University Libraries honors employees with annual awards

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries recognized five outstanding faculty and staff on Tuesday, June 16, from among its more than 500 employees. Faculty and staff based at the Penn State Harrisburg and University Park campuses were recognized. Barbara I. Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, presided over a virtual awards ceremony to continue a tradition of recognizing employees that spans at least 46 years.

Michael J. Ward, business office travel coordinator, received the 2020 Margaret Knoll Spangler Oliver Award. This award, named for a 20-year University Libraries employee, is presented for outstanding service and successful performance of an employee of the University Libraries. 

Ward became a Penn State employee in August 1995 and joined the University Libraries Business Office in 2015. He works with interviewees, presenters and researchers traveling to and from the University Libraries, with both domestic and international itineraries. 

Ward’s nominators recognized his policy expertise and exemplary customer service. One wrote, “Mike’s ability to consistently provide knowledgeable and efficient support in the travel and financial function of the Libraries has allowed us to create a program of global initiatives unrivaled by any other library. As we have been building a new program which includes significant cross-border travel, I have encountered questions and situations that [the] Libraries has not previously had to consider, and Mike has handled all inquiries efficiently using his expertise and experiences with Penn State travel policy and practices.”

Heather Benner, acquisitions services budget analyst and monograph acquisitions supervisor, received the Shirley J. Davis Staff Excellence Award. Named for a former Libraries employee who assisted its directors and deans for more than four decades, the award honors outstanding service of employees who create a nurturing, encouraging and inspiring workplace and demonstrate excellence and professionalism in their field. 

Benner has loved the Libraries since arriving as a work-study student, and has held positions in cataloging, interlibrary loan and fiscal and data services before assuming her current role. 

One nominator wrote, “Heather advised me through the process of establishing new approval plans and managing budgets and endowments for areas that historically have been underrepresented in our collections. Heather’s support for the acquisitions of these materials have been crucial for the improvement and increased diversity of the Libraries’ collections. She not only understands the importance of collections to provide library services across all areas but also provides a vision of how to collaborate within and outside the Libraries by building and maintaining relationships with vendors all over the world. Vendors from Mexico, Brazil and Spain have expressed how much they appreciate Heather’s work and how much this relationship has helped them to provide better and more efficient services to all customers.”

Amy L. Paster, head of the University Libraries’ Life Sciences Library at Pattee Library and Paterno Library, received the University Libraries Award, given to a member of the University Libraries holding an academic or staff appointment who has contributed significantly by his or her performance to the operations of the University Libraries. 

Paster joined the Life Sciences Library in 1985 as a reference librarian and science cataloger. During her career, she was the first academic librarian to be presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the former Food, Agriculture and Nutrition Division of the Special Libraries Association. She also received the United States Agricultural Network’s Service to the Profession Award, and this year, the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative’s Distinguished Service Award. She has served as chair or president of all three divisions or networks and also was elected chair of the Science and Technology Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

One nominator wrote that Paster’s “record of service to the profession is in the top 1% of those I have worked with over the years,” adding, “she has many years of librarianship, and each year she remains committed to making contributions to the profession and mentoring new librarians.” 

Linda Klimczyk, strategic technologies IT manager, received the University Libraries Diversity Award, which rewards extraordinary commitment and/or contributions to enhancing the Libraries’ environment of mutual respect for differing backgrounds and points of view, and recognizes those who have championed the causes of diversity and climate. 

Klimczyk, who began her Libraries career in 1984 in a part-time position, has led or co-led several Libraries diversity- and inclusivity-minded groups, including Libraries’ Speak Up program. It was adopted as a University model, presented at the 2010 National Diversity in the Libraries Conference and published in the journal Library Leadership and Management. She also chaired a strategic action team whose outcomes prompted the formation of both a task force to improve what Klimczyk termed “locationism” — providing colleagues from all locations and all work shifts an opportunity to participate in Libraries activities — as well as a facilitation group to discuss difficult issues like rankism, locationism and racism to improve the Libraries’ work culture. 

In 2001 Klimczyk presented “Separate but (Un)Equal? A Critical Investigation of Disabled Adults’ Access to Online Education” at the national Adult Education Research Conference. One nominator wrote, “I was struck by how early Linda was thinking about the importance of accessibility for online learners,” noting that through her continued advocacy for accessibility, “Linda’s efforts to increase the accessibility of web resources have helped Penn State recruit and retain a diverse student body.”

Emily L. Mross, business reference librarian and outreach coordinator at the Penn State Harrisburg Library, received the University Libraries Teaching Award, which honors an faculty or staff member with a teaching component as part of their primary assignment and who has excelled in teaching and/or created an exemplary and innovative instruction program with an emphasis on the past year. 

Mross joined the Libraries in 2016 at the Penn State Harrisburg Library. Her various programs reach out to students but also build collaborations across the Penn State Harrisburg campus, such as the “Write, Research, Revise” program that assists students with research and works in collaboration with writing tutors from the campus Learning Center. She also co-chairs the Penn State Harrisburg Reads program. Her outreach work recently culminated in the Penn State Harrisburg Library receiving the PA Forward Gold Star award for 2019 from the Pennsylvania Library Association.

One nominator wrote that Mross’s financial literacy instruction also showcases teaching excellence through programs that are “innovative, student-centered and inspiring” to librarians across the state and nationwide, highlighting as one example an inventive  workshop addressing international students’ significant concern about personal finances. “She teamed up with a campus partner that provided conversation opportunities for the students learning English. Knowing that sitcoms are often used as language learning tools, she created a worship that featured clips from popular sitcoms to prompt conversations about money, a first step to building financial literacy.” 

Selecting recipients of the 2020 Libraries awards from among nominees were members of the University Libraries Awards Committee: Eric Novotny, history librarian, chair; Carmen Cole, information sciences and business liaison librarian; Susan Houser, monographs cataloger, chair-elect; Bernadette Lear, reference librarian at the Penn State Harrisburg Library; Torrie Raish, Library Learning Services online learning librarian; Bethann Rea, Preservation, Conservation and Digitization production manager; and Rachel White, Knowledge Commons information resources and services supervisor-manager.

For more information about the University Libraries Awards, contact Wendi Keeler at [email protected].