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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2013 Awards

2013 Infinite Mile Awards

Individual awards


Innovation and Creativity: Carl Jones

Robert Plant has Jimmy Page, Bono has The Edge, Mick Jagger has Keith Richards, and we have this rock star as our lead guitar player.  We tell him how we want the song to go with no music or reference just a sense of what we want to happen and every time he makes our problem into a hit song.  This gentle, soft-spoken and unassuming wizard is responsible for more behind-the-scenes magic than most of us can even imagine. 

Where some may see problems without solutions, his response is always a simple, “Let me give it a try.”  Try he does and most often successfully.  He is quite simply interested.  He’s curious, engaged, and tenacious. He plays an instrumental role in getting so much of the Libraries’ content online and accessible.  Just like a guitar hero he finds the melody. Whenever there is a problem his colleagues always turn to him where he quickly and cheerfully solves the problem whether it is a problem they have seen before or a brand new one.

He is deeply committed to the MIT Community, his colleagues in the Libraries, and the world of digital library collections. His style is to help each other try new things as it is an important part of working together in the Libraries. 

Carl Jones is definitely a rock star.  He may not be the flashy lead singer but a steady base he keeps the beat going. Without him there would be no song to perform.

Carl Jones is nominated for the Innovation and Creativity award for his work in our two repositories DSpace@MIT and Dome - and in all the workflows involved in loading content from research papers in Open Access to images in our Visual Collections and beyond.


Bringing Out The Best: Amy Chase

Some people have a special ability to make everyone around them more successful contributors. This can be done by supporting and assisting colleagues in achieving goals, fostering a collegial environment, motivating others by example, and inspiring excellence in all of us through attitude, outlook, and spirit. This award recipient has truly rocked in all of these ways.

Nominators describe this individual as “selfless”, “a true gem”, and “a true team player.” She may work behind the scenes, but she never loses track of the end-user and the importance of getting things done quickly and accurately, while keeping the lines of communication active throughout the process.  “She doesn’t view work as ‘hers’ versus ‘someone else’s’, writes another nominator. “Instead, she works together with others to create the best outcome, without worrying about exactly where the responsibility lies or who will get the credit.”

She has been recognized as an “essential link” in making the Libraries’ reorganization a successful transition, taking in new information while sharing her own expertise and forging new and positive working relationships along the way. She is nothing if not adaptable, moving from gig to gig – first local processing in Dewey, on to the Collections Support Unit in AMES, then the Monograph Acquisitions Unit and most recently to the Tangible Formats Team – and she never missed a beat. She has transformed her corner of the “big room” into a place where people can come for advice or information about a work issue and know that they will receive a warm welcome and helpful support. She always makes time for colleagues’ questions, and if she doesn’t know the answer herself, she will help figure out how to get it.  Her vast knowledge, coupled with her approachability, has gained her the respect and admiration of many an adoring fan. 

For her selfless approach to her work and to helping her colleagues be the best that they can be, the Libraries 2013 Infinite Mile Award for Bringing Out the Best goes to Amy Chase.


Communication and Collaboration:  Tracy Gabridge

This individual leads a team of professional rock stars. They go on tour year-round and provide the best possible services to support the MIT community’s research. Over the last three years this librarian has re-shaped the way our band of troubadours deploys services across campus. With a collaborative and open style, this leader has orchestrated a renewed sense of purpose and has energized her group; she supports their performances, exacts a few strong notes here, fine tunes services there, and communicates with all.

Her ability to speak to her group of performers as comfortably as she does to each one of them one-on-one is a rare talent they very much appreciate. As they report back, she listens to the modulations in the feedback she hears from them. She engages and encourages their music; she keeps them tuned in and gets buy-in from them in deftly managed goal-setting rap sessions. Her requests for monthly updates from them provide moments of recognition for small and large achievements alike, and opportunities for proposing suggestions to improve orchestration and performances.

She has worked in concert with creators of the Aga Khan Documentation Center film series and promoters of concerts and play readings at the Music Library; she has welcomed efforts to invite performers such as aerial photographer Alex MacLean and other library accompaniments like the Games by the Book exhibit. These are just a few of her improvised riffs and our favorite things.

Regardless of how you like to mix your musical metaphors for communicating and collaborating, whether you think of this individual as an exquisitely talented conductor who quietly and firmly elicits the best from her well-tuned orchestra, or as an ace rock-band manager who makes sure things get done and that they keep moving so players never lose sight of their next goal and gig, this individual is a leading rock star among managers in the MIT Libraries. 

