarity, LIS education, surveillance and privacy, and much more. The two-volume Critical Library Pedagogy Handbook (ACRL) McElroy coedited in 2016 with Nicole Pagowsky, an associate librarian and instruction coordinator at the University of Arizona Libraries, just received the 2017 ACRL Instruction Section Ilene F. Rockman Publication of the Year Award.

Also in 2016, together with Vancouver Public Library, BC, librarian Cecily Walker, McElroy organized national LIS Mental Health Week. Now in its second year, the event incorporates Twitter chats, podcasts, blog posts, and other resources to raise awareness about mental health issues for library and information science workers. McElroy is “tirelessly fighting for the library profession not only as it is but for the vision of an inclusive future,” says former colleague (and 2015 Mover & Shaker) Colleen Theisen.

The theme that carries through McElroy’s disparate work is the spirit of partnership. “Kelly is a coalition builder,” says OSU science librarian Hannah Rempel. “My work is inherently collaborative in nature,” agrees McElroy. “The ‘community’ piece of my job title is really core to the work I do, both at OSU and in librarianship.”


This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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