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MIT Libraries Rewards and Recognition: 2018 Awards

2018 Infinite Mile Awards: Individual awards

Communication and Collaboration- Grace Mlady

Communication and collaboration are essential to our success no matter our role within the organization.  This award recognizes those among us who expertly use these skills to drive progress, who communicate in inspiring ways, and who enhance group interactions through engagement, active listening, and thoughtful reflection. According to one colleague, the way in which this awardee applies these highly developed skills is motivating and inspiring on a daily basis.

Managing projects across library and Institute spaces requires thinking and working outside the box. This individual’s success can be attributed to her ability to form strong partnerships with the right people and to communicate clearly and assertively in making her points while still coming across as polite and open to other viewpoints. In assessing library spaces and working to achieve optimal balance between the core functions of learning and community she encourages others to share their perspectives and considers those perspectives in approaching each project. She keeps projects moving forward with concise and open communications. Her strengths in these areas helped make projects like Hayden mezzanine improvements, Rotch GIS/DMS workspace, and Barker Active Learning classroom renovations successful.  

When faced with the so-called “little problems” of infrastructure such as building climate control concerns and steam pipe leaks, or relaying campus-wide updates on construction, commuting, and safety issues, this individual’s communications are timely, informative, and sensitive to library-specific implications.  In all of her communications – in person, e-mail, phone or Slack - she is responsive, thoughtful and articulate. 

One colleague describes her as “unfailingly generous with her knowledge”, and someone who “gives quick, honest feedback while considering all possible implications”.  This, along with her blend of patience and professionalism enhances the work experience for all those with whom she collaborates – library colleagues, Institute staff, and external vendors and is why, today, we award the Infinite Mile Award in the category of Communication and Collaboration to Grace Mlady.


Community Building - Grace Kindeke

This awardee takes great care to find, build, strengthen, and maintain connections both within and outside of the Libraries. One colleague described the awardee as “deeply committed to building a healthy organizational culture, deftly using [their] position to be an effective conduit and bridge between and among staff across the entire organization – across directorates, departments, functional areas, and staff levels.” Everybody knows this person and “there is a great deal of trust in [them] because of [their] impeccable integrity and welcoming demeanor.” [They] are described as generous with “[their] time, talent, and heart”, as someone who “encourages us all to dig deep”, and someone who is “always sticking up for others, and making sure that staff feel included, connected, and heard.”

This awardee fully embraces her role as part of the Committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion. Her dedication is especially important because of the Libraries’ continued and growing commitment to these values and the importance of a healthy community. Her background and personal values “make her a force for good within the libraries and help keep us true to our mission, especially when we lose our way.”

Nominators spoke of her natural ability to lead, facilitate, mediate, and educate and to do so with thoughtfulness, respect, kindness, and aplomb. She helped organize and run the Black Lives Matter bookmobile; she is an essential part of the Administrative Assistant’s Group; and, she is considered the “soul” of her office.

Described as “brave”, she often steps out of her comfort zone to speak up for others - communicating ideas to leadership for folks who may not be comfortable doing so, making staff members feel heard, and encouraging a diversity of perspectives on often difficult issues or challenges.

Building a community requires work, patience, care, courage, and determination. For exemplifying all of these qualities – and then some – we present this year’s Community Building award to our own “unicorn in disguise”, Grace Kindeke.


Results, Outcome and Productivity - Caitlin Robles

This awardee approaches projects in new, innovative ways; conceptualizing them differently; and understanding and meeting the needs of project requestors, sponsors, business owners, and stakeholders.

Folks in these roles are described as ‘change agents: they make project goals their own and use their skills and expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose within the team. They enjoy the organized adrenaline of new challenges and the responsibility of driving business results’.  They are often placed into a box with deliverables to fill, risks to mitigate, countless assumptions to validate, and many constraints to resolve … constraints like lack of time, very, very, very little resources, and in some cases conflicting ideas about how to solve problems or what success looks like.

This individual has the ability to tear apart those constraints by asking great questions and more importantly… listening and paying attention to details. She is able to find ways for teams to uncover root causes of problems or to reframe the questions so that project teams can keep moving forward. She truly thinks outside the box for ways to help the team get their work done more easily, helping everyone to know what is expected, when they may be needed, and how they can be involved.

