MIT Libraries staff honored with 2020 Infinite Mile Awards

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The MIT Libraries honored the outstanding contributions of its employees June 18 with a virtual Infinite Mile Awards ceremony. The circus-themed program, titled “The Greatest Staff on Earth,” featured a staff talent showcase and socially distant performances by the libraries’ band, The Dust Jackets. 

Director Chris Bourg presented awards to individuals and teams in the categories listed below; award recipients are listed along with excerpts from the award presentations.

Bringing out the best

Hailed for making the libraries not only a more respectful and socially conscious organization but a fun place to work, Executive Assistant to the Director Shannon Hunt was recognized for combining personal care with professional skill. Hunt has brought a deep commitment to and understanding of social justice to the Committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion (CPDI), and as a member of the Emergency Management Team created in response to Covid-19, she provides a trusted voice to keep things in line and running smoothly.

Collaboration and inclusion

Project Manager/Business Analyst Li Cheung proves there’s a true art to navigating technology projects, “charting a course forward that ensures everyone’s voice is heard, project decisions are well-documented, and communications flow smoothly and frequently as work moves forward,” as one colleague describes. She has brought a truly inclusive approach to one of the most challenging feats a library can undertake, migrating to a new integrated library system, in an impressive display of compassion and collaboration.

Praised for her ability to “amplify marginalized perspectives and voices that didn’t have a seat at the table,” Jennifer Greenleaf, social science and management librarian, is known as an expert in bringing people together and showing them what can be possible. Her work on MIT orientation events and other outreach opportunities has brought a new level of awareness of library resources and services to the greater MIT community, and she is often the cornerstone of social events, with organizing and motivational skills that get everyone partying.

Community building and engagement

Described as the spirit and heart of MIT Distinctive Collections, Reference Associate Mattie Clear has demonstrated incredible acts of kindness and positivity in her time at the libraries.

“It only takes one conversation, one project, one desk shift, and you are infected by her enthusiasm for work, community, and bringing people together,” says a colleague. Whether helping staff stay engaged while remote, answering difficult questions, or smoothing over “prickly” situations, Clear keeps the community moving forward while keeping everybody connected.

Innovation, creativity, and problem solving

The Rapid Technology Deployment Team of Ola Mustapha, Renee Hellenbrecht, and Olimpia Estela Caceres-Brown, with help from IT Support Engineer Matthew Davies of MIT Information Systems and Technology, did extraordinary work to ensure the smooth transition of all library staff to remote work.

The Covid-19 pandemic called for creative problem solving in order to implement a remote infrastructure for providing services that usually take place on-site and in person. In this unique and stressful situation, the team put the organization’s needs first, accomplishing incredible feats in a short amount of time.

Results, outcome, and productivity

Due to both the Hayden Library renovation and the current pandemic, the need for online access to library resources has skyrocketed in the past few months. The Aleph Power Team, including Tania Fersenheim, Beth Brennan, Sara Meyers, and Hyo Lee, sprang into action, working with colleagues to enable digital lending through the Internet Archive and HathiTrust and loading more than 1 million new URLs into the library catalog in a single month. 

Unsung heroes

Access Services Associate Jaclyn Wilson was recognized for her work with fellow student supervisors and her advocacy on behalf of student workers. Demonstrating her understanding of the student experience as well as a recognition of how important students workers are to library operations, Wilson worked to address the issue of student wages, and when campus closed due to the coronavirus, she proposed ways to allow student workers, who otherwise would have lost income, to continue to work virtually.

Processing Associate Chris Tanguay was recognized for her efforts to bring the libraries’ day-to-day work and internal governance in line with its vision and values. In addition to serving on committees such as CPDI and the Staff Advisory Council, Tanguay created guides to help bring the values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice into the work of archival description, produced training materials for student workers, and supplied the staff break area with a self-care kit emphasizing mental health, among other contributions.

User service and support

Interim Reserves Manager and Access Services Associate Monica Ruiz pushes to make resources available and never hesitates to draw attention to inequities or hidden biases. Providing consistency and continuity for reserves, one of the libraries’ most critical services, Ruiz is “committed to accessibility and will do anything in her power to make sure students get what they need to succeed at MIT,” according to her admiring colleagues. 

Tough questions/critical thinker

Ashley Clark, access services assistant, uses her considerable critical thinking skills and a gift for leadership to advocate for her colleagues, most notably as one of the inaugural co-chairs of the libraries’ Staff Advisory Council. Described as “open, honest, clear, respectful, and thoughtful,” Clark was also recognized for her boundless creativity: she was the mastermind behind “The Awakening,” a popular Afrofuturism-inspired art show presented by the MIT Reads program.

Christine Moulen “Good Citizen” Award

Financial and Payroll Associate Judith Gallagher was celebrated by her colleagues for her integrity, thoughtfulness, compassion, patience, and generosity — not to mention playfulness and joy. “Her attention to detail and good humor elevate both the quality of work done in the libraries as well as the culture and morale of the whole system,” says one colleague. For greeting every question with a smile and a helpful answer, Gallagher received this award, which honors late library colleague and friend Christine Moulen.

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