iSchool Alumna Earns PhD, Joins Faculty at Syracuse University


Since completing the iSchool’s MLIS degree program in 2008, alumna Rachel “Ivy” Clarke has gone on to earn her PhD and was recently appointed as an assistant professor.

A San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) alumna who successfully defended her dissertation to earn a Doctorate in Information Science at the University of Washington (UW) has been appointed as an assistant professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies.

Dr. Rachel “Ivy” Clarke said her dissertation, “It’s Not Rocket Library Science: Design Epistemology and American Librarianship,” is about reconceptualizing librarianship as a design discipline. She argues that design offers a methodological framework that differs from traditional scientific ways of knowing, which are rooted in observation and description of the existing world with goals of replicability and prediction, whereas ways of knowing in design stem from abductive reasoning and synthetic problem solving through the creation of artifacts.

“For almost 100 years, librarianship in America has been thought of as a social science, which shapes the tools and services that librarians provide to patrons in one particular way,” the 2008 SJSU graduate said.

Through critical analysis of design artifacts in the profession, such as Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature, America’s first bookmobile and the eXtensible Catalog project, Clarke’s dissertation demonstrates that design has long been a tacit component of library work and argues that design epistemologies are a valid and useful framework for conceptualizing librarianship. 

“My examination of librarianship through a design lens also reveals insight that traditional scientific approaches overlook, especially regarding the core values of librarianship and the ways in which they are subtlety embedded in library artifacts, sometimes even communicating value positions opposite to the intentions of librarianship,” she explained.

Clark said she believes the personal and professional connections she made while a graduate student in the iSchool’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program and the encouragement from iSchool faculty members, particularly Vicky McCargar, to publish her work helped prepare her to pursue a PhD in Information Science. She also stressed how important it is for graduate students who have aspirations to pursue doctorates to enroll in courses that study multiple research methods.

“Take statistics and ethnography and historical methods and, and, and … Academia is built on research, whether you’re the one conducting it or the one using it to shape your teaching or your programming or the organization of your department,” she said.

For graduate students thinking about pursuing a career in academia, Clarke emphasized the significance of getting published. “Academia also runs on publication, so if you’re thinking of pursuing a PhD, or even an academic library job that’s tenure-track, you need to publish your work, ideally findings from research projects.

“SJSU students have a built-in opportunity with the school’s Student Research Journal,” Clarke said. “I’m a big fan of working smarter, not harder—write papers for your classes with an eye toward publishing them down the line. My first academic publication was actually a paper I wrote for [Vicki McCargar's] preservation class at SJSU.”

Clarke will begin teaching at Syracuse University this fall. Her courses will cover cataloging of information resources, reference and information literacy services, and organization and access of information resources.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Clarke was the cataloging librarian at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. In addition to earning her MLIS degree from SJSU, Clarke received a Master of Science in Information Systems from UW and a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach.

Her dissertation will be available via ProQuest Dissertations & Thesis database (#15974) and the UW ResearchWorks Archive.