UT Libraries Celebrates Staff and Campus Partners During Annual Spirit Awards Ceremony
May 25, 2023

The UT Libraries held its 34th annual Libraries Spirit Awards ceremony on May 24. As Dean of Libraries Steve Smith told the gathering, the yearly breakfast is an opportunity to “recognize and express our appreciation to just a few of the Libraries’ exceptional staff members and student workers.”

A committee of library staff members selects the winners from among those individuals nominated by their library colleagues.

The Undergraduate and Graduate Student Awards are presented to student workers in recognition of their important role and valuable contributions to the libraries. Jantson Hundley (the Studio), winner of the Undergraduate Student Award, was acclaimed one of the most attentive, friendly, and customer-oriented student employees we have ever had in the Studio. He is very attentive to detail and an excellent communicator. He exemplifies what an outstanding student employee can be in the libraries.”

Bokeium Yeom with Dean of Libraries Steve Smith

Graduate Student Award winner Bokeium Yeom (Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Library) received her nominator’s accolades for being “a self-starter … reliable, always willing to help out in whatever ways she can” and was noted for making “incredible contributions to Pendergrass and UT Libraries.”

Onyx Bard (Collection Logistics) was this year’s recipient of the Red and Theresa Howse and Jim and Betty Papageorge Library Scholarship, which provides tuition assistance to an outstanding student library worker who is currently enrolled at UT. Bard, who, among numerous responsibilities, pages materials to fulfill document delivery and interlibrary loan requests, was cited for a “high standard of providing research materials in a timely manner” and bringing “a high degree of professionalism to their dealings with patrons.”

Hannah Wallace with Steve Smith

The Paul E. Trentham Sr. Library Partner Award is given to members of the UT Knoxville campus community who have made a positive and substantial impact on the UT Libraries. According to library staff members on the 6th floor of Hodges Library, Hannah Wallace (Facilities Services) “is not only an amazing individual, but she is always available to help out if there’s an issue on our floor that needs resolving. She is friendly and wants us to have a clean work environment. She takes pride in her work and it is obvious.… Anytime we need help she is there for us!”

The Library Partner Award also was conferred on Laura Knight (Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering) for her passionate support of Big Orange STEM Saturday, an annual conference hosted by the UT Libraries for high school students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math majors and careers. She was commended as “an excellent ambassador to promote the library’s impact to the larger community,” as well as expanding the library’s connectedness on campus.

The Special Collections and Facilities team with Steve Smith

The Paul E. Trentham Sr. Teamwork Award is presented to members of a department, team, or other group who have contributed to the Libraries by completing a project that had a significant impact on the Libraries’ collections, facilities, services, or systems. This year, two special projects warranted presentation of the Teamwork Award. A team of employees from across three departments tackled a large-scale book shifting project to make room for incoming collections. Hoskins Library would have been out of space to store collections had it not been for the work of: Jennifer Beals, Sara Corso, Bill Eigelsbach, Maggie Greenisen, Kyle Hovious, Laura Romans, and Alex Sabau from Special Collections; William De Leonardis, Caleb Fogler, Julie Loving, and William Thompson from Collections Logistics; and Jonathan Dennison and Tyler Schlandt from Facilities. In the span of a single week, this team moved 7,800 linear feet of collections (averaging around 175 boxes an hour) and deaccessioned (or removed from the collection) 6.5 tons of material. Their efforts created 3,000 linear feet of growth space at Hoskins.

The BOSS team with the dean

Another team works each year to plan and present a unique experience for high schoolers who attend Big Orange STEM Saturday. The community outreach event continues to see increased participation from students as well as area businesses and organizations, thanks to the efforts of the BOSS team: Izabella Alexander, Michelle Brannen, Val Hodge, Thura Mack, Christy Urquieta Cortes, and Megan Venable. The team has forged highly successful strategic partnerships — for instance, co-planning recent events with the Pre-College Upward Bound CAPS Programs, thus assuring that college-bound low-income and first-generation students are registered and bussed to campus to attend the conference.

Joshua Ortiz Baco with the dean

The Rookie of the Year Award goes to a new library faculty or staff member who has demonstrated initiative, creativity, and the ability to make significant contributions to the Libraries within their first three years. According to the library colleague who proposed the winning candidate, the recipient of this award “hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since.” As someone who is new to the library profession, Joshua Ortiz Baco (Scholars’ Collaborative) spent a great deal of time developing personal connections with library colleagues, learning about library services and his responsibilities as a faculty member and subject librarian, and reaching out to campus faculty to offer his services as a new resource for digital scholarship.

