Parish library director earns accolades from his peers

Published 12:21 pm Sunday, April 19, 2015

Washington Parish Library System Director Al Barron received the 2015 Anthony Benoit Mid-Career Award at a ceremony held recently at the Louisiana Library Association’s Convention in Shreveport.

The award is given annually in memory of the late Anthony Benoit, former Jefferson Parish Library director, who greatly helped “to transform Jefferson into a modern public library,” according to Donald Westmoreland, WPLS board president who is also director of the St. Tammany Parish Library. Benoit’s career and life were cut short when he lost his battle with cancer.

Westmoreland said he knew and worked with Benoit in the 1990s. He said he is thrilled for Barron to receive the award. He said they much in common and that Barron was well deserving of the award.

Westmoreland said Barron worked well with parish government and managed to bring all communities together.

“Al Barron is transforming the library system and has made service to the public his priority and has found a way to bring new services, programming and even a replacement facility for Enon,” Westmoreland said.

Barron is credited with an increase in library usage, according to Peggy Caruthers, assistant director of public services for the WPLS.

“While his demeanor is rather quiet, I’ve known him to be very tenacious,” Caruthers said. “There is no better evidence that can be offered than the state statistical reports between 2010 and 2013, which showed visits to the library have increased 35 percent.”

Barron has also fought for the state library’s budget before the House Budget committee in 2013 and as part of the LLA Executive Committee and for retention of school librarians and media specialists in 2012.

Another accomplishment for Barron is “establishing a closer working relationship with librarians, teachers and media specialists in the schools. Caruthers credited Barron for implementing outreach services to nursing homes, assisted living centers and day care centers.

Terrebonne Parish Library System Director Mary Cosper-LeBoeuf said Barron is well deserving of the award.

“He realizes the importance of public libraries to small communities and realizes they can provide the same or better cutting edge services as large public libraries,” Cosper-LeBoeuf said. “His dedication to libraries shows in his passion and commitment.”

Calcasieu Parish Library Director Dr. Gabriel Morley, who is also a former director for the Washington Parish Library System, said he knows Barron’s challenges.

“He has not shied away from doing the best that he can with what he has,” Morley said. “He staged the first Washington Parish Book Festival.”

Library Director of West Feliciana Parish Glenna Clark Fallin said Barron is to be commended for his hard work.

“If this award is to be given to someone who epitomizes what a librarian should be with his peers, his patrons and his professional association, then Al Barron is clearly the best choice,” Fallin said. “He has offered his time and expertise to all of us and for the betterment of our profession.”

Barron said the award is the result of work of many people.

“it is an acknowledgement of what we have invested in our profession and that it reflects what the staff and I have been able to accomplish,” Barron said.

Barron, who came to the WPLS in 2011, introduced changes that included the use of more electronic resources, e-books and more programs and strove to increase community awareness of the many traditional media and Internet-based media offered at the library.

Previously, Barron worked in both St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes in various capacities. He served as the Slidell Branch manager from 2009-2011 and as the Special Collections Librarian for the Covington Branch from 2004-2009. While he was there he was the originator of the “Lineages” series of genealogical/local history programs. In Jefferson Parish, he was the assistant special collections librarian and circulation manager of the East Bank Regional Library from 2000-2002. Prior to that, he was the manager at the Rosedale Branch Library from 1998-2000.

Barron also served in the United States Amy Reserve from 1984-1992, working with government accounting and expenditures. He received his Library Director Certification in 2011, his Masters of Library Information Services from LSU in 1998 and earned a B.A. in education from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1992.

In addition to his active membership in the Louisiana Library Association, his professional affiliations include present and previous membership in the Society of Southwest Archivists, the St. Tammany Genealogy Roundtable, the America Library Association and the Louisiana Archives and Manuscripts Association.