Stressful situations don’t always bring out the best in people. But this extraordinary leader can bring out the best in others when times are calm, when tensions are high, and every situation in between. Like a superhero who descends on a scene filled with mayhem and chaos, this individual enters a room and immediately all is well. How does he do it? Just what is the secret behind the supernatural powers of this down-to-earth guy? He doesn’t wear a cape. He doesn’t slip into a phone booth to change his persona (It’s a good thing, since one would be hard-pressed to find a phone booth on campus these days).
One nominator describes him as “a great co-worker to talk to when you’ve had a rough day and just need to put things back into perspective. He’s professional, yet so much fun to be around! He makes working on projects a delight, even when the topic is far from being a barrelful of monkeys.” In groups where the topic at hand is arduous or heavy, he manages to raise the spirits of those around him and help the group move on in a positive way. “He’s always ready with a laugh or a song recommendation to fit any occasion. He makes me want to be a better co-worker.”
Superheroes are known for providing backup and support just when you need them and this superhero fits the bill. You can count on him to save the day. He’ll take your shift when you can’t be there – no questions asked, no reciprocation needed. He’s always there to help with a proposal or project. He has a way of making you feel valued and important by listening to what you have to say and engaging you in conversation. His positive attitude is infectious. A nominator says, “[He] has been my rock on many projects over the years…. When I’ve been unsure of what to do for next steps or I’m feeling overwhelmed, [he] asks how he can help and always follows through on promises of support.”
He leads, he helps, he encourages, he coaches. And for challenging all of us to do our best, the Libraries 2014 Infinite Mile Award for Bringing Out the Best goes to our own Mister Fantastic, Peter Cohn.
When thinking of super powers, the ones that come to mind first are always the flashiest. Super speed, super strength, flying. But when you’re part of a group, the best super powers to have are communication and collaboration. Even if you’re fast enough to catch a speeding bullet, you must still consult with teammates to figure out which one to stop first. This beloved staff member might not be able to bend iron bars with her bare hands, but she can communicate and collaborate with positively superhuman skill.
It is said that this award recipient projects an astoundingly powerful forcefield of good humor, helpfulness, and intelligence. Many commented how her mere presence makes her work neighborhood “so much more open and fun,” stating that staff will go out of their way to have a quick chat with her. Echoing this sentiment, another nominator noted that she is always willing to lend an ear and to happily talk through work concerns. Just as a radioactive spider bite can turn a normal boy super-heroic, the gamma rays of good cheer and open-hearted friendliness emitted by this recipient have transformed her relatively new group into a warm, tight-knit team that outsiders call upon with happiness and confidence.
She has been called “the lynchpin for good communication within [her] department.” Colleagues are grateful for her prompt reply to questions, the utterly heroic thoroughness of those replies, and her uncanny ability to reach out with reminders at just the right moment, with just the right gentle tone. In fact, she is so in tune with the needs of her colleagues that some of them suspect she’s actually a mind-reader. She intuitively understands when her co-workers’ schedules mean they will need extra support and she steps in to provide it without being asked. She’s a team player who even the Avengers would be proud to call their own.
Smart, humorous, supportive, encouraging, informed, discreet, responsive, and persevering - these are just some of the superhuman powers used to describe the recipient of the 2014 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Communication and Collaboration, our own Ms. Marvel, Julia Lanigan.
Some superheroes have a single super power, like Flash, and others have many, like Superman. This awardee fits into the latter category.
He greets every person who contacts or enters his department with the same “out-of-this-world” kind and patient demeanor. Even the most demanding researcher is no match for him. Nominators write, “He throws himself into reference work…, and is always welcoming and friendly, no matter how busy or frazzled he might be.” “Whether it’s a student visiting for the first time or an experienced researcher… he immerses himself in the questions so that he can provide as comprehensive a list as possible of the relevant resources a researcher may examine.” Like Clark Kent he calls upon the knowledge and experience gained in his past life in the News Office and couples that with his x-ray vision and Superman strength to lift tall buildings in order to uncover any information researchers might be looking for.
