November 11 2014
By Martin B. Cassidy
STAMFORD — To honor his role shepherding the city’s library system over five decades, the board of the Ferguson Library announced Tuesday it will change the name of the city’s main library on Bedford and Atlantic streets next month in memory of late Ferguson president Ernest A DiMattia Jr., who died this summer.
In December, the official name of the library will be changed to the Ernest A. DiMattia, Jr. Building of The Ferguson Library, Ernest Abate, chairman of the library’s board said. The library will unveil a plaque in the North Stamford resident’s memory mounting it in the building’s foyer in the first week of December.
“Ernie’s contribution was absolute dedication to the library over a lifetime,” Abate said. “Ernie had a tremendous impact on the library and the community, and we believe rededicating the Main Library in his name is a fitting tribute.”
DiMattia led the library for 38 years starting in 1976 until this past June leading it through a process of tremendous change, including an addition to the downtown branch beginning in 1979 and a complete renovation in 2010, said Alice Knapp, who was named president of the Friends of Ferguson Library to succeed DiMattia.
DiMattia is credited with the library’s move into the digital age, helping to improve interlibrary loan programs, but also overcame financial constraints to complete renovations of the main library, built in 1910, and other branches, Knapp said.
In addition to spearheading private fundraising efforts, DiMattia oversaw the creation of the Friends of the Ferguson Library, which helped bring Starbucks Coffee and a passport office at the main branch to help increase revenues.
The auditorium at the main branch and the meeting room at the Harry Bennett branch both serve as venues for lectures, community group meetings, and other events, Knapp said.
“He was one of the first library directors to understand the importance of being entrepreneurial,” Knapp said. “He also oversaw the renovation and expansion of the main library and recognized in order for libraries to remain relevant they had to reinvent themselves as community spaces and centers for continuing education.”
In the early days of her tenure, Knapp said she is continuing to oversee progress in one of DiMattia’s last initiatives, the establishment of a small business resource center at the main Ferguson branch.
The new facility typifies both DiMattia’s penchant for technology and expanding the library’s reach to specific parts of the community.
Funded by a grant from the First County Bank, the library has put iPads linked to the resource center at the Stamford Innovation Center that provides direct access to the Ferguson’s subscriptions to business databases.
“That really stemmed out of his passion for connecting to the community and serving people’s needs where they are,” Knapp said.