2024 University Libraries Awards recognize outstanding employee contributions

photo collage of 13 individual photo portraits with 2 white men 10 white women 1 woman of color

Penn State University Libraries’ 2024 employee award recipients are (top row from left): Sneha Susan Kallinkal, Lori Lysiak, Andrew Marshall, Deb Martin; (bottom row) Brett Spencer, Ruth Kitchin Tillman, Leigh Tinik and members of the Rankism Solutions Community of Practice (top row Jon Wallace, Teresa Slobuski; middle row Linda Sanchez, Jackie Dillon-Fast; bottom row Dawn Amsberry, Meg Massey). 

Credit: Penn State University Libraries photo collage

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries recognized 12 outstanding faculty and staff on Thursday, April 11, from among its more than 500 employees. Faculty and staff based at the Penn State Altoona, Berks, Brandywine, Greater Allegheny, University Park and York campuses were recognized. Faye Chadwell, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, presided over an awards ceremony to continue a tradition of recognizing employees that spans at least 50 years.

Andrew Marshall, head librarian, J. Clarence Kelly Library, Penn State Greater Allegheny, received the 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.

Marshall began his employment with the Libraries 25 years ago in the circulation department at University Park and progressed through roles of increasing responsibility before moving to the Greater Allegheny campus. In addition to serving as chair of the Library Faculty Organization, Marshall is actively engaged at Greater Allegheny on several committees, the Chancellor’s Leadership Team and the Curricular Affairs Committee of the campus Faculty Senate. “Andrew is a born librarian: inquisitive, innovative, curious, humble and humorous,” wrote a supporter. “He is also a born leader. I appreciate his ability to put those around him at ease, his capacity to bring out the best in his peers and his unwavering interest in serving and improving our organization.”

Deb Martin, library services associate, Lee R. Glatfelter Library, Penn State York, and Leigh Tinik, analysis and planning consultant, Library Assessment, received the Shirley J. Davis Staff Excellence Award. Named for a former employee who assisted the Libraries’ 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.

Martin joined the Glatfelter Library staff in 2016. Her nominator described her as dedicated and flexible. “She is always willing to adjust her schedule to accommodate the needs of the library, whether it’s opening or closing or working on weekends,” the nominator wrote. “Her willingness to go the extra mile ensures the smooth operation of library services.”

Martin provides guidance and support to student employees, helping them thrive in their roles and encouraging their professional development. “She has a keen eye for hard work and dedication and understands the importance of recognition and appreciation,” wrote her nominator. “Her actions inspire others to create a work environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated for their contributions.”

Tinik has demonstrated commitment and expertise in helping library researchers with their investigatory needs, from methodological support to data requests and analysis. “Leigh has helped new researchers successfully navigate the Internal Review Board (IRB) process, giving them confidence that the hurdle of the IRB review is manageable,” said her nominator.

In addition to her regular responsibilities, she has served as secretary of the Libraries Staff Advisory Council and on several ad hoc committee assignments. “Leigh is the epitome of the person you want on your work team, as your neighbor, or as that family member who interjects fun and quiet mischief into interminably long family gatherings,” said a supporter. “She is quick witted, strategic, compassionately pragmatic and willing to give a hand up to all to help everyone succeed.”

Ruth Kitchin Tillman, Sally W. Kalin Librarian for Technological Innovations, Cataloging and Metadata Services, 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. 

Tillman has made dramatic improvements to the Libraries catalog by implementing user-focused enhancements such as persistent URLs for catalog records and a seamless integration with the interlibrary loan system. “Her work has simplified patrons’ access to resources and markedly enhanced their overall experience with our catalog,” wrote her nominator, who praised her collaborative and team-oriented approach.

A supporter noted her commitment to social justice as evidenced by her publications and projects involving labor equity and ethics. Tillman serves on the Libraries’ first-level promotion and tenure committee and chairs a Big Ten Academic Alliance interest group investigating a tool for use in analyzing library collections, and has previously served on ad hoc and search committees. “Ruth’s compassion, empathy and collegiality are at the heart of her work,” said the supporter.

Brett Spencer, reference and instruction librarian, Berks Thun Library, Penn State Berks, received the Diversity Award, which recognizes extraordinary commitment and/or contributions to enhancing the Libraries’ environment of mutual respect for differing backgrounds and points of view as well as those who have championed the causes of diversity and climate.

Spencer took a leadership role in creating a sensory space at Thun Library, designed to empower students to manage their sensory needs and preferences in order to optimize their well-being and create a study environment more conducive to learning and growth. The parent of a child on the autism spectrum, Spencer is “passionate about creating a space for all students at the library” and “very sensitive to the needs of neurodivergent students who may have sensory needs,” said his nominator.

