For immediate release | March 30, 2021

Robert Barr wins ALA’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession

CHICAGO — Robert Barr, library director, City & Borough of Juneau (Juneau, Alaska) has been named the 2021 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 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.

Barr is being honored for his work as Planning Section Chief of the Emergency Operations Center, where he is leading efforts to stand up the City & Borough’s testing and vaccination efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This role involves extensive coordination with hospital and public health partners, city departments, assembly members, media, and the community at large. Along with a team of community partners, he co-leads the City's mass vaccination events and created a multipage online guide to answer questions from the community. Due in large part to his efforts, the city’s first mass vaccination clinic in January 2021 was a great success. Ann Symons who nominated Mr. Barr remarked that "Barr took all of the challenges in hand using the skills we value as librarians: access to information, diversity, equity and inclusion, the public good, privacy, and education and life-long learning."

As library director, Barr provides leadership and direction for 40 staff members. He oversaw the $14M Valley Library construction project, contributing towards an on-time and on-budget completed project, including management of grant funding of both public and private sources. He took a leadership role in a statewide push to further intra-library cooperation, including assisting in developing the first of its kind statewide multi-type library catalog.

Symons notes that Barr "has been a respected member of city government since his arrival in 2013. Civic engagement has been part of "his job" both within the Juneau community and the Alaska library community." Mr. Barr also quite active in the profession, serving on ALA's Committee on Legislation as well as the Digital Content Working Group. He is past president of the Alaska Library Association. One colleague said that "Robert has participated tirelessly in these volunteer roles and he consistently offers a calm, thoughtful presence to these efforts."

The annual award, consisting of $5,000 and a citation of achievement, will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in June 2021.

Members of the ALA Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession Award Committee are: Chair Laurel Bliss, Fine Arts Librarian, San Diego State University, San Diego; Laura Gentry, Special Collections and Digital Initiatives Librarian, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; April Moyo, Harris Campus Library Manager, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, North Carolina; Dr. Dorothy (Dottie) Persson, Iowa City, Iowa; Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator, Texas State Library & Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

More information about the Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession including how to submit a nomination is available at the ALA website (


Cheryl Malden

Program Officer

American Library Association

American Library Association