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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2016 Awards

2016 Infinite Mile Awards: Individual awards

Unsung Hero: Grace Mlady

This awardee is an “indispensable” staff member - always there to lend a hand, support co-workers, and advocate for the department. As an actively engaged member of the staff, this person looks for a challenge and is constantly striving to not only better herself but to also work to make others around her better.

This past year was one of uncertainty and transition for her department.  The department was in flux with a change in leadership, the library renovation project was put on pause, and there were a number of other staff changes, all which contributed to the department’s “state of limbo”.  This individual was sitting in the middle of it all and did not falter once.  Her “calm and optimistic” outlook in the wake of all this helped to keep her colleagues on course as well. She truly is the “backbone” of her department.

This awardee was also involved in several groups and committees throughout the Libraries. Heavily involved in the Positive Image Service Training project, she kept the team organized and on-task, reserved rooms, ordered food and served as a trainer. One nominator notes, “She really shined as a trainer and presented the material with ease and poise.”  She leads the ID&LA News Correspondents, is a valued member of the Service Operations Team, and served as a rotating member of Library Council this year. She also co-presented at the Access Services Conference this year.

She does a lot and does it without complaint, exhibiting a “friendly, easygoing manner and a cheerful demeanor.” Her “overall effectiveness, can-do attitude, and thoughtful approach” to her work make her an essential part of the MIT Libraries team. She is a “joy,” a “pleasure,” and a welcoming face in the Libraries. She truly cares about her colleagues and the MIT community, and she’s dedicated to her work. She is a bright, shining light not only for ID&LA, but for the Libraries as a whole.

For her calm and optimistic outlook, her generous support of colleagues and dedication to the organization, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Unsung Heroine, goes to Grace Mlady.

Unsung Hero:  Ashley Clark

“Reading over the qualities specified for the Infinite Mile’s “Unsung Hero” award is so much like reading a description of [this individual] that it’s almost uncanny” says a nominator.  Since beginning as a temp in the summer of 2010, this individual has been an integral part of the team. When appointed as a permanent staff member, her nominator said that colleagues “heaved a sigh of relief so powerful that [it would not be surprising] to hear that it had caused a hurricane on the far side of the globe.”

This person regularly takes on the most “frustratingly tedious work” and makes “mincemeat” out of that work. She does everything so quietly and so efficiently that you barely even know that there was something to do. Even more notable than her consistent hard work - and the complete lack of fanfare she expects for it - are the genius little ideas she comes up with and the initiative she exhibits. She does so much and she makes it all look so easy that it can be hard to even know when to sing her praises. Her nominator says, “It feels wrong to say ‘she does it without complaining,’ although that’s true. But what’s more impressive is she does it without even conveying that the idea to complain might have ever crossed her mind. She’s just quietly, steadily, happily hardworking.”  I genuinely do not know what Access Services at Dewey would be like without her presence. She does so many different things...that I feel like we’d need five normal people’s efforts to add up to just one [of her].

In recognition of her quiet, focused, “no-fuss” air that makes working with her a delight, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Unsung Heroine, goes to Ashley Clark.


Community BuildingMichelle Miller

This awardee is a “super rock star” who helps build community both within and outside the Libraries. As a member of the Working Green subcommittee of the Working Group for Support Staff Issues, this individual collects materials from library staff for the monthly Choose to Reuse program, representing the Libraries to the greater MIT community.  Within the Libraries, this person volunteers regularly at the “Cookies and Canines” events and serves on the planning team for the annual LSA Ice Cream Social - a highlight of our summer.

A particularly noteworthy contribution of this awardee this year was her participation in Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week.  She was the architect of the Libraries’ enormously successful letter-writing project.  She collected donations of stationery from library staff, expertly organized the materials and worked with volunteers and staff to create an event that drew hundreds of people to share a bit of happiness with a handwritten letter. Her work and coordination prior to the event made the setup and the event itself go very smoothly. Throughout the day her smile showed her genuine love for her job and the MIT community. One volunteer was impressed by how much work and planning she put into the event. One senior MIT officer, walking by and observing the huge swarm of eager letter-writers filling Lobby 10, commented: “The Libraries are rockin’ and rollin’!”  This person’s creative flair and tireless effort gave a huge boost to hundreds of MIT people, and made all of us in the Libraries look like rock stars.

