The MIT Libraries honored the outstanding contributions of staff to the Institute at its Infinite Mile Awards ceremony on June 14. The libraries put their own unique spin on the MIT tradition with a nautical theme that infused everything from the remarks to the décor, and with a celebratory luncheon where staff members danced to music by the libraries' house band, Dewey and the Decimals.
Director Chris Bourg presented awards to individuals and teams in the categories listed below; award recipients are listed along with excerpts from the award presentations.
Described as “the heart and soul of the department,” Julia Lanigan, collections and administrative assistant in the department of Scholarly Communications and Collections Strategy, was honored for bringing a commitment to community to everything she does. If there is an activity that involves bringing others together, she is likely to be a part of it: MIT Reads, the Libraries’ Committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion; the Collections Directorate Task Force for Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice; organizing a bookmobile to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement; or gathering library staff to participate in the Boston Women’s March. Colleagues recognized her genuine caring and devoted efforts to strengthen the organization.
Katharine Dunn and Mikki Macdonald pulled off something amazing — and very MIT — when they led the libraries in the Crossing the Charles Parade and Competition in May 2016. As one nominee described, they were “cheerfully tireless in the effort to corral, create, and deliver an outstanding representation of the MIT Libraries spirit.” Dunn and Macdonald were honored for enlisting the aid of an artist to translate beautiful sketches into larger-than-life-sized props, coordinating a group of disparate volunteers, and leading a process that was a high-profile, high-energy, high-impact success. Their inclusive leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm in symbolically once again moving MIT across the Charles resulted in the libraries winning the Beaver Spirit Award for school spirit.
Innovation, Creativity, and Problem Solving
Web developer Matt Bernhardt’s approach to work consistently involves thoughtful solutions that directly tie back to user needs, whether those users are the MIT community or library staff. “He doggedly pursues solutions and often comes back with a variety of options that offer benefits that I hadn’t even considered,” said one nominator. Bernhardt was honored for generously sharing his knowledge and expertise, not just in everyday work and projects, but beyond his immediate circle to a vast sea of colleagues and collaborators. The libraries applauded his creativity, hard work, collegial spirit, and ability to anticipate problems and recognize opportunities to improve services.
Results, Outcome, and Productivity
Maps are everywhere: Google Maps, Google Earth, Mapquest, GIS. However, a lot of spatial information is only available on paper maps. Mary Jeanne Yuen, metadata production associate, helps others search the vast MIT Libraries map collections. She was recognized for taking great care in being detail oriented, thorough, and responsive, and for persistent efforts that have resulted in better access for library users. As one nominator said: “You can depend on her to produce fantastic work, whether it’s creating authority records or cataloging German topographic maps. You can also depend on her to crack you up with her dry, self-deprecating humor … she is authentic, hilarious, caring, and generous.”
Judith Gallagher is the kind of person who works so smoothly behind the scenes that it would be easy for her to escape notice. Colleagues who work with her closely describe her as “meticulous,” “thoughtful,” “a superstar colleague,” and “genuinely caring and dedicated.” The financial and payroll associate is a treasure trove of information — about the libraries, the Institute, and procedures and policies — and is generous and patient in sharing that knowledge with others. Gallagher was honored for going above and beyond the call of duty and stepping in to help when her team was severely short-staffed due to illness, while still keeping up with her regular duties. She also takes pleasure in making other people's workday a little brighter.
Colleagues say Tim Rix exhibits three traits that make him outstanding specifically at his job and as a co-worker in general: direct and honest communication, empathy, and a systematic approach. The systems administrator was recognized for responding to challenges pragmatically and figuring out ways to make it work, even in suboptimal circumstances. Rix makes one's problems his problems and takes pleasure in helping his colleagues, sometimes with inadequate notice, sometimes stepping in when others are absent or unavailable, but always without fanfare.
Communication and Collaboration
The day after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, students mobilized in the lobby of Building 7, wrapping the large columns with paper and encouraging the MIT community to share their thoughts, hopes, and concerns. A large, cross-departmental team from the libraries, including Liz Andrews, Matt Bernhardt, Frances Botsford, Emily Crawford, Katherine Crowe, Myles Crowley, Darcy Duke, Nora Murphy, Kari Smith, and Chris Tanguay, then stepped up to acquire, preserve, and make these posters accessible. They planned how to move, store, and preserve the large posters — the biggest measuring 3.5 feet wide and 16 feet long. A video pan of each poster was shot, digital images were taken, transcription of the content was performed with extreme quality control, and a website was quickly created — all to help make the posters available to a wider audience and to preserve them in perpetuity.
The Library Storage Annex scanning team of Howard Martin and Allegra Zoller recieved the award for going the extra mile to implement a long-sought-after service for the Institute. In 2015, an MIT Libraries’ survey asked: “If you had $100 to spend, how would you allocate it to make the most positive impact on your research or coursework?” One of the top answers was to provide article and chapter scanning and delivery from on-campus collections. The unflappable, hard-working duo of Martin and Zoller worked with outside vendors to get new equipment and software, improved internal delivery processes, and trained staff in order to incorporate Scan and Deliver into the libraries’ suite of services. It now seamlessly provides PDFs of articles and book chapters from most of the libraries’ print collections, not just those in storage. Said one emeritus professor: “I thank you for what must have been a tremendous amount of work in setting it up. I intend to use it frequently.”