The University Libraries has announced the recipients of the inaugural University Librarian’s Meritorious Service Award and Annual Excellence Awards. Recipients were selected based on nominations for their exemplary work and contributions to advancing the Library’s mission.
Congratulations to the 2022 award winners!
University Librarian’s Meritorious Service Award
The University Librarian’s Meritorious Service Award represents the University Libraries’ highest honor, and recognizes exceptionally meritorious and transformative work over time or in the face of exceptionally challenging, crisis or emergency circumstances. This year, two recipients were recognized for their exceptional contributions to the University Libraries’ success during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doug Diesenhaus, director of strategy, assessment and space
“Throughout perhaps the most difficult period in our collective memory, Doug has been a steady and determined presence who has made seemingly impossible things happen so that our organization, our patrons, and especially our employees could continue moving forward in the face of a world-altering pandemic,” wrote Judy Panitch, director of Library communications.
As the director of strategy, assessment and space, Diesenhaus oversaw the facilities and logistical tasks required to keep the Library operational during the pandemic. Diesenhaus was an essential part of making personal protective equipment available, arranging library spaces to facilitate social distancing and ensuring that employees had everything they needed to continue working at home and onsite. As co-chair of the reopening committee, he helped lead efforts to ensure a safe reentry, and was frequently the one to implement them.
“What may be most remarkable about Doug’s contributions is the spirit in which he accomplishes all that he sets out to do,” wrote Panitch. “At a time of intense anxiety, his calm and competence reassured all of us that we were in good hands. Doug has led with integrity, courage and an unfailing commitment to the welfare of his colleagues across the University Libraries.”
Joe Mitchem, head of circulation
“Joe has shown exceptional leadership over the past two years. Our library’s public service simply could not have been what it has been since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic without Joe. Joe’s excellent leadership has been a stable rock that library employees across campus have relied on during this difficult time,” wrote Jonathon Page, former document delivery and circulation desk supervisor.
As the interim and then permanent head of the circulation department, Mitchem helped establish a curbside delivery and book pickup service while library buildings were closed to the public, developed on-site work protocols with proper social distancing, and was part of the team to centralize requesting and pickup of all library materials through Davis Library during the pandemic.
“While Joe has always been exceptional, his leadership qualities and creative problem solving have been notably outstanding since the University Libraries began to resume on-site operations in summer 2020,” according to a team of nominators from the R.B. House Undergraduate Library. “People are always his priority. He has demonstrated this repeatedly, both before the pandemic threw everyone into free-fall, and especially during, when it felt like Joe was a load-bearing pillar of strength for library staff.”
Annual Excellence Awards
Annual Excellence awards recognize outstanding workplace efforts or contributions in specific areas, including innovation and problem-solving, inclusive excellence, customer service, and leadership.
Deseree Stukes, repository content technician
Deseree Stukes received the award for excellence in leadership for her work overseeing efforts to make the University Libraries’ digital collections more accessible.
Stukes conceived of accessibility projects early in the COVID-19 response and took on management of work-from-home projects where staff wrote text descriptions for images in the Library’s digital collections, created accessible PDFs from the Carolina Digital Repository, and created audio and video transcription for digital audiovisual materials. These actions all make digital collections more accessible to individuals with visual or sensory impairments.
Deseree “continues to bring accessibility work to the forefront, strengthening her own skills through training and connecting with others doing accessibility work in the Libraries and on campus,” according to Julie Rudder, the head of repository services, and Lisa Gregory, the program coordinator for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. “Deseree’s leadership in operationalizing accessibility has been an example for us and has helped demonstrate that the Libraries considers accessibility a priority.”
Kerry Bannen, Jay Mangum, Brian Paulson, John Loy, Melanie Meets, Andrew Crook and Dan Hockstein, archival digitization employees
This cross-departmental team of archival digitization employees received the award for excellence in customer service in recognition of their commitment to providing Library users with an optimal experience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response.
On March 17, 2020, Kerry Bannen was one of the last remaining staff onsite, working to scan manuscripts so that employees could take them home to transcribe. Just four months later, all digitization staff began onsite shifts to cover digitization requests, which increased in volume because of the pandemic. These included audio digitization requests, as well as film, video and commercial audio digitization orders. At the same time, the group continued work to preserve and digitize historical documents in partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.
“[They] remained committed to serving patrons and staff alike, meeting the challenges that come with the Digital First Model we now consider an established initiative,” according to Erika Titkemeyer, the associate head of repository services. “Through their dedicated work, they continue to play a key role in the growing number of preserved and accessible collections at Carolina.”
Sarah Carrier, NC Research and instructional librarian
The award for inclusive excellence went to Sarah Carrier for her commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the development of research guides, teaching, and contributions to mission-central projects including On the Books, the Primary Sources Teaching Fellowship, the Black and Blue Tour, and the student-curated exhibition program.
Carrier has created and maintains more research guides than any other individual at Wilson Library. Her guides provide accessible pathways to research on historically underrepresented groups in North Carolina, major moments in state history, and historical figures like George Moses Horton and Omar ibn Said. Because they prioritize accessibility and clarity, they make important contemporary research on these subjects possible for researchers of all kinds.
Emily Kader, the associate curator for the Rare Book Collection, and University Archivist Nicholas Graham wrote that, “as a leader and collaborator on all these projects, Sarah has brought her unequaled expertise and her unfailing commitment to dismantling bias and making the Libraries more diverse, equal, inclusive, and accessible for students, researchers, and users.”
Cynthia Cowan, Dara Elmore and Jason Dalton, electronic resource support employees
This team received the award for One Library excellence for their work answering questions and addressing problems associated with accessing electronic resources. The idea of One Library represents the University Libraries’ commitment to creating a connected and unified staff that eliminates silos and communicates with one another to optimize the user experience across the entire library system.
As the pandemic moved research and teaching to an almost-exclusively online space, Cowan, Elmore and Dalton handled an increased volume of urgent support messages and worked to ensure that user-facing interfaces reflected access changes.
“Their unflagging commitment to their work and their willingness to continue showing up when the world turned upside down and stayed that way with no end in sight, directly contributed to our users’ ability to access the content they needed during a global pandemic,” according to Erika Ripley, the resource acquisitions and management librarian, and Megan Kilb, the e-resources librarian. “They were the unsung superstars behind the library quickly working to restore lost access or expanding existing access to a reading that an online class desperately needed.