In recognition of her generous and creative contributions to our MIT and MIT Libraries communities, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Community Building, goes to Michelle Miller.


Community BuildingRandi Shapiro

This awardee has had a “major-and very positive-impact” since joining the Libraries in 2013.  “Extremely professional and smart,” this person “knows how to get things done!” Nominators highlight this individual’s knack for organizing and staying on top of all of the little tasks, while still keeping the big picture in mind. One noted that “she can’t help but bring up the game of those around her. Her energy and intelligence just make you want to be better at everything you do.”

As convener of the Administrative Assistant Group, this awardee provides an opportunity for these staff members to sit down as a group and talk about where they fit within the organization and what they would like to see changed. She leads thoughtful conversations and makes sure that everyone feels “welcome, heard, and supported”, encouraging them to share ideas and pool information so that they can be more successful in their jobs. Described as an “inspired leader” and a “tireless cheerleader” for others, she truly has helped the group feel like they have a voice in what happens in the MIT Libraries.

“I deeply respect her tact and discretion while championing an inclusive, transparent and collegial environment”, said one nominator. Another spoke of the “air of professionalism” she exudes and the “exciting new ideas” that she brings to the group. “She is a pleasure to work with and goes above and beyond on every project she works on.”

She is “very open, approachable, and just plain funny as well.”  Her “long term vision, superb communication between departments and management levels,” and her strong leadership make this person someone that the Libraries couldn’t do without. She has made the Director’s Office a welcoming place and “clearly has the best interests of the Libraries at heart.”

For her openness, inclusiveness and collegial approach in everything that she does, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Community Building, goes to Randi Shapiro.


Bringing out the Best: Molly McInerney

The nature of this awardee’s work fluctuates enormously in its intensity throughout the year and can be quite “finicky.” It requires lots of direct interaction with professors, assistants, and students, many of whom have “big personalities”. This kind of work is not easy, but this awardee does it with grace and sets an example for the team. This person is “terrifically organized and motivated—entering a room with an energy that’s infectious”.

This individual’s hard-working, yet supportive attitude has made her approachable to not only the rest of the team members, but to other colleagues as well. She makes her team feel appreciated and they know that if they go to her with questions or ideas, they’ll be heard. She keeps an eye on the “ebbing and flowing” of work and takes the time to check in with each member during the busy times to see what she can do to help. She doesn’t hesitate to lend a hand.  She is “flexible, and doesn’t stand on ceremony.”

One colleague said, “Although she herself is super motivated, she is never impatient. She always exhibits a generous understanding towards other people’s orientation, and a level of self-effacing good humor about her own qualities” that makes others feel accepted and motivated. Warmth like that is “often hard to come across in people who are really driven” and it is helpful in bringing out the best in a team environment.

This person “has a special knack of creating a sense of camaraderie even amongst a disparate group.” Her sense of fun permeates meetings, “encouraging a like sense of fun,” while helping to create a feeling of team-purpose within the group.  She encourages fellow team members to work together and think creatively while serving the needs of the community.  Her warm, funny, personable demeanor truly contributes to her team’s success.  She’s a “go-to person” and makes work “a piece of cake” for her colleagues.

For her approachability, supportive way and infectious energy, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Bringing out the Best, goes to Molly McInerney.


Results, Outcomes and ProductivityAlena McNamara

Many staff had a hand in the storage project of this past year, but this awardee was instrumental in making it happen without a hitch. As the “fearless leader” of the Storage Team, this person organized support staff, MITemps, and students to collect, process, and send items to storage from the Barker and Rotch Libraries.  This ambitious project had a tight timeline and this person led the team with strength and tackled it head on!

