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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2004 Awards

2004 Infinite Mile Awards

See photos of recipients

Individual Awards

Innovation and Creativity: Craig Thomas

Creative. Innovative. Collaborative. Able to make the complex simple. These are a few of the characteristics that have made this award recipient so successful in the MIT Libraries. This year this individual accepted the challenges associated with a critical, system-wide project and did so, as one nominator said, “with great enthusiasm, responsiveness and intelligence, as well as an undaunted spirit in the face of many challenges.” Another nominator commented, this staff member's “innate commitment to excellent service, ability to pay close attention to detail, and awesome communication skills were essential ingredients to moving this project forward.” He quickly became the “pivotal person in this project,” “earning the trust and admiration of colleagues throughout the system.” Yet another nominator said, this individual's hard work resulted in “comprehensive use data on a scale we have never had in the past, and at a particularly critical time when we may need [this] data to plan and justify spending reductions.” Others agreed that this is an example of a project “where a single person made the difference.” In addition, while engaged in this project, this award recipient continued to provide “seamless service” with enthusiasm, and all the while "contributing to the fun working atmosphere” of the Barker Library. For designing the database that was an indispensable tool used in the Libraries' recent Journal Use Study, and for "performance under pressure [which] was full of grace,” the Libraries' 2004 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Innovation and Creativity goes to Craig Thomas.

Communication and Collaboration: Peter Cohn

This award recipient wears many hats and wears them with grace, care, and a spirit of fun. This year this individual brought these qualities to the challenging project of ensuring seamless delivery of public services while helping staff implement new service initiatives, including the Central Help Service, expanded instructional programming, and integration of new staff members into the service unit. How does one manage all this? This individual draws on an impressive array of communication skills and a real commitment to collaborative action. One colleague summarized this individual's approach this way: "He pitches in. He encourages. He shows us. He is fair and wise and inclusive of all the staff." This staff member brings the same energetic and collaborative approach to his work with students and faculty, whether in transactions to help solve a reference question or in carefully tailored instruction sessions-all of which have brought students back months later to express their thanks and appreciation. His energy, generosity, and talent are called upon yet again at the system level, where through his committee work he actively links three major public service groups. Members of PSMG, the Reference Committee, and the Instruction Committee continually draw on his wit, clear thinking, and astute editorial eye. Many colleagues routinely seek the advice of this master wordsmith, whose gentle suggestions have redeemed and improved more documents, memos, Power Point slides, and web pages than we can count. To lead by inspiring, as this librarian does, is truly the key to effective collaboration. That he does so with clarity of expression, warmth, and an unflagging sense of enthusiasm is why the Libraries' 2004 Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Communication and Collaboration goes to Peter Cohn.

Results, Outcome and Productivity: Greg Raposa

There are projects and problems that fall outside most librarians' areas of expertise; this nominated individual is the person frequently called upon to facilitate the realization of such projects, and to correct such problems. To do so with "calm effectiveness," "a positive, approachable, and pleasant attitude," achieving "superior results for a very modest budget," has impressed upon colleagues what an invaluable resource this person has become to the MIT Libraries. Whether acting as a liaison between the Libraries and contractors or Institute staff, or making helpful suggestions in the furtherance of a project that might not have been considered otherwise, or advocating strongly for the Libraries on construction projects, with a real understanding of the issues large and small, or even getting down on the floor himself and marking a line for drilling concrete, this person "simply get[s] the job done" and he conveys the confidence that it will be done right. Ernest Hemingway articulated, in another context, the phrase "grace under pressure" as a rare and commendable virtue in human beings. For not only personifying such grace under pressure, but also communicating that grace, that calmness and unflappability and good humor, to colleagues, for getting the job done effectively and with speed, for being a stand-up, follow-through guy, the Libraries' 2004 Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Results, Outcome, and Productivity, goes to Greg Raposa.

