Kris Alpi is leaving the Library of Veterinary Medicine, which she has directed for a decade, to take a position as the University Librarian at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.
"If you love your job and you're leaving it, even if you're leaving for a promotion, you might actually feel the need to grieve it because it's a really deep, important, meaningful relationship that you've invested a lot of yourself in," Alpi says of her mid-November departure. "The fact is, you're kind of ripping out a big chunk of yourself, especially with the kind of job I've had where it's a lot about relationship-building. The fact that you've kind of chosen to truncate hundreds of really important relationships is a hard thing."
Fiercely devoted to the College of Veterinary Medicine students she and her staff served, Alpi steered the VML through a major renovation and several collections moves and brought the library into the large-scale visualization age with the installation of an interactive, high-resolution touchscreen panel. She developed deep relationships with faculty and students and built an outstanding team of library staff and student assistants who share her commitment to great service. Under Alpi’s leadership, the VML was recognized with the 2013 Phyllis Edwards Service Award from the CVM Class of 2013.
"Kris has made a tremendous impact upon both the Libraries and the College of Veterinary Medicine in her 10 years with us," writes Deputy Director of Libraries Carolyn Argentati. "With her can-do attitude; her enthusiastic engagement in the life of the college, the Libraries, and the university; her extensive knowledge of the health and life science disciplines; and her deep and genuine commitment to the success of our faculty, students, and staff, she's supported and collaborated with thousands of people individually and helped to make every initiative and project that she's touched more effective and successful. We will miss her greatly as she moves on to the next step in a truly outstanding and distinguished career."
That commitment to service led to a wide range of roles and honors for Alpi, from being named an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Population Health and Pathobiology at CVM and a "rock star librarian" by the National Library of Medicine blog to being peed on by a 65-pound loggerhead sea turtle while releasing it back into the wild after it received treatment at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island.
Along the way, Alpi has accumulated many professional accolades, including her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Policy Analysis this year. She plays leadership roles in the American Medical Informatics Association, the Association of College & Research Libraries, and the Medical Library Association, among others. Earlier this year she traveled to Budapest, Hungary on a scholarship to attend the International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists.
For Alpi, however, these honors are means to the end of supporting CVM students and faculty and the mission of the NCSU Libraries as a whole. Asked to name some major accomplishments as VML director, she mentions renovations and collections in passing to tell full stories of student engagement.
"One of the things that we do at Vet Med that none of the other NCSU Libraries does is rent blankets and snuggies," Alpi says. "It's cold in there, and we could easily say that controlling the temperature of the library in a building that's not our own is impossible, but it has actually become something really fun."
"The student clubs have designed blankets and snuggies and things for fundraisers, so we buy and circulate these. And the students were so excited that we got them that they designed an advertising campaign on our eboards for them with a picture of a student bundled up in this snuggie holding her winter Starbucks. It was totally their idea, suggesting ‘We’ll show it by the windows when it’s cold out.’ Every time I see that picture of that student cuddled up in her snuggie with her Starbucks, it just makes me smile."
In her new role, Alpi looks forward to working with students throughout the wider health services spectrum. While Oregon State University houses the state’s veterinary school, Oregon Health & Science University’s library serves all the human health degree programs in Oregon, including the medical school, the dental school, the pharmacy school, the nursing school, and a public health program through a partnership with Portland State University.
"It really expands my portfolio of health professions—but the one that it doesn't include is the one that I’ve spent the last decade of my life really working on," she laughs. "But I think that, potentially, we could do some really good One Health collaborations between my library and the OSU vet library going forward."
During her time at NC State, collaboration has emerged as Alpi’s core leadership value. At the Vet Med library, she’s integrated CVM students into the organization through their service on the Library & Educational Resources Committee. Before they know it, a warm place to study becomes meaningful stewardship.
"Our students want to add to and enrich the space and also promote the space," she says. "They do a lot of needs assessment that we might not otherwise do—impromptu surveys and things. It's really made for a great partnership with the college. The library representatives are super engaged, and we're really grateful for the amount of engagement they give us."
"If we ever kind of lose our way because we're so tied up in what we're doing on the library side of things, they're quickly there to remind us."
The students at Oregon Health & Science University have a lot to look forward to.