Prior to Lambert Shell’s arrival at the Laurelton Branch of the Queens Borough Public Library in December 2001, many teens in Laurelton viewed the library as a place to cause distractions to staff and patrons, and the front porches of local residents as their daily gathering place. But soon after, according to one community resident (Adelaide Sanford, Vice Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents), the kids stopped hanging around her porch and instead, they said, “We go to the library.”
The Laurelton Branch, once fraught with security issues, low circulation levels and a contentious atmosphere between loitering youth, the staff, and older patrons, has become a mecca for the community’s young people during after school hours. The many programs include chess club, creative writing workshops, science video conferences, career explorations, computer demos and workshops, and health seminars, and are largely due to the hard work and dedication of Lambert Shell, former basketball star and teacher. In 2003 alone, Lambert scheduled over 1,000 enrichment programs for youth between the ages of 7 and 15.
At the heart of Lambert’s success lies his invaluable talent in connecting with young people. As a former teacher, Lambert knows the importance of engaging young people by listening to them, giving them respect, and “getting on their level.” He is often found working one-on-one with the young people of Laurelton, offering honest answers and working with them to find solutions to their problems. With the help of a social worker, Lambert has been able to refer youth and their families to professional help at outside agencies and has worked to develop strong networks within the community to ensure a positive response to his referrals. Mr. Shell has been a long-time advocate of young people and has recognized the importance of empowering his youth by allowing them to voice their concerns, needs, and opinions to their community.
Lambert Shell has brought a fresh perspective to the staff at the Laurelton Branch of the Queens Borough Public Library. He has extended his own techniques in how to work with and engage youth to his colleagues at the library, arranging trainings for the entire staff to help them better communicate and serve young people and understand and appreciate youth development. At the Laurelton Branch alone, security incidents have been completely eliminated and the circulation of library materials has increased 30%. These trainings have been so successful that they have been taken “on the road” to the central library and other branches with similar problems. Following one particular training session, the branch manager exclaimed, “We need a Lambert at our branch – can you clone him?”
Prior to his work at the Queens Borough Public Library, Mr. Shell worked as a teacher in Yonkers, teaching Math, English, Science and Social Studies to students between the ages of 12 and 21. Lambert’s interest in working with youth was sparked when conducting youth basketball camps while playing basketball at the University of Bridgeport and during his professional basketball career in Asia.
Mr. Shell has a BS in Human Services and an MS in Education. A native of New York City, Lambert was born in East New York, Brooklyn, attended August Martin High School in Queens and currently resides in Cambria Heights with his wife and two-year old son.