From the Natrona County Public Library
Following a 24-year career as a Navy Seabee officer, Bill Nelson became Natrona County Public Library director in June of 1999. On June 1, Nelson announced his retirement to the library board, marking 16 years of service and making him the longest serving director in the library’s history. His retirement is effective September 2, 2015. There will be an open house to honor Bill at the Natrona County Public Library on Wednesday, August 12 from 2-4pm.
During Nelson’s directorship, patronage at the library rose from 465 visitors daily to over 1,100. Circulation increased from 336,800 checkouts per year to 641,300. The number of youth programs conducted in a year increased from 160 to 1,270; adult programs increased from 19 to 224 per year. Other service improvements included a Teen Zone, Tech Center, new bookmobile, Edgerton branch remodel, and fully implementing technology.
Nelson has been a leader in promoting both literacy and education as community values through projects such as the statewide Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation’s “Wyoming Reads” celebration for 1st graders. With Natrona County School District #1 and the Casper Star-Tribune, he helped create the “We Read” program to reinforce the message of reading 20 minutes a day to prepare youth for success in life.
In response to new history curriculum requirements, Nelson volunteered to create a team of local experts to research, write, illustrate, and publish Natrona County: The Place We Call Home. Over 1,100 copies of this book are now in 3rd grade classrooms throughout the county.
When Nelson arrived, NCPL was one of the most poorly funded libraries in the nation. Working with the library board, county commission, school board, and One-Cent committees, he helped establish a functional library budget. Under his leadership, the NCPL Foundation was revitalized as a private funding source to augment basic public funding.
He served on the Wyoming Library Association Legislative Committee and was instrumental in creating the Public Library Endowment Challenge Match Program during the 2008 Wyoming State Legislature. This program continues to provide over $18 million of state funds to match private contributions for public library endowments for all Wyoming libraries. Nelson received the 2006 McMurry Wyoming Community Service Award and the Wyoming Library Association’s 2008 Distinguished Service Award.
Nelson says he will most remember developing and retaining an extremely strong library team. With his encouragement, several staff members have gone on to earn a Master of Library Science degree. Under his mentoring, four have received WLA’s Librarian-of-the-Year Award.
His vision and boundless enthusiasm for free speech and building our community’s future have helped create a vibrant, busy library that will continue to transform the lives of Natrona County citizens for years to come. Post-retirement plans include traveling with his wife, Beth.