The Unsung Hero Award honors a faculty or staff member who performs essential work but often works quietly and unrecognized, behind-the-scenes. Julie Loving (Collections Logistics) consistently goes above and beyond, tracking down difficult or incomplete citations that arrive as interlibrary loan requests. Her tenacity at tracking down and correcting inaccurate citations has not gone unnoticed. Her nominator writes, “I could imagine if we had sent out some of the citations she’s addressed, other libraries would have simply sent them back to us with a simple ‘bad citation’ note.” Instead, “Our partner libraries have expressed their own thanks for that information.”

Louis Becker, center, with Smith and Lillian Mashburn of the John C. Hodges Society Advisory Board

Lillian Mashburn, a former UT Knoxville administrator and a current member of the John C. Hodges Society Advisory Board, presented the Library Society Service Endowment Award for Extraordinary Customer Service. The award goes to a UT Libraries faculty or staff member who is consistently optimistic and shows extraordinary initiative in customer service (customers being defined broadly as library patrons, library staff, or other members of the campus community). In collecting, analyzing, and reporting library assessment data, our Extraordinary Customer Service Award winner Louis Becker (Assessment Programs and Collection Strategy) provides customer service to librarians, the Provost’s Office, and representatives of accrediting bodies. He is sensitive of others’ time, open to new suggestions, and always seeking to improve the way the Libraries represents its value.

Joe Ferguson with the dean

The Paul M. and Marion T. Miles Innovation Award is given in recognition of creative thinking that has improved the Libraries’ internal efficiency and services to the public. Joe Ferguson (Enterprise Systems) worked tirelessly to build a homegrown ordering system that now allows library staff to submit and track purchase orders that fall outside the purview of our commercial vendors. His ingenuity in building this system is saving valuable time for library employees and is enabling us to get resources into the hands of our patrons with greater efficiency.

Will Veale accepts his award

The Outstanding Staff Member Award is presented to a member of the Libraries staff who serves with dedication and a commitment to excellence — often going above and beyond expectations to provide service to students, faculty, and staff. This year’s winner, Will Veale (Technology Infrastructure), is dependable, skilled, and always willing to stop what he is doing to assist others with their technology needs. He takes care to make sure that the people he helps are satisfied. He does a fantastic job of maintaining the e-sports lab, accessibility lab, Map and GI workstations, and helping users all over the library. He has been described as “not only outstanding but an exemplary staff member.”

Elyssa Gould with the dean

The award for Outstanding Faculty Member honors the efforts and achievements of a library faculty member who has demonstrated a continuous commitment to excellence in professional performance, research, scholarship, creative activity, public service, and the educational vision of the UT Libraries. Winning faculty member Elyssa Gould (Acquisitions and Continuing Resources) regularly writes and presents on topics related to her area of expertise, and is a frequent collaborator with others, both at UT and beyond. She is currently serving a term on UT’s Faculty Senate. Beyond all of that, she leads a team that does essential work for the Libraries, doing so with vision, dedication, strength, and understanding. She is a vocal supporter of her team and is always looking for ways to bolster them, professionally and otherwise.

Samantha Ward accepts her award

The Paul E. Trentham Sr. Dean’s Award for Excellence in Professional Performance is presented to an employee who has made significant contributions to the Libraries over a period of years or recently contributed to a special effort or project on the Libraries’ behalf. This year’s recipient, Samantha Ward (Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Library), has a great relationship with the community she serves. Faculty and administrators at the Institute of Agriculture and the College of Veterinary Medicine are comfortable reaching out to her for assistance. This past year she met bi-weekly with leadership from the College of Veterinary Medicine to discuss how best to serve students who were impacted by construction of the Teaching and Learning Center literally right outside the doors of Pendergrass Library. This past year, she also was asked to serve on the executive committee for the Libraries’ strategic visioning process, being tasked with interviewing campus leaders to gain their insights and their vision for the future of the libraries. Her nomination noted that she is “a wonderful colleague, boss, and friend. She does not seek recognition for her work, but quietly leads by example.”