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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2003 Awards

2003 Infinite Mile Awards

See photos of recipients

Individual Awards

Innovation and Creativity: Sarah Williams

How often does someone get to create a new campus-wide service where none existed before? How often does such a new thing get created with wildly successful results? The next award recipient did both of these things and more. This individual came to the Libraries with specialized knowledge that none of the rest of us had and used that knowledge along with an "innate commitment to service", prodigious work ethic, "ability to roll with the punches", and facility with embracing innovative ideas to create a new library program. In a short time she has become indispensable to the MIT community as can be shown by the sheer number of questions she answers, her packed office hours, the innumerable classes she has taught and the fact that people from so many academic departments have found out who she is. She has shown an exceptional ability to collaborate across many boundaries both in the Libraries and Institute-wide. All of her nominators remarked on her boundless enthusiasm and energy that make working with her such a delight. She has brought us the new GIS Laboratory, GIS and map web pages, and the Geodata search tool. Beyond her specialized interest in GIS services, she has also become a valued system-wide contributor to the Undergrad User Group, the Metadata Advisory Committee, the Web Contacts Group, and the DIRC task group and Advisory Committee. In the category of Innovation and Creativity for an individual, we are honored to recognize, with the 2002-2003 Infinite Mile Award, the talents and accomplishments of Sarah Williams.

Communication and Collaboration: Laura Lucero

Sitting among us today is an individual who, as described by a nominator, "stands out in a singular way for their dedication to the Libraries, their outstanding and varied abilities, their extraordinarily strong interpersonal skills, and -- perhaps most importantly -- the deeply humane way in which they approach workplace relationships." In a given year, this award recipient typically makes valuable contributions to the work not only of several different sections within their home department, but to other library departments as well. To the many people for whom this individual has repeatedly served as a godsend she is the living antithesis of the stereotyped cubicle pod whose mantra is "that's not my job". "She has the unique ability to step into a challenging situation to get things back on track, and all the while she wears a smile." "Acutely aware of what truly matters in life, she is also attuned to the dignity of duty, and to the brand of importance that attaches to the mission of the MIT Libraries." To someone with a "reliably human touch in an increasingly mechanized environment" who can "transform even everyday working relationships into meaningful interactions between caring people" we present the 2002-2003 Infinite Mile Award for Communication and Collaboration to Laura Lucero.

Communication and Collaboration: Mariyln McSweeney

In reading through the nominations for this award winner, it was remarkable how often the word "caring" appeared . . . the word "compassionate" . . . the word "calm" . . . the word "trusting". You may be wondering what affect these qualities have on the work environment. But wait. Combine all of these qualities with an "honest and open communication style" . . . "an even-keeled focus in turbulent and changing times" . . . the ability to express a concept in many different languages as a "translator of ideas". And then, on top of all of that, imagine an individual who not only carefully keeps department staff well-informed of system-wide efforts, but also chooses to ask them (regularly!) for their input, advice, questions and opinions. What comes of this combination of qualities? The creation of a highly productive, hard-working, cooperative, innovative department, staffed by workers who feel mentored and respected by an exceptional leader. We are pleased to present the 2002-2003 Infinite Mile Award for Communication and Collaboration to this exceptional leader, Marilyn McSweeney.

Results, Outcome and Productivity: Deborah Helman

It's a daunting task to step into the shoes of a well-liked library leader. Many people expect an interim management period to be a time of "uncertainty and lack of direction, and at worst, a time of stagnation and frustration." This definitely has not been the case in one particular library unit this past year because of the outstanding leadership provided by this award recipient. Nominators cited this individual's success in moving the organization "full speed ahead" in many areas, providing new and improved services for the user community. She has a real talent for close observation of the needs of our user community that allows her to anticipate changes in those needs. She is also "a great communicator" and takes a lot of time to interact with staff, find the great ideas among them, and take immediate action to move the organization along. One nominator said "she has an amazing way of connecting the right person with the right job," and another said, "she has pushed me in my professional activities to take on challenges I may otherwise have shied from; she also works hard to be sure each staff member has what they need to perform well." This is high praise for someone in such a challenging position for a limited period of time. In the area of Results, Outcome, and Productivity for an individual, for her ability to gracefully and successfully rise to the challenge of an interim department head position, we recognize Deborah Helman with this 2002-2003 Infinite Mile Award.

Community: Maggie Bartley

Most librarians would agree that providing engaging instruction to the MIT community is one of the most challenging aspects of our jobs. This next award goes to a librarian who has done a phenomenal job at engaging the user community in instruction activities. This individual carefully observed how students work and tailored an instruction program that would fit into their schedules, used equipment and rooms with which they were familiar, and taught in a format that closely mirrored their graduate classes. Multiple nominators mentioned that to fully engage coworkers in this huge undertaking, this librarian strived to make it easy for them by getting their input, creating highly detailed scripts from which to teach, and coordinating all of the logistics for the classes. Coworkers feel that these efforts have even "greatly enhanced [their] team spirit". In addition, she created, along with a colleague, the extremely useful Business Database Advisor, which helps students conduct research independently after the seminars and which has also become a valuable tool throughout the Libraries for finding business information. More than 200 students have participated in these programs since they began in the Fall of 2000. The user feedback "has been overwhelmingly positive" and the students mentioned that they would also encourage their classmates to attend. Many have come back for other courses in the series. While the impact at the Sloan School and Dewey has been significant, this librarian has also impacted the efforts of instruction programs in every library with her carefully thought-out plan and meticulous execution. She has provided a model from which each divisional library can learn and build upon. While her contributions could easily fit in any number of categories, she has positively impacted the Libraries' relationship to the Institute through her innovative approaches and has had system wide impact with her instruction planning and execution. For these reasons and more, the 2002-2003 Infinite Mile Award for an individual in the category of Community goes to Maggie Bartley.

