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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2017 Awards

2017 Infinite Mile Awards: Individual awards

Category:  Unsung Hero/Heroine - Tim Rix

On board every ship, there is a crew of characters - a swashbuckling hero/captain (Kirk, Picard or Janeway?) a sage like Obi Wan or Yoda, and perhaps a bumbling sidekick like Gilligan.  Aboard the USS MIT Libraries, we have an Unsung Hero - a hero who is a problem solver and a fount of random MIT and Libraries trivia that comes in handy quite often.  This individual is always there to throw you a life preserver or lend a hand, whether it’s setting up a projector at a directorate meeting or cutting a birthday cake. No doubt if there were decks to swab, he would happily pitch in to help with the swabbing.

Colleagues say our hero “exhibits three behaviors that make him outstanding at his job specifically, and as a co-worker in general:

1. Direct and honest communication. He says what he knows and admits what he doesn’t know with zero obfuscation or ego.

2. Empathy. He is able to personalize the problems people are having without personalizing their frustration. People are often stressed when having a technical issue. This individual is always incredibly professional and focused even in the most difficult situations, going out of his way to help people every single day.

3. Systematic approach. He approaches problems in an orderly and systematic fashion, which makes it easier for people to work with him. You never wonder if he’s missed a step or forgotten to do something.

He responds to challenges pragmatically by figuring out a way to make it work, even in suboptimal circumstances. He is reliable, patient, and responsive.  He makes your problems his problems, and takes pleasure in helping his colleagues, sometimes with inadequate notice, sometimes stepping in when others are absent or unavailable, but always without fanfare.

For his ability to navigate turbulent waters and for his unfailing helpfulness and generous support of his colleagues, the 2017 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Unsung Hero goes to Tim Rix.


Category:  Community Building - Julia Lanigan

The keel of the departmental ship.  The center that keeps the department stable and moving forward. The department head describes this individual as the heart and soul of the department.

She brings a commitment to people as individuals, along with a value for community, to everything she does.  She takes the time to really get to know her shipmates as complete individuals and demonstrates respect for their differences. She helps each of them, whether it be troubleshooting the Category:  Community Building - Julia Lanigan

The keel of the departmental ship.  The center that keeps the department stable and moving forward. The department head describes this individual as the heart and soul of the department.

She brings a commitment to people as individuals, along with a value for community, to everything she does.  She takes the time to really get to know her shipmates as complete individuals and demonstrates respect for their differences. She helps each of them, whether it be troubleshooting the printer or a pep talk, providing support for a project or encouragement to make that medical appointment, assistance with scheduling a meeting or just sharing a hearty laugh.

This awardee is a connector, who relishes opportunities to introduce people who may not yet know each other, saying, “it’s part of my job to help people to get to know each other”. 

If there is a committee or activity that involves bringing others together, this individual is likely to be a part of it, including: CPDI, the Collections Directorate Task Force for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice, and organizing a bookmobile to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement.

She is a founding member of the MIT Read planning group, which provides opportunities for the MIT community to connect through literature. She helped organize library staff to participate in the Boston Women’s March where throughout the day she was actively bringing people together and caring for those who felt overwhelmed by the crowd.

And last but not least, she has chocolate if you need it, and she knows when there are treats in the building.

Our ship would surely be adrift without her!

For her genuine caring and supportive way and her devoted efforts to strengthening our organization through its people, the 2017 Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Community Building, goes to Julia Lanigan.


Category:  Innovation, Creativity and Problem-Solving - Matt Barnhardt

This awardee’s approach to work consistently involves thoughtful solutions that directly tie back to user needs, whether those users are our community or library staff.  Described as “incredibly conscientious and enthusiastic”, this individual listens carefully to whomever is talking and takes all concerns to heart.  Says one nominator, “He doggedly pursues solutions and often comes back with a variety of options that offer benefits that I hadn't even considered”.

This creative individual helps colleagues to think differently or take another tack in solving problems.  For example, one project team was debating how to handle content sources that seemed to provide consistent poor results.  Since most of the teams’ knowledge was anecdotal, this person took the initiative to use the project analytics to create a chart that showed how often every resource appeared in the results compared to how often users choose to click on them.  This creative contribution allowed the team to understand the scope of the problem and to chart a course toward potential solutions. Harnessing his own dedication and innovation, this individual is always seeking creative solutions to problems, not only locally, but also for the wider community of practice.

