STAMFORD — Calling for extended hours and technological improvements, the newly appointed president of the Ferguson Library said she will continue the legacy of her late predecessor in meeting the needs of the community.
Alice Knapp, 53, a longtime Stamford resident and administrator at the Ferguson, was named president by the library’s board of trustees on Tuesday following the death of former president Ernest DiMattia in June.
Knapp said an ongoing goal in the coming years will be to continue to restore hours of operation that have been reduced over the past five years due to budget cuts at the main library downtown and three branches in the system. Earlier this month, hours at both the central branch downtown and Harry Bennett branch in Turn of River were both extended due to a boost in city funding this year.
“Obviously we’re not happy with the number of hours we’re open,” Knapp said. “In the next two or three years our work isn’t done and we need to restore the Harry Bennett and Weed branches to the hours they had previously.”
Another ongoing project Knapp said she is overseeing is introduction of a new library search system called Encore that will provide more comprehensive search results for patrons; incorporating both physical and digital collections such as e-books, scholarly articles and other available resources.
“In August we just migrated to an integrated library system so now when you search for, `For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ you get not only print results or e-books, but articles written about it and other results across all of our major databases,” Knapp said. “It is all in one seamless search.”
Knapp said this fall the library will also make digitized versions of The Advocate from 1980 to 2005 available to the public. The project and other initiatives to make more resources available through the library digitally were part of the long-running mission of DiMattia, Knapp said.
Knapp first joined the Ferguson Library in 2001 as director of public services. In 2009, she left to take a job as executive director at the New Canaan Library before returning to the Ferguson in 2013 as director of user services. She has also served as the director of the Bethel Public Library, and public libraries in Canastota, and Herkimer, N.Y.
After DiMattia’s 38 years of leadership, Knapp was the natural choice to succeed him, said Ernest Abate, chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Ferguson Library, citing her longstanding involvement with Stamford’s system and diverse experience in administration.
Abate said DiMattia shepherded the library through the changes brought by the digital age and helped the system from the 1990s onward begin a step-by-step process to provide direct access to information online.
DiMattia was also a deft strategist who helped create Friends of the Ferguson, which helped bring a Starbucks Coffee to the downtown branch and operates a profitable used bookstore that helps fund the library’s programming, Abate said.
“No one can do what Ernie DiMattia did, but Alice is a clear choice and someone Ernie was actually grooming for the position,” Abate said. “It was Alice that Ernie hoped would replace him when he retired.”
Knapp said an important goal in the next several years is to determine what expansions or changes to make to the South End branch on Woodland Avenue to meet the diverse needs of that library’s service area. The area includes both diverse immigrant populations and an influx of new residents due to new development.
“We obviously want to restore hours there, but we need to look at our services because the South End is changing so much are we meeting the needs?,” Knapp said. “If the answer to that is no, we have to figure out where do we go from there.”