For sharing her vast knowledge of MIT, its culture and its workings, and for her kind, supportive, and generous manner the MIT Libraries 2013 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Communication and Collaboration goes to Tracy Gabridge.


Community Building: Cate Gallivan

Step aside, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, and Lady Gaga. Make room for the rock goddess of the MIT Libraries – our winner of this year’s Community Building Infinite Mile award.

This individual has been described as a rock goddess not only for her invaluable work with music reserves, but also because of her attitude, spirit, and knack for creating a warm and welcoming community. She does so many things well, bringing expertise and a can-do attitude to the multitude of projects she works on. Her fabulous sense of humor and positive attitude with student workers has played a vital part in making sure not only that tasks are completed on time, but that the students are happy in their jobs as well; the student schedule for the Music Library has been filled consistently with no gaps for several years running.

Besides her core work of reserves and student supervision, this individual enjoys taking on new projects, especially creative ones. Some of her greatest hits include creating the Music Library’s MediaMobile – a computer on wheels that has been used for outreach, publicity, and instruction – advancing the use of QR codes for exhibits, and initiating the use of streaming audio for the MIT Symphony Orchestra recordings on TechTV. Our award winner also brought her unique experience and invaluable perspective to the MIT Libraries’ E-Reserves Task Group. “Our task was not easy,” wrote a member of that group, “but she never failed to get in there to grapple and engage, including through her wry sense of humor [which was] much needed when trying to make sense of the crazy world of copyright law and court cases.”

This rock star’s community building skills also extend to her work with faculty, several of whom contributed to an Infinite Mile nomination for her. “[She] works magic,” wrote one Music Lecturer. Another wrote, “[she] is the personification of she who walks the extra mile… [She] is right in the forefront of a team making [up] one of the best music libraries in the Boston area.” A third faculty member praised this individual’s patience, good humor, and “legendary productivity” in digitizing materials for use on his Stellar site. “Please give her this award,” he added, “she has traveled the extra mile so many times for me, that those miles are already fast approaching the infinite.”

This individual really does rock. For her dedication to her work in Music reserves, and for her inspirational ability to foster a collegial environment, the MIT Libraries 2013 Infinite Mile Award for Community Building goes to Cate Gallivan.


Customer Service: Annie Lee Bisset

Ain't no mountain high enough. 

Ain't no valley low enough.

… You know the song.

This awardee will go to the ends of the earth to meet the research needs of the MIT community. It is on like donkey kong when this rocker sets up behind a monitor and keyboard; armed with only ILLiad and a few add-ons, sparks fly as she rocks through thousands of requests a year.  But sometimes a request takes you where ILLiad and OCLC would rather not go. It is at moments like these that our she raises the dial to 11! Surviving on intuition and guile she pursues her prey fearlessly. A nominator says, “I believe she truly enjoys the hunt, which is an invaluable characteristic in the world of ILB, where the many requests that can be found quickly and easily are punctuated by researcher needs that …can sometimes only be found in 1 or 2 libraries in the world. In these instances, she does not shy away from the pursuit, but rather sticks with them, doggedly, and very often finds the materials her patron needs.”

After learning that primary sources needed for his research on non-profit cooperative housing in New York City after WWII might be available on microfilm in Albany and New York City, Robert Fogelson, Professor of History and Urban Studies asked about interlibrary borrowing. “She worked wonders”, he said. “She borrowed several reports from the New York State Library and, after months of struggle, persuaded the New York State Archives to send the papers of governors Rockefeller and Wilson to MIT.” She also arranged with the New York City Municipal Archives to lend some mayoral papers. “Through [her] tireless efforts, I was able to make use of this invaluable information and was spared at least two long, arduous, and expensive trips to Albany and New York City,” he said.

For her commitment and dedication to providing excellent service to the MIT community, the MIT Libraries 2013 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Customer Service goes to Annie Lee Bisset.


Unsung Hero: Michael Smith

Rock stars are nothing without the people who work behind the scenes to make sure there are not only fireworks and laser shows, but electricity and working bathrooms. The rock spectacle that is the MIT Libraries requires this same kind of support – a roadie, if you will. 

Telephones stop working, contractors appear out of nowhere to “install something”, steam pipes burst in one library, and then in another.  Doors won’t open, doors won’t close.  Windows leak, courtyards leak, roofs leak. Mice and ants decide to spend quality time with staff.  We need walls painted, study lamps replaced, carpets cleaned.

