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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2020 Awards

2020 Infinite Mile Awards: Individual awards

Bringing Out the Best

Just like the incredible acts in a circus, some people can just turn your day around, in the best possible way. The honoree for the Bringing out the Best award is one of those people. 


They are described as “smart and strategic, a resource and an advocate.” This person brings their passion and experience to multiple groups, ensuring that the values of the libraries are upheld. Their work as a member of CPDI brings a commitment to and deep understanding of social justice to the front, ensuring that information is readily shared and appreciated. In this new world they stepped up as a member of the Emergency Planning Team, providing a trusted voice to keep things in line and running smoothly. One colleague notes that their work “often appears to be in the background, but they are an integral part of the heart of the organization." 

This individual is “a warm hug personified,” the first person many colleagues think to turn to with questions or concerns. While committee work is important, the nominee is also a valued friend. One colleague states they “tell a mean dad joke, sing a fine ballad, and there is nobody anyone could trust more to save them from a wild turkey.” They care about the people that make up the organization above all, ensuring that individual feelings and experiences are taken into account. This has led to colleagues knowing that they “will openly and directly answer any question, give thoughtful advice or help you search for a solution.” They encourage others to become their best selves, providing any and all assistance they can. One colleague says they “see us all as the glorious messes that we are and meets us there. They’re all about helping people grow, never about shutting them down.” This individual is a shining example of a linchpin, combining personal care with professional skill in the workplace. This individual makes the libraries not only fun, but a respectful and socially conscious organization.  


In recognition of their work to better the libraries and everyone around them, the award for Bringing out the Best goes to Shannon Hunt.


Collaboration and Inclusion [presented to two individuals] 

Have you ever heard of a one-person circus, performing all the acrobatic stunts, juggling pins, breathing fire, tightrope-walking, and contorting into near-impossible shapes, all while handing out popcorn and cotton candy? Of course, it takes a troupe of varied performers to form a circus, and a lot of teamwork to transform it into a spectacle that others will want to watch.

But even with the best talent on earth, a circus without a leader will quickly become chaotic, much like a project without a skilled and compassionate manager. As one nominator said, “there’s a true art to navigating these [issues], and charting a course forward that ensures everyone’s voice is heard, project decisions are well-documented, and project communications flow smoothly and frequently as work moves forward.” Indeed, like a trapeze artist flying through the air, this individual makes hard work look effortless.

Some colleagues might say this person is the ringmaster of collaboration and inclusion, as they “breach boldly, with unfailing positivity, precision, and a truly inclusive approach to planning that ensures broad and meaningful participation from the organization at every step of the way.” They are the first to step into the ring–and also the last to step out. Even when the curtains are drawn and the lights are dimmed, this performer continues a balancing act, considering “diverse perspectives with genuine caring and connection” in one of the most challenging, technical feats a library can undertake: migrating to a new Integrated Library System.

Since this show is not yet over, we know that this individual will continue to advocate for their colleagues and move the project along, while exemplifying thoughtful and effective communication. We look forward to watching—and being a part of—this ongoing, impressive display of human compassion and collaboration.

For her continued work on the Alma Migration Project and her commitment to her colleagues, we present the first award for Collaboration and Inclusion to (redacted).


Collaboration and Inclusion

Some of the best parts of a circus are the unexpected memories you walk away with. The ringmaster draws you in with the known only to reveal you how much more there is to see and experience. This recipient is an expert in bringing people together and showing them what can be possible. 


The honoree exemplifies this award in their optimism for collaboration and inclusion in various roles within LIRS. Whether they are simply a contributing member or the leader, this person makes sure the voices of every individual is heard. They have an uncanny ability to pivot and reroute discussions, ensuring conversation is about the task at hand instead of focusing on potential conflicts. Colleagues praise their ability to “amplify marginalized perspectives and voices that didn’t have a seat at the table” while maintaining an unbiased and non judgemental attitude. They are lauded as “an example of someone who reminds me that we don’t know what it’s like to live in someone else’s reality so we should be slow to form opinions of others.”

This person’s outreach is not limited to within the libraries. Several years ago, they were the driving force behind the transformation of COCO, expanding the committee’s work to a year-long movement rather than a single event. The nominee is credited with recruiting the army of volunteers across the libraries and skillfully coordinating their programs. These events brought a new level of awareness to new users, drawing in members of the greater MIT community to the wonders of the libraries. 


