Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Williamsburg Regional Library Director to Retire at End of Year

WRL Director Betsy Fowler plans to retire in 2023 (WRL)

WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL) announced Wednesday that Director Betsy Fowler plans to retire at the end of 2023 after a career that has spanned four decades.

Fowler spent her last six years with Williamsburg Regional Library, where she helped contribute to the success of many programs, maintain regular operating hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, and helped the library earn Virginia Library of the Year by the Virginia Library Association, it noted.

“I am grateful to be able to finish my library career at such a beloved, vibrant library system,” Fowler said. “It has been a joy to work with the library’s truly dedicated staff and volunteers, a forward-thinking Board of Trustees, supportive local governments, and a remarkable community that clearly values learning and reading.” 

While at WRL, Fowler helped to expand the library’s outreach initiatives, it said, to include the Cena con Cuentos Spanish-language program, programs at Abram Frink Jr. Community Center, and the purchase of a new Bookmobile. 

WRL also strengthened its partnerships with other institutions like William & Mary, which hosts numerous lecture series at the library and, since 2019, partners annually with WRL to present a month-long community reading program featuring culturally significant topics, it added. 

In 2020, Fowler kept the library operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, WRL said. She worked to ensure Wi-Fi access was available to the community, helped expand the digital collection, and implemented self-checkout and curbside pickup measures to keep the public safe. She also helped to provide volunteers for the local COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

Betsy is a strong, creative leader who has guided the library through very challenging times, including the pandemic, while continuing to work with the city of Williamsburg, James City and York Counties on planning new library facilities,” said WRL Board of Trustees Chair Jean Stettler.  

In addition, Betsy and the library staff have re-imagined spaces and services which have truly enhanced library experience for the people of this community. The Board of Trustees will miss her greatly but wish her the best and much enjoyment in retirement. 

New spaces at the library were also a result of Fowler’s leadership, WRL said. She worked closely with the Kiwanis Clubs in the area to create a children’s space in the library that features children’s museum-style educational play elements. In 2022, the space, the Kiwanis Kids Idea Studio, has seen over 130,000 visits. In the spring of 2024, the space will also boast a natural landscape playground.

Among other recognitions, Fowler was named one of the Top 50 Women Leaders of Virginia, has been the Virginia Library Staff Person of the Year, received the Virginia Library Public Relations Award, the Chesapeake City Manager’s Award, and a Congressional Earmark for a Workforce Development Initiative to serve the Hampton Roads region. In 2012, she was selected by the U.S. Department of State as a professional emissary to work with Greek libraries. 

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