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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2022 Awards

2022 Infinite Mile Awards

Tough Questions / Critical Thinker

Next in our line-up of suspects is a person of interest who has been accused of having trespassed on territory few dare to tread: being a Critical Thinker and asking Tough Questions!  Eyewitnesses report that when this person “begins a question, you know that it comes from a place of deep caring and will cut directly to the heart of the matter. This combination brings forth thoughtful reflection.” In their testimony, witnesses went on to add that this person’s way of asking questions “gives permission for answers in process, for thinking aloud, and for admitting gaps in one’s own understanding, which leads to forthright and open communication with people — whether they agree or not.” This person has also been observed giving “voice to concerns others have but are afraid to ask, which takes a lot of courage. In filling this difficult role, she uplifts the voices of our most vulnerable and marginalized staff and constituents.”

Witnesses further elaborated, saying that the suspect is “an excellent facilitator, leader, and contributor” and described her as “an incredible thought partner, discussion leader, trainer, and promoter of MIT Reads…[whose] commitment to equity encapsulates who she is as a colleague: thoughtful, respectful, considerate and caring.” 

Considering all the angles to any scenario and asking the difficult questions comes easily to this suspect. Through her thoughtful and caring approach to open communication and her ongoing facilitation of equity and understanding through dialogue, we are pleased to reveal that Julia Lanigan has swiped the Tough Questions/Critical Thinker Award.


Results, Outcome, and Productivity

A number of witnesses have come forward to identify our next suspect.  According to their first-hand accounts, this person has been seen trafficking in extraordinary work within the category of Results, Outcome, and Productivity. 

The last year has brought a number of challenges to this library community, but our suspect devised fiendishly clever plots to address these challenges. According to one eyewitness,‚Äč the perpetrator "played a significant role in continuing the BorrowDirect service while the Libraries transitioned from Aleph to Alma" and added that the suspect "was consulted on numerous occasions about the needs of the community” and considered important issues regarding what were “reasonable expectations for continuing a service such as Borrow Direct through the migration”. In doing so, this person demonstrated a “willingness to work through the logistics” and, in the process, helped immeasurably in coming up with a solution which allowed the Libraries to continue “an important service our community relies on." 

Another witness noted that the suspect was stealthy, saying "People rarely notice the work she does because they aren’t supposed to.” She “keeps things moving, prevents service interruptions, and does it all with a caring, enthusiastic energy."   

Across the board, the testimony we heard all paints the same picture of the suspect.  An insider source noted that “she’s exuberant, knowledgeable, and always ready to dive in and help. This year her work to support our patrons was exemplary,” while another testified that this person’s "tireless work truly kept Borrow Direct up and running during the Alma migration. She was quick to create workflows and documentation in that ever changing environment and was the reason patrons hardly experienced disruption of services.” She “dives head-first into all her work and is the linchpin of our Borrow Direct service. She is supportive of her colleagues all across the libraries and is due recognition for all she does." 

The sleuths on the R & R Committee agree wholeheartedly that her deeds should be brought into the light of day!  For her can-do attitude and her quick-thinking approach to keeping Borrow Direct services flowing smoothly during a challenging period of transition in the Libraries, we are pleased to reveal that Allyson Harper-Nixon has absconded with the Results, Outcome and Productivity Award.


Collaboration and Inclusion

It takes a team of people to pull off any good heist. And it takes a special person to get all of the members working together in harmony to pull off a heist as well as this. Well, this next suspect already has a rap sheet of collaboration and inclusion a mile long!

She is accused of being “a reliable go-to person,” “A great colleague,” and “Inquisitive, kind, and caring.” She is excellent at making suggestions for people to connect with. At the Digital Humanities Workshop series, which she took a lead role in developing, she circulated around the audience to introduce people to each other so they could begin to build connections. 

During workshops, she creates opportunities for every instructor, helper, and learner to voice their perspectives and listen to each other. One professor said she “listened to my needs, and those of the students, and worked tirelessly to find the right tools, test the tools, and provide feedback and guidance.” Her approach in teaching students how to use an online annotation tool helped students that did not feel comfortable talking in class find a voice and express themselves online.

She consistently brings social justice issues into every facet of the work she does, which has made her invaluable to faculty, as evidenced by her inclusion in the SHASS faculty team to hire a visiting lecturer in Native American History.

In teaching in the MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellows program, this suspect always seeks to give marginalized individuals a voice, and will amplify an earlier point if she feels the conversation has moved on without addressing a student’s concern or question. This suspect’s inclusive spirit makes everyone proud not only of what they accomplished, but also in how they did it.

In reviewing evidence of her history of fostering connections and working to give everyone a voice, the culprit in this case becomes obvious. The Collaboration and Inclusion Award goes to Ece Turnator.


