Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders: From NLM Associate Fellow to Health Sciences Library Director

Meet other library leaders who were once NLM associate fellows: Kris Alpi, Lori E. Harris, Shannon Jones, Stephen Kiyoi, Mellanye Lackey, Anne Linton, Catherine B. Soehner, and Tanner Wray.

Alison E. Rollins | 2006-2007 Associate

casual headshot of Alison RollinsCurrent position

Director, James A. Zimble Learning Resource Center
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

When did you become director?

I was promoted to the Director of the James A. Zimble Learning Resource Center in October 2017.

What was the career path that led to your current position?

I was introduced to the James A. Zimble Learning Resource Center (LRC) as part of my second year in the Fellowship Program. I was hired as the LRC’s Reference & Instruction librarian. After a few years, I was promoted to Head of Reference & ILL. When our Director retired in April 2017, I served as Interim Director until I was formally promoted in October.

What is your educational background? Or additional training?

I received my bachelors from Earlham College in both English and Biology. Evan Farber’s legacy at Earlham meant that I was exposed to an embedded library curriculum in almost all my introductory classes, and our professors encouraged graduates to consider libraries in their career plans. After graduating from Earlham, I attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. There I earned a Master in Library Science and a Masters in Information Science, as well as having the opportunity to work with Gary Wiggins to learn about chemistry libraries and earn a certificate in Chemical Information Sources.

What are your top three priorities now?

  1. Integration of library instruction in the curriculum. From PubMed to EBM, I want to make sure that students graduate with an understanding of how to locate, evaluate, and manage quality medical information.
  2. Meeting the changing needs of the library’s patrons, be it with bibliometric services, providing online textbooks, or distance education. This requires adapting our services, changing the products we provide, and updating what we teach.
  3. Keeping the library relevant and alive to our faculty, students, staff, and leadership.

What did you learn as an Associate Fellow that you use in your position as director today?

  • The workings of a Modern Medical Library: The Associate Fellowship program provided me with a model for how medical libraries work, network, and innovate.
  • Dare to Innovate: While I was a fellow, I learned about new services and products being developed at NLM. Even more importantly, I could observe the national impact that a small office can spearhead.
  • A Network to Inspire: The leaders I met and practical project partners I worked with introduced me to an incredible network of knowledgeable, innovative, and insightful leaders.
  • My cohort is a treasure: brilliant, inspiring people who are peers and colleagues, but also friends, advisors, and supporters. I look forward to every MLA as a chance to visit with them.

Every library director has a journey from fresh MLS/MIS/MLIS graduate to director, filled with uncertainty and a few wrong turns, but the Associate year at NLM is like being given a roadmap. By the end of the year, you may not know the leadership of your local RML on first-name terms, but you know who they are and where to find them. You’re still learning about the “new frontiers” for medical libraries, but you know the direction things are going. And you may not know what new journals will be added to MEDLINE next year, but you know how they’re selected.

Without the Associate program, I think it would have taken me another decade to learn the landscape of medical libraries well enough to dare to be a director.

previous page next page

2 thoughts on “Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders: From NLM Associate Fellow to Health Sciences Library Director

  1. Impressive education, indeed. And some ignorant people might say that being a librarian is nothing special. Truly impressive range of knowledge.

  2. Thank you so much for commenting, Robert. We agree with you! Please keep reading NLM in Focus. Later this month we’ll be featuring NLM associate fellows from 10 years ago.

Comments are closed.