As executive director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Kelvin Watson oversees 25 branches run by 600+ employees, spanning 8,000 square miles, with a budget of $77 million and a collection of 3.2 million items. Kelvin has brought innovative, award-winning leadership to Nevada’s largest library system and his deep experience in fundraising, technology, program development, and demonstrated success in addressing the digital divide has brought a new era to this library system.
Regarded as one of the most highly respected thought leaders in the library industry, Kelvin is credited with expanding his customer base in multiple library management roles through outreach efforts to underserved and diverse populations. Two examples in Las Vegas are a partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, which made digital access to the library available to bus riders, and in 2022 was recognized with three awards -- the American Library Association Library (ALA) of the Future Award, the RUSA Best Emerging Technology Award, and the Urban Libraries Council Top Innovators Honorable Mention. In addition, the Library District’s many literacy programs for adults and children received the Crystal Bookmark Award from the Las Vegas Book Festival.
Kelvin joined the Library District from his role as the director of the Broward County Libraries Division, where he managed 38 locations in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida region. During his tenure at Broward County Libraries, he brought transformative change through ambitious and groundbreaking initiatives, such as streamlining access to resources, introducing new technology, and developing new collaborative partnerships. He was named the 2021 winner of the Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award, sponsored by Novelist, for his dedication to implementing new and innovative ways to meet existing and new customers “where they are” with initiatives targeting non-traditional library users.
Under Kelvin’s leadership, the Florida Library Association (FLA) named Broward County Libraries as the 2020 Library of the Year. The FLA also named Kelvin the 2019 Librarian of the Year, and the American Library Association (ALA) named the Broward County Libraries the Library of the Future, all of which he credits to the work of his staff. Other awards during his career have included: the 2016 inaugural ALA Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession; the 2017 DEMCO/ALA Black Caucus Award for Excellence in Librarianship; and as the 2019 Community Service & Distinguished Achievement Honoree by the Friends of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center.
Previously, he served as COO/senior vice president for Queens Library, after rising through the leadership ranks of the organization from a distinguished background in technology. In his prior role as chief innovation & technology officer/vice president, information, technology, and development, he was instrumental in establishing several groundbreaking programs, and he developed and implemented digital divide strategies, which promoted equality and equity for all.
Kelvin started his career as a Commissioned Officer in the Active U.S. Army and Army Reserves. He transitioned into the private sector as a leader with Ingram Library Services, Borders Group, and The Library Corporation (TLC). These positions fueled his passion for the field of library science and he went on to join the USDA National Agricultural Library.
Throughout his career, he has remained active as a speaker and panelist at conferences and an author of articles in national library publications. He serves on the San Jose State University School of Information, Leadership, and Management Program Advisory Committee, co-chairs the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, and serves on the American Library Association Business Advisory Group, REALM Project Steering Committee and on the Board of the Book Industry Study Group. He is a past president of Black Caucus of the American Library Association and past Public Library Association Board member.
Additionally, Kelvin has served in a diverse number of volunteer leadership roles: Member of 100 Black Men of Las Vegas; FLA Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Task Force, bringing together young, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals to make their voices heard within the Florida Library Association; a member of the ALA Committee on Accreditation; New York State Regents Advisory Council on Libraries; Metropolitan New York Library Council Board of Trustees; Asian/Pacific Librarians Association Research and Travel Awards Committee; Coretta Scott King Book Award Juror; AASL Diversity Task Force member; Spectrum Scholarship Juror; Young Librarians ALA Presidential Task Force member; Legacy South Florida magazine’s 50 Most Influential and Powerful Black Professionals of 2020; Profiled in Black Issues Book Review Jan/Feb 2006 Issue as one of the “Influential African Americans in the Book Industry”; and Parkway Alumni Hall of Fame – Class of 2006.
Kelvin earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Minor in Military Science from Lincoln University in Missouri. He earned his MLS Degree from North Carolina Central University. In 2019, he completed the MIT SLOAN School of Management Executive Program Certificate, Internet of Things: Business Implications and Opportunities and the MIT SLOAN School of Management Executive Program Certificate, Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy. In 2020, he completed the MIT SLOAN School of Management Executive Program Certificate, Cybersecurity, 2020. Kelvin is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Beta Phi Mu Honor Society.