Last week, nine state employees were honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, and two from UNCG were among them: Tim Bucknall, assistant dean of University Libraries and UNCG’s head of electronic resources and information technologies, and Ann Berry Somers, senior lecturer of biology and assistant director of the Environment and Sustainability Program in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Sustainability.

The Governor’s Award for Excellence is the highest honor a state employee may receive for dedicated service to the state and the people of North Carolina and recognizes accomplishments and actions that are outside of the usual scope of their job duties.

Governor’s Award for Excellence winner Tim Bucknall

Tim Bucknall and colleagues at the Governor’s Award for Excellence ceremony

Tim Bucknall is the inventor of Journal Finder, the first open URL link resolver and knowledge base in the United States, which changed how libraries across the nation provided access to journals and e-resources and vastly improved their ability to facilitate academic research.

Bucknall is also founder and convener of the Carolina Consortium, which allows more than 180 member libraries in North and South Carolina to access licensed databases and streaming video resources and subscribe to journal packages with no administrative fees and a cost avoidance of $398 million. The Consortium brings resources to around 800,000 students across the Carolinas.

“Tim is a real leader in innovation,” said Christine Fisher, head of Technical Services at UNCG. “He saw a need that wasn’t being filled, where institutions were not familiar with negotiating with vendors and publishers. They had a need to try to get resources at a reasonable cost that was sustainable over time. So, with his negotiating skills he worked with companies to get affordable deals that were suited to various sizes of institutions.”

In addition to his work toward Journal Finder and the Carolina Consortium, Bucknall negotiated an eBook deal with a publisher to make 21,000 titles available to all the UNC System libraries.

Bucknall’s honors include being named the Association of College & Research Libraries Academic Research Librarian of the Year, being selected as one of the top Movers and Shakers nationally by Library Journal, and receiving the North Carolina Library Association Resources and Technical Services Section Significant Achievement Award.

“I’ve been blessed with working with such a really talented group of individuals on so many different levels and in so many different ways,” Bucknall said. “Not just at UNCG but in the UNC System and across North Carolina and South Carolina. You can’t create a group and work with a group and lead a group if people aren’t willing to work with you. It’s just been an absolute blessing.”

Governor’s Award for Excellence winner Ann Berry Somers

Ann Berry Somers and colleague Bruce Kirchoff at the Governor’s Award for Excellence ceremony

Ann Berry Somers is recognized for her tremendous impact in raising awareness about North Carolina’s natural wildlife diversity.

At UNCG, Somers is known for her extraordinary hands-on study abroad courses in Costa Rica with the Sea Turtle Conservancy and at Little Cayman Island with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, where the students focus on coral reef conservancy. The first winner of the Conservation Hero award from UNCG’s Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, Somers developed seven courses that have an environmental service component and provided more than 21,000 hours of public service.

Across the state, Somers is now known for providing access to STEM education for a diverse population of young people, for wildlife conservation, and for her overall service to North Carolina. Much of that work is through programs she created with the HERP Project, which introduces middle and high school students from across North Carolina to hands-on herpetology research and citizen science.

“One of my goals is to provide an environment in which people can improve their rapport with the natural world and have experiences that will make them advocates for protection of the natural world,” said Somers. “Once a kid learns how to catch a wild snake and handle it gently, and release it calmly with no harm to the child or the animal, they become advocates for wildlife for life.”

Somers spent 23 years serving on the Non-Game Wildlife Advisory Committee of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. For decades she has mobilized volunteers to survey and monitor reptiles and amphibians for conservation and sustainability programs, such as for the Box Turtle Connection, a 100-year project which now has 32 sites across North Carolina. For the past 12 years, she has chaired the group, overseeing efforts to collect more than $1 million in matching federal funds as they amass one of the largest box turtle databases in the world.

In 2019, Somers was named the recipient of two additional state-level awards: the Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award and the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research (NCBAR) Distinguished Teaching Award.

Somers’ colleague Dr. Bruce Kirchoff, who nominated her for the Governor’s Award, said about her work at UNCG: “Anne was always an advocate for reorganizing our courses and saying the environment should be first. We should start with the whole – it’s just the way she’s looked at everything that she’s done. Anne’s a wonderful person who has lived and put into action all of her beliefs.”

See the videos of the two UNCG award winners below:

Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, and courtesy of the Governor’s Award for Excellence
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications