Alex Japha and Lisa McColl honored with the 21-22 Louis & Helen Zirkel Library Staff Award

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2022 Zirkel Award winners Alex Japha on the left and Lisa McColl on the right. Alex is holding special collections materials under his right arm with scanning equipment behind him and Lisa is sitting in front of a full book case.

We are happy to announce that Alex Japha, Digital Archives and Special Collections Librarian in Lehigh Libraries, Special Collections, and Lisa McColl, Metadata Services Manager for Library Technical Services, were recently honored with the 2021-2022 Louis & Helen Zirkel Library Staff Award, established to recognize outstanding performance and service by a member of the exempt or nonexempt staff of the university libraries.

Alex Japha was recognized for his work in support of scholarly research and Special Collections' digital technology. Alex has been instrumental in leading the digitization of numerous collections that span the entirety of Lehigh’s history, including the just-completed digitization of over 100 years of the Lehigh Bulletin, post-2008 Epitome yearbooks, 4,500+ negative photographs, faculty meeting minutes, and Lehigh home football programs. In addition to providing technical support to colleagues and faculty seeking historical library collections and managing work-study students engaged in description and digitization, he continued to support University web archiving and migrating digital content to Islandora – all the while pivoting back from a remote learning environment to on-site library instruction and services.

When campus conditions allowed in the fall, Alex jumped feet first into the work-study applicant pool, hiring, training, and mentoring a record number of student interns who have the opportunity for experiential learning in the Libraries. While interns tackled projects ranging from digitization to metadata creation, Alex’s patience and commitment to working with students were unparalleled. This year he coached students who built capacity (and their resumes) by presenting open “popup sessions” on the topics of Halloween, Spirit Week, and photographic negatives to the Lehigh community. In addition, his facility with a document camera brought centuries of library content to students to give them the experience of working with rare materials. Using and adapting images from the library’s collections to promote Library exhibits is another of Alex’s strengths. For example, he flexed his creative muscle by designing exhibition posters and promotional material for the “Visit Imaginary Places!” popular exhibit. This most welcome topic provided the Lehigh community and beyond with an opportunity for respite and relaxation as virtual (and eventually on-site). 

Lisa McColl was recognized this year as a dedicated professional and an empowering library leader who has contributed to the many innovations of the Lehigh Libraries and the profession. For example, Lisa became a member of the recently created College of Health Data Team to investigate and manage data policies, data management, and interoperability on Lehigh’s campus. In addition, Lisa collaborated with librarians and technologists around the world and served as a subject matter expert (SME) for the Future of Libraries Is Open (FOLIO) project, an open source library management platform implemented by Lehigh Libraries in 2020, after a decade of co-development. FOLIO, a community-owned project, allows for more flexibility in managing library resources’ full lifecycle and greater interoperability with other campus systems and applications.

Over the past year, Lisa has led the Cataloging and Metadata Team through many changes and challenges. The small but dedicated team managed to successfully complete numerous complex projects that provide seamless access to the Library's electronic and print collections and other national and vendor-provided databases in the ASA Catalog. Lisa’s unique abilities in combining scalable automation routines and tools together with meticulous and itemized enhancement of records allow her team to successfully manage a growing campus demand for such services.  For example, despite the challenges of the pandemic, Lisa spearheaded the integration and creation of metadata from the LUAG reference library adjacent to the Main Gallery in Zoellner Arts Center. With Lisa's expertise and team leadership, the Library was able to catalog over 2,000 books and publications, now completely accessible and used daily by Lehigh students, faculty, and the public. More recently, Lisa and Alex, and an intern, also managed a project to provide enriched access points to LUAG’s Exhibition Catalogs.

Please join us in congratulating Alex and Lisa for their achievements and award-- and in recognizing our exceptional staff for their work in advancing research and scholarship at Lehigh and beyond.

A full list of 21-22 awards can be found on Lehigh News.

Sincerely,

Greg Reihman, Vice Provost for Library and Technology Services
Lois Black, Curator of Special Collections
Boaz Nadav-Manes, University Librarian
Sharon Wiles-Young, Director of Library Access Services