Offices—we never seem to have enough—so we improve the ones we have and build more. Likes the ones created for the Aga Khan Documentation Center, the Rotch circulation staff offices, and the AMPS office suite in building 10. For these gigs contractors were organized, communications sent, furniture ordered, carpet installed, and phones and keys arranged.

Much is done to make our spaces better for the community.  Monitors were installed to market Libraries events and services.  A game installation and iPad Kiosk were installed in Hayden. On a larger scale, power outlets, sorely needed in Rotch, were installed in the reading and maps rooms. Installations were made in all the library buildings to improve cell service. Windows were replaced in Hayden. Carpet was installed in study nooks to dampen sound. And on the grand scale, the reading room under the Great Dome was restored to its original glamor which involved a lengthy process with countless meetings, key deadlines, and endless communication between multiple parties.

Whether it’s the day-to-day operations or the large-scale projects – he has a hand in all of it. Despite the fact that he is the Libraries’ version of “the busiest man in show business,” he never lets his full dance card impact his work. He’s always ready, willing, and able to step in and ensure that the Libraries have what they need, when they need it.

For his dedication and tireless efforts to ensure that the Libraries’ spaces are well-maintained and receive the attention they require, the MIT Libraries 2013 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Unsung Hero goes to “the man who makes things happen,” Mike Smith.


Team awards


Problem Solving: Rotch Theses Digitization Team

This award winning team is like a great cover band. They have found a way to make printed theses on a shelf come alive again, duplicating these greatest hits with great mastery and giving the masses access to their favorite singles.

This Team’s project is a great example of turning a problem into a new opportunity to enhance service to the MIT community.  With the Rotch stacks bursting at the seams, the decision was made to scan all theses held in the library and upload them to Dspace@MIT. This digitization effort would not only free up ~400 linear feet of space, it would allow the MIT Libraries to represent a full collection of theses online to support the School of Architecture and Planning. 

This band of performers came together from several departments to jam together – IDLA, Curation and Preservation Services, and Institute Archives.  They created efficient workflows. Theses were retrieved, sorted and prepped. The team handled over 6,000 items and scanned over 670,000 pages. They dealt with thin onion skin typing paper, poor carbon copies and purple mimeographs from the 1940-60’s.  And velobound items and poor photocopies from the 1970-80’s. Over 1,000 theses copies had to be retrieved from Harvard Depository because the divisional copy was incomplete or of poor quality.  While challenging to digitize because of these publication anomalies, representing the full corpus of the Rotch thesis collection online was worth the wait. 

Throughout the project, problems were solved, lessons learned and workflows tweaked, all of which will come in handy for the team’s encore performance – digitizing the Engineering and Science theses currently held in Barker and Hayden.

For their work on solving a never-before attempted large-scale retrospective theses digitization the team award in the category of Problem Solving goes to the Rotch Theses Digitization Team:  Michael Cook, Myles Crowley, Andrew Haggarty, Neal Johnson, Mikki Macdonald, Jenn Morris, and Nora Murphy.


Results, Outcome and Productivity: ID&LA Storage Team

The second award goes to a team that has brought down the house in true rock star fashion. It recognizes an amazing effort that required immense planning, organization, and hard work.

These team members have overseen numerous moves of journals and monographs to our offsite locations at the Library Storage Annex and the Harvard Depository. In fiscal year 2012 alone, they transferred 75,000 new materials.  So far this year, around 55,000 items have been moved. Like any great rock band they have their helpers, a team of student workers and MITemps whom they have trained to help with the necessary technical processing work. 

The work of this duo is timely and efficient, as they coordinate large ship-outs and Stimpson moves while gathering information about how to improve workflows. They have developed an impressive fan-base, receiving rave reviews from HD staff regarding MIT’s storage operations, with some at Harvard wanting to emulate their procedures. Colleagues at Harvard even asked that they share with them the time-saving Aleph macros that they created.   

An effort of this magnitude also requires working in concert with other talent - staff members from CSM, Institute Archives, and the Harvard Depository Working Group - to ensure that the team is on track with storage projects and HD storage projections for the year. This collaborative effort has resulted in the creation of new guidelines and expectations for CSM-generated storage lists, which allows the process to run more smoothly and which will increase the efficiency of future storage projects.

For their rock out performance in overseeing the transfer of hundreds of thousands items from the campus libraries to the Annex and Harvard Depository, the Libraries’ 2013 Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Results, Outcome and Productivity goes to the IDLA Storage Team:  Moses Carr and Bethanie Pinkus.