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October 20, 2010

Cynthia Carlton earns library’s 2010 Messinger Award

Cynthia Carlton

As head of the River Campus Libraries team that supports everything from the online catalog servers to the libraries’ mobile Web site, Cynthia Carlton is an expert at networking complex computer systems.

But it’s her talent for networking with people that has won her the admiration of her coworkers and earned her the 2010 Messinger Library Recognition Award. The honor, created and funded by life trustee Martin Messinger ’49, includes a $5,000 prize.

“She has helped to break down the silo between public services and information technology,” says Nora Dimmock, head of the digital humanities and multimedia center. “She is really wonderful about getting everyone’s perspective and making sure that the solutions fit.”

Carlton says computer administrators traditionally have worked behind the scenes keeping applications running. “If people don’t know who you are, then generally you’re doing your job,” she jokes.

But Carlton believes it’s important to get up from the keyboard and spend time connecting with library staff to understand how computer applications are being used and what needs remain unmet. That give-and-take between the computer experts and other library staff, she says, makes both more productive.

Carlton places a high priority on introducing all kinds of digital tools to nontechnical staff members. She has offered regular sessions on emerging technologies, from Twitter to blogging to setting up a home wireless network. “I don’t feel like technology is this difficult, elusive thing to learn,” she says.

That can-do spirit makes her a favorite on working groups. “She never says, ‘I don’t know how to do it’; she says, ‘I’ll find out how,’” says Dimmock.

That’s just what she did last year when the library had only one month to get a mobile Web site for smart phones launched before students arrived in the fall, says Mike Bell, assistant dean for information technology. The library’s software designers were booked with other projects, so Carlton and a small team stepped in, learned the required programming, and met the deadline. “She is amazingly versatile,” says Bell.

And a lot of fun. By all accounts, Carlton wins the prize for unique Halloween costumes at the libraries’ annual Scare Fair. Her personal favorite was a homemade alien outfit complete with blinking eyeballs and a silver helmet. “If you can’t have fun, what’s the point?” she says.
The annual Messinger Award honors contributions that advance the educational mission of the library or the library profession. Previous Messinger awardees include Suzanne Bell, librarian for economics and data and administrator for the University’s institutional repository (UR Research); Sally Roche, the libraries’ facilities manager; and Ann Marshall, subject librarian for the political sciences.  

A longtime supporter of the libraries, Messinger funded the 1998 restoration of the periodical reading room, the 2005 renovation of the reference and circulation desk area, and the creation of two graduate student study rooms, which were both dedicated in May 2010. The Messinger family also supports the Center for Jewish Studies, the Debate Union, and the Eastman School, where the family funded the building containing the Eastman Community Music School and dedicated it in memory of Anne Waltuck Messinger.

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