STAMFORD – Ernest A. DiMattia, Jr., the Ferguson Library president who ushered the library into the digital age and during his 38-year tenure oversaw the renovation of the main library and all three of its branches, died on Thursday of cancer at the age of 74. DiMattia, known as Ernie to his legions of friends, was one of the longest serving library directors in Connecticut.
“Ernie was an extraordinary leader of the Ferguson Library. However, the true measure of his loss will be felt throughout the community – because he was one of the unique leaders that make Stamford a wonderful place, sharing his wisdom, guidance, time and energy in so many ways. He was a good, kind and caring man; and the entire community mourns his loss," said Ferguson Library Board of Trustees Chair Michael J. Cacace.
DiMattia came to the Ferguson Library in 1976, when library users still thumbed through card catalogs to look for a book, and library music collections were on vinyl. He saw the promise of the Internet early on, and in 1995, the Ferguson became the first public library in Connecticut to provide public Internet access. He was a fierce champion of the Ferguson and libraries in general, and held a series of leadership positions in the American Library Association, the Connecticut Library Association and other library organizations. He most recently served on the board of the Connecticut State Library.
Governor Dannell Malloy, who as mayor of Stamford, frequently debated with DiMattia over the library budget, said, “Ernie was a champion and advocate for libraries in a difficult time for libraries. He was the best, the dearest, smartest …an incredible human being.”
In 1979, Mr. DiMattia oversaw the creation of the Friends of the Ferguson Library, the library’s volunteer support group which now raises $200,000 annually through its used book shop. That same year, he undertook the expansion and renovation of the main library’s turn of the century building. A second renovation was completed in 2011. He opened a passport office and a Starbucks, the first public library in the U.S. to do so, which became important sources of revenue for the library.
“Ernie’s passion for the Library and helping the thousands of people who visited it was something I always admired. This is a great loss to both his family and to our community," said Stamford Mayor David Martin.
In recent years, DiMattia became committed to ensuring public library access to ebook technology, chairing the Connecticut Library Association’s Ebook Task Force from 2011 to 2012. He was ever interested in the changing role of libraries, and recognized that to stay relevant they had to reinvent themselves as community spaces and centers of continuing education.
“He cared about the future of public libraries,” said Sandra Goldstein, President of the Stamford Downtown Special Services District, and a member of the Ferguson Library Board of Trustees. “He cared about the community. He was an extraordinary man, loved by everyone, respected and admired by everyone.”
Mr. DiMattia served on the boards of a number of local organizations, including Junior Achievement, Stamford Rotary Club, Stamford Center for the Arts, United Way of Western Connecticut and the World Affairs Forum. He was an associate professor/visiting lecturer at the University of Connecticut School of Business, Rutgers University Graduate School of Communication and Information, Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science.
He is survived by his wife Susan, and children Amy and Brian.