Show Notes

Release Date: April 24, 2024

In this episode of NNLM Discovery, we follow the educational journey of someone who aspires to become a medical librarian, Kristi Torp, who has worked for multiple NNLM Regions and is currently part of the NLM Associate Fellowship program.

The NNLM is the outreach arm of the National Library of Medicine with the mission to advance the progress of medicine and improve public health by providing all U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information and improving the public's access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health. The seven Health Sciences Libraries function as the Regional Medical Library (RML) for their respective region. 

To learn more about Region 5 visit: https://www.nnlm.gov/about/regions/region5

All of the artwork for this podcast series has been created with a generative AI image-to-image tool! The text prompt for the episode's artwork was “silhouetted diverse medical librarians working on computers helping doctors.”

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Transcript

00;00;04;08 - 00;00;32;02
Yamila El-Khayat
I’m librarian Yamila El-Khayat and this is NNLM Discovery, a podcast from the Network of the National Library of Medicine. This podcast series explores how NNLM is improving the public’s health by communicating in new ways. Today’s episode is, Becoming a Medical Librarian, a story from Region 5. One of our most popular episodes from this podcast series was a story talking about medical librarians, what we do, and why we're important.

00;00;32;04 - 00;00;48;18
Yamila El-Khayat
Today we will follow the educational journey of someone who aspires to become a medical librarian, Kristi Torp, who has worked for multiple NNLM Regions and currently part of the NLM Associate Fellowship, is our guest today. Hi, Kristi!

00;00;48;21 - 00;00;50;28
Kristi Torp
Hi, Yamila. Thanks for having me.

00;00;51;01 - 00;01;03;12
Yamila El-Khayat
It's so great to have you on today. So you don't quite have a traditional career path. Tell me about where you have worked in the past and why this sudden shift in your career to become a librarian?

00;01;03;14 - 00;01;24;16
Kristi Torp
Sure. Well, I had my first child right before I graduated with my undergrad, and I decided to be a stay at home mom, but I always had little side jobs going at the same time. I did some property management at the apartment that we lived in, and that grew into helping some friends and neighbors manage their rental properties for a few years.

00;01;24;19 - 00;01;45;24
Kristi Torp
But eventually I settled on working as a piano teacher, and I really loved that. And then COVID hit and I tried teaching online, but I really didn't like it. And so, like a lot of other people that year, I just re-evaluated my life. I'd always planned on library school, but I just really never got around to it.

00;01;45;26 - 00;02;02;10
Kristi Torp
And then in the summer of 2020, I saw a job for a medical librarian at a new osteopathic college that had opened near me. And it felt like the absolute perfect fit for me. So I applied for library school next week. I was that excited about it.

00;02;02;13 - 00;02;08;20
Yamila El-Khayat
You could have been any type of librarian, Kristi, but I'm curious why a medical librarian?

00;02;08;22 - 00;02;33;06
Kristi Torp
Well, I had always wished I had become a doctor. I did really well in my biology classes in high school. I even did pre-med for a bit during my undergrad years. But I really struggled with chemistry and knew that it just wasn't the right fit. But my library school advisor got me a pass to the Medical Library Association annual conference before my classes even began.

00;02;33;08 - 00;02;37;28
Kristi Torp
And that just really confirmed for me that this was what I wanted to do.

00;02;38;00 - 00;02;40;29
Yamila El-Khayat
So how did you hear about the NNLM?

00;02;41;02 - 00;03;03;16
Kristi Torp
Well, John Bramble, he works for the NNLM Region 4 office. He would attend a lot of our school webinars, and this was in library school, and he was always trying to get students interested in medical librarianship. So I heard him mention the opportunity to do a practicum with him a few times over that first semester, and I finally reached out to him.

00;03;03;16 - 00;03;06;11
Kristi Torp
He had just made it sound so interesting.

00;03;06;13 - 00;03;21;17
Yamila El-Khayat
How cool is that Kristi! I worked with John too. I can see how he pulled you right in. Tell me more about what it was like being a practicum at Region 4. What did you learn and experience at Region 4 that inspired you to keep going down this career path?

00;03;21;19 - 00;03;50;14
Kristi Torp
The practicum was a really neat experience. As you know, NNLM is involved in lots of projects, and that means there's large amounts of collaboration and large amounts of files. So another student and I researched the best practices for organizing and keeping track of all of those files. And in doing so, I got a sneak peek into the different projects that NNLM is involved in, and I was really intrigued.

00;03;50;17 - 00;04;11;16
Kristi Torp
We even presented our findings at the Midcontinental Medical Library Association conference that year, which was terrifying as students, but everyone was really, really kind. And I learned from that that librarians are just the nicest people on the planet. And it just confirmed again that this is the field that I wanted to work in.

