The School of Information Studies (iSchool) has selected Rachel Ivy Clarke to receive the Robert Benjamin Junior Faculty Research Award. She is the sixth recipient of this award, which provides funding to a junior faculty member to help advance his or her research projects. Clarke will use the award to fund student research assistants and purchase materials.

Rachel Clarke

Prof. Rachel Clarke

Clarke’s research is focused on developing ways to make librarian work visible. Currently, she is using design-based research to build an online interactive calculator to show the value of the “invisible labor” that librarians put into making information available to the public.

“When you check out a book from the library, there’s a lot that has to happen to get that book to you. Someone has to buy the book, catalog it, shelve it, and check it out to you,” said Clarke. “We’re trying to surface the value of that invisible labor.”

Another one of Clarke’s previous research projects was developing a “critical catalog” designed to surface and expose people to works by more diverse authors, including people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community, by putting them at the top of search results. According to Clarke, the project helped demonstrate the limits of metadata and the challenge it creates for representing diverse groups of people.

Both of these projects were developed using design-based research methods.

“Design-based research methods are what I love most,” said Clarke. “Research comes through making that thing yourself and my favorite thing is to learn by doing.”

Clarke also stated that the impact of this research is important to the iSchool because it will present design as a valuable and valid research method, which will surface the idea that research can happen in the design process. She also hopes that her work will help make the world a better place by connecting people to new types of work and helping them read more diversely.

For Clarke, this award is about more than just the funding for her research project because she is the first woman to receive this award.

“Every day when I walk up the stairs to my office, I walk past the plaque of past winners and see that the only names there are of men,” she said. “I’m honored to be the first woman to receive this award, and hopefully not the last.”

To learn more about Clarke’s research, visit her website.