Unsung Hero

When you find yourself having to figure out whodunit, a good detective should always seriously examine every possible suspect. While flashy red-herrings may distract a detective in their pursuit of truth, it is only once the true culprit is found that you can look back and find that all the pieces have fit into place. The true culprit was there all along, quietly and patiently influencing the plot, orchestrating everything without fanfare. This next suspect is one such person: a dependable, quiet presence at MIT Libraries, whose actions may have gone unsung.

With the shift to hybrid work and an emphasis on digital processing and scanning, DDC has been kept very busy over the past year. Throughout it all, this individual has discreetly put his hand in to keep things running smoothly. 

A true mastermind, he has generously shared his vast technical knowledge and maneuvered his colleagues into becoming expert digital processors. From the shadows, he created numerous training documents and Zoom presentations and continues to update documentation on digital processing and preservation procedures. This suspect also helps mold the young minds that come through DDC, supervising MIT students and internships. Thus, with very little fuss, this individual has created an army of digital processors for the nefarious purpose of fulfilling MIT’s Digital-First Initiative.

Seemingly always in the right place at the right time, this individual unassumingly contributes to many different workflows. Whether it be assisting the DDC reference team with providing users access to digital materials, collection transfers, imaging, or thesis work, his influence is everywhere. He has also been instrumental in expanding DDC’s web archiving program. An eyewitness in DDC caught him “identifying and running crawls, planning and supervising quality assurance work, and ensuring long-term preservation of web captures” when he thought nobody was looking.

You would never suspect how many demands there were on this individual’s time by the unflappable and reliable way he has dealt with any and all challenges. One witness noted that “He approaches questions and any technical issues that might arise with perseverance, reliability, and general good humor.”

When confronted with the overwhelming evidence littered around DDC in the form of robust documentation, well-trained colleagues, and innumerous contributions to digital-first workflows, it becomes simple to put the puzzle pieces together and see just who was behind it all along. So it is with pleasure that we accuse Joe Carrano of being an Unsung Hero.


User Service and Support

It might be hard to believe we are accusing this next suspect of anything considering they joined the Libraries one mere year ago, but already they have proven themselves to be an enterprising individual. When one thinks of user service and support, you may think of a person interacting face to face with a patron, but this suspect has perfected a devious new angle on user support…serving the community while never being seen!

Like a ghost, this suspect slipped into MIT a year ago as a fully-remote hire. Unphased by his lack of physical presence, he immediately started casing the joint by gathering information and asking questions. He was so effective that he was rapidly given the keys to top-secret areas and active projects. 

One witness noted that the suspect was unafraid to get his hands dirty, and added that “He jumped into the middle of some of the gnarlier Alma data integrations and just got things done.” When AWS infrastructure needed to be built from scratch, this culprit was the mastermind behind making sure the whole scheme came together. 

Though he paints an elusive figure, he never lets his remote presence hold him back, making sure to be present in every Zoom room where work is getting done. Slipping through the hidden passages of the Cloud, this suspect has had a huge impact on libraries technology infrastructure in a short amount of time. With his technical knowledge and timely questions he is able to serve and support the community without them ever knowing who was behind it. A witness to his paranormal feats testified that, “You may not hear from him directly, but he is a dependable voice behind the scenes, resolving issues and addressing concerns, so that our whole organization can continuously improve.”

Though he may largely go unseen, his service to MIT Libraries has not and for this we point the finger at Aaron Hunnewell for deservedly making off with the User Service and Support Award.


Innovation, Creativity , and Problem Solving

These next suspects understand the value of teamwork, problem solving, and ingenuity in pulling off major schemes. 

Every year hundreds of theses are generated by MIT’s graduating classes, contributing to a vital and ever expanding collection of MIT research and knowledge. When MIT had to shift to become a fully-remote and fully-digital organization at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the old system for receiving and delivering theses seemed on the verge of collapse. Surely this was too big of a conundrum to solve? Well, not for this crafty team of experts… 

According to eyewitness testimony, the Electronic Thesis Delivery Project Team–known on the streets as the “ETD Crew”–sprang into action and hatched a plot to develop a system that could support the fully remote students and staff. Understanding the value in never leaving a paper trail, these experts in their fields cut out the ink and paper middle-man in order to leap forward into a digital-first future. 

