LIBRARIAN OF THE YEAR:
Librarian of the Year – Forrest Lewis, North Las Vegas Library District
Forrest Lewis has worked in Southern Nevada libraries for over 17 years advancing from Young People’s Library Assistant to Branch Manager to Library Director of the North Las Vegas Library District, a municipal library district serving a population of over 230,000 residents. Since accepting the role of Library Director in November 2013, Forrest faced the daunting task of leading a library district on the point of collapse in a city on the brink of insolvency. The Great Recession had reduced staffing levels to less than half of what they were before the recession, with hours and services also greatly diminished. A realistic scenario had 2 of the 3 branches in North Las Vegas closing, with the remaining branch left with minimal staffing and services. From this start, Forrest worked diligently to change the fortunes of the North Las Vegas Library District and put a plan in place that now forecasts library services as not only surviving in North Las Vegas, but thriving.
The following is a list of things that Forrest has accomplished in his short time as Library Director:
- Planned and executed the relocation of the 50 year old main branch to the new North Las Vegas City Hall building, saving the district tens of thousands in renovation and operational costs.
- Revamped the library’s nearly defunct Friends of the Library group and worked with the North Las Vegas Mayor to raise over $150,000 for library programs and services.
- Instituted changes in the district’s Summer Reading Program resulting in a participation increase of over 40%, and introduced the district’s first ever Adult Summer Reading Program.
- Increased focus on grant applications, resulting in over $140,000 in grant funding.
- Awarded National ALA Latino Americans: 500 Years of History grant. The North Las Vegas Library District was the only agency in Nevada to receive this prestigious grant.
- Dramatically increased Adult Education programming, which was all but nonexistent throughout the district.
- Worked personally with the employees union to allow for greater use of volunteers in the library, expanding the volunteer program from minimal support within the library to last year’s total of 4,888 volunteer hours. Using the national average for volunteer value, the library received just shy of $113,000 in volunteer assistance.
- Received $28,000 in grant funding to replace all public access computers (28) at the City Hall Branch with new Virtual Desktop Infrastructure terminals, allowing for dramatically increased service for library patrons, and setting a trend for what virtual server technology can provide for public libraries.
- Secured new technology to improve service and efficiency, including: self-check machines and security gates, credit card payment terminals, and Select Reads monthly electronic book selection newsletters.
- Formed strong community partnerships to improve services and to increase the district’s chances to receive grant funding. Built the Friends of the Library Website and Facebook page to keep patrons informed of achievements and upcoming events, along with producing a monthly digital newsletter.
- Applied for and received a $97,600 LSTA grant to use the best available data and practices to create a working Master Plan that will allow the district to best serve patrons at an individual branch level.
- Lifted the profile of the library by providing presentations and attending multiple community events to promote the library.
- Worked with Family Services Librarians to offer S.T.E.A.M. youth library programming for the first time in North Las Vegas.
- Partnered with the NLV Rotary Club to offer the library district’s first ever Teen Read Week essay contest.
- Introduced Buddy Bookworm, the first ever North Las Vegas Library mascot to promote library services in the community.
Through an aggressive agenda that promotes progressive programs and services to place the library as a valuable community education center, Forrest is tirelessly working to ensure that the library remains a vital resource to the community. For all that he has done for the library services in North Las Vegas, despite the challenges that he continues to face, Forrest Lewis is deserving of this esteemed award.