Broward County Library Director Kelvin Watson seeks to expand access
By Nichole Richards
Broward County’s new Libraries Director, Kelvin Watson, brings to South Florida a valuable skillset acquired over a lengthy career centered on books. A native of Saint Louis, MO, Watson has developed an interesting reimagining of libraries that shatters the rigid concept of “library as a place” and replaces it with library holding digital space.
“I am not only interested in bringing people in the library,” Watson told me, “But I want to bring the library out to people.”
This is his vision for Broward County. As the former Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President for Queens Library in New York City, a library system that serves millions, Watson is passionate about the idea of easy access digital libraries. Through the incorporation of innovation and new technologies, “the library” has the opportunity to reestablish itself as a much needed community pillar.
Under his leadership, the Broward County libraries sys-tem has already begun the transformation. Online digital library card applications are quickly replacing the antiquated paper application. Tablets are being distributed to local libraries in preparation for a tablet loaning initiative. Digital content is expanding rapidly. As a personal nod to his years of service in the Army, Watson has also led the creation of the Veterans Connect Hotspot program, a free mobile internet service for Veterans and Active Military. Already within his first three months, Watson has set the trajectory for a revolutionized library experience in Broward County.
In addition to modernization, Watson also aims to expand Broward’s libraries reach through the establishment of strategic partnerships with the county’s important institutions, particularly Broward County Public Schools.
“We want to support our schools and build stronger relationships,” Watson explained, “We would like to be a trusted resource for students, teachers, and administrators.”
As one of very few African Americans in the profession, Watson feels honored to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Samuel Morrison, former Director of the Broward County Library System. With a passion for teaching and educating, Watson considers his new position as a mixture of personal passions and servant leadership within the Black community.
“There are not many African American men embarking upon this career path,” Watson said, “But I see it as an opportunity to be a role model.”
Watson admits he has not established special projects directed towards Broward’s Black community, but emphasized the new partnerships and initiatives will have a direct impact on the county’s most marginalized communities.
“My job is to serve everybody,” Watson said, “I will leave special initiatives in those com-munities to the branch managers who are doing a great job and have a more intimate know-ledge of community needs. But I am going to these places and I am meeting with the community and asking them what they want from Broward’s libraries.”