00;04;11;18 - 00;04;19;01
Yamila El-Khayat
Aw, Kristi, what a compliment. So after your practicum with Region 4, how did you get involved with Region 5?

00;04;19;03 - 00;04;46;09
Kristi Torp
That was really amazing. I had heard from another NNLM contact at the National Training Office. That Region 5 was looking for a student or a recent graduate to help with a collection development project for the summer, and I love collection development. So I jumped at the opportunity, and I got the position, and I got to spend the summer working on what's called the Diverse Voices in Health and Medicine Collection Development Toolkit.

00;04;46;09 - 00;05;01;09
Kristi Torp
That's a mouthful. So I'll just call it the Diverse Voices Toolkit. It was completed shortly after I graduated with my MLS, and then Region 5 asked me to stay on temporarily to help promote it and participate in some of their other projects.

00;05;01;11 - 00;05;08;05
Yamila El-Khayat
That's impressive. What a cool project to be involved in. So tell me, what were some of the highlights from Region 5?

00;05;08;08 - 00;05;28;01
Kristi Torp
Oh, wow. One of my favorite things was being a member of the NNLM Reading Club. They create themed book club discussion tools for librarians to use so they don't have to do all of that legwork. We did it for them, and that was fun. I learned so much about collection development from the other librarians involved in that.

00;05;28;04 - 00;05;51;12
Kristi Torp
Another highlight is probably just how supportive the Region 5 office is. Everyone there really believed in me and made me feel capable, despite me being just a recent graduate with very little experience. I loved being able to help with the new Collection Equity Awards, which would help expand the Diverse Voices Toolkit. I'm so proud of that project.

00;05;51;12 - 00;05;55;26
Kristi Torp
It was great to work with librarians in the region receiving that award.

00;05;55;28 - 00;06;00;15
Yamila El-Khayat
So we know about the Collection Equity Awards from two previous NNLM Discovery episodes.

00;06;00;15 - 00;06;26;02
Kristi Torp
Yeah, I hope that your listeners who haven't heard about the Collection Equity Awards will go back and listen to those episodes, because these libraries did such innovative work. So after receiving the awards, the participating libraries shared a bibliography with the Region 5 office. It can be really difficult and time consuming to find materials about health topics for historically underrepresented groups.

00;06;26;05 - 00;06;59;01
Kristi Torp
So essentially what we did was we crowdsourced them with these awards. My job was to deduplicate and then help classify all those resources, and then we compiled them into one document, the Diverse Voices Toolkit. So librarians can now use that as a resource to help them find items to diversify their health and medicine collections. And for anyone who's wondering, think about the time period this happened in. This is COVID. Mental health, particularly for historically marginalized people, was the most common topic.

00;06;59;04 - 00;07;10;29
Yamila El-Khayat
So after your time at Region 5, you applied for a Fellowship at NLM. For those listening that aren't familiar with this program, what is the Associate Fellowship Program at NLM?

00;07;11;02 - 00;07;40;27
Kristi Torp
Yeah, the NLM Associate Fellowship program is a one year training for recent library school graduates who are interested in a career in health sciences librarianship. It's so much fun. We have intense learning sessions with librarians and researchers at NLM to learn about all the work and achievements that the National Library of Medicine does, so we learn about collections, terminologies, research and development, outreach, databases.

00;07;40;27 - 00;07;56;19
Kristi Torp
I could keep going. There's a lot. The National Library of Medicine really does more than most of us realize, I think. We also get to select and participate in projects that affect libraries and users throughout the country. So it's really great for professional development too.

00;07;56;21 - 00;08;05;24
Yamila El-Khayat
This is wonderful. I really want listeners to get a good idea of what projects Associate Fellows work on. Give me examples of some of the things you did.

00;08;05;26 - 00;08;29;26
Kristi Torp
Sure. all of the Associate Fellows this year did really different projects. Some did AI, others did outreach. I mostly focused on collection development, so I'll tell you about those ones. I analyzed and gave some recommendations about a selection rubric for the web collecting and archiving group. I also reviewed and recommended some graphic novels for the graphic medicine collection.

00;08;29;28 - 00;08;49;29
Kristi Torp
And that was really exciting because I got to utilize the Diverse Voices toolkit, and that felt really rewarding. And then currently, I'm helping create collection documentation for NLM newest product, the Data Set Catalog, which is envisioned to be like a PubMed for data sets. So it's really cool to be a part of that.

00;08;50;02 - 00;08;57;14
Yamila El-Khayat
I know it's a very competitive program. What did it mean to you personally and professionally to be accepted into this Fellowship?