Work isn’t the only thing this person is fantastic at. They are often the cornerstone of social events, organizing everything from potlucks to retirement parties. They can do loud or more low-key, and, no matter what, the event will brighten people’s day. Even one-on-one encounters with this individual are a bright spot for many, their dog Rogue a well known furry face on campus. Users have an easy excuse to visit and talk, an invaluable detail that makes this person a pillar for outreach. 

For their penchant in bringing people together and their boundless enthusiasm for bettering the community, the second award for Collaboration and Inclusion goes to Jen Greenleaf


Community Building and Engagement

Known for phenomenal feats and incredible displays, a circus is also a place of incredible collaboration and community. A trapeze artist flies through the air, relying on rehearsed maneuvers -- and a partner to catch them. A magic trick depends entirely on all those involved in the illusion. And for someone whose goal is to “make everyone their friend,” what better place to express that eagerness and camaraderie than this particular bigtop? 


The honoree for Community Building and Engagement has demonstrated incredible acts of kindness and positivity in their time at the Libraries. Colleagues say, “it only takes one conversation, one project, one desk shift, and you are infected by this person’s enthusiasm for work, community, and bringing people together.” Their outreach and emotional knowledge when it comes to smoothing over “prickly situations” or misunderstandings just add to why they’re a perfect fit for this award. 


Whether it’s making sure Slack life stays robust and folks stay connected or answering difficult questions regarding the Aeon implementation, this individual’s influence is one that resonates with peers. “In fact,” say colleagues, “we are becoming a much closer-knit department due to this person’s contributions and conversation starters. They bring a positive spirit not only to our department, but to their work.” This staff member keeps the community moving forward -- while keeping everybody together in the friendliest manner possible.


Described as a “bridge between Reference and Imaging,” this person connects perspectives and workflows, translating between these functional areas to improve both staff  and user experience. In this way, they are the trapeze artist, catching the information and passing it back and forth. From that height, it’s easy to see how they go above and beyond to be an awe-inspiring force both in their own performance and in support of the show. 


For being “the spirit and heart of DDC, a champion of our values of deep and durable care for the collections we steward, the communities we serve, and those we are a part of,” we present the award for Community Building and Engagement to Mattie Clear. 


Unsung Hero [presented to two people]

An unsung hero doesn’t seek out the spotlight. Instead, they perform tremendous acts without fanfare. They are the base of the human pyramid, the catcher who enables another performer to fly. This year we celebrate two staff members who quietly fill in the gaps to support our individual and collective success.


Our first recipient is lauded for their willingness to “step right up” whenever they see a need. They are described as “dependably hard-working,” “tenacious,” and yet “unfailingly kind,” “whip-smart but open and easy to talk to.” No small feat! 


“I find this person standing up for and thinking very critically about how to best serve our community and our colleagues on such a regular basis,” says one nominator. 


Hailed as the perfect representative of what it means to have an ethic of care, this person’s work with student supervisors and their advocacy on behalf of student workers demonstrates their understanding of the student experience, as well as the recognition of how important students are to library operations.


The Student Supervisor Group officially has no leader, yet at times there is a need to work as a cohesive unit. At these moments, this staff member emerges as the ringmaster, drafting emails and proposals, creating and updating training documentation, or devising quizzes and surveys to help reinforce it.


“They put in many hours figuring out ways to keep the tasks and training that they assign to students fun and interesting.” says another nominator.


This spring, in collaboration with other student supervisors, this staff member created a proposal addressing the issue of student wages in preparation for the statewide minimum wage raise. When campus closed due to the coronavirus, this person proposed ways to allow student workers who would have lost income to continue to work virtually.


In recognition of their ability to rise to the occasion again and again via calm, organized leadership, we present our first Unsung Hero Award to Jaclyn Wilson.


Our second recipient is known for bringing “a high level of care, thought and innovation” to their work. While there is a lot going on in their ring, this person’s “time is always well spent,” managing to “prioritize work that lifts us all up”.


Nominators note that this performer has “instrumentally assisted many teams” and “over and over again has pushed colleagues towards incorporating professional standards, updating documentation, and has been an advocate for workers’ rights.”


