The new person in charge of the $77 million Clark County Library District is Kelvin Watson.
He comes most recently from Florida, and he’s the first person of color to be executive director of the library district, which has 25 branches and 700 employees.
In 2019, he won librarian of the year. In 2020, one of his branches won library of the year, and recently he won the Margaret E. Monroe Award for Innovative Leadership.
“What drew me to Clark County and the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District was just the reputation of the library district itself," Watson said, "The opportunity to come in and share with the community some innovation, transformation of some of the services that I was able to offer and lead at my two previous libraries.”
Watson told KNPR's State of Nevada that is he is not afraid to take risks and to push for change.
Some of the changes he is already working on in Southern Nevada were programs he had in Broward County, Florida, including digital pop-up libraries on buses.
“People do catch the bus and sometimes they’re on there for a long length of time," he said, "So, you bring the library to those folks who may not be aware of the library of today.”
He is also considering a hotspot loaning program for veterans and active-duty military. The program was successful in Florida, and he would like to establish something similar at Nellis Air Force Base.
Another innovative program he would like to bring to Las Vegas is a digital library system that allows people in parks to access music from the library on their smart devices to listen to while they work out or walk the dog.
Watson said that some people don't realize how much libraries have changed. It is no longer a quiet place where people read or study. Now, it provides all kinds of services both online and in person.
“The library is open 24 hours a day – seven days a week with our digital services that we offer,” he said.
It also has programs for children, tutoring for teens, job and language training for adults, and at the East Las Vegas library, there is a recording studio, Watson said.
“The library is available to you in the way you want to engage with the library,” he said.
Besides checking out best-selling books for free, the library also offers hundreds of movie titles on DVD for free check out. You can also access magazines - both online and at the physical location, he said.
While getting a library card and checking out materials is free, there are still fines for returning the materials past their due date. Watson said the library has waived late fees during the pandemic but a more permanent solution to the fee problem could be a new program that is being used in other places.
“Such as having individuals, for example, reading down their fines," Watson said, "There is still some accountability, but there is still an opportunity to still engage reading down your fines or borrowing material towards reducing the fines and fees that you owe.”
He explained that with a program like reading down a fine people can reduce their fines by checking out and reading more materials from the library.
It is a way to reduce a families' financial burden while also encouraging literacy.
As for being the first person of color in his position, Watson said he's actually been the first person of color in a lot of the organizations he's worked for.
He doesn't think about being "first" or a "trailblazer" instead he's focused on the work and connecting the library with the community it serves.
Kelvin Watson, Executive Director, Clark County Library District
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