Community: Joe Hankins

Working with devotion to users' needs and welfare, with zeal and energy and in friendly partnership with part-time librarians and support staff, the recipient of the individual award for Community played a major role in sustaining consistently high quality service to patrons during a period of transition which included a substantial storage project. One faculty member said that this individual, "makes a huge difference in the lives of me and my research group…. Many visitors to my lab … have remarked to me how lucky we are to have someone with [this person's] dedication." A staff member in the department noted that this individual "goes out of [the] way to help me with requests for obscure articles and journals that are requested from the professors I work for. I receive the documents in a timely manner. Most of the requests I ask for are 'last minute' and [this person] has never let me down." This award recipient has also received the praise of fellow library staff: "I believe that the positive atmosphere in this library and the respect [this individual] has is a direct result of his excellent and personal service." "I am really amazed that he has accomplished so much in his service on the Circulation Committee, MIT Working Group on Support Staff Issues, and Simmons Alumni Committee all during a transitional stage in Lindgren leadership." For maintaining excellent community relations and service, and serving as the primary point-of-contact during a long transitional period, the Libraries' 2004 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Community goes to Joe Hankins.

Team Awards

Communication and Collaboration: Dewey-Humanities Processing Team

They are lean, but never, ever, mean. They are agile and swift, resourceful and bold, and totally committed to high quality outcomes. This Team is a responsive and collaborative unit that manages the movement of a myriad of bibliographic items through the system and supports the collections work of a dozen subject specialists. In addition to all that, they are always in the vanguard of the Libraries' unceasing battle to create more space. They know how to plan, shift, and move, and they are experts in logistics and the synchronization of effort, time, and space. Although the Team's work appears to be focused on internal customers, in fact their outlook is always to make what they do contribute to a better experience for library users. When they do a storage project, for example, they are aware of the need for signage and communication to users. Team members know that in supporting the collections, as well as the work of other staff, the Team directly contributes to the productivity of our users. They achieve all of this because they take self-management very seriously, working together to manage projects, to train and cross-train, to hire new members and to regularly assess their own progress. This Team encourages and supports all its members in taking on leadership roles. Their self-management and collaborative leadership thrive because each member of this Team is committed to meeting the well-known challenges of effective communication with honesty and openness. For their ongoing effectiveness in managing myriad projects and meritorious efficiency in carrying out processing functions, the 2004 Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Communication and Collaboration goes to the Dewey-Humanities Processing Team: Maggie Bloom, Jennifer Fauxsmith, Amy Martin, Denise O'Malley, Elke Piontek-Ma, and Amanda Powers.

Results, Outcome and Productivity: Desktop Support Group

This team is "among the Libraries' unsung heroes." "Without a lot of fuss or publicity," they are responsible for making sure that the Libraries' staff and users alike have access to a critical tool, without which most of us could no longer do our work. For some of us, they provide superb "training, advice, emergency coverage, or sometimes just a shoulder to cry on as the situation requires." For the rest of us, they have proven to be a wonderful "resource" as we "turn to them with a calm question or a frantic crisis." In any event, they can be counted on for prompt and excellent service! As one nominator said, "this year in particular they deserve to be recognized because they not only did the usual tasks while short staffed, but also wrestled with ongoing security concerns, including several compromised computers, and took the lead in moving us toward the WinAthena service which will ultimately result in both efficiencies and improvements in service." For their ability to keep the bits and bytes flowing smoothly in a graceful and calm manner, the 2004 Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Results, Outcome and Productivity goes to the Libraries' Desktop Support Group : Nathan Matta and Pam Nicholas.