Pulling off a complex plot that only took a year in planning and implementation, the “ETD Crew” planned and executed the whole thing perfectly. From analyzing the problem space to investigating various methods of approach to system design, every member of the crew had a task to do. Using a heavily-collaborative approach that utilized the strengths of each specialist, they were able “to nimbly navigate obstacles and challenges they encountered along the way.” All the while, they were out speaking to the MIT community, alleviating suspicion and concern, so that they could pull off this switcheroo without a hitch. They were in and out in a flash, swapping out the old system and leaving behind a groundbreaking new electronic delivery system. This not only enabled fully remote digital thesis submission into the repository, but also “integrated the thesis collection with our preservation infrastructure to ensure long-term sustainability of this critical record of MIT’s work.”

The infamous “ETD Crew” has become a model to other aspiring schemers, “spurring innovations in the way we balance time commitments between different technology projects” Word on the street is that “Many of the new approaches to collaboration and project management that were used during the ETD project are now becoming a key part of our ongoing collaborative model,” proving that this notorious gang has truly put their mark on the business.

Surely such a seasoned crew would have no problem with switching out an Infinite Mile for an MIT Libraries’ keychain? And so it is with this evidence, that we can conclude that the Innovation, Creativity and Problem Solving Award was delivered swiftly and deservedly into the hands of Caitlin Robles, Mikki MacDonald, Wilder J. Moss, Jeremy Prevost, Helen Bailey, Adam Jazairi, Matt Bernhardt, and Stephanie Hartman aka the “ETD Crew”.


Human Resources Team - Community Building and Engagement

A lot of work goes into bringing a band of thieves together. When you need to form a crew stealthy enough to pull off an audacious heist of an infinite mile award, you call a savvy team of fixers who have the connections to recruit the best people for the job.  

These three people are “literally building the community of the libraries,” recruiting 27 skilled new crew members to the MIT Libraries Syndicate in the last year. Their leadership guided hiring staff on how to facilitate unbiased discussion and evaluation of candidates while maintaining focus on increasing the diversity of candidate pools. Everyone knows that a happy and appreciated crew pulls off the most dastardly schemes; and this HR team has the skill to treat each candidate as an individual with compassion and care as they move through a process that can be very stressful. 

One recent hire commented, “When I was open about my interview needs as a person with a disability, [a member of this team] went above and beyond to make sure I had a comfortable and inclusive interviewing environment by establishing accommodations and accessibility etiquettes (such as typing in questions in the zoom chat) that the interviewers followed.”

Another staff member commented, “As the head of a search committee, I was simultaneously blown away by and grateful for the constant support, expert guidance, and kindness of the HR staff in guiding me through this complex process...The ethic of care they brought to every person involved in the search, from the candidates to the interviewing staff, was obvious and went straight to my heart. What I valued most though, was their commitment to ensure we had an equitable search process, and that we were working together to build a diverse and talented workforce.”

For all of their hard work in putting this motley crew together, we charge Cherry Ibrahim, Sam Locke, and Jessica Mallo in the Human Resources Team with conspiracy to commit Community Building and Engagement.


Christine Moulen “Good Citizen” Award

Our last mystery to unravel involves someone who is likely known to you and who in fact is in this very Zoom!  This person’s deeds have been observed by a good many eyewitnesses, and they’re all consistent in identifying him as someone who exemplifies good citizenship in the libraries. His motives, they say, are plain for all to see. In testimony, witnesses describe the suspect as “patient, kind, and knowledgeable” and add that he goes “the extra mile to support his constituents, and has a genuine interest in helping.” In further testimony, they mentioned how “He responds to constant, tricky questions and problems quickly and thoughtfully, always keeping stakeholders updated through the process. He is trustworthy, and handles large volumes of work with a calm, clear, welcoming demeanor.” In addition, the suspect “supported IDLA for nearly two years when they did not have admin support, and then helped with onboarding the new IDLA admin. He provides an excellent example to colleagues.” 

Witnesses marveled at the suspect’s “ability to take a problem and figure out what needs to be done–even if it’s fitting a square peg into a round hole–and then getting it done.” They hastened to add that “Much like the famous detective Hercule Poirot, the amount of institutional knowledge he has accumulated in his ‘little gray cells’ is impressive.” 

Further bolstering the case is the fact that as “an important part of the admin team,” he has been “invaluable in contributing to and streamlining processes, such as ordering supplies, furniture, and revamping our beverage policies. An enormous project he tackled was setting up storage in the renovated Hayden. At semester start in Fall 2021, he seized and wrangled eleven 6 foot suspects into 2 small rooms, and worked them over…until he had assembled eleven utility metal shelving units to hold all our supplies in new Hayden! Then he gathered up the supplies from across all the libraries, inventoried everything, identified the gaps and ordered what we needed.”

The accumulated evidence is clear and points to a single suspect. Only such an organized, resourceful and helpful individual could have gotten his hands on this year’s Christine Moulen “Good Citizen” Award. The game is up, Rob Caplin!


MIT Libraries' 2022 Infinite Mile Awards Recipients

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