Bill Kehler ushered Rocky Mountain College’s library into the digital age.
And while he still prefers to read a printed book himself, he thinks the tectonic shift in libraries is a good thing.
Kehler, 63, is retiring as director of the RMC library this spring.
After graduating from Hardin High School in 1967, he came to Eastern Montana College, now Montana State University Billings, earning a degree in elementary education.
He taught only one year before deciding teaching wasn’t for him. Eventually, he took a job with EMC’s library, while working on a master’s degree in library science at the University of Arizona.
In 1995, he moved to the Rocky library where he became assistant director. He was named director in 2006.
Involved in environmental clubs at both EMC and Rocky, Kehler started a tradition of planting a tree on campus each Earth Day.
During his 10 years at the EMC Library, he worked on automating the card catalogue. He was hired at Rocky to put its catalogue online.
Students now can search the card catalogue, read many articles from academic journals and download electronic books without leaving their dorm rooms.
Although libraries are moving more and more to electronic books and professional journals, Rocky continues to buy print books and some journals.
“Students like to have a book in their hands,” Kehler said.
Automation is easier to accept when someone gets in on the start of it like he did.
Of course, “students take right to it,” he said.
While Kehler was at Rocky, not only was the library updated electronically, the building doubled in size and added more computer labs in 1999. The building also was renamed the DeRosier Education Resource Center after the late Arthur DeRosier, a president of Rocky from 1987 to 2002.
Despite the trend toward digitalization, libraries will continue to be important on college campuses.
Librarians remain one of the best sources for research, Kehler said.
During his 18 years at Rocky, Kehler also saw the college add specialized programs such as equestrian studies and aviation; increase enrollment; and improve campus buildings and grounds while remaining a tightly knit academic family.
As he heads into retirement, Kehler has one foot planted in the traditional world of books and the other in the electronic age.
The owner of a Chromebook, Kehler also is reading a paper book version of Irish writer Emma Donoghue’s short stories, “Astray.”