00;08;57;16 - 00;09;22;27
Kristi Torp
Wow. Well, I know it's a huge professional accomplishment, but it's deeply meaningful to me personally. So a little over six years ago, I was ice skating and I fell and I hit my head pretty hard. I still really don't remember any of it just being in the ER, getting staples in my head. That brain injury left me with some pretty bad short term memory loss.

00;09;22;27 - 00;09;45;01
Kristi Torp
So even things like going grocery shopping became really difficult for me. I had always planned to get my master's degree someday, and after that, it really felt like that dream was dead. I honestly didn't believe I could ever learn anything new, after that. So I got really depressed, and it's hard to ask for help when you feel completely broken like that.

00;09;45;04 - 00;10;02;23
Kristi Torp
But I did, and I was able to get help from a speech therapist and a mental health therapist, and they gave me hope again. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of self-compassion, but after a couple of years, I felt like I had the tools I needed. And, I'd say it's gone pretty well since then.

00;10;02;26 - 00;10;26;01
Kristi Torp
So being an Associate Fellow right now, it's not just feeling that I'm as capable as I was before, but it's more about the power of support in your life. I can do hard things. That's what this means. I can do worthwhile things, but I can do those because there's people around me who believe in me, and that helps me believe in myself.

00;10;26;03 - 00;10;31;22
Kristi Torp
It's hard to put that feeling into words, but it's deeply meaningful.

00;10;31;24 - 00;10;37;24
Yamila El-Khayat
That's such a powerful story. So, Kristi, what are some of the highlights of this fellowship?

00;10;37;27 - 00;11;09;04
Kristi Torp
Yeah, I loved being able to visit the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, and just working closely with librarians on my projects. It's been fun to get to know them. Mostly, though, I've just loved meeting with the people in each branch and division because people are fascinating. Their jobs are so fascinating. Yes, there are scientists here who make imaging tools for cancer screening and other disease detection, and they're brilliant.

00;11;09;04 - 00;11;22;19
Kristi Torp
And I love hearing, even though I may not understand it, I love hearing about the work they do. I'm just so curious about it, and they're so happy to share their knowledge with the Associate Fellows. So it's been a real treat having that opportunity.

00;11;22;21 - 00;11;27;01
Yamila El-Khayat
So what's next for you? Give us a little bit of a glimpse of your future.

00;11;27;03 - 00;11;56;06
Kristi Torp
Yeah. So the Fellowship ends in June and I am actively on the job hunt right now. My dream job is to go back to NNLM. Look at all the cool projects that NNLM members have done that you've highlighted in this podcast. I would love to help those libraries and be part of that again. In the meantime, though, I'd love to get some more experience in library instruction or maybe in research support, but I'm open to a lot of opportunities.

00;11;56;08 - 00;12;05;09
Yamila El-Khayat
Kristi, I see you’ve had quite the path there. So tell me a little bit more about what you would recommend to others that are aspiring to become medical librarians.

00;12;05;12 - 00;12;32;24
Kristi Torp
Sure. I know that, medical librarianship can sound intimidating. I think because of the word medical, it makes you feel like you have to have this strong foundation in biology or medicine. And I've met some incredible medical librarians who don't have that. My undergrad is in history. What you do need to have is a sense of curiosity and a real passion for helping people get accurate health information.

00;12;32;26 - 00;12;57;07
Kristi Torp
So, what I would recommend is saying yes to opportunities, looking for opportunities, and not letting that intimidation get to you. Definitely reach out to NNLM. Get to know people in the office. That can also be intimidating if you've never met before, but these librarians are so anxious to help people, and they'll want to help you as well.

00;12;57;09 - 00;13;18;14
Kristi Torp
You can look for classes from NNLM, as well, so that you can brush up on those medical librarianship skills. They've got lots of classes that are so worthwhile and they can really help you. Also join local organizations. There are so many opportunities to learn and to keep learning, so there's a lot of ways that you can get support.

00;13;18;17 - 00;13;38;12
Yamila El-Khayat
This is so fantastic, Kristi. You've really inspired me and I'm already in the field. I love what I do, and I couldn't agree with you more about how rewarding this career could be. I'm sure this episode will inspire others and help those that may be sitting on the fence about this career make a more concrete decision towards becoming a medical librarian.

00;13;38;15 - 00;13;40;27
Yamila El-Khayat
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kristi.

00;13;40;29 - 00;13;43;00
Kristi Torp
You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

00;13;43;02 - 00;14;03;00
Yamila El-Khayat
As you can see from this episode, the NLM and NNLM offer many opportunities for aspiring librarians. If you or someone you know is thinking about librarianship, please remember to reach out to your NLM office to learn more about the resources that they may have to help you. This is NNLM Discovery. Thank you for listening.