This recipient has happily served on committees like CPDI, SAC and the DDC Contingent Workers Working Group to bring the Libraries’ day-to-day work and internal governance in line with its vision and values. They have also supported the realization of the Libraries’ pursuit of social justice by creating documentation for the DDC processing manual and student guides that helps bring EDISJ values into the work of archival description. Additionally, in a short period of time, “they have been instrumental in the adoption of new hiring workflows, creating training materials for student workers, and in supplying the DDC break area with a self care kit including pamphlets and zines that emphasize the importance of taking care of our mental health.”


They “value the tangible and actionable work they can do that immediately contributes to change for the better.” Swiftly, they crafted a letter on the heels of the increase to the state minimum wage earlier this year, including evidence of what other Library units were paying student workers, and what the effect would be on the overall budget. The working group was  able to submit it and receive a positive response, which led to instituting a higher wage for student workers in Spring hiring. A spectacular feat!


In recognition of their amazing skill to prioritize, advocate, persevere, and somehow manage to always get the job done, we present our second Unsung Hero Award to Chris Tanguay.


User Service and Support

The honoree for the User Service and Support award is an undeniable headliner of amazing talent.  As one coworker said, “It's hard to pinpoint just one instance or example because this person exceeds expectations in every interaction. They make being a team player effortless, and we would be lost without them.”


Pushing to make resources available and never hesitating to draw attention to inequities or hidden biases, this individual goes above and beyond in their work and is “committed to accessibility and will do anything in their power to make sure students get what they need to succeed at MIT.” As someone who has performed many roles in the Libraries, they bring “a deep institutional knowledge” to this circus and pass on that knowledge to everyone they interact with, “eagerly offering their expertise with kindness and generosity.”


The honoree stepped into the ring almost a year ago as the acting Interim Reserves Manager and in that time has “provided consistency and continuity“ to one of the Libraries’ most critical services. Citing their patience, grace, and willingness to go the extra mile, the coworkers and colleagues of this recipient have heaped applause and praise on the Reserves Team’s new leader and rightfully so.


This past year has been an especially difficult one for the Reserves team: there was the transition to a new request system; then, the relocation of material out of Hayden due to the ongoing renovation; and finally, the current pandemic, requiring a huge digital overhaul of reserves material as campus went remote. Despite these elephantine challenges, this individual in their dual roles as Interim Manager and Reserves Coordinator has guided their team through the upheaval -- working diligently and problem-solving constantly to “keep one of our most important services operational and efficient”.  


One colleague puts it best: “the impact that this person has had on our lives and the lives of others through their work is palpable and we are better for it.” We are proud to present the User Service and Support Award to Monica Ruiz.


Tough Questions/Critical Thinker

Ask any tightrope-walker -- tension can be a good thing. It certainly is when it leads to a stronger organization and a healthier culture, thanks to insightful, inquisitive, challenging feedback from people like our next honoree. 


This staff member uses considerable critical thinking skills and a gift for leadership to advocate for their colleagues, most notably as one of the inaugural co-chairs of the Staff Advisory Council.


“Doing something for the first time can be a daunting experience,” says a nominator. “This is particularly true when you are advocating upwards in an organization and caring for the personal well-being of vulnerable colleagues. This was the task that this person met very capably as one of the first co-chairs of SAC.”

One colleague adds: “I will say that when this person does not agree with me, they come right out and say so – which I LOVE. They’re open, honest, clear, respectful and thoughtful.”


Not only is our honoree known for their competence and candor -- they manage this daunting balancing act with a remarkable artistic flair. As a member of MIT Reads, this person dreamed up an event unlike any MIT Reads had put on before: an Afrofuturism-inspired art show that drew 70 people. Hailed for their infectious sense of humor and formidable cooking and baking skills, they presented each member of SAC with a jar of homemade jams, in three layers: Strawberry, Apricot, and Cranberry -- that’s a flavor for each letter in S, A, and C, in case you missed it.


Although this person does it all with no drama and a “we got this” attitude, it is no less deserving of a standing ovation. This year’s recipient of the Tough Questions/Critical Thinker Award is Ashley Clark.


Christine Moulen “Good Citizen” Award


This award honors our late colleague and friend, Christine Moulen. Christine worked in the Libraries for more than 20 years, starting from when she was a first-year student at MIT. After graduation, she worked as monograph acquisitions assistant, then monograph acquisitions section head, and then library systems manager. Christine was universally admired -- by her MIT colleagues and peers across the field -- for her warmth, generosity, and passionate dedication to her work and her communities. Since 2018, the Libraries have given this award in her memory, I’m pleased to present it this year to a staff member who exhibits many of Christine’s wonderful qualities. 