He also championed the development of the Social Justice Collection, a browsing monograph collection featuring a variety of viewpoints about promoting human equality, freedom, dignity and the abolition of prejudice. Spencer is active in the campus groups Antiracism Across the Curriculum and the Berks Social Justice Collaborative. He is also a member of the Libraries’ Diversity Community of Advocacy, for which he co-chaired the Accessibility subgroup last year.

Lori Lysiak, reference and instruction librarian, Robert E. Eiche Library, Penn State Altoona, received the University Libraries Teaching Award, which honors a faculty or staff member with a teaching component as part of their primary assignment who has excelled in teaching and/or created an exemplary and innovative instruction program with an emphasis on the past year.

Each year, Lysiak creates an embedded library resource guide for two courses in the Entrepreneurship undergraduate minor, in addition to providing classroom instruction. “Lori teaches students how to navigate the vast array of resources available (and) provides assignments requiring the use of the library database,” said the course instructor. “Without this instruction, students would struggle to access the appropriate resources.”

Another faculty member praised the creative and interactive learning activities Lysiak brings to marketing classes at the campus, such as a card game that integrates artificial intelligence in a way that addresses its responsible use and subsequent citation. “She guides students through the concepts of (innovative technology use and) unveils the implications of artificial intelligence in ethical writing by providing best practices,” said the faculty member. “These skills are integral to students’ success as they navigate increasingly swift and significant advances in technology.”

The members of the Rankism Solutions Community of Practice (RSCOP) received the Collaboration/Teamwork Award, given in recognition of a collaboration or team within the University Libraries that substantially benefited the Libraries or Penn State community.

RSCOP is a grassroots peer-to-peer volunteer group of University Libraries employees that emphasizes inclusion, shared language and understanding. Their goal is to help create a good working climate for all Libraries employees by increasing the understanding of rankism and how it is detrimental to the Libraries’ goals and its employees’ well-being. Since its inception in fall 2020, RSCOP has worked to identify, raise awareness of and provide solutions to rankism as an issue within the Libraries. The group has successfully advocated for changes in language, worked to address challenges faced by part-time employees and collaborated with the Libraries’ Diversity Community of Advocacy to establish ground rules for meeting protocols and to develop and present a program on white privilege. RSCOP members are Dawn Amsberry, reference and instruction librarian, Library Learning Services; Jackie Dillon-Fast, supervisor, Dr. Keiko Miwa Ross Global News Center; Teresa Slobuski, head librarian, Penn State Brandywine; Meg Massey, manager, Interlibrary Loan; Jon Wallace, library services specialist, Montague Law Library, Penn State Law; and Linda Sanchez, part-time libraries specialist, Berks Thun Library, Penn State Berks.

Sneha Susan Kallinkal, libraries support staff, Penn State Brandywine, received the Part-Time Employee Excellence Award honoring a colleague who typically works 24 hours or less each week but whose initiative, peer support and outstanding performance have contributed to a positive working environment that has made an impact on the Libraries, colleagues or Penn State community.

Kallinkal was recognized for her positive attitude and willingness to assist in any way necessary. “Sneha goes above and beyond to help the Brandywine Library and responds to correspondence received from other Penn State libraries in a timely fashion,” her nominator wrote. “She helps train student workers and makes sure they are prepared for their shifts. Sneha is a team player and very organized.” Her other contributions include designing signage for library events and revitalizing the library’s social media presence, both of which showcased her creative abilities. “Her proficiency extends to assisting staff and librarians in the creation of visually compelling materials, including posters, flyers and social media posts for our events,” wrote a supporter. “Beyond her role, Sneha plays a pivotal part in cultivating a safe and inclusive environment within the library.”

Selecting recipients of the 2024 Libraries awards from among nominees were members of the University Libraries Awards Committee: Andrew Dudash, librarian for political science, Social Sciences Library, chair; Alexandria Chisholm, reference and instruction librarian, Berks Thun Library, Penn State Berks; Rebekah Hill, music and performing arts librarian, Walter and Doris Goldstein Music and Media Center, George and Sherry Middlemas Arts and Humanities Library; Ally Laird, Open Publishing team lead, Research Informatics and Publishing; Dan Peters, IT consultant, Strategic Technologies; Emily Reed, reference and instruction librarian, Madlyn L. Hanes Library, Penn State Harrisburg; Heather Ross, map specialist, Donald W. Hamer Center for Maps and Geospatial Information; and Scott Wagner, part-time libraries specialist, Berks Thun Library, Penn State Berks.

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