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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2012 Awards

2012 Infinite Mile Awards

Individual awards


Innovation and Creativity: Kris Brewer

According to one nominator, the Innovation and Creativity category fits this individual “to a T.”  Imaginative thinking, ingenuity, thinking outside the box – he has these in spades.  

Over the last four years, this individual has “taken a fledgling, experimental service and made it the heart of many Departments, Labs and Centers on campus by providing exemplary customer support in providing a Libraries service which uniquely suits their needs.”  He has shepherded the service through many changes, including multiple vendor transitions, while growing the service across the board.  He is committed to providing the best possible service to the community and to seeking out innovative approaches to its use on campus. He meets challenges “from technical problems to platform migrations with unfailing good humor.”

This individual demonstrates a true entrepreneurial spirit, collaborating with groups across campus and coming up with new and creative ways to assess and promote the service. He even “created a national educational video technology user group (Eduvideo) which has brought different universities together to share their experiences with educational video technology.”  Always willing to help with almost any problem, one colleague writes that he serves as “a great example to the rest of us in regards to customer service and innovation.”   

One nominator notes that “his ability to solve problems across a wide range of areas, both technical and managerial… has also made it possible for TechTV to operate with extremely limited resources.”  And when they say “extremely limited,” they’re not kidding: He’s run this video sharing site for the MIT community single-handedly since its inception in 2007.  “While MIT TechTV is watched within a video window box, how it gets there for the community to view is definitely an outside of the box process.”  

For his dedication and creativity that has allowed TechTV to flourish so that we all can explore the world of video at MIT, the 2012 Individual Infinite Mile Award for Innovation and Creativity goes to our own ace in the hole: Kris Brewer.


Bringing Out The Best: Walter Powers

We really hit the jackpot when we hired this guy. He’s talented, detail-oriented and he enhances the effectiveness of his colleagues in ways large and small. A natural teacher – patient, yet persistent – he finds ways to explain difficult concepts in straightforward terms. His training style helps people understand what they have mastered and what they still need to work on. 

In the words of one nominator, he “has acted for years as an unofficial liaison between the cataloging and acquisitions work that takes place in 14E and public service needs and questions.”  His patience and ability to meet people "where they're at" encourages colleagues to approach him with questions and problems, knowing they will always receive a polite and helpful answer. 

In addition to his genial attitude, he shares his extensive and invaluable knowledge about MIT, providing continuity with the past while building a bridge to the Libraries’ future. During the recent reorganization – as well as other earlier reorganizations! – he has demonstrated “how to deal with change with a positive outlook.”  One nominator wrote: “one of the most admirable aspects of his attitude and work habit is his reliability and eagerness to go the extra mile.”  Whenever someone approaches him with a question, his response is not just to answer the question, but to offer additional help, and sometimes even to volunteer to do the work himself.

And how could you ignore his various morale-building activities across the Libraries?  He’s “a constant motivator to everyone on the [softball] field and makes everyone around him want to try a little harder just to keep pace.”  With Dewey & the Decimals, he fosters a nurturing spirit of camaraderie, and he acts as “talent scout, music arranger, band director, quartermaster, and of course, lead vocalist and keyboardist.”  Through his activities both within and beyond the walls of “the big room”, through his dedication to improving the quality of work being done both in the Libraries and in the concert hall, this individual truly is someone who brings out the best in his colleagues.  

For his role as trainer, teacher, and moral-builder the Libraries 2012 Infinite Mile Award, in the category of “Bringing out the Best”, goes to Mr. Dewey himself: Walter Powers.


Customer Service: Joanne Samuelson

This individual is described by nominators as working “very hard” to help coworkers to be more productive and successful.  She has helped numerous staff meet deadlines by pitching in (often at the last minute) with a smile and a kind word, and always ensures that a presentation or meeting has everything it needs to run smoothly.  One nominator noted: “She is always on the lookout for tasks she can take over from us, so that we can focus our limited time on the work that is core to our responsibilities.”  She is there to do the best job possible and to help her coworkers – and as a result, the Libraries – achieve excellence.  In the words of a nominator: “She has saved me from myself more than once.”  Her initiative and drive to go above and beyond is inspiring, particularly since her work is often not seen beyond the immediate staff with whom she works. She “never shrinks from taking on a new task,” one example of which has been her role in managing device loans, a responsibility which required strong organizational and scheduling skills as well as outstanding interpersonal skills.  

In the words of a nominator, this individual brings “a core of humanity” to the office and is a significant contributor to the collegial environment that her coworkers enjoy.  She is described as “the glue that held the group together.” She provides this “glue” no matter where she is, despite changes in office locations and immediate co-workers over the last couple of years. She has handled these changes with good humor, and retained her enthusiasm for taking on new challenges.  She always has a smile and a kind word for everyone: a touch that may not seem like a big deal, but can make a world of difference.  In the words of one nominator: “She is a great ambassador for the Institute, both in the way she presents herself to the public and in her care and assistance for staff.”  

