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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2008 Awards

2008 Infinite Mile Awards

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Individual Awards

Communication and Collaboration: Jennifer Morris

If this individual had an Olympic event, it would be the biathlon. US biathletes are better known for choking under pressure when it comes to the visual attention necessary to hit their mark after prolonged exertion. However, the Libraries has its very own elite marksman whose aim remains steady under pressure. Trekking through mazes of database code does not tire her, nor do hidden bugs elude her. She endures pages of line-by-line hunting and hits the bull's-eye with her fixes. Her training is precise and streamlined. Her motto? 'Faster. Easier. Simply Better.'

A nominator wrote, "Prior to [this staff person's] arrival, our staff lived in a state of alarm, worried about what might go wrong next, like the server running out of space, work templates being destroyed by Windows updates, loss of work due to storing files in the wrong place, and worse.  [Now] we're freed from so many of these distractions, and are able to focus on filling requests for users and getting our work done."

This person has fostered strong cross-departmental relationships. She has worked with the E-Reserves team that gives STELLAR performance; aided the Library Storage Annex in getting its document delivery project underway; and worked with the Client Focus Group, establishing their wiki and instructing committee members in its use.

While technical skills play a huge part in her work role, this person also excels at listening and communicating.  She serves as motivator and coach, encouraging staff to try out and adopt new applications that will improve their daily workflows. She strives to bridge the gap between technical devices and their human operators.

A colleague writes, "The nice thing about [her] is that she's incredibly approachable. If you hastily apologize for asking a dumb question, she thanks you for the relief from the complicated stuff that's always on her plate. If there's an error that keeps showing up on your computer and you describe it in blatantly non-technical terms, she doesn't sneer at you for your appalling ignorance. After all, [she] is bilingual in tech and non-tech languages. Above all, it amazes me how she consistently puts others first."  

For her ability to develop strategies for individual and team work that lead to a high standard of quality and efficiency, and for her ability to make connections between people and technology, the Libraries' 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for an Individual, in the category of Communication and Collaboration, goes to Jenn Morris.


Community: Stephanie Hartman

The spirit of the Olympic Games is embodied by a unique mascot representing the cultural heritage of the host country. Perhaps, then, it is not a coincidence that this chosen recipient has been known to don the costume of MIT's mascot, "Tim the Beaver", as a way to reach out to students. This individual also connects with students at Academic Expo, and while scooping ice cream during Libraries Week. Her friendly and caring personality helps students feel welcome and she promotes the Libraries, as one nominator says, ""just by being an approachable, fun person that the students can turn to." She has been lauded by colleagues for her empathy, shown in all aspects of her work, from giving personable reference service via email, to taking student workers under her wing and offering them advice and a sympathetic ear. One colleague notes that, "her very personality fosters community because she cares about people".

This colleague takes great pride in making the Libraries a more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable atmosphere for both patrons and staff. Her creative vision can be seen everywhere in her library. The signage, the color of the carpeting and furnishings, and even the tablecloths and napkins for library functions all show traces of her fingerprints.

But the praise for this recipient doesn't stop at her connections with the user community.  She receives accolades from coworkers for social activities that she initiated years ago, and still maintains today, that foster a sense of fun and community both within her department and the MIT Libraries as a whole. The Oscar pool and the March Madness pool make her department's staff, which is physically distributed over four different locations, feel like a single unit. Piefest brings them together for a wide selection of pies and fun conversation. And, the wildly popular annual Cookiefest, conceived of and planned by this individual, is "a celebration honoring the cookie", which grew from a Barker-wide event, to ESL-wide, to now system-wide. As one nominator asks, "Who can go wrong with great conversation and cookies?"

In a recent Cookiefest announcement, she quoted Congresswoman Barbara Jordan: "Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap." Well thanks to this colleague, we do have cookies and milk at about three o'clock on at least one afternoon each year, and we are the beneficiaries of her many other contributions that make the MIT Libraries a "better world".  

For her ability to connect with students and make them feel welcome in the Libraries, her ability to build connections between the Libraries and the MIT community and, for the numerous ways in which she brings us together as colleagues, the Libraries' 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for an Individual, in the category of Community, goes to Stephanie Hartman.


Unsung Hero: Christie Moore

Like a marathoner who must sustain the energy to pursue their goal mile after mile, the unsung hero perseveres with grace and enthusiasm. For over four decades, this individual has kept the pace in a tireless pursuit of excellence in the MIT Libraries.

