Kenton County librarian named state librarian, commissioner
Wayne Onkst, director of the Kenton County Public Library, has been named the new state librarian and commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA) by Governor Ernie Fletcher. Onkst is replacing retiring State Librarian James Nelson, who has served for 26 years.
The native of London, Ky., has served his entire 27-year-career with the Kenton County Public Library, and led the library system as director for the past seven years. He will begin his new duties Nov. 16.
“I am delighted that Wayne Onkst will be heading the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Wayne’s expertise as both a librarian and historian make him an excellent choice to lead the agency. I know that Kentucky’s invaluable archives are in good hands as our State Librarian Jim Nelson passes the mantle of the state’s permanent records to Wayne Onkst, and he continues the important work of KDLA,” said Kentucky Education Cabinet Secretary Laura E. Owens. KDLA is an agency in the Education Cabinet.
During his tenure as director of the Kenton County Public Library, Onkst guided the location and development of two major library branches costing $17 million, and created the Kentucky County Public Library Foundation. He also led a major expansion of the library’s children and outreach services, and worked with Ashland Inc. to establish the Read Racer program, which delivers materials to pre-school children in 35 sites throughout Kenton County. Under his leadership, the library also increased its annual circulation of materials from 1,337,209 to 1,950,794.
As state librarian, Onkst will be responsible for statewide library development and management, and preservation of public records in Kentucky. Currently, the state archives hold 247 million pages or 18.5 miles of critical public records dating from 1780 to the present in 99,000 cubic feet of space. It holds invaluable documents such as letters signed by President Abraham Lincoln, a deed signed by Patrick Henry, archival drawings and plans of the state capitol building, and governors’ records going back to Gov. Isaac Shelby.
“Kentucky libraries provide valuable service to people across the Commonwealth. As the new state librarian, I look forward to working with the library community, state government, and citizens to enhance library services for all Kentuckians,” Onkst said.
“Jim Nelson and the staff at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives have provided dedicated service in building Kentucky's libraries and preserving our heritage with the state archives. We will work to continue this mission in serving Kentucky's need to know and acquiring the additional space for preserving the state’s permanent records.”
Onkst began his career as a reference librarian at the Kenton County Public Library after graduating from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1978 and a master’s degree in library science in 1979. He also served as head of adult services and associate director of the library system before becoming library director in August 1999.
Onkst said during his career he has enjoyed pursuing his lifelong interests of history and genealogy, and working with children. He has written and edited several genealogy resources, including “Buffalo Trails to the Twenty-First Century: A Centennial History of Erlanger.”
In 2001 he received the Children Inc. award for “innovative services that imagine a better tomorrow for children” and in 2005 he was presented the Sullivan Award by the American Library Association for public library administrators supporting services to children. He is a graduate of Leadership Northern Kentucky (2001), former president of the Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium, and former president of the Kentucky Public Library Association.
Onkst, 50, lives in Erlanger with his wife, Deborah, a school media resource specialist, and their two sons, David and Noah.
The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives provides equitable access to quality library and information resources and services, as well as helps public agencies ensure that legislatively mandated documentation of government programs is created, efficiently maintained, and made readily accessible. For more information, visit www.kdla.ky.gov or call 502-564-8300, ext. 315.
KDLA is a part of the Kentucky Education Cabinet which coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or www.workforce.ky.gov, or call 502-564-6606, ext. 130.