Team Awards

Innovation and Creativity: Pat Flanagan and Catherine Friedman

This ad-hoc team was selected for their work with their staff and other MIT groups to envision library services in the future and for involving all staff in decision making. A nominator states, "..they helped (staff) reach beyond any preconceived limitations to envision a library that could serve for decades into the future". At the same time they encouraged staff to focus this vision into concrete plans enabling them to make difficult choices when necessary. The team also executed and coordinated several innovative projects to gather information. Among those were benchmarking projects, a faculty survey, a student web survey, and a collections count. Operating in a time of restricted planning budgets, "they put together an array of home grown research tools, availing themselves of existing expertise within the working groups, making only sparing use of outside consultants". They gathered this input in a very short time, knowing that students and faculty are often difficult to reach during the summer. They even subsequently implemented some of the students' ideas for the future into their existing services, for example, instituting an "impulse borrowing" section within the present space. For their innovative work in the planning process for the new Dewey Library, and for their creative involvement of staff and users, we are pleased to present the team award for Innovation and Creativity to Pat Flanagan and Catherine Friedman.

Communication and Collaboration: Reference Vision Task Force

This team's work, completed almost a year ago, was an example of a high degree of risk taking. Their work, and how the Libraries responded to it, will affect how we serve our community in the future, and how our users perceive the entire MIT Library System. In only six months the team gathered information from all over the Libraries. They involved staff in small sub groups and visited any and every library unit that expressed interest in contributing feedback and ideas. This team looked at the environment in which the MIT Libraries were operating and benchmarked that against what other innovative peer institutions were doing. The team then came back to staff to report their findings and once again to solicit input. They then developed a vision of what our public services could and should be. "Reference service is one of the most important services offered by the MIT Libraries", wrote a nominator, "so undertaking this visioning process was involving the Libraries in a very risky project. The whole process was extremely time consuming and difficult but this team worked through it all and came up with a vision that is already beginning to guide the development" of our reference service. For their involvement of all staff in defining a vision for our future Public Service, the recipients of the 2002-2003 Infinite Mile team award for Communication and Collaboration are the members of the Reference Vision Task Force: Jennifer Edelman, Pat Flanagan, Steve Gass, Colin Homiski, Lisa Horowitz.

Results, Outcome and Productivity: Lauren Moffa, Walter Powers and Arnie Sheinfeld

This team was chosen for work described by a nominator as "a daunting, dusty and seemingly unending job". They have focused not only on the specific job they have been assigned, but have widened their work to include correcting, updating and "performing minor miracles on existing catalog records". This team's work has benefited both the MIT Libraries' staff and its users. A nominator wrote, "They have faced every challenge thrown their way and have not only successfully tackled them, but have managed to come up with procedures that they can share with all library staff." They do their job in a far corner of the library system, while good naturedly fielding phone calls from staff all over the Libraries. Writes a nominator, "They always find the answer to queries…always. They are accurate, knowledgeable, gracious and speedy. Man are they speedy!!" This team works so well together that they often speak with one voice, "a little freaky but it works". For their prodigious contributions in cataloging the DDC serials collection at RSC, and for their overall service to the staff of the MIT Libraries, the recipients of the 2002-2003 Infinite Mile Award for Results, Outcome and Productivity are the team of Lauren Moffa, Walter Powers, and Arnie Sheinfeld.

Community: Preservation Services

The team award for Community goes to a group whose rapid response helped bring a crisis situation under control. At the opening hour on the morning of March 20th, 2003, a leak was discovered in the Rotch Library stacks. A pipe had burst overnight and the leaking water had cascaded down through drain holes, spread across floors and was damaging books on all five floors. It was a disaster situation, and was only getting worse with every second that water was in contact with the books. Immediate action was necessary! Only minutes after being notified this crack team appeared in the stacks - working rapidly, efficiently and systematically on all affected areas, removing and sorting the damaged books, expertly directing staff, and arranging for an outside vendor to come and install special drying equipment and remove books to their facility for intensive drying. This team's nominator says that all in Rotch Library are "indebted to the work of these well-trained, good-hearted team members" and that "while their work to treat and save library materials was invaluable, it is the spirit in which they did this that sets them apart. They inspired confidence and helped to allay the dismay that accompanies a book disaster, and by their support and professionalism demonstrated the very best spirit of community - you are not alone in times of need." The 2002-2003 Infinite Mile Award for a team in the category of Community goes to Preservation Services: Jennifer Banks, Kate Beattie, Chris Coughlin, Heather Kaufman, Christine McCarthy, Nummi Nummerdor.

FY03 Selection Committee:
Eileen Dorschner, Chair

Maggie Bloom
Mike Cook
Tracy Gabridge
Whit Hill

2003 Infinite Mile Award Recipient Photos

Individual Awards



From left to right: Marilyn McSweeney, Deborah Helman, Laura Lucero, Sarah Williams, and
Maggie Bartley.


Team Awards


Innovation and Creativity

Pat Flanagan (left) and Catherine Friedman.

Communication and Collaboration
Director of MIT Libraries, Ann Wolpert,
with the Reference Vision Task Force: Pat Flanagan,
Lisa Horowitz, Jennifer Edelman, and Steve Gass.

Results, Outcome and Productivity

Walter Powers, Arnie Sheinfeld (in frame),
and Lauren Moffa.

Community
Preservation Services: Kate Beattie, Chris Coughlin,
Jennifer Banks, Heather Kaufman, Christine McCarthy,
and Nummi Nummerdor.

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