CHICAGO — Barbara A. B. Gubbin, director, Jacksonville Public Library (Jacksonville, Florida), has been named the 2017 winner of ALA’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession. The award, supported by the DiMattia Family, recognizes a public librarian who demonstrates leadership in anticipating emerging trends in services, products and technologies that will enhance the library’s position in its community. The winner also participates in the life of the community using membership in and volunteer service through a broad range of community organizations and projects.
Gubbin is being honored for her many accomplishments to bring new services and ideas to both the library and into the community. The library’s vision is “Start Here, Go Anywhere,” which is evident in the outstanding leadership Gubbin has shown through outreach and in the diverse community partnerships that she has created.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry states, “through persistence and infectious passion for the library, she has built the strongest partnership with the Duval County School System that JPL has had in years.” The partnership enabled the library to issue special Student Library Cards to nearly 130,000 students in nearly 150 schools, in kindergarten through 12th grades.
The DCPS partnership was designed to improve reading proficiency, and also to increase student accessibility to the library. Students can check out books or audiobooks and return them to any JPL location. Additionally, educator cards enable teachers to check out more materials for longer periods of time for classroom use. During the first year, all students in kindergarten through second grade visited a library to check out books. For third through fifth grades, library staff visited school classrooms to provide educational presentations. As part of the continuing partnership, DCPS kindergarten, fourth, and seventh graders are continuing field trips to the library this school year.
In 2016 Barbara and her team developed Project LEAP (Library Enhanced Access Program), an initiative to take library services outside the library. The initiative was designed to provide underserved communities with critical literacy resources, services and programs. There were 6,500 participants in the project's first year and the program continues into 2017.
Jacksonville Public Library is one of the first in Florida to offer an opportunity for young men and women a second chance at earning a high school diploma at no cost. The online school provides career training in addition to academics. More than 90 scholarships have been granted to students. Last fall the library hosted the first graduation ceremony in Florida for the first nine graduates receiving their diplomas.
In 2015, under Barbara’s leadership, the library’s innovative approach to marketing its Transparent Language Online database classes received a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council. The library shifted its technical training classes to offer a cultural immersion experience with interactive classes in Spanish, French, Greek, Talalog and other languages using local cuisine, travel tips, currency conversion and conversational use of the language.
During difficult financial times from 2008 to 2015, Gubbin was a tireless advocate for the library. She began an education campaign for the mayor and Jacksonville City Council with the Board of Library Trustees that highlighted the benefits of the library system to the entire community. During this period, she worked with Friends’ groups, state legislators and civic organizations to garner support for restoring funding. City Councilman Bill Gulliford said Gubbin was a director who is “passionate in securing funds for her library system.” Efforts were rewarded when $1 million was added to the library’s budget to restore library hours at 11 libraries, effective November 2015.
When Learn to Read, Inc., the oldest and only literacy program that offered free services to all adults reading below sixth-grade level, was forced to close in 2010 because of the recession, Gubbin and the library stepped up to provide office space, classrooms, and a computer lab at no cost to this group. Space was renovated at another branch library so Learn to Read could expand to meet the critical needs of more residents.
During Gubbin’s tenure in Texas, she served as president of the Texas Library Association (TLA), the largest state library association in the U.S and was elected to the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) board of trustees for a six year term. Active in the Florida Library Association (FLA), she has served on the Board and chaired its Legislative Committee. She has also been a Board member of the Northeast Florida Library Information Network (NEFLIN). Elected to the Public Libraries Committee of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), she co-authored the IFLA Public Library Service Guidelines, focusing on public library standards of operation and service.
As an active member of the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville, Gubbin served as vice chairman of education from 2008 – 2014. She facilitated a special partnership with the council creating extensive reading lists themed around council speakers; and the library has hosted Great Decisions adult programs since 2008.
The partnership with the Jacksonville Symphony included the symphony’s music director presenting programs and book talks with library patrons and hosting music programs for children by the symphony in libraries. The library publicizes the symphony performances in library marketing materials. The symphony creates special discounted ticket offerings for library customers to attend symphony performances.
A few of Gubbin’s other community partnerships include Nemours Brightstart!, the Museum of Science and History, and the Jacksonville Zoo. She is a co-founder of Cultural Fusion, a collaborative effort with many organizations throughout Jacksonville, which has shaped the vision that drives the cultural community to create unique programs, exhibits and experiences through collaborations.
The annual award, consisting of $5,000 and a citation of achievement, will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois in June.
Members of the 2016 – 17 ALA Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession Award committee are: Chair Andrea R. Lapsley, Colorado State University, Colorado; Clara Nalli Bohrer, West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Michigan; Joseph Egan, retired, Maryland; Brian J. Kenney, White Plains Public Library, New York; Kelvin Antonio Watson, Broward County Public Library, Florida.