He generously shares his knowledge and expertise, not just in everyday work and projects, but beyond his immediate circle to a vast sea of colleagues and collaborators. Many of us have good intentions about doing such things, but this person actually does them! Whenever a problem or challenge comes up, he is the first to jump aboard, trim the sails, and offer a solution, along with ways to improve our systems and workflows that will ensure smoother sailing for others when similar issues arise in the future.  Best of all, his positivity is infectious!

For his creativity, hard work, collegial spirit and ability to brilliantly anticipate problems and recognize opportunities to improve services, the 2017 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Innovation, Creativity, and Problem Solving goes to Matt Bernhardt. 


Category:  Unsung Hero/Heroine - Judith Gallagher

This honoree is the kind of person whose work sails along so smoothly behind the scenes that it would be easy to escape notice. Today we are taking notice.  Nominators who work closely with this individual describe her as “meticulous, thoughtful, a superstar colleague, a welcoming face, and genuinely one of the most caring and dedicated people that they have worked with”.

She is a treasure trove of information – information about the Libraries, about the Institute, and about procedures and policies. And she is generous and patient in sharing that knowledge with others.  When colleagues need help with an issue, she will sail the seven seas to find the answer and then explain it in a way that is helpful, graceful, kind, and empowering. She will happily show you the ropes if you don’t know how to do something, bail you out if you have made a mistake, and will work with you to think through a problem, right the ship, and find the best solution.

Her work affects the work of the whole unit so she takes great care in being detail-oriented, thorough, and responsive.  She never complains and she takes pleasure in making others’ work day a little brighter with her cheery “good morning”, by ordering just the right pen or notebook she knows you like, including cute animals or cartoons in her e-mails, or understanding the excitement that a “Goats in Trees” calendar can bring to a certain crowd of colleagues.  She has gone above and beyond the call of duty to step in to help when her crew was severely short-staffed due to a wave of illness, while still keeping up with her regular duties.

For her quiet dependability, her countless contributions and her willingness to do whatever it takes to keep the boat afloat, the 2017 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Unsung Heroine goes to Judith Gallagher


Category:  Results, Outcome, and Productivity - Mary Jeanne Yuen

Maps are everywhere. We use Google Maps, Google Earth, Mapquest, OpenStreetMap, and GIS. However, a lot of spatial information is only available on paper maps.

This next awardee has shown us the way to search and visit the distant ports of the vast MIT Libraries map collections.  And a fine skipper she has been! 

Over the years, through persistent effort, she has honed her skills, adding oceans of value to the catalog record, which provides better access for our users. She plots the coordinates, making maps searchable on the graphical interface of the MIT GeoWeb.

This awardee is described as having three major characteristics: strong output, creative problem solving, and fearlessness. Her output is evident in the records of a vast collection of individual maps in the Geological Survey of Canada series. To the titanic collection of US Geological Survey maps, she added series numbers and titles in the contents note of each holding record to make them more accessible.  This cataloguer doesn’t bat an eye over map series from all of Europe, and from countries like Turkey, Bolivia, Japan, Iran, and most recently the geological map series from Tibet.

Often bibliographic records for maps in OCLC WorldCat are poor, but this individual runs a tight ship, enhancing those records to star quality for the rest of the library world to find, use, and admire.

She has been described as a ‘rock’ in the tangibles team.  One nominator says, "You can depend on her to create and produce fantastic work, whether it’s creating authority records or cataloging German topographic maps. You can also depend on her to crack you up with her dry self-deprecating humor and to tell you exactly how it is with no sugarcoating whatsoever. She is authentic, hilarious, caring, and generous.”

For her steady-at-the-helm approach to connecting users to maps, the 2017 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Results, Outcome, and Productivity goes to Mary Jeanne Yuen.


