April 23, 2018

Jason Clark | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Digital Developers

Jason Clark


Associate Professor and Head of Library Informatics and Computing, Montana State University Library, Bozeman, MT

MA, English, University of Vermont; MLIS, University of Wisconsin SLIS, 2003

Responsive Web Design in Practice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)

@jaclark; jasonclark.info; github.com/jasonclark

Photo by Kelly Gorham, Montana State University

Practical Prototyper

Publishing his first web page was a eureka moment for Jason Clark, who began his library career as an assistant at Marquette University Library in 1995–96, while completing his BA in English and philosophy. In the mid-1990s, most of the public was just beginning to learn about the World Wide Web, but Clark understood that the technology would revolutