Ebling Student Assistant is the newest NLM Associate Fellow!

Jessi Van Der Volgen, a recent Ebling Library student reference assistant, was awarded one of four Associate Fellowships at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) in Bethesda, Maryland, starting later this summer. NLM, the world’s largest medical library, offers this competitive one-year postgraduate training fellowship,with an optional second year program component to recent library school graduates. The program is designed to provide a broad foundation in health sciences information services and to prepare librarians for future leadership roles in health sciences libraries and in health services research.

Jessi graduated from UW-Madison’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) this spring and talked to us a little bit about the Fellowship.

What was your first response to finding out about the Fellowship? I was really, really excited, seeing it on NLM’s website made it official!

Tell us about your decision to apply for the NLM Associate Fellowship Program: I came to SLIS knowing that I was interested in health sciences librarianship. I have a background in the sciences and taught high school biology for a couple of years, so I thought something in the health sciences would be a good fit. I understand how research works, and being able to take something complicated and translate it into something easy to understand or access (like health sciences information) for a variety of professionals and patients was interesting to me. Ebling Library was the perfect fit in terms of solidifying my interest in choosing to pursue the health sciences specialty in my library career.

Tell us more about your work here at Ebling: Ebling recruits students directly through SLIS, so I heard about the student reference assistant position through that. I am grateful to Rhonda Sager for taking me on for just a semester, when generally a student is hired for an entire school year. I learned about the breadth of health science librarianship, about outreach, instruction, information discovery. I learned how to model myself after librarians like Chris Hooper-Lane and Ann Combs, who showed me the importance of being approachable and really knowing your resources (like Evidence Based Medicine databases). For a SLIS class, I had also interviewed librarian, Andy Osmond, about electronic resources and Director, Julie Schneider, about her position and her work with NIH policy. Part of the Fellowship stresses leadership roles, so I was very interested in Julie’s work.

How did you find out about the NLM Program? A doctoral student in SLIS, Tammy Mays, who was a Fellow at NLM [in the late 1990’s] told me about the Program, and encouraged me to apply. And I think Tammy used to work at Ebling (yes, when it was the Middleton Health Sciences Library, Tammy was our Outreach Librarian from 1998-2000). The Program seemed like a perfect fit, especially since the work at Ebling solidified my inclinations to go into health science librarianship and verified that my skills and interest in library policy and technology were important for the future of health science librarianship.

What’s the first thing you are going to do when you get to Bethesda? I’d only been there twice, once for the Fellowship interview, and once when I was in 8th grade. I didn’t get to go to the Museum of American History in either case. I want to go there as soon as I can.

Final thoughts? The interview with NLM was intense, with lots of thought provoking questions. At the end they changed the tone of the interview by asking me what my hobbies were. I couldn’t think of anything. I have no hobbies, haven’t had time for hobbies, being a graduate student and working 40 hours a week (at three different jobs) has kept me busy.

The payoff? Jessi is off to Bethesda for a chance of a lifetime health science librarian opportunity. Perhaps she’ll even have time to find a hobby.