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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2005 Awards

2005 Infinite Mile Awards

See photos of recipients

Individual Awards

Innovation and Creativity: Johanna Woll

This award recipient has been described as "a model self-starter" — "a consummate professional," who is "extraordinarily productive and proactive." This individual has taken a 120,000-piece collection that one nominator described as "disparate, and at times, desperate," and, with astonishing entrepreneurial initiative, turned it into a "bona fide internationally known teaching and research collection." This staff member has continually sought creative new ways to raise the profile of the collection to encourage MIT faculty and students, as well as scholars around the globe, to tap its wealth of information. She attended courses taught by MIT faculty, collaborated with editors and directors of an international online community, created a database to improve access, and has pushed to digitize the collection so that it finds the widest audience possible. "She has won the respect of her colleagues and the faculty for her smart and thoughtful stewardship" said one nominator. Another commented, "Her oversight has led to the increased usage of, and prestige for, this department in particular, and the Libraries and MIT in general." Her creative approach also makes her a strong contributor to the committees on which she serves. She "remains impressively up to date on new developments in the field" and is likely to be the one who "clarifies potential confusion in procedure, or defuses tension between different personalities." In the words of one nominator," she is a colleague of the highest caliber in her attention to creating a workplace comfortable for all." Another nominator remarked that she is "always ready with help or the cloudy-day quip." For reorganizing the Aga Khan visual archives into a well-respected and accessible teaching collection, and for her contribution of "good ideas and perceptive insights" across the Libraries, the 2005 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Innovation and Creativity goes to Johanna Woll.

Results, Outcome and Productivity: Maria Rodrigues

This recipient has successfully managed such a dizzying array of projects, committees, and initiatives that a nominator has quipped with only mild hyperbole that this individual “could easily run a medium-sized country.” And at every turn, this person’s open style of communication has won the confidence and friendship of colleagues. Within the local unit, this staff member provides energetic and humane leadership. According to one nominator, this individual is “an incredibly supportive supervisor,” eager to help train and mentor staff to meet the challenges of the job. To local staff, this person is not only a supervisor, but also “a spirited, friendly, trusted, and respected coworker.” Within the home library, this staff member is also a strong contributor to working groups. This person’s data-gathering has been critical to a group that manages space shared by two major collections. To another group working to strengthen the home library’s integrated service point, the desk experience and “good working relationships” of this individual have been invaluable. But what really sets this recipient apart is her highly effective management of large, complex projects. Recently she faced the daunting task of fitting an entire branch collection into a crowded divisional library. The result? Five words that every administrator loves to hear: “completed early and under budget.” The list goes on. She co-chaired the local arrangements group for a highly successful international conference. She managed the creation of a large website that now provides authoritative, up-to-date documentation for all processing units. And, at this very moment, she is presiding over the complex merger of two formerly separate processing units in Barker and Science, and working with a colleague in Rotch to coordinate system-wide training for the newest version of ALEPH. We used to scoff at those cloning rumors, but now we’re beginning to wonder. Sadly, we can’t grant her a medium-sized country to run. But we can and gladly do bestow the 2005 Infinite Mile Award for Results, Outcome, and Productivity on Maria Rodrigues.

Communication and Collaboration: Judith Gallagher

Serving as a friendly and reliable resource to staff, assuming a crucial liaison role between the Libraries and other Institute departments, improving the work processes of a program that touches the lives of us all — these are just a few examples of this individual’s important contributions over the past year. This staff member took on a new realm of responsibilities for a program that was driven by an archaic online system and bogged down in arcane and rigid procedures. Working collaboratively with other program staff, Institute staff, and library staff, this individual was instrumental in developing good practice and implementing efficient procedures that posed the least impact on library staff. Organizational skills and attention to billions and billions of details brought a sense of order out of chaos. (Move over, Carl Sagan!) With little formal training and little time to learn, this individual attended demos and information sessions to gain a firm understanding of systems, procedures, and policies and then shared that knowledge with library staff. Her ability and patience in translating information to staff is exemplary. She is quick to offer assistance and, when an obscure problem is encountered (of which there are many!), she is tenacious in tracking down the solution. Library staff find her approachable, pleasant, and professional. Staff from departments outside the Libraries appreciate the cooperative and responsive relationships that have emerged. While officially a member of another department, this individual came on board the “Payroll Express” at a time of great change in Administrative Services, where she now spends 20% of her time and is considered part of the team. For helping us pull together, work together, and hold together at a time when our payroll program might otherwise have fallen apart, the 2005 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Communication and Collaboration goes to Judith Gallagher.