This nominee's skills range from stellar public service to space planning to web work. She is also a pro at order processing – offering excellent service by going the distance to find the best price on each order and by highlighting related items of interest. Her nominator is convinced that she has saved the library "many thousands of dollars over the years."

She has mastered many responsibilities and is always seeking opportunities to learn and apply new skills. For example, she volunteered to learn Dreamweaver when the software was new, and subsequently took on her library's web work. More recently she took the initiative to learn InDesign, which enabled her to update her library's newsletter with a striking new format. A colleague points out: "It is remarkable that [she] has been able to sustain her enthusiasm for her work while constantly adapting to new technologies, workflows and priorities. [She's] always thinking about how to do it, not how to get out of it!"  Her nominator said that "if she takes on job, it will be done thoroughly, quickly, and with a creative spark."

This individual not only goes the extra mile with behind-the-scenes work but also excels in customer service. She "takes the extra step by emailing faculty when certain materials in their area of expertise are received by the library." One faculty member writes:

 "Since I've started working with [her], I've had this recurring feeling that my memory is slipping. I'll go to the web to request a book order and strangely, it's already ordered and on hold with my name on it. [I wonder if I already ordered it and forgot about it.] …I will suddenly remember a book that I forgot to order for my class and there it is, not only already rush ordered, but cataloged and placed on reserve. …But her hand in improving the library and student learning at MIT goes far beyond correcting professors' forgetfulness. Whether it is a top-notch monograph from an obscure press or a beautiful facsimile collection, she has both a vast knowledge and a keen eye for materials in whatever medium that enhances research and teaching at MIT."

She quietly wins over the dedication of student assistants in her library with her baking skills. Years ago she started the tradition of baking delicious cookies for them at the beginning of each semester, which has no doubt encouraged faithful attendance. And when these students graduate, she thoughtfully prepares for each of them a cookie recipe booklet.

For the enormous impact she has had on the operations and success of the Lewis Music Library, and for her commitment to service excellence, the Libraries' 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for an Individual, in the category of Unsung Hero, goes to Christie Moore.


Unsung Hero: Anita Perkins

Like a cycler in a peloton pacing the pack so the lead rider can make a break and win the race for the team, the unsung hero in the MIT Libraries quietly accomplishes key tasks so that the whole organization can succeed. 

It's ironic that this nominee should receive an unsung hero award since so many of her co-workers sing her praises at the top of their lungs. Numerous nominators claimed that this new award category was created with this person in mind. 

This individual never shirks from taking on unglamorous jobs that are essential to providing outstanding library service. Always the first to cover a reference shift, provide training, help a colleague answer a tricky question, or drive around Somerville to pick up ice cream for a public social event, this staff member always has your back and never looks for any credit or thanks.

"As the epitome of the unsung hero," one nominator writes, "this individual is not inclined to sing her own praises, but rather is content with the personal satisfaction of doing her job well."  Another says she "is always more than willing to pitch in and help out – her own schedule be damned."  A more succinct summary: "She's a superhero!  Plus, she's funny as hell." 

This sense of humor is key to her success and she knows how to deliver it at just the right time in a stressful situation.  One nominator says, "She is a pleasure with whom to work and brings to every day a spirit of fun and collaborative work." 

Several mention her quiet but important role in reaching out to support staff and helping all staff feel like contributing colleagues.  At the mention of her name you hear things like: 

"[She] has done more for my time and career in the MIT Libraries than most people and I don't think she has any idea of her very positive impact."   

"She is an oasis of kindness, intelligence, wit, and humility…"

"She is one of the most unselfish people in the MIT Libraries…"

"She knows EVERYTHING … and has an uncanny ability to appear … exactly when you need her expertise…."

For her unfailing support of her colleagues, for her countless daily contributions to user services, but most of all, for being the valued colleague that she is, the Libraries' 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for an Individual, in the category of Unsung Hero, goes to Anita Perkins.

Team Awards

Results, Outcome and Productivity: Barker Storage Team

Any team must communicate, strategize and coordinate actions in order to maximize its impact. Whether on the volleyball court or in the MIT Libraries arena, a successful team pulls together to excel under pressure.

This team was not intimidated by the challenge of storing thousands of journal volumes in a very short timeframe. When the decision was made to store all print journals with an electronic copy in this library, hundreds of titles were affected, including "dead" titles. Rather than complaining about the magnitude of the assignment, this threesome "jumped right into the task." And they didn’t back down when they learned that the library’s elevator was going to be serviced in just a fortnight, which added a greater sense of urgency to the project.

