iSchool Alumna Wins 2021 Gail Schlachter Memorial Research Grant
Award's Connections to iSchool Make It 'Especially Meaningful'

Dr. Rachel Ivy Clarke

Dr. Rachel Ivy Clarke, an alumna of the Master of Library and Information Science program at the San José State University School of Information, was recently awarded the Gail Schlachter Memorial Research Grant for her project “The Role of Repertoire in Library Reference Interactions.” The $5,000 grant provides support to “an individual or collaborative group conducting research into reference or user services whose research projects aim to better understand or answer key questions related to connecting people to resources, information services, and collections.”

Both the award and its 2021 recipient have connections to SJSU’s iSchool: The grant was established by Dr. Sandra Hirsh, former director of the iSchool and now associate dean for academics in the College of Professional and Global Education, and her brother Eric Goldman to honor their mother Gail Schlachter, who was a dedicated and active reference librarian for almost four decades. Clarke is the first iSchool alumna to receive the grant, which was first awarded in 2019. Neither Hirsh nor her brother are involved in choosing the winners. The grant is administered by the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, and an independent committee selects the recipients.

“My experiences in the MLIS program shaped a lot of my thoughts about librarianship,” says Clarke, explaining why the award’s connection to the iSchool makes it especially meaningful. “I’ve appreciated Dr. Hirsh’s interest in and support of my work aligning design and librarianship, everything from including a chapter of mine about design in her introductory textbook to encouraging the inclusion of design thinking courses for students in the MLIS program.”

“We are especially thrilled that this year’s award is going to a San José State University School of Information MLIS alumna,” says Hirsh. “Our mom Gail Schlachter would have delighted in Rachel Ivy Clarke being selected to receive this grant because she would have loved all of the connections to the iSchool.” Among her many other activities, Schlachter was a part-time instructor at SJSU.

Clarke’s project, “The Role of Repertoire” will explore how librarians build and use a body of knowledge to respond to reference questions. Clarke draws on models from the design discipline to suggest that this body of knowledge is similar to a design repertoire, a supply of ideas accumulated through experiences.

Clarke is currently an assistant professor at Syracuse University where she teaches courses on cataloging, reference, and research, among others, as well as advising PhD students. Her research has focused on viewing librarianship from a design perspective. “Choosing this project for funding increases the value, visibility, and legitimacy of applying and integrating design methods into librarianship and library work,” says Clarke.

The iSchool alumna received her PhD from the University of Washington, her MLIS from San José State University, and a BA in Creative Writing from California State University Long Beach. Previous to her position at Syracuse University, Clarke was a librarian at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.