Community: Margaret dePopolo

This award recipient could have won in any or all of the categories. Her accomplishments are legion, and she is without doubt a community leader. Many nominators underscore her personal warmth: her “wonderful smile” and “supportive aura”; her thoughtfulness as an “avid practitioner of the spontaneous Thank You message” long before the Spot Award program began. One nominator says that she can turn a bad day around with a well-placed word of praise. Another writes that she builds a “self-rewarding circle” of support and encouragement which, in turn, fosters positive working relationships in other departments. In the words of yet another nominator, she is a “gentle, powerful force of thoughtfulness, fun and humanity for the MIT Libraries.” In groups, she is a “courteous, careful and thoughtful listener” who hears all sides and, in minutes and reports, weaves together “a wonderful tapestry” to represent a cohesive statement of the group’s work. Nevertheless, she is also fearless in raising difficult issues and questioning unexamined assumptions. As a leader, she is “committed, resilient, and inspiring,” actively promoting “cross-training, collaboration, and general openness … so that all staff feel involved, informed and appreciated. ” A “humanist in all senses,” she is devoted to providing the best public service to all patrons. She embodies high-quality, innovative, and fully engaged services to the MIT community. Always a champion of the library patron, she has developed deep insight into the community served by her library. And her relationships with faculty and colleagues inform every aspect of her work. She is also an energetic innovator or, as one nominator puts it, a “pollinator,” who brings together “people and ideas to see what grows.” And the innovations that have grown from a lifetime’s work at MIT have been spectacular. She spearheaded creation of the new GIS service; of an early and highly successful Integrated Service Point; and of an endowment to support and develop the Aga Khan Program. She is also responsible for establishing a separate facility for the Rotch Visual Collection. In a brief stint as Acting Head of Archives, she became the “diva of donor relations,” acquired valuable new collections, and renovated the “dePopolo pit.” And for 18 years she angled, lobbied, and planned, she dreamed and toiled to bring about what will surely prove her greatest physical legacy to MIT and the Libraries: the transformation of old Rotch Library into one of the most beautiful and fruitful spaces in the Institute. In gratitude for a professional lifetime spent building the spaces and cultivating the living communities where learning and discovery thrive, we are delighted to name this year’s recipient of the MIT Libraries’ Infinite Mile Award for Community: Margaret dePopolo.

Team Awards

Communication and Collaboration: RetroSpective Collection Staff

In some MIT circles, your organizational value is measured by the KBA test. What would happen to your unit how would your coworkers manage if you were suddenly “kidnapped by aliens”? If this team is ever KBA’d, the MIT Libraries will be in big trouble. Though they maintain a low profile, they work directly with almost every unit in the Libraries. They collaborate with Cataloging, Gifts, Preservation, and subject specialists in Collection Services on a daily basis. Yet, just as frequently, they work with Public Services units like Circulation and Processing. Without this team, Document Services, Delivery Services, and even the “defacto library unit of Stimpson and Sons” would hardly know what to do. And, lest we forget, this team also manages a steady, daily stream of public patrons and requests both in person and via phone and email. One nominator rightly calls them the ultimate Libraries “middlemen,” since they serve as the nexus linking so many different groups and processes. How fruitful is their collaboration? The sheer volume of work performed by this team is breathtaking. They manage a constantly evolving collection of nearly 400,000 volumes and, in one way or another, they processed or provided access to almost 100,000 volumes last year alone. They are the caretakers to some of the most valuable segments of our collections. But what really distinguishes this team is their “dedication and good cheer” in the face of challenges before which mere mortals would quail. This band of sisters and brothers operates in a location that seems closer to California than campus, forced to communicate with us almost entirely by email or phone. They endure heat and meat-locker cold, red rot and yellow snow, bugs and critters, dimly-lit stacks, and a famously cranky freight elevator — in short, all the imaginable hardships presented by an aging facility. And they do it all for us and the patrons. Though much of their work slips modestly under our radar, it is high time for us to “let a little light … shine on our friends” in Central Square. The Libraries’ 2005 Infinite Mile Team Award for Communication and Collaboration goes to the Staff of the RetroSpective Collection — Moses Carr, Arly Cassidy, Melissa Feiden, Cassandra Fox, and Liz Philips.

Innovation and Creativity: Service Desk Task Force

This trail-blazing team was “asked to tread where none had gone before.” They began by recreating their charge, and then launched boldly into the unknown, armed only with their wits and Excel spreadsheets. “Resilient and flexible,” “thoughtful yet practical,” this group “balanced invention and focus” to achieve a “thorough, ingenious, timely, and well-vetted result” that will benefit all the MIT Libraries. “In a few short months of intensive work, consultation, and analysis,” this group “solicited widespread staff involvement” and fostered “participation and collegial discussion” throughout the system. “Just as impressive” one nominator wrote, “was the ample evidence that they listened to everyone they met with; and made substantive changes in their recommendations as they gathered more input and ideas.” “By creating a process that was inclusive and transparent,” this team has earned both understanding and broad support for its work. In the eloquent words of one nominator, the members of this task force have “established the groundwork for ensuring consistent, confident, and well-informed service at all our public service desks. They have completely met the daunting challenges they faced — to identify core competencies in a broad range of service areas. They have … shared a vision of a high level of independent information services. They [have] also provided the analysis and tools to empower every member of any service desk staff, in any of our libraries, to know what is expected of them, and to work with their colleagues and supervisors to acquire and share their skills. … Their call for a ‘culture of training’ and learning is exactly right: and with enthusiasm, trust in each other, and respect for their colleagues’ opinions and experience, they have managed to encourage us all to set our sights higher.” The Libraries’ 2005 Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Innovation and Creativity goes to the Service Desk Task Force — Michael Leininger, Jennifer Harter, Amanda Powers, Andrew Shea, and Kevin Sheehan.

