Ann Kelsey was born in Kokomo, Indiana in 1946. At the age of five years old, her family moved to Riverside, California, where she spent her childhood. At a young age, Ms. Kelsey had a strong interest in literature and reading. She volunteered at her local library in order to obtain a Girl Scouts badge and then eventually worked at the library.
She graduated from Polytechnic High in 1964 and attended the University of California, Riverside. In her time at UC Riverside, she majored in English and anthropology, developing a strong interest in Vietnamese history and culture due to the influence of her professor Gene Anderson. After graduating from UC Riverside, she attended UCLA, earning a Master's in Library Science. At UCLA, she witnessed the growing anti-war movement that was sweeping across the country.
After an Army Special Services recruiter came to the library school, she volunteered for service in Vietnam. In 1969-1970, Kelsey served as a civilian librarian for Special Services, which oversaw arts and crafts, entertainment, library and service club sections. First, she managed the U.S. Army Headquarters Area Command Library in Saigon, and then she worked at Cam Ranh Bay, overseeing four libraries at Cam Ranh, the Sixth Convalescent Center, Dong Ba Thin and Nha Trang. Later, Kelsey became involved in efforts to help Vietnamese refugees immigrate to the United States.
During her career, Kelsey worked at libraries in Elmont and Queensborough, New York and Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. From 1975 to 1983, she served as the principal librarian at the Morris County Free Library, during which time she coordinated the implementation of automation. She then held the position of associate director of the Sherman H. Masten Learning Resource Center at the County College of Morris from 1983 to 2009. In 1985, she co-founded DocuMentors, which specializes in automation planning and system procurement for libraries. She has worked as a consultant for BASF Corporation. She has been active in veterans' organizations and involved in documenting the oral histories of veterans.