Her approach to work has changed the ways in which others around her approach theirs.  At the end of the day, this person delivers results and embraces productivity by using the power of “No” to enable teams to say “Yes” to staying focused and delivering positive outcomes. This is one of the many reasons why we present this year’s Results, Outcome, and Productivity award to Caitlin Robles.


Tough Questions/Critical Thinkers - Michelle Baildon

This award recognizes the contributions of those who present different viewpoints, offer counter ideas, or challenge our ways of thinking. This is for our colleagues who not only think outside the box, and who try to bring us all with them.

Nominators say this person is someone who consistently engages in difficult dialogues regarding work and organizational culture, and who is unafraid of challenging the status quo. They have been devoted to incorporating diversity, inclusion, and social justice into our work since they began here, challenging us to think about individual and institutional privileges. They called a project undertaken with colleagues to integrate our DISJ values into our work in new and bold ways “one of the most exciting things I have done in my career.” They do not just think outside the box; they encourage us to question the whole concept of boxes.

Often this person is the first to raise a question about diversity, inclusion and social justice to ensure that those values are considered in our discussions. They have been called “the conscience of the Libraries” and a “voice of the underrepresented”, asking the hard questions even when it’s uncomfortable.

Respected for the faithfulness and tenaciousness with which they engage in our many feedback processes, they lead by example and strongly encourage others to speak up to try to make things better. A nominator describes them as a “critical thinker who believes deeply in the mission and values of the MIT Libraries.”

Outside of MIT, they have used their voice to work for greater inclusion and opportunities for librarians through their work in ALA as past president of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, the ALA Diversity Council, and as a jury member for the Spectrum Scholarship.

Their passion and strong convictions for social justice and inclusion are an inspiration to many – in the Libraries, at MIT, and in the profession. DISJ work is draining for people of color who often have to hold space for folks who are still learning. For being a champion of this work we are pleased to present the Libraries’ first Tough Questions/Critical Thinkers award to Michelle Baildon.


Christine Moulen “Good Citizen” Award - Melissa Feiden

As we just heard in the video, Christine had so many wonderful qualities that we remember her for, many of them reflecting Good Citizenship. This next award is dedicated to Christine.

Much like Christine, this awardee makes “large and wide-reaching” contributions to the Libraries through “deeds and words [that] are often subtle”. This person’s generosity is seen in everything they do from their direct responsibilities within the Libraries to their outreach to the MIT community. They are always willing to lend a helping hand, often volunteering to assist others with their technical expertise and knowledge.

This person is a unifying force on teams- when conflicts arise, they help groups “focus on priorities and where [they] can do impactful work” so the group can move past the disagreement. When working on projects, they constantly think beyond the team to consider the impact on all staff, and thoughtfully remind the group to consider these potential impacts. As a member of any group or team, [they] help set the structure and the tone so that members enjoy working with and challenging each other.

This awardee has also promoted the work of the Libraries with thoughtful and innovative actions. With another colleague, [they] formed a lunch series for middle management to promote cohesion between colleagues as well as share information, expertise, and simply get to know one another better. Caring deeply about us as colleagues, this individual will volunteer for initiatives or propose ideas that make us stronger and better as individuals and as an organization. ”Even during a time of great loss, “[they] thoughtfully stepped up and took action in a way that can help us all deal with the grief of losing Christine, and find a way to honor her legacy.”

In recognition of her selflessness, resourcefulness, and supportive nature, we are pleased to present The Christine Moulen “Good Citizen” Award to our friend and colleague, Melissa Feiden.


2017 Infinite Mile awards: Team Awards

Bringing Out the Best - DLS JIRA Normalization Team of Habibe Artemiev and Frances Botsford

When we think of boxes we often think of something that is structured and ordered.  But just because a container imposes order, does not mean that what it contains is ordered. It could be a box full of the unknown, a box of chaos and confusion. In fact, this is exactly the situation that this team faced – as described by their nominator, “It was like an unweeded garden, or a pot of spaghetti.”

In rethinking the possibilities, this team set new goals for themselves over a course of 4-6 months by choosing to reach beyond the walls of current practice to create common practices that contribute to making the Libraries the best that it can be. They created structure and standards that “permit flexibility” and “reduce misunderstandings,” and they did this in a way that fostered a collegial environment by valuing differences, respecting the unique talent and perspectives of people in the organization, and encouraging others to express ideas and solutions.