When people think of a circus, normally, they think of the bright colors, the acts, the music, the food -- they might be looking up at the trapeze artists spinning through the air, or down at the individuals conducting magic at ground-level.


Behind a striped curtain, however, are the masterminds at work. The people who make sure the curtain goes up at the appointed hour, and that all rehearsal is prepped for opening night. These are the kind of people who are always willing to help; a designated go-to when things go wrong, and a rock upon which all wishful thinking and questions can land.


Going completely against the “pay no attention to the man [or woman] behind the curtain” motif is our announcement for the Christine Moulen Good Citizen Award. 


Whether this person is taming the lions of anxiety or firing answers out of a cannon of endless information, “each and every day, their behind-the-scenes dedication keeps the Libraries working. “Their attention to detail and good humor elevates both the quality of work done in the Libraries as well as the culture and morale of the whole system,” declares a colleague. 


Always there when needed, this staff member greets each question given with a smile and a response -- even if it’s not necessarily what someone wants to hear, and it’s delivered with a level of kindness that upholds the Libraries’ ethic of care. This individual emulates integrity, thoughtfulness, compassion, patience, and generosity -- alongside the playfulness and joy that is noted by several colleagues. Their level of cheer is one that people look to when the show seems to be going sideways -- they ensure things get back on track within their ring of influence, which always makes for the performance of a lifetime.

In recognition of these many wonderful qualities, and for being, as one colleague said, “the archetype of a good citizen,” we present this award to Judith Gallagher.


Team Awards

Results, Outcome, and

A whirling display, with thousands of balls, clubs, hoops, and plates in the air. Juggling is three parts technical skill, two parts teamwork, and one part constant motion. As a feat of coordination and control, a juggling act amazes and awes anyone who sees it.

The honorees for the Results, Outcome, and Productivity award have done the same.  Due to both the Hayden Renovation and the current pandemic, the need for online access to resources and material skyrocketed in the past few months. This team sprung out onto center-stage, working with colleagues to enable digital lending through the Internet Archives and HathiTrust, allowing the show to go on for our community. Like clowns in a clown car, this team managed to load exponentially more Aleph records in a single month alone and fit over 1 million new URLs to our catalog, while also completing their normal workload and other project work including the Alma project - proving their ability to juggle a huge amount of work with very little lead time. As one colleague summed it up best, “they showed high levels of expertise, grace under pressure, and high productivity” during a time of great change and upheaval.

It is for that reason that we are proud to present the award for Results Outcome and Productivity to the members of the Aleph Power Team: Tania Fersenheim, Beth Brennan, Sara Meyers, and Hyo Lee.

Innovation, Creativity, and Problem Solving

Every circus needs someone to act quickly when a performance doesn’t go as planned, to put out the fire when the fire-breather’s torch is unexpectedly dropped, to ensure an acrobat is safe in the event of a fall. The recipients of this award demonstrate how teamwork, swift action, and innovation are essential to the success of any circus -- or circus-like library.

Throughout the entire process of moving the Libraries to a virtual stage, this team did “extraordinary work to make sure the transition was smooth and successful.” The moment called for creative problem solving at an even faster rate than usual in order to implement a remote infrastructure for providing services that usually take place on-site and in-person. 

Nominators cited the team’s development of an entirely new process enabling the delivery of equipment to staff members’ homes. To accomplish this, they had to determine where to purchase equipment, how to handle ordering and payment, the tracking of packages, and expense reconciliation, in addition to assisting staff install their home offices remotely. The team quickly identified actions needed to mitigate the challenges of switching to entirely remote work, accomplishing incredible feats in a short time span.

Like a human cannonball, this team adapted existing processes, provisioning, and deployment with incredible speed and directness as the reality of the pandemic evolved. They are our behind-the-scenes jugglers, making sure the show runs smoothly no matter what; our big top tent, the structure supporting all of our activities and feats.

Throughout the process, the team has been consistently praised for how it handled this unique and stressful situation, putting the organization’s needs first. In recognition of their spectacular performance in extraordinary circumstances, the Innovation, Creativity, and Problem Solving Award goes to the Rapid Technology Deployment Team: Ola Mustapha, Renee Hellenbrecht, Olimpia Estela Caceres-Brown, and Matthew Davies.


MIT Libraries' 2020 Infinite Mile Awards Recipients

[Not pictured: Renee Hellenbrecht and Ola Mustapha]