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MIT Libraries staff honored with 2019 Infinite Mile Awards

Staffers feted for caring, collaboration, and community.
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Infinite Mile Awards committee member Lisa Horowitz embraces award recipient Barbara Williams
Infinite Mile Awards committee member Lisa Horowitz embraces award recipient Barbara Williams
Photo: Jia Spiggle

The MIT Libraries honored the outstanding contributions of its employees June 11 with its Infinite Mile Awards. The theme of this year’s festivities was “Treat Yo’ Self: Rest, Renew, Relax.” An awards ceremony in Killian Hall was followed by a celebratory luncheon featuring live music by the libraries' staff band, The Dust Jackets, and a guest appearance by Tim the Beaver. 

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.

Innovation, Creativity, and Problem Solving

In June 2018, the team including Ben Abrahamse, Helen Bailey, Mike Graves, Rhonda Kauffman, and Jeremy Prevost set out to build the MIT Libraries’ first API, an indexing platform for populating searches/discovery, consolidating various source metadata into a single index. Nicknamed “TIMDEX,” the API is now being used and will enable the libraries to advance discovery and access, improve relevance and context, and bring together fragmented silos of content.

Collaboration and Inclusion

Shannon Hunt, Stephanie Kohler, and Sam Spencer had the difficult task of creating and overseeing a staff-driven nominating and voting process for the Staff Advisory Council, the first of its kind in the libraries. The team kept fairness and transparency at the forefront of the process, was an endless source of help and encouragement to those considering whether to participate, and demonstrated care and commitment throughout the launch of the council. 

Results, Outcome, and Productivity

The team of Grace Mlady, Beverly Turner, and Kelly Hopkins was recognized for its awe-inspiring efforts to move 70 staff members (representing nearly 40 percent of the total staff) from across the libraries to a new office location. Despite the knotty logistics, the team made every effort to involve the community, listen to hopes and dreams as well as major concerns, and ensure equity and fairness in the end results. The team approached the project with “grace and aplomb” and their colleagues with “poise, kindness, and joy.” 

Bringing Out the Best Award

Human Resources Generalist Cherry Ibrahim is widely praised for her compassion, foresight, thoughtfulness, and can-do attitude. “She consistently models the caring organization we hope to be,” said one nominator. Ibrahim has used her remarkable organizational and problem-solving skills to help recruit, hire, and onboard new staff; plan the annual libraries staff breakfast; and serve on fast-moving search committees, all with a smile. 

Tough Questions/Critical Thinker

Aeronautics/Astronautics and Physics Librarian Barbara Williams is not afraid to ask questions, especially when they pertain to the well-being and professional growth of her colleagues. Williams is driven by a sense of fairness and a respect for the expertise and talent of others. While the feedback she offers might be difficult, she manages to provide it with a smile and an honesty that empowers her colleagues to have the kind of uncomfortable conversations needed to live up to the libraries’ values. 

User Service and Support

Georgiana McReynolds, reference services and user experience librarian, received this award recognizing a staff member who consistently keeps library users in mind when implementing services. Nominators highlighted her “tireless, exemplary work on tools and services that connect our communities to the information they need.” Another wrote, “Any question handled by Georgiana is guaranteed to be addressed thoroughly, thoughtfully, and professionally. She takes the time to understand and interpret users’ information needs and provides tailored strategies and solutions.”

Unsung Hero

Administrative Assistant Renee Hellenbrecht is a treasured member of the MIT Libraries staff who daily makes a positive impact in many ways. She has led Webex training for her colleagues, helps keep kitchen items in supply, and even “MacGyvers” the industrial coffee machine when it breaks. As one nominator wrote, “she gets things done, often without other people even realizing that there was something that needed to be done.” 

Christine Moulen “Good Citizen” Award

Jeremiah Graves, access services manager for Barker and Rotch libraries, was acknowledged for his “relentless” support of his staff’s professional development. Praised for his ability to anticipate and solve both large-scale problems and quick questions, Graves is a co-chair of the recently created Staff Advisory Council. His efforts to build community via the libraries’ softball team, the Bibliotechs, have been sustained and considerable, and he truly displays the spirit of teamwork, courtesy, and generosity that characterized Christine Moulen '94, the inspiration for this award. 

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