2017 Infinite Mile awards: Team Awards

Category:  Community Building

Category:  Community Building It is fitting that this year’s R&R theme is nautical.  While we (ultimately) didn’t end up sailing or swimming, a contingent from the Libraries surely did cross the Charles.  It all began with a siren call from Chris, asking for a volunteer to lead a Libraries entry in the “Crossing the Charles” parade. One brave sailor stepped up – and soon another— and the rest is history.  Working with a motley crew of opinionated staff, these two captains pulled off something pretty amazing… and something very MIT. As one nominee expressed, these individuals were “cheerfully tireless in the effort to corral, create and deliver an outstanding representation of the MIT Libraries spirit.” They sounded the alarm for all hands on deck to join them in brainstorming fun and ridiculously creative ideas for the Libraries’ entry. Settling on a concept, they enlisted the aid of an artist to translate beautiful sketches created by one group member into larger-than-life-sized props. The Captains pulled off an amazing leadership feat in coordinating a group of disparate volunteers for the Crossing event, diplomatically navigating interpersonal, temporal, creative, and political dynamics, and leading a process that was a high-profile, high-energy, high-impact success.  This was community building at its finest—and most fun.  And, despite the occasional storm on the horizon they remained calm, upbeat, and positive.  The MIT News reported: “On May 7, the Libraries and the MIT Press joined the MIT community in recreating the Institute’s historic move to Cambridge at the Crossing the Charles parade and contest. Competing alongside an 8-foot, 200-pound brain, a robotic cheetah, and a floating Great Dome, the Libraries’ entry—featuring an oversized book and laptop, rippling fabric ‘river,’ and a boisterous group of staff—snagged the Beaver Spirit Award for school spirit.” For their inclusive leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm in once again moving MIT across the Charles, the 2017 Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Community Building goes to Captains Katharine Dunn and Mikki Macdonald.


Category:  Customer Service

This team has gone the extra (nautical) mile to implement a long sought-after service that exports content beyond the boundaries of our library walls. 

This service didn’t just spring to life fully formed.  Our unflappable, hard-working duo learned new processes in ILLiad and Aleph, worked with outside vendors to get new equipment and software, worked with staff across the Libraries to improve internal delivery processes and trained staff in order to incorporate it into the Libraries suite of services.

In 2015, one question asked in our library survey was:  “If you had $100 to spend, how would you allocate it to make the most positive impact on how the MIT Libraries supports your research or coursework?” One of the top answers was to “provide article/chapter scanning and delivery from on-campus collections.”

This crew battened down the hatches, navigated some choppy waters and in July 2016 introduced the successful Scan & Deliver service, which now seamlessly provides PDFs of articles and book chapters from most of the Libraries print collections, not just those in storage. Hundreds of requests flow back and forth between the LSA and campus libraries each month supported by an intricate web of behind-the-scenes workflows invisible to our patrons.  And behind those workflows are two deckhands integral to making the whole system work, who have seen a 55%  increase in the monthly average of scans, and who have ensured the continued success of the service from the day it set sail. Said one emeritus professor, “This is a wonderful service and I thank you for what must have been a tremendous amount of work in setting it up. I intend to use it frequently.” 

For their work in delivering high quality results that have a meaningful, immediate impact for the MIT community, the Infinite Mile Award for Customer Services goes to the LSA Scanning team of Howard Martin and Allegra Zoller.


Category:  Communication and Collaboration

It was an intense moment of MIT life – the day after the 2016 US presidential election.  Students mobilized in the lobby of building 7 to create a safe harbor for expressing their emotions.  They wrapped the large columns with white paper and labelled them: “Share your hopes”, “Share your fears”, “What do you want to know?”, and “What should we do next?” Anyone from the MIT community was encouraged to participate by adding their thoughts to the posters.  Maybe you did too.

Did you know that a large, multi-departmental team from the Libraries became part of the process, when it stepped up to acquire, preserve, and make these posters accessible?  The team discretely made over 150 email contacts with the students who put up the posters and worked with communications staff in several MIT offices to ensure that the posters would be responsibly and transparently preserved.  Respect and trust were essential. The team needed to ensure that the sentiments of people who shared their hopes and fears by drawing and writing on the posters would be respected.

There were 12 (BIG) posters - with the largest measuring 3 and a half feet wide and 16 feet long. The team planned how to move, store and preserve the posters and to make them available to a wider audience. All of this happened at warp speed thanks to the ingenuity of the team members.  How?  A video pan of each poster was created and each poster was superimposed with a grid. Digital images of each grid square were produced (totaling 376). Transcription of the content was performed with extreme quality control, painstaking attention to detail, and no interpretation in an effort to preserve authenticity. A website was quickly created and populated with content.  After two weeks at sea the team sailed safely into port with a blog for MIT Libraries news and announcement of the website that has links to digital images and transcriptions.

For their fast acting, compassionate, and thorough teamwork, the 2017 Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Communication and Collaboration goes to the Lobby 7 Post-2016 Election Poster Team.  They are:  Liz Andrews, Matt Bernhardt, Frances Botsford, Emily Crawford, Katherine Crowe, Myles Crowley, Darcy Duke, Nora Murphy, Kari Smith, and Chris Tanguay.



MIT Libraries' 2017 Infinite Mile Awards Recipients