Innovation and Creativity: Bibliographic Access Services' "Wall Push Inter-Section Team"

Once upon a time there existed in the Libraries an entity called The Wall. It was not a Cold War emblem of fear, distrust, and the denial of freedom, like the Berlin Wall, nor was it a grim symbol of the repression of creativity and joy, like Pink Floyd's "The Wall." But it was getting there! The Wall was the backlog of new monographs to be cataloged, that had, to quote an eyewitness, "ballooned to over double its normal amount," due to a concatenation of adverse circumstances in the wake of the migration to Aleph. Well-intended measures were taken, as the problem increased in magnitude, but they met with limited success. The Wall's persistence, its ominous spread to every empty shelf in 14E-210, and then on to just about every empty book truck that wasn't actually rolling, was so daunting as to engender despair and doubt that pre-migration numbers and turnaround time could ever be restored. This nominated Team, however, did not despair. Seeing that the old methods were not working, this group "devised a bold new approach," a new workflow which, in that it called for unprecedented coordination, with speed, across sections with differing responsibilities, for each individual book, would have seemed to be an unattainable ideal. But this group, with a good will and a team work ethic, made it happen. There is still a Wall, but it is now a happy and compliant wall that has been tamed to an acceptable and sustainable level. New monographs are made available to Library patrons in a timely manner, and there is even some time for BAS personnel to work on special projects that have, of necessity, been consigned to various backburners. Sometimes it takes a village. And sometimes it takes that village to rearrange itself entirely(!) so that things will work better. In the category of Innovation and Creativity, we salute the members of the Bibliographic Access Services' "Wall Push Inter-Section Team": Linda Cuccurullo, Macee Damon, Kathy Hamilton, Jane Marcus, Rebecca Lubas, Ray Schmidt, Beth Siers, Stephen Skuce, Gordon Thomas, and Mary Jeanne Yuen.

Community: Records Management Process Improvement Project Team

This brainy, brawny team had a lot on its plate including learning new software, moving mountains of materials, freeing up thousands of cubic feet of storage space, and packing and labeling boxes. As one nominator said, "At each step along the way the staff have been tenacious and creative in addressing concerns as they arose, learning new computer applications, and welcoming additional offices to the program while making their service as seamless as possible for participating offices. Each team member played his or her part to insure that the system worked smoothly, from establishing the policies and procedures, improving the database, labeling boxes and overseeing their transfer, and working with members of the MIT community to retrieve records in a timely fashion. Another nominator said: "A new era in the management of the Institute's non-permanent records keeping has begun because of the work, perseverance and ingenuity of this dynamic group. Working together they successfully implemented a program for out-sourcing to Iron Mountain the storage, retrieval, and disposition of those MIT records without enduring value." For designing and accomplishing a project of great magnitude which will be of benefit not only to the Libraries but to the participating MIT Offices in the future, the Libraries' 2004 Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Community goes to the Records Management Process Improvement Project Team: Liz Andrews, Ewa Basinska, Lois Beattie, Tom Rosko, Liz Phillips, and Aaron Tieger.

FY04 Selection Committee:
Walter Powers, Chair

Maggie Bartley
Kate Beattie
Jennifer Harter
Deborah Helman

2004 Infinite Mile Award Recipient Photos

Individual Awards

Individual Awards

From left to right: Peter Cohn, Joe Hankins, Ann Wolpert, Greg Raposa, Craig Thomas

Team Awards

Innovation and Creativity:
Bibliographic Access Services'
"Wall Push Inter-Section Team"

back: Beth Siers, Gordon Thomas, Macee Damon, Stephen Skuce, Ray Schmidt, Kathy Hamilton
front: Mary Jeanne Yuen, Rebecca Lubas, Linda Cuccurullo, Jane Marcus, Ann Wolpert

Communication and Collaboration: Dewey/Humanities Processing Team

back: Amanda Powers, Maggie Bloom, Elke Piontek-Ma, Jennifer Fauxsmith
front: Amy Martin, Ann Wolpert, Denise O'Malley

Results, Outcomes, and Productivity: Desktop Support Group

Nathan Matta, Ann Wolpert, Pam Nicholas

Community: Records Management Process Improvement Project Team

back: Liz Andrews, Aaron Tieger, Liz Phillips, Tom Rosko
front: Ewa Basinska, Ann Wolpert, Lois Beattie

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