Munill makes sure books all over the world are within reach

L.A. Cicero Mary-Louise Munill

Mary-Louise Munill, interlibrary borrowing specialist, helps faculty acquire books from libraries near and far.

Mary-Louise Munill is the professor's library card to the world. Whether the material is on a shelf in Cairo or just across the bay at Cal, Munill can quickly track down the item's location and request that it be sent to Stanford.

As the interlibrary borrowing specialist at Green Library, Munill said most of her requests are from faculty in the humanities—although she occasionally fields requests when her counterparts in the libraries at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the Graduate School of Business or other schools can't. Green's interlibrary loan staff also includes those who lend out materials and handle shipping and receiving; Munill's job is to request items from libraries worldwide.

The Internet and digital technology have made most orders as simple as sending an e-mail. But there are other twists that require Munill's diligence—for instance, when a professor needed the proceedings of an earthquake conference several years ago. There were only two copies in existence, and one was just over at UC-Berkeley.

However, the material was kept in the reference area of an earthquake center and could not be checked out. So Munill had to borrow the copy belonging to the national library of Singapore, where the conference was held.

It's a different story when something is kept in the general stacks, where it can be borrowed widely. But when a Stanford faculty member requested a 17th-century book that Princeton University kept in its library stacks, Munill wasn't completely convinced that her East Coast peers would actually pop the precious item in the mail.

The book came, and Munill immediately put it in the Special Collections department so it would not leave the building. "I don't know if it was sheepskin or what," said Munill, recalling the thickness of the pages and the book's elegant binding. "Now I tell myself never say never."

That kind of dedication is what convinced the award's selection committee that Munill deserved the honor this year. A reception for her and Brian Carilli, associate director of facilities and planning in the School of Engineering, will be held today in the Faculty Club beginning at 4 p.m. Each will receive a $3,000 cash prize.

The award, sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Research, recognizes staff who go above and beyond their everyday duties in support of Stanford's research mission. Only faculty may nominate candidates for the award, which honors Marshall O'Neill, former associate director of the W. W. Hansen Laboratories. O'Neill was the first recipient of the award when he retired in 1990.

For a book on 16th-century French poet Maurice Scéve, Assistant Professor Cécile Alduy had to search rare editions, check hundreds of critical works and read all articles and books devoted to the poet for an extensive annotated bibliography with more than 900 entries.

"The book is coming out this month, and I would never have been able to complete this work at Stanford in a record time of less than two years without the interlibrary loan service," Alduy wrote in her nomination. "In particular, Mary Munill went out of her way for each of the more than 70 requests I posted."

Munill came to Stanford in 1998 as a specialist in Green Library's current periodicals and microtext department. A month before she was hired, Munill enrolled in San Jose State University's master's degree program in library and information science, which she completed in about five years.

"It's very overwhelming to be recognized," Munill said. "It's an interesting field to be in, and the network of libraries is wonderful—and so are my colleagues. I certainly don't do this in a vacuum."