For her proactive and positive attitude in meeting or exceeding the needs of her colleagues, and for making a huge difference to the staff of UX, Barker, Rotch and Cubespace, the Libraries 2012 Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Customer Service, goes to our very own Lady Luck: Joanne Samuelson.


Unsung Hero: Amy Stout

This librarian is clearly a winning hand.  In the words of one nominator, she “quietly takes initiative in her work to make the MIT Libraries a better organization.” 

As a member of the Science and Engineering Community of Practice, she is known for grasping difficult concepts and presenting them to the group in a succinct, comprehensible manner. She is described as someone who takes the lead in group discussions, “keeping the train moving,” and providing a clear perspective when needed. She is greatly respected by her co-workers for “her integrity, authenticity, and her many contributions to the betterment of her colleagues.” 

To the Barker Library community, she is noted for her unflagging willingness to volunteer whenever the need arises. A nominator comments that she “does not shy away from the unglamorous tasks,” whether covering a colleague’s desk shift or cleaning out the fridge. Colleagues describe her as “one of the most generous co-workers I’ve ever had,” and cite her “willingness to share her expertise.”  

When a faculty member mentioned the lack of standards in publishers’ RSS feeds for new publications from a variety of sources, she did not simply pass on the feedback to publishers.  She took it upon herself to analyze RSS feeds and, working with her liaison colleagues, made recommendations to implement standardization to vendors.  Several publishers have already implemented changes and, as a result, that aforementioned faculty member is a “huge fan.”   

For her generous spirit, her willingness to lend a hand to projects from the interesting to the mundane, and, for her wicked sense of humor that makes her a pleasure to work with, the Libraries 2012 Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Unsung Hero, goes to Amy Stout. 


Team awards


Innovation and Creativity: 150 Years in the Stacks

This team really beat the house in demonstrating imaginative thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for innovation.  

Playing an integral role in the Institute’s 150th celebration, this group gave the public a tour through the MIT Libraries’ open stacks and off-site storage areas, along with a side trip to its closed-stack rare collections, and even an occasional glimpse into the vault.  Every day for 150 days, they shared a single item from the Libraries’ collections, each representing one of the years since MIT’s founding in 1861.  

This team took the idea of a daily blog, and then added their own creativity, sense of humor, and attention to rich historical detail to create a marvelous and high-quality public outreach project.  They could have easily updated a running list of titles, cashed in their chips, and called it a day… but they didn’t.  As one nominee wrote, “When I first heard about the project, I expected a pretty picture and a bibliographical citation, but I found much more: fascinating mini-essays that placed the item in its historical context and related it to MIT’s development.”  

Through this project, the MIT community (and dare we say the world) caught a glimpse of the diversity that is the MIT Libraries’ collections. From the first entry (Samuel Smiles’ Lives of the Engineers) to the last (the iPad), for 150 days, this team entertained and educated us with interesting facts, beautiful photographs, and well-written prose.  Maintaining this effort for over five months showed exceptional dedication to an idea that gained momentum and success as it evolved.  As another nominee stated, “this was not simply an extraordinary editing effort, this was online curating at its most inventive.” 

For their wonderful contributions to the MIT 150 celebration and for their innovative and creative method of sharing the Libraries’ collections with the world, the 2012 Infinite Mile Team Award, in the category of Innovation and Creativity, goes to the 150 Years in the Stacks Team: Michelle Baildon, Bexx Caswell, Darcy Duke, Patrick Ford, Remlee Green, Patrick Olson, Audrey Pearson, and Stephen Skuce.  


Problem Solving: SFX/Barton Implementation Group

This team took on a project requiring “an enormous collaborative effort” that has made a world of difference both to users and to library staff.  They used an unorthodox yet efficient approach, holding working meetings in which each team member worked on a problem in parallel with the others, using technology to view one another’s work, comment, edit, and develop ideas in real time.  The complex nature of the metadata, the technologies, and the workflows involved – plus the considerations involved in designing a positive user experience – required the particular expertise of this group of individuals. One nominator remarked that, “This project is an outstanding example of what the staff of the MIT Libraries can accomplish when we pool our resources!”

Internally, the completion of this project enabled us to collect much more consistent usage data and to capture information about which points of entry our community are actually using to access content.  In the words of a nominator: “This data, in turn, has been enormously useful in setting priorities and shaping our decisions about discovery.” 

Most importantly, this project dramatically improved access to content, and enabled off-campus users to connect to licensed content (particularly e-books) by way of SFX buttons in Barton.  It’s a sure bet that, for many users, seeing those big, shiny SFX buttons in Barton is a more precious sight than seeing 3 cherries line up on a slot machine.