Just as boxes come in innumerable shapes, sizes and materials of construction, so do methods of breaching these boxes. This team supported and assisted their colleagues in achieving goals by being very responsive to questions and “encourage[ing] all of us to explore and be empowered to learn on our own.” This is the epitome of helping others be their best. The team’s efforts resulted in, “sharing work transparently and facilitating communication among our distributed teams,” which “has been a major step forward in fostering a productive and healthy work culture.” This is truly making a way out of pandemonium and into a place of peace and productivity.

In recognition of their work in establishing and acculturating standard work practices for JIRA this team has brought out the best in all Library users of this tool by ushering us from our chaotic “pot of spaghetti” into a space of structured, layered lasagna. Congratulations to the DLS JIRA Normalization Team of Habibe Artemiev and Frances Botsford on receiving this Infinite Mile Award for Bringing out the Best.


Customer Service - Ad Hoc Aleph Emergency Responders Team of Rich Wenger and Beth Brennan.

In a situation that would send many running for the close comfort of a cozy space, this team did the opposite. They reached out of their normal comfort zone and extended a helping hand to other members of the library community. Stretching beyond the confines of familiarity, they stepped in to fill a critical role at a time of great turmoil and provided customer service with a positive and professional attitude.

As their nominators put it, in addition to their normal duties, this team dove into a “technical Maelstrom” to fill the big void left by a close colleague. The way they took on these tasks and provided essential services demonstrates that not all barrier-breaking actions are heralded by Kool-Aid-man-like “Oh, Yeah.” Rather, as their nominators describe, this team chose to push the boundaries of what they knew and the services they could provide “without fuss or drama”, but with a “helpful, collegial attitude”, “unfailing generosity of time, spirit, and attention” and, “dedication to providing excellent service to colleagues and end users”.

Boxes come in many forms. The nominators for this team are in agreement that in order to master the immense intricacies of a complex customized system and provide the necessary customer service this team quickly scaled walls to learn new skills, dug deep to gain knowledge and eased through emotional mazes.  From A to Z, or Aleph to Zed, this team successfully negotiated barriers of all types to keep an essential system running, providing the customer service that makes it possible for the libraries to serve its customers.

In recognition of their positive steadfastness, their commitment to their customers, and their willingness to take on so much for so many extra miles, this Infinite Mile Team Award in the category of Customer Service goes to the informally dubbed Ad Hoc Aleph Emergency Responders Team of Rich Wenger and Beth Brennan.


Results, Outcome and Productivity - Net 18 Change, Phase I Group, Harolyn Hylton (no longer at MIT), Martina Anderson, Eugenia Beh, Chris Donnelly, Kathy Hamilton, Jake Meaney, Sally Richter, Rich Wenger Ex Officio, Katie Zimmerman Ex Officio.


Many times when you receive a box, you’ve been expecting it and can prepare for what to do with the contents. However, sometimes you receive an unexpected box – one that contains an unpleasant surprise. Our next award goes to a team that not only dealt with the daunting repercussions of a broader MIT project on the Libraries, but worked swiftly to avoid interruptions in services despite being informed of this project at the 11th hour.

This team was faced with the challenge of knowing that a change was coming shortly, but not knowing exactly when it would occur. They worked diligently to develop a workflow that could be implemented on a moment’s notice and one “that made the most impact as quickly as possible”.  The workflow proved to be incredibly successful at minimizing disruptions in our services, and even “when curveballs came at them, the workflow was flexible enough to adapt.”

The group accomplished all of this during their busiest time of year, and while dealing with challenges in communication from MIT, one temporary and one permanent departure from the team, and receiving notification that the project was moving forward while many team members were out for a holiday. The sale of a large portion of MIT’s IP addresses, which could render a large number of our e-resources inaccessible and have repercussions for our license compliance, presented a huge challenge for the team, but they effectively balanced their priorities such that the project work and their daily workflows flourished. They completed the project within six months, contacting over 400 providers and working patiently with each one to get it right. “And when it still wasn’t right, they went back again and again to correct it.”

In recognition of this team’s great effort, energy, and focus to keep our thousands of electronic resources up and running when MIT sold those IP address ranges, this Infinite Mile Award, in the category of Results, Outcome, and Productivity, goes to the Net 18 Change, Phase I Group, Harolyn Hylton (no longer at MIT), Martina Anderson, Eugenia Beh, Chris Donnelly, Kathy Hamilton, Jake Meaney, Sally Richter, Rich Wenger Ex Officio, Katie Zimmerman Ex Officio.




MIT Libraries' 2018 Infinite Mile Awards Recipients