A storage project of this scale requires detailed planning and organization. This team had to determine how many total volumes were being stored, how many shelf feet were required, and which storage site was appropriate for each title. Those who were unfamiliar with storage projects quickly learned new skills in order to be more versatile members of the team. They processed the volumes in two passes, since items going to the Annex stacks needed to be maintained alphabetically in numbered boxes. When they finished processing the items for Annex, they moved on to items for the Off Campus Collection.

This library’s journal collection posed an additional challenge: "With a slew of society acronyms, transliterated titles and the like, it is not unusual for a title to be mislaid. At the 11th hour, while doing a last minute walk-through of the collection, the storage team discovered a dozen titles that had been missed. With Stimpsons coming the next day to move the boxes to the Annex, the team had no time to lose. They worked well into the night to update the holdings, interweave the journal boxes alphabetically and re-label every box of material. All three worked tirelessly to pull volumes from the shelf, update holdings and re-barcode all the journals for storage. "With this heroic final push, the team completed their task, moving in excess of 7500 volumes in just 13 business days, which cleared 1200 linear shelf feet. The new shelf space not only creates room for monographic growth but also facilitates browsing of the collection.

For their herculean efforts in moving mountains of materials to create shelf space, and their ability to remain calm and cool under pressure, the Libraries’ 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for a Team, in the category of Results, Outcome and Productivity, goes to the Barker Storage Team:  Diana Daigle, Jeremiah Graves and Laura McWilliams.


Community: Distance Education Acquisition and Delivery Group

The interlocking rings on the Olympic flag signify that the Olympic Movement is international and welcomes all countries of the world. This award honors a team that demonstrates a commitment to global inclusion through its effort to extend the MIT community around the world.

These team members work behind the scenes in support of several high profile academic programs, such as the Singapore-MIT Alliance and the System Design & Management distance education programs. Both programs extend the academic influence of MIT beyond the boundaries of the physical campus to a global community of learning. Because the SMA distance program has a synchronous, real-time, interactive component as well as asynchronous access, this group works odd hours across many time zones. Even during off hours, they are available to colleagues in Singapore via phone, chat and email to assure that the MIT students' academic experience is a satisfactory one.   

Through the use of innovative design and planning, this team also supplies tools that enhance the MIT student experience. In addition to the live video conferencing component of the actual class, each session is captured for asynchronous referral – an important capability for students who are not native speakers of English. Classes are posted to the course website within 12 hours, allowing students on campus, as well as those at Nanyang Technical University and the National University of Singapore, to watch lectures and replay them as often as needed. 

This team provides fundamental support for other groups in reaching beyond the MIT campus. Via webcasting, people can be part of MIT activities without being on campus. This service enables parents to become a part of their children's education (in the form of the 2.007 year-end contest), and for families who are unable to travel, to watch their loved one graduate from MIT. 

On-demand videostreaming is a service that reaches around the world as well.  With MITWorld and OpenCourseware, professors and lecturers attain a global reach. These services require that equipment be running and available every day around the clock. While there is an academic calendar for the distance programs, the webcast and streaming demands are constant, often last minute, and with tight deadlines. Each dedicated team member has made and continues to make personal sacrifices in supporting these programs.
For their spectacular technical work and dedication in extending MIT around the world - in real time, the Libraries’ 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for a Team, in the category of Community, goes to the AMPS Distance Education Acquisition and Delivery Group:  William de Figueiredo, Christian Franco, Michael Leoncini, Elaine Mello, Robert Sikkema and Kevin Tierney.


Communication and Collaboration: R2 Implementation Team

To win a curling match, a team must have a skip, or captain, who sets strategies and goals for success. During each throw, the skip communicates to teammates how and when to sweep in order to properly direct the rock, and at the same time gathers and processes input from those same teammates about the conditions of the ice and of the rock itself that could alter the strategy. This library team was given a very large and complex project that involved the implementation of sweeping changes to library workflows. As "skip", this team set the strategies for success and guided the Libraries toward them, all the while gathering input from staff.

Despite the daunting nature of their charge, this group successfully met the challenge of communicating on multiple levels with numerous stakeholders. One nominator praised them for their ability to provide context and background for each proposed change: "I always felt like I had enough information to make thoughtful comments on the relevant topics and was given appropriate venues…to voice my opinion." Another nominator appreciated their ability to speak honestly and directly about the benefits and drawbacks of the changes. "Big changes like this can be scary," they said.  "In this context, many people might avoid face to face meetings that had the potential of being awkward or uncomfortable but not this group."

