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Leadership, by the book

November 6, 2021 by  
Filed under Community

Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Executive Director Kelvin Watson is a candidate for the American Library Association presidency

Kelvin Watson

Kelvin Watson, executive director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, has been named one of two candidates for the 2023-24 presidency of the American Library Association (ALA). The ALA is a national organization that provides essential resources, programs, and services to support and inspire library professionals in transforming their communities. For more than 140 years, ALA has been the trusted voice of libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all.

In his role at the Library District, Mr. Watson oversees 25 branches spanning 8,000 square miles, a budget of $77 million, 700 employees, and a collection of 3.2 million items. The Library District is a vibrant member of the community — offering limitless learning, business and career advancement, and government and social services support.

“America and our libraries continue to transform, and I’m humbled and honored by the possibility of serving the ALA in its highest role,” Mr. Watson said. “This role will enhance my work at the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, providing me with a platform to share with all U.S. libraries some of the unique programs that we are implementing here. Among these are our #GetCarded Challenge, aiming to sign up our partner organizations’ employees with library cards, our RTC partnership, which enables access to library digital materials for transit riders, and our work with the Clark County School District to provide every student with direct digital access to our library collection.”

“We have always been a melting pot of nationalities, religions, ethnicities and gender identities, but historically, many of these segments have been blocked from realizing their full potential,” he added. “By 2030, the U.S. Census predicts that immigration will become the primary source of growth, putting greater pressure on our schools to teach the literacy and tech skills needed in the 21st century. All libraries will be called to fill this void, and I know that we can create a plan to address the coming need for new funding sources and new technologies that create efficiencies for ease of discovery and access.”

Regarded as one of the most highly respected thought leaders in the library industry, Watson is credited with expanding his customer base in past library management roles through outreach efforts to underserved and diverse populations.

His deep experience in fundraising, technology, program development, plus his demonstrated success in addressing the digital divide is helping the Library District further expand its role as a free educational resource for all residents. A current example of this is a partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, to provide a library app to bus riders using on-board wifi. This program introduces the library to thousands of potential new customers who may have had no previous interaction with a library.

Mr. Watson joined the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District from his role as the director of the Broward County Libraries Division, where he managed 700+ full-time employees and a budget of more than $70 million. The Broward County library system serves 1.9 million people through 38 locations in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida region. He has served on multiple task forces throughout the governing bodies of the library industry, including the Book Industry Study Group (2018-21).

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