The work that happened in one month during IAP, for example, required that 15,000 items be found, processed, and sent from Barker to storage. Without hesitation this individual took on the task with her team and as a result, storage at Barker was finished on schedule and the number of sent items came within 5% of the goal.  In well under a year, this work collectively resulted in sending almost 80,000 items to Harvard Depository!

A team member and nominator noted her impeccable organization skills, the “amazing” training she gave, and her ability to support the team and keep them updated at different stages of the project.  She provided strong leadership and unwavering support as she and her team kept up a “break-neck speed of high quality work.”

This person also realizes that storage projects involve more than just her or other ID&LA staff; that many different people and units within the Libraries have a stake in the work.  When speaking of working with her, one nominator said, “If she is unsure about something, she asks; if she’s done something to a record, she shares that information with us and communicates that she has made a note for future reference; and when someone asks her a question, she actually responds!” Her collaborative nature, communication skills, plus her tireless efforts and dedication, were critical in moving forward the work of the Storage Team as well as other library units. 

In recognition of her leadership and impeccable organization skills that resulted in the completion of an amazingly ambitious storage project, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Results, Outcome, and Productivity, goes to Alena McNamara.


Innovation, Creativity and Problem Solving:  Ayako Letizia

This awardee plays an important role in representing the Libraries to people who may know little or nothing about us, creating that “hugely important first impression that says: The MIT Libraries are clearly a world-class organization.”  Responsible for the look of the materials displayed in every single exhibit in the Maihaugen Gallery, her skills in exhibit design, layout, construction of supports, and numerous other design considerations set our Maihaugen exhibits “on a par with those in the finest museums and galleries."

She juggles many tasks and does so with calm, kindness, and skill. “If you've ever walked into the Maihaugen gallery and had a sudden feeling of calmness overcome you, it's because you are looking at the meticulous work of [this person],” said one colleague, “...books seem to float and the MIT collections really shine thanks to her handiwork.” She creates custom mounts for every book, photograph, document, and object in the gallery, and, with the environment in mind, re-uses most of the mounts through masterful re-bending and re-customization. She has invented 2 types of repurposable book cradles that not only look sleek and sophisticated, but also keep costs down.

She is always thinking of new ways to engage students and the public to care about our work and the conservation of tangible materials.  She developed a new IAP course for bookbinding and enjoys working at the Cambridge Science Festival and Preservation Week events to interact with people and to help them feel good about what they create.  As one nominator put it, [w]e shine brighter because [she] is our teammate,” and “[o]ur exhibits look world-class for one reason: [her] skill, her artful eye, her impeccable taste, her careful handling, and her generous, sharing spirit.”

In recognition of her resourcefulness and the artful and meticulous care she brings to her work, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Innovation, Creativity, and Problem Solving, goes to Ayako Letizia.

2016 Infinite Mile awards: Team Awards

Customer Service: GISHelp Team

This team is described as a “gem service operation” in the Libraries’ midst. The group was nominated by a self-described “lurker” who sees the team’s internal problem-solving process as well as their responses to users, whose questions come from all over campus. The nominator has seen the team respond in less than 30 minutes, offering either immediate help or an appointment within a few days. Not only is he impressed with their rapid responsiveness, users are too and they don’t hesitate to express their appreciation: 

  • “This is great help…many thanks!”
  • “Great news! Thanks so much for the support with this.  This will be so useful for my research!”  
  • “Thank you so much for following up. Yes that’s it. Thanks so much!”

The team’s nominator is also impressed by the sources that the team finds for the subjects that he covers, even for data that they may not have searched for before. They do such a thorough job that he usually does not have to mention any additional resources.

The team has an impressive ability to troubleshoot software questions in a timely manner, while remaining realistic about their time commitment and what capabilities they can offer.

In recognition of this hard-working, smooth-operating team and the admirable service attitude of its members, this Infinite Mile Team Award, in the category of Customer Service, goes to the GISHelp Team – Anne Graham, Jennie Murack and Daniel Sheehan.


GIS Help Team - Team Award

Individual Awardees

2016 Rewards & Recognition Committee