The team’s collaborative process led to efficient and effective results. One nominator noted, "This group of individuals quickly became a team, relying on each other’s expertise and creativity to address the enormous task given to them."  The vast set of recommendations was organized into categories and each category was assigned a "shepherd" who identified stakeholders, discussed changes with them, and guided affected staff through the implementation process. This group process proved to be very successful as it established an effective division of labor within the group and it gave those outside of the group a clear point of contact for each change being implemented.

"They did an incredible job of updating us on their progress…, one nominator said. "I think the result of this was that people felt connected to what was being done. I have never seen a group at MIT or anywhere else do a better job of working together and communicating with others on their work." 

For creating open and effective lines of communication across the Libraries on all facets of their charge, and for developing and fostering a productive and efficient work strategy, the Libraries’ 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for a Team, in the category of Communication and Collaboration, goes to the R2 Implementation Team:  Jennifer Banks, Charlene Follett, Millicent Gaskell, Rebecca Lubas, Marlene Manoff, Kim Maxwell, and Maria Rodrigues.


Innovation and Creativity: Document Delivery Task Force and BookPage Implementation Team

In sports, victory is often achieved by a coaching staff that creates a strategic vision and game plan, which is then successfully implemented through the talents and drive of the athletes.  Success was achieved in a similar manner by this team, which consisted of a planning task force paired with an implementation group. 

The Libraries’ service for delivering books from one library to another by request had been in existence for quite some time but was not well-integrated into other library services and systems. Many patrons were not even aware of this service, and if they were, the process for using it was clunky and it had significant limitations.

The planning task force recognized that integrating this underutilized service into our OPAC would lower the barriers to its use, and that expanding the amount of materials that could be requested, would offer users an improved service that more closely met their needs. The group created a well thought-out proposal and passed it on to the implementation team who quickly translated it into action. This was no small task though, as staff workflows had to be adjusted and technical complications resolved. However, the expertise and attention to detail that the implementation team brought to the project ensured that the improved service was put into place in record time, with the added benefit of improving staff workflows in the process. 

The improved BookPage service was an instant success. Patrons are using it extensively and library staff have been able to meet the demand without undue strain on our resources. The Libraries’ strategic plan exhorts us to "enhance the usefulness of the Libraries’ significant physical collections as an asset in the digital age".  This improvement to our book delivery service does just that. It is also provides us with a shining example of a successful implementation process for future service improvements. In the words of one nominator, "this kind of creative thinking significantly enhances customer service and the customer experience, and drives the improvement of all kinds of services." 

For their ability to envision and quickly implement a service improvement that has had an immediate, significant and positive impact on our users, the Libraries’ 2008 Infinite Mile Award, for a Team, in the category of Innovation and Creativity, goes to the Document Delivery Task Force and the BookPage Implementation Team:  Elissa Derby, Melissa Feiden, Cassandra Fox, Jeremiah Graves, Pat Page, Anita Perkins, Christine Quirion, Carol Robinson, Matthew VanSleet, and Selina Wang. 


FY08 Selection Committee:
Rich Wenger, Chair
Laura Andersen
Darcy Duke
Melissa Feiden
Matt Willmott

2008 Infinite Mile Award Recipient Photos

Individual Awards

 From left to right: Libraries Director Ann Wolpert, Anita Perkins, Stephanie Hartman, Christie Moore, Jennifer Morris

Team Awards

Results, Outcomes, and Productivity: Barker Storage Team

Diana Daigle, Laura McWilliams, Jeremiah Graves, Ann Wolpert

Community: Distance Education Acquisition and Delivery Group

Robert Sikkema, Christian Franco, William de Figueiredo, Ann Wolpert, Elaine Mello, Kevin Tierney, Michael Leoncin

Communication and Collaboration: R2 Implementation Team

back row - left to right: Millicent Gaskell, Charlene Follett, Maria Rodrigues
front row -  left to right: Ann Wolpert, Kim Maxwell, Rebecca Lubas, Marlene Manoff, Jennifer Banks
(missing from photo): Selina Wang

Innovation and Creativity: Document Delivery Task Force and BookPage Implementation Team

back row - left to right: Melissa Feiden, Jeremiah Graves, Matthew VanSleet, Pat Page, Cassandra Fox
front row - left to right: Ann Wolpert, Anita Perkins, Christine Quirion, Carol Robinson, Elissa Derby

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