Results, Outcomes, and Productivity: Hayden Circulation Staff

Working in one of the most challenging environments in the Libraries, members of this team went far beyond their traditional duties. Not only did they fulfill their regular responsibilities in fine style, they stretched themselves to participate in a series of demanding special projects. This team’s participation in four major projects both exceeded initial expectations and led to significant improvements in user access to a vast amount of material. Can you guess how long it would take to integrate 500 boxes of journals and monographs into a larger collection? Apparently far less than the four weeks expected by planners. This team accomplished the task in just two days at barely a quarter of the estimated cost! Can you imagine the improvement in user access if every volume of a large journal collection were suddenly barcoded? Due to this team’s diligent efforts, more than 3000 linear feet of journals became available for self-checkout. As a result, serial circulation increased by a factor of five, from 5% to 25% of all transactions. Can you estimate the sheer weight of 10,000 cubic feet of journals and books? That’s how much "stuff" this team lifted and toted in a major shifting effort that freed overflowing shelves, released space for integrating another library's materials, and made ample room for new acquisitions. And, as if that weren’t enough, this hard-working team also volunteered to participate in a major storage project. Again, they far exceeded expectations. Their monthly processing rate of 1400 items nearly doubled the initial target of 800. For their collaborative spirit, sheer perseverance, and astounding productivity, and for tangible results that will benefit all library users, the Libraries’ 2005 Infinite Mile Team Award in the Category of Results, Outcomes, and Productivity goes to the Hayden Circulation Staff — Dan Holland, Harolyn Hylton, Georgiana McReynolds, Denise O’Malley, Gregory Padilla, Pat Page, Alan Rostoff, Kevin Sheehan, and Matt Van Sleet.

Community: Committee Without A Name—Jim Eggleston and Jennifer Harter

“Imagine,” in the words of one nominator, “you live in a big house with lots of other people. Now, imagine that you see these people several times a day, but that you don’t know their names. You might even have a conversation every now and then but you don’t know what they do for work, what they do for fun, or what they do at all. They seem like perfectly nice people, people you’d like to know, but somehow it just isn’t happening. You’re cordial but you just can’t seem to connect.” These days, many folks in a certain “big house” know a lot more about one another. Who brought about such a radical change? (Since this is the MIT Libraries, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that it involves a committee.) This enthusiastic team organizes events that are unique, innovative, and just plain fun. The events are planned for different times and different days so people on all shifts can participate. Benefits from this team’s efforts are long lasting. When the Libraries opened during an official Institute closing, this committee surprised its public services staff with coffee and doughnuts (as well as an early morning debate on the advantages and disadvantages of decaf.) This is no ordinary committee. In fact, this committee doesn’t even have a name! “What it does have is a legacy” … some hats … and some baby pictures. “Hat Day” celebrated baseball playoffs with crackerjacks and sports hats. “Secret Snowman” encouraged staff to learn about one another’s interests. The "Baby Picture Contest" proved that some folks haven’t changed a bit! The “Who’s Who” display invited participants to match staff with their personal interests. And "Trick or Treat" was a yummy way to learn where people worked. (Some people even discovered that there are offices on the Science mezzanine!) This committee cleverly brings together folks from Humanities, Science, Hayden Circulation, Lewis Music, Lindgren, and, at the time, ILB. In recognition of its ongoing success in creative community-building in the Hayden Library, the 2005 Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Community goes to the Committee Without A Name — Jim Eggleston and Jennifer Harter.

FY05 Selection Committee:
Craig Thomas, Chair

Ewa Basinska
Joe Hankins
Pam Nicholas
Amanda Powers

2005 Infinite Mile Award Recipient Photos

Individual Awards


 From left to right: Margaret dePopolo, Maria Rodrigues, Ann Wolpert, Johanna Woll, and Judith Gallagher


Team Awards

Innovation and Creativity: Service Desk Task Force

Jennifer Harter, Amanda Powers, Andrew Shea, Ann Wolpert, Kevin Sheehan, and Michael Leininger.

Communication and Collaboration: Staff of the RetroSpective Collection

Cassandra Fox, Arly Cassidy, Ann Wolpert, Liz Philips, and Melissa Feiden. (Not pictured: Moses Carr.)

Results, Outcomes, and Productivity: Hayden Circulation Staff

Kevin Sheehan, Alan Rostoff, Denise O'Malley, Dan Holland, Ann Wolpert, Gregory Padilla, Matt Van Sleet, and Pat Page. (Not pictured: Harolyn Hylton and Georgiana McReynolds.)

Community: The Committee Without A Name

Jim Eggleston, Ann Wolpert, and Jennifer Harter

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