City and Borough of Juneau Public Library Director Robert Barr was announced Friday, April 2, 2021, as Juneau’s next deputy city manager. Barr was also announced this week as the winner of the American Library Association’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession for his work as the planning section chief through the pandemic. (Courtesy photo / CBJ)

City and Borough of Juneau Public Library Director Robert Barr was announced Friday, April 2, 2021, as Juneau’s next deputy city manager. Barr was also announced this week as the winner of the American Library Association’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession for his work as the planning section chief through the pandemic. (Courtesy photo / CBJ)

Raising the Barr: Library chief picked for deputy city manager job

He also won a national award for his work through the pandemic.

Juneau’s Public Library Director Robert Barr was announced as the city’s next deputy city manager in a social media post.

Barr was also announced as the winner of American Library Association’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession on Wednesday.

“I am very excited to bring Robert into the Manager’s office. He has been a fantastic CBJ Department Director and his skills have become very visible to the public over the last year as he’s been a pivotal figure in Juneau’s pandemic response,” said city manager Rorie Watt in a social media post. “Fortunately, he wears a size 14 and may, over time, be able to fill Mila (Cosgrove)’s big shoes.”

Barr, who has served as director of libraries since coming to Juneau in 2013, has served as the planning section chief of the city’s emergency operations center since the outset of the pandemic in 2020, which should stand him in good stead as the deputy city manager.

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“During the pandemic, I’ve had opportunities to engage across the city with many departments. Every department has a role to play in our response,” Barr said in a phone interview, speaking about his role, something that usually last for only days or weeks. “This has gone on more than a year.”

Barr said it had been a long-term goal that came into sharper focus as he served closely with the city manager’s office through the pandemic.

“I’ve been working closely with Mila for a while. I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Barr said. “I’ve certainly thought about it for longer than that. It’s something that I’ve been interested in for more than a year. It’s certainly come into clarity over the past year. I’ve had many more opportunities to work directly with Mila and have a better understanding of what the role.”

Barr will begin in July as Cosgrove, the current deputy city manager, retires, following a long career in the role and human resources and risk management director before that.

City and Borough of Juneau Public Library Director Robert Barr was announced this week as the winner of the American Library Association’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession for his work as the planning section chief through the pandemic. (Courtesy photo / CBJ)

City and Borough of Juneau Public Library Director Robert Barr was announced this week as the winner of the American Library Association’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession for his work as the planning section chief through the pandemic. (Courtesy photo / CBJ)

A prestigious award

Barr was announced as the winner of the DiMattia Award on Wednesday, making it quite a banner week for him.

“It was a surprise to me when I learned about it,” Barr said. “I was told by the person who nominated me the day before I learned I had won.”

“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,” read a social media post from the city. “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 was awarded for his work as the city’s EOC planning section chief, the release said.

“Due in large part to his efforts, the city’s mass vaccination clinics have been a great success,” read a city social media post.

Ann Symons, who nominated Barr, said in the release: “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.””

The award comes with a citation to be presented at the ALA’s virtual conference in the summer along with an award of $5,000.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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