Two iSchool Instructors Promoted to Full-time Faculty Positions


The San José State University School of Information has promoted two of its knowledgeable instructors to full-time, non-tenure track status. The iSchool welcomed Dr. Renée Jefferson to the full-time faculty in January of 2021, while Dr. Lei Zhang began her new role in August of 2021.

Both Jefferson and Zhang have been contributing to the iSchool for many years. Jefferson began teaching courses in the Master of Library and Information Science program in 2001 and Zhang in 2014. “The MLIS students at SJSU are engaging, eager to learn, hardworking, humorous, supportive, and brilliant,” says Jefferson, while Zhang notes the “great diversity” of students, that keeps her busy devising inclusive learning strategies.

Dr. Renee Jefferson and StudentsJefferson’s impressive credentials include a BS in Statistics from the University of South Carolina, an MLIS from the University of South Carolina, an MS in Organizational Psychology from California State University, Long Beach, and a PhD in Educational Measurement and Statistics from the University of Iowa. She has published regularly, exploring topics such as educational assessment and mentorship. “At the core is the appropriate use of data collection and data analysis methods,” Jefferson describes her research.

Jefferson teaches INFO 285 Action Research exclusively. “It is my dream job,” she says of teaching the class. “It combines library and information science and research methods.” Students may find developing a research topic and using APA format a challenge, she says, but the reward is learning “how action research can help improve practices within their current or future jobs.” Among other projects, Jefferson has a book chapter, “Action Research in Schools” scheduled to be published in 2022.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Jefferson was offered a job at the Campbell Soup Company, when she glimpsed another career path. “The advisor for African-American fraternities and sororities on campus told me about an orientation meeting at Davis College,” she remembers, referring to the University of South Carolina’s College of Library and Information Science. “I went and realized I had found my people.”

Zhang’s interest in librarianship dates from her childhood. “I loved reading, loved books, and loved libraries as a symbol of knowledge since I was little,” she says. “I understood how important it would be to help people to find and use information, especially when information was not limited to physical libraries.”

Dr. Lei ZhangAfter completing a B.A. in English from Shanghai International Studies University, Zhang earned her PhD in Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia and then spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, conducting research on knowledge organization. Zhang has published extensively on topics from genre theory to taxonomy. “My research interests include knowledge organization, information seeking, information system design and evaluation,” she says.

Zhang offered a new seminar on linked data, INFO 287, to iSchool students in 2017 and worked on an ongoing research project in tandem. “I have collected and analyzed a wide variety of sources about the linked data use cases related to libraries, archives, and museums over the past decade,” she explains. “This research is to track the development of linked data, identify the key issues and trends that are common and unique across the settings, so as to inform the future linked data policies and practices in cultural heritage institutions.”

In addition to INFO 287, Zhang also teaches INFO 202 Information Retrieval System Design and INFO 247 Vocabulary Design, which she calls a “favorite course.”