For their collective can-do attitude in working through issues that inform our work and help us better serve our users, the Libraries 2012 Infinite Mile Team Award, in the Category of Problem Solving, goes to the SFX/Barton Implementation Team comprised of: Ben Abrahamse, Beth Brennan, Darcy Duke, Jennifer Edwards, Melissa Feiden, Kim Maxwell, Christine Moulen, Cassandra Silvia, and Rich Wenger.


Results, Outcome and Productivity: Borrow Direct & BLC WorldCat Local Teams

As we all know, MIT users have access to a rich library collection here on campus. Through our agreements with BLC and Harvard, as well as through ILB, they are able to access even more.  But what if there were a way to up the ante – to further increase the amount of material available; make it even easier to access; and make the service unmediated to boot?  Sounds great… but how to do it?  

This herculean effort required cooperation and coordination from across the Libraries. Staff in AMES worked on the technical infrastructure to make this service possible, ultimately connecting three systems – Aleph, Touchstone, and WorldCat – with Borrow Direct’s Relais system. Both IDLA and AMES staff visited or spoke with their counterparts in other academic libraries to prepare for implementing this service at MIT. 

Within IDLA, a huge amount of planning had to be done.  How to redesign workflows to accommodate the new service?  How to handle the increased volume in material?  How would staff be trained in these new systems in time for rollout? In the words of one nominator, these challenges were met with “ingenuity, collaboration and copious amounts of sweat.”  With the implementation of these services ILL and ILB staff are now processing around 500 books per week! Delivery Services has picked up literally tons of books, and Access Services staff have diligently responded to increased paging while maintaining a high level of accuracy. 

One of the many nominators of this team said that these services “represent huge, huge advances in our service offering. These unmediated services are easy to use and they fit smoothly and elegantly into our discovery environment….we’ve been hoping for something like this for so many years – and now it’s a reality!” This project shows how the collaborative nature and ingenuity of our staff make it possible to achieve great things.  In the words of one nominator, this project has expanded “the universe of content available to MIT users by 1000%.”  

For their efforts in planning for and implementing projects that enable unmediated access to a wealth of library collections, this year’s Infinite Mile Team Award, in the category of Results, Outcome and Productivity, goes to the Borrow Direct and BLC WorldCat Local Teams: Annie Lee Bisset, Melissa Feiden, Joe Hankins, Georgina Lewis, Walter Marlue, Jenn Morris, Christine Moulen, Pat Page, Dan Pribble, Christine Quirion, Maria Rodrigues, Cassandra Silvia, Drew Swayze, Tommy Tucciarone, and Rich Wenger.  


Customer Service: Patron-Driven Acquisitions Team

In the words of one nominator: “Implementing a new method of collection development requiring a new workflow in a new organization is not the sort of task most people would willingly sign up for.”   But that’s exactly what this team of intrepid individuals did when they agreed to work on one or both of our patron-driven acquisition (PDA) pilots.  What could have been a crap shoot or at the very least a dicey proposition was instead, in the words of another nominator, “a tremendous success story.”  Titles - automatically purchased for the collection when users demonstrate a certain level of interest – either via page views or ILB request – all behind the scenes without them even knowing.  How’s that for pro-active customer service?   

Members of this group – representing AMES, CSM, and IDLA – worked with dedication to implement these pilots.  They researched various PDA initiatives and interviewed colleagues at peer institutions in order to decide how best to experiment at MIT.  Two groups were formed: one to implement an e-book PDA pilot with Ebrary and YBP and the other to implement a print PDA pilot based on interlibrary borrowing requests.  

It wasn’t easy. Various challenges had to be overcome by each group, but these nimble, hard-working folks were all in. They figured out how to avoid duplicating items already in our collection by running a script before loading records of e-titles. They made multiple adjustments in order to optimize delivery times for print titles. Handling the inevitable glitches they were dealt, team members worked together to make this pilot a success, their focus firmly fixed on improving the user experience. 

All respondents to the ILB-PDA survey cards stated that the books had arrived in time, and 87.5% of those who responded indicated that the books were “useful or very useful.”  In addition, many of the E-PDA titles have been used multiple times.  Said one nominator: “These PDA experiments will help inform our collection development methods going forward…The team members are worthy of recognition … for implementing this difficult and valuable project.”

For demonstrating customer service at its seamless best, the Libraries 2012 Infinite Mile Team Award, in the category of Customer Service, goes to the Patron-Driven Acquisitions Team: Ben Abrahamse, Maggie Bartley, Beth Brennan, Charlene Follett, Millicent Gaskell, Erja Kajosalo, Christine Moulen, Pat Page, and Dan Pribble.