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I Am MLA: Kristine M. Alpi, AHIP

Submitted by Kristine M. Alpi, AHIP; edited by JJ Pionke

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Institution: OHSU Library, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)–Portland

Title: University Librarian

Brief description of responsibilities

I lead a team of library staff at a public academic health sciences center who are committed to impacting local, regional, and global health through providing direct service to clinicians, researchers, educators, and learners; teaching and mentoring future practitioners; and building collections and environments that inspire and support OHSU members and the community. My primary responsibilities are engaging with all of OHSU to understand their needs and aspirations and making sure library staff have the resources to do their work effectively and share their own research and best practices in their communities of practice.

Why is MLA important to you?

The people who are part of MLA, the members and the staff, are my professional family. I have been a member of MLA my entire career, starting as a library school student when I was encouraged to join by my hospital library internship mentor and the team of health sciences librarians co-teaching the medical librarianship course I took at Indiana University. Through formal continuing education courses, quiet guidance from MLA staff liaisons to committees and juries on which I have served, collaborative research projects, and caring conversations with MLA members who became colleagues and often friends, MLA contributed tremendously to who I am as a professional and person.

What was your first library job or first professional position?

My first professional position was as librarian/search analyst at Wishard Health Services, a Level 1 Trauma Center and public hospital in Indianapolis, next door to Indiana University’s School of Medicine and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital. I have always considered myself a hospital librarian first. Wishard was also home to the Regenstrief Institute, where I was exposed early to health informatics and joined that professional community through my career-long membership in the American Medical Informatics Association, where I am currently chair-elect of their Education Working Group.

What has been the most interesting project you have worked on?

The most interesting project I have worked on is probably the project that a team of us in MLA are working on now about the impact of COVID-19 on library resource sharing practices. This is the largest team of researchers from different locations and stages in their library careers that I have ever convened and perhaps the most high-profile, timely topic. It’s been a growth opportunity for me to figure out how to support collaborators who don’t work at my institution and have their own priorities and goals for their research. I am learning a lot as we work through this, and I hope that MLA members will participate when our team’s data collection requests come to your inboxes.

What do you consider to be the most pressing issues or trends in librarianship?

I consider the most pressing issues or trends in librarianship to be economic for both librarians and libraries. The first is that in most areas where health sciences libraries are located, the salaries we offer entry-level librarians are barely living wages for librarians living in single-person households. In general, our profession does not pay well enough for people considering our profession to justify indebting themselves to earn the master’s degree required for our positions. The other economic issue is that library budgets do not keep pace with either the annual profit increases expected by our vendors or the cost of living inflationary increases needed to maintain our staff. Library managers are always negotiating and making tradeoffs since there is never enough money to have a win-win situation for all involved parties, and this is only going to be worse for the next few years of global recovery.

Bucket list

My bucket list includes learning Russian, which is a language that my eighty-three-year old father studied in college. I was never able to find the time to take Russian classes, but Portland has a very large Russian community and lots of Russian language exposure opportunities. When Portland Community College switched to online only courses this spring, I was finally able to make the commitment to enroll, and I will be excited to greet my Russian-speaking MLA colleagues when we return to in-person meetings.

What do you do in your spare time?

I have loved horses my entire life but have never been able to have my own. I try to make time each week to take a riding lesson, which lets me enjoy hanging out with horses and continue to be a learner. I love being a student, but having finished my doctorate (PhD) in 2018, it is very nice to be in a guided, fun environment with no required end point for the learning.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being selected by my peers to be the president-elect of MLA. It was a transition for me personally to move across the country to become the university librarian at OHSU. When I was nominated to run for office, I was not sure that I had the capacity to do the work to represent all of you in MLA and do everything else to which I was committed. The faith that MLA members put into voting for me and the MLA Board members makes me proud to represent our profession and want to do a great job serving you.

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