A warm Orange welcome to Rachel Ivy Clarke! She is the new Library and Information Science (LIS) professor at SU’s iSchool and former cataloging librarian at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).

In her exchanges with students at FIDM, Professor Clarke discovered that creative people have a different way of researching information that they need. As an avid knitter and quilter, Professor Clarke is passionate about the concepts of design and creativity being at the forefront of librarianship. Professor Clarke’s students would frequently visit the reference desk in need of trend forecasting resources.These forecasts unveiled the fashion trends of the upcoming months with style, color, and popularity.

Rachel Clarke is co-teaching IST 605: Reference and Information Literacy Services this fall, and will teach IST 604: Cataloging of Information Resources and IST 616: Information Resources: Organization and Access in the spring. She is also the faculty representative for SU’s chapter of LISSA (Library and Information Science Student Assembly).

What did a typical day on the job look like as a cataloging librarian at FIDM?

RC: I worked the evening shift from 1PM until 10PM. I would come in at 1 and I would start my day by checking my email. Then I’d work on cataloging tasks. Other people would order the books, the books would be delivered, and I would catalog them. I would find existing records for them and download them to our local system, or if they couldn’t be found I would catalog them myself.

Then I would pass the books off to the person who did the actual processing, like covering the books in plastic, putting the labels and barcodes on. Sometimes the barcodes were on beforehand and I would just load them into the system.

We had a special set of resources, which were the trend forecasting resources. These resources aren’t limited to the fashion industry, but rather, you see them in product design industries.

What they do is they basically future watch. They try to predict what marketable trends there will be 18-24 months in advance. These companies do market research and determine what is in and what is out. Designers can come look at these resources and see what silhouettes and styles are going to be in season.

What made you pursue librarianship?

RC: I was working as a graphic artist for a trophy company and we made promotional products. You know those stress balls or weird pens you get for free at conferences? All of those are promotional products and someone has to make the logos that go on there. That was me.

[Then] I got laid off and I had a degree in English. Both of my parents had been teachers––my mom taught elementary and my dad taught high school for a while. So I thought, well, I could teach English.

I applied for some jobs and thought of completing a master’s degree in California. There was a program where you could teach in a classroom and earn your masters in the evening. I thought about how I was going to spend all day and night in a classroom, with topics like “Discipline in the Classroom.” I’m just not that into that.

A friend of mine told me, “You should totally go to library school and be a librarian.” I thought, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. He dug up some course descriptions from a library school near him and sent them to me. I was reading them over and there were classes like, “Informational Organization” and thought, I love to alphabetize my CDs! There’s a career for people who do this sort of thing?

I applied to a couple of different library schools and I started looking for jobs in libraries. That’s how I got the temp job at FIDM in Los Angeles, CA. That temp job turned into a permanent job, which turned into a higher level job, and eventually I was overseeing the cataloging at all four of our branches.

“We must have the attitude: there is no question; libraries are staying.” – Prof. Rachel Ivy Clarke

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What is your favorite app or website to use?

RC:My favorite website is called Ravelry. It is a social network for knitters and crocheters and I’m fairly active. Because I’m a librarian and a former cataloguer, it gives me a way to catalog all of my projects. For certain projects you can see what yarn to use, what the dye lot number was in case you need to find more someday, and what pattern you use.

It also links you to who else made that pattern. So if 400 people made a scarf, you can see all of the different versions that were made. You can keep track of your whole yarn stash, too. So if you want to make a project you can look and see, “Do I have 1000 yards of green yarn that I can use to make a sweater?” The cataloging nerd in me loves that.

There are also discussion forums and there is a group of academics––not just librarians––but academics in all fields who knit and crochet and talk on that forum. I get a lot of support and mentoring from them. It’s really interesting to see other people’s perspectives.

What is your favorite outfit? Everyone loves your dresses!

RC: I couldn’t think of a specific outfit, but I do have a criteria. It has to be comfortable. If it’s comfortable and flattering, it gets extra points. Pockets get even more extra points! If it doesn’t wrinkle when I put it in my suitcase that’s a bonus, too. I can think of a couple different outfits that fit my criteria.

The other thing––I’m not as prolific as I used to be–– but I used to try to wear something every day that I made myself. I wore a lot of dresses at the beginning of the semester because it was so hot and they are so comfortable!

I know you just moved here recently, but what is your favorite hangout spot on or off campus so far?

RC: It’s hard because I just got here. But the first thing that comes to mind is actually my back porch. It’s surprisingly nice. My husband and I bought a house about a mile and a half east of campus, and the summer was so warm that we spend most of our time on our little screened porch out back.

Where is your favorite place to read?

RC: Outside of what I read for my work, I don’t read for pleasure as much as I used to which I regret. On the other hand, sometimes it’s too intensive to read all the time. I recently read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is the first novel I read in a long time, and I read most of it in bed. I’ve put some books by my bedside to try and read more.

What would you say to people who say that libraries are going away?

RC: The standard answer is libraries are not going away. Pew Research just released their latest data that says almost 70% of people believe that libraries are a valuable asset to their community, even if they don’t use the library themselves.

My gut answer would be, they’re going away because of youYou being the person who asked “Are libraries going away?” in the first place. They’re going away because you don’t support them, you are not engaging in them, and you’re treating them with a dismissive attitude.

So step it up! I don’t know if that’s a good answer but that was my gut reaction. This underlying assumption that they are going away is making them go away. We must have the attitude: there is no question; libraries are staying.They might look different, perform different functions, or perform the same functions in different ways! One thing is for sure, libraries are here to stay.

This interview has been edited and condensed.