Kelvin Watson was selected as the 2021 winner of the Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award, sponsored by NoveList, for his passion and dedication to implementing new and innovative ways for libraries to invite the uninvited to become lifelong library customers.
When he took the helm at Broward County Library in 2017, Kelvin Watson dedicated himself to implementing new and inventive ways to meet customers – both existing and new – “where they are” with initiatives targeting non-traditional library users including:
• The award-winning “Library Services on Air, Land and Sea” initiative launched in October 2017, partnered the library with Broward County Transit and Parks & Recreation divisions, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Seafarer’s House, a non-profit organization serving cruise ship employees from nearby Port Everglades to provide instant access to the library’s digital collection of eBooks, magazines and streaming/downloadable movies, TV shows and music. This initiative affords unexpected service portals to travelers, commuters, park visitors and Port workers.
• Pop Up Library locations, launched in November 2018 in places such as a coffee shop, city hall or healthcare facility, allow customers access to free eBooks, with or without a library card.
• “Local Authors @ Broward County” created in partnership with Florida Center for the Book, which provides aspiring writers with free self-publishing software, workshops, resources and the opportunity to have their novels available for check out at select Broward County Library locations.
• ArtLit, the Library’s annual signature arts and cultural event. Now in its fourth year (and online in 2021), ArtLit invites thousands of people to the Pompano Beach Library and Cultural Center to interact with art and local artist and encourages them to be creators.
• Creation Stations, free community makerspaces located in seven Broward County libraries. Filled with 3D printers, photography and videography equipment, cutting-edge computers and high-tech gear, Creation Stations inspire library customers to record rap music, sculpt in 3D, create video games and make art.
• Creation Station Business Co-working Hub, which offers free conference, work and meeting space; free Wi-Fi; videoconferencing equipment; wireless printing, seminars and classes.
• Virtual AARLC, a grant-funded arts initiative launched in 2020 that positions Broward County Library as the first library in Florida to offer 3D, virtual visits to the Special Collections of Broward’s African American Research Library and Cultural Center, a program that will let anyone with computer access view priceless African artifacts via augmented reality.
In terms of library adult programming and services, under Kelvin Watson’s leadership, Broward County Library has attuned itself to the needs of specific and underserved populations with services such as:
• Veterans Connect Program, an award-winning initiative that provides veterans and military families free access to important job searching and educational tools including free portable Internet service. He also launched the award-winning Vet Fest, a day-long expo showcasing veteran-related community and library resources.
• “Coffee and Conversation with a Librarian,” a weekly discussion that offers an opportunity for persons experiencing homelessness to informally meet with a librarian and social service providers to discuss topics or concerns over a cup of coffee.
• Reach Out Reach Up, a collaboration with the Broward Sheriff’s Office, pairs people entering the community after incarceration with a librarian-mentor who works one-on-one with participants to secure employment and educational opportunities.
• ViTA-DMF (Virtual Interactive Training Agent – The Dan Marino Foundation), a virtual, interactive job interview tool initially developed for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities, installed at seven library locations.
• Project Welcome, a grant-funded initiative to welcome and guide newcomers/immigrants as they learn the English language and adjust to life in Broward County, made Broward County Library the first library in the United States to use Amazon Echo devices at service points to assist customers in their native languages and earned it ALA’s “2020 “Library of the Future” award.
Kelvin Watson has held numerous leadership positions, both on the job and in numerous professional organizations. He has served as the Broward County Libraries Director since February 2017. Prior to assuming that p osition, he was Chief Operating Officer for Queens Library in New York City and previously held positions at the National Agricultural Library, The Library Corporation, Ingram Library Services, Borders Group, Inc., and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Throughout his career, Kelvin Watson has freely shared his knowledge and expertise with his colleagues as a frequent speaker and panelist at conferences. In May 2020, he published an opinion/editorial in Library Journal on the topic of “Addressing eContent Issues in Times of Crisis.” He has also remained active and involved in professional associations, Watson is the 2020 FLA Co Chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Task Force and also serves on the San Jose State University School of Information, Leadership and Management Program Advisory Committee. He is also a Past President of Black Caucus of American Library Association and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Book Industry Study Group, a member of the Public Library As sociation Board of Directors, and Board of Directors for the Southeast Florida Library Information Network. Additionally, Kelvin Watson was the 2016 inaugural winner of the ALA Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Professio n, recipient of the 2017 DEMCO/ALA Black Caucus Award for Excellence in Librarianship, and was named 2019 Librarian of the Year by the Florida Library Association. Under his leadership, Broward County Library was named ALA’s 2020 Library of the Future and FLA’s 2020 Library of the year. Additionally, Kelvin Watson is an official “Community Hero,” recognized by Positivity Pays, a Browardbased nonprofit, on a trading card for notable, unsung role models, leading by example and serving the community .
The Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award, sponsored by NoveList consists of $1,250 monetary prize and a citation.
The selection committee was Chaired by Chris LeBeau.