This superhero applies his powers beyond reference tasks. Described as the core of his unit, he works behind the scenes to ensure that staff are able to perform at their highest potential. More powerful than a locomotive, he can transform a room in a flash – re-arranging tables and moving equipment to prepare for a class to be held in the Archives. He seems to have the extraordinary ability (or Spidey sense?) to anticipate what might be needed before anyone can ask. For the biannual change-over of the Maihaugen Gallery, he arranges for painting, lettering, and cleaning and is “at your service” on event day to lend a hand to caterers, receive flowers and set out the glassware. All this without breaking a sweat and looking totally put-together.
His service attitude extends to his colleagues as well. He’s always available to help. He’s a cheerleader and a morale booster. As one nominator puts it, “He’s not the hero that we deserve, but he’s certainly the hero that we need.”
For the strength of mind, body and character that he brings to his service to patrons and colleagues alike, the Libraries 2014 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Customer Service goes to our own Superman, Myles Crowley.
When recognizing superheroes it seems only appropriate to talk about another kind of hero: the kind who doesn’t get splashed across the front page of the Daily Planet, the kind who doesn’t hold press conferences every time they rescue a cat from a tree, the kind who does her work – and then some – with little fanfare. Let’s talk about the unsung hero.
While Diana Prince had Wonder Woman, Barbara Gordon had Batgirl, and Natasha Romanoff had Black Widow, our unsung hero goes by her real name. But if she had a superhero alter-ego it would be “Go To Gal” because she’s is a “go to” person for many of us in the Libraries.
Over the years she’s skillfully handled a multitude of tasks, including: placing large orders for computer equipment, processing hundreds of invoices for materials and services, serving as the point person for professional travel requests, and making sure every weekly timesheet is entered and approved. She has provided behind-the-scenes support to a number of teams, projects, and initiatives. In fact, for years she provided invaluable support for this very event. She goes about her work quietly, never complaining, never making it a point to draw attention to her efforts. She just does it. In fact, she “just does it” so well that one nominator states that “a lot of things would fall apart if she wasn’t supporting them.”
She’s been known to answer countless questions about processes and procedures day in and day out…often times this involves answering the same questions over and over…often times this involves answering the same questions for the same people. All the while she maintains a cheerful, positive attitude; never showing stress or frustration.
For working quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes as the “go to” person for anyone in need of a “go to” person – the MIT Libraries 2014 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Unsung Hero goes to our own Wonder Woman, Nikki Hanafin.
Like the X-Men, this diverse group of people uses its collective special powers to make the libraries a better place for all.
One of the group’s major successes was the promotion of ClimateQUAL, the climate assessment survey, which resulted in an astounding 84% response rate. The survey helped the group ensure that programming is relevant to staff and specific to the Libraries’ challenges.
The group has hosted numerous events, both social and educational, to help us improve interactions and discuss difficult issues. According to one nominator, these discussions create “a feeling that we’re attempting to improve the climate of our community rather than wringing our hands in consternation.” Events have spanned topics such as serving patrons on the autism spectrum, speaking up against bias, and Disabilities Services at MIT. They have planned some social gatherings as well. One nominator commented that they create “a little extra humanity in the workplace” by serving as non-judgmental and inclusive discussion leaders with an unwavering commitment to the Libraries and its mission.
The group also promotes external events, including the Institute Diversity Summit, the Cambridge Peace Commission’s memorial for Nelson Mandela, and the Imposter Syndrome Seminar. With such incredible support, we are all sure to develop super-powered capacities for compassion and understanding.
Each team member has the opportunity to develop and lead programs, which takes a great deal of work in addition to their “regular jobs.” It also requires them to stretch beyond their comfort zones at times as they explore new topics—and they do all of this without ANY special mutant powers...that we know of.
For helping create a collegial work environment and demonstrating respect and value for differences, the MIT Libraries 2014 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Community Building goes to our own JSA, the Libraries’ Committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion. Committee members are:
Camille Torres Hoven
Ann Marie Willer
Batman is arguably the most iconic superhero of all-time. Aside from the cape and cowl, cool gadgets, and awesome car, it’s important to remember that at his core, Batman was the ultimate problem-solver. He and Robin were a modern day (and decidedly better attired) version of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. We have our own version of the famous pair.
Our dynamic duo was tasked with creating information signs for services desks and directories of our physical spaces. Anyone who has tried standardizing anything across our libraries can understand what a daunting task this was. Poison Ivy, the Penguin, and Mr. Freeze have nothing on the MIT Libraries. Each location had a variety of challenges related to the buildings’ architectural styles both in terms of how the directories would look and the mounting scheme.
This was just the tip of the iceberg; our heroes gathered necessary information from each service point about varying services and locations of collections, study spaces and equipment on a floor-by-floor by basis. That made for some very dense documents. And given the rate at which our services and collections evolve, this documentation changed constantly. Add the inevitable delays in getting information and you have quite a lengthy and challenging process. On more than one occasion so much time had passed that the information ready to print was no longer timely and the process had to start all over again. Despite adversity, this team remained steadfast in its goal. They improvised and found alternative allies in the battle against directory-less libraries. In doing so the long-awaited directory and information signs made their debut early this spring to rave reviews from patrons and staff. They have dramatically improved way-finding and help convey to our community the breadth and depth of resources and services available within our physical spaces.
For their determination, persistence, and ability to find a solution, the MIT Libraries 2014 Infinite Mile Award in the category of Problem-Solving goes to our own Batman and Robin, the ID&LA Directories Team – Grace Mlady and Maria Rodrigues.
When we think of superheroes, we rarely imagine them signing autographs, accepting lavish gifts for their efforts, or trying to cash-in with tell-all novels of their exploits. That’s because the heart of their mission is not a desire for glamor or fame, but an unwavering dedication to service. The team we honor today has taken on this mission year after year and triumphed.
Charged with the stewardship of vast resources, these individuals work behind the scenes employing a great many talents and technical skills. They exhibit keen attention to detail and an unflagging perseverance to hunt down missing issues, sort out sneaky title changes, and bring errant journals back to their proper place. They may not be as flashy as the Fantastic Four, but where other superhero teams wreak accidental havoc, this team surreptitiously creates order.
They join forces with others to solve problems, graciously sharing their invaluable expertise. They are “great teachers” said one nominator, “always willing to explain and demonstrate as needed so I’d know how to proceed.”
In the face of troublesome vendors, subscription agents, and publishers their support is "steadfast and unflinching." It is with a “WHAM!” of persistence, a “POP!” of patience and a “KAPOW!” of tact that they get the job done, leaving nothing in their wake but an attitude of optimism and good will.
Our community will continue to research in peace, unaware of these trials and achievements because of this team's ability to "seamlessly work their magic while invisible.” Using this power of invisibility they manage to constantly save us from peril, all while leaving us blissfully unaware we were ever even in peril in the first place; which is exactly what heroes should do.
For their tireless efforts to ensure the timely acquisition, processing, and cataloging of every print journal or serial issue that the libraries collect the 2014 Infinite Mile team award in the category of Unsung Hero award goes to our own Avengers – the Tangible Serials Team:
L to R: Myles Crowley, Julia Lanigan, Steve Gass, Peter Cohn, and Nikki Hanafin
Community Building: Committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion
L to R: Michelle Baildon, Georgiana McReynolds, Ann Marie Willer, Camille Torres Hoven, Olimpia Caceres-Brown, Nina Davis-Millis, Kate Gyllensvard, Steve Gass, Mark Clemente, Joe Hankins, and Greg Padilla.
Problem-Solving: ID&LA Directories Team
L to R: Grace Mlady, Steve Gass, and Maria Rodrigues.
Unsung Hero(es): Tangible Serials Team
L to R: Maggie Bloom, Steve Gass, and Czeslaw Jankowski. (absent: Stephanie Houston)