By Lori Carroll
“Anything can be beneficial if done right and given a chance.”
These words were spoken by newly-retired elementary school librarian Beth Elshoff when asked about the most beneficial change she had seen in her 33 years (the last 31 in the Muscatine Community School District) as an educator.  Later in the conversation, she gave this advice to young people planning a career in education: “Be prepared for change.”
Elshoff knew from first grade that she wanted to be a librarian when she grew up.  (Her original plan had been to be a nurse, but when she lost a tooth and there was blood involved, she quickly changed her mind.)  Surrounded by books provided by her mother, who never turned down an opportunity to get a book and shared her love of reading, Beth was reading before she ever started school.  She even worked in her junior high and high school libraries.  Beth’s book-loving mom recently passed away at the age of 97, and now she and her siblings need to find new homes for all those books.
In her long career with the Muscatine schools, Elshoff worked at every elementary building except Garfield and McKinley, but always worked at Madison, in conjunction with one or more of the other buildings.  When she started, there were 9-1/2 librarian positions in the district, and now there are only four.  Even though she acknowledges the benefits of computers, she laments that students often rely on them to the exclusion of looking for information in books.
Beth has many great memories from her career, especially rewards to students for meeting reading goals … including sitting on the roof of the school, and even having a bucket of worms dumped on her head.  (Yes, real worms.)  She also was extremely gratified to hear a former student speak at the district’s Super Inservice last year about how important the schools’ libraries and librarians had been in his life.  She always enjoyed author visits, which helped students realize that they, too, could be writers.  (And she recently met the author of the Captain Underpants books when picking up her daughter at the Chicago airport!)
When asked about plans for retirement, her first answer came out quickly: enjoying grandchildren!  Beth and her husband John, who is the videographer for the Quad-Cities River Bandits games and the yoga master at the Muscatine Community “Y,” have three children.  The oldest, Dana, and her husband are expecting their first child in less than three weeks; Jordan and his wife have an eight-week-old daughter; their youngest daughter Erin will be a junior at MHS this fall.  Beth will also be starting a part-time position as Director of Christian Education for Faith United Church of Christ.  Hopefully there will be some travel in her future as well, now that she can go any time and not just during school vacations.
In a position like school librarian, where you have interactions with all the students in a school, a teacher can touch the lives of thousands of students, and it’s a good bet that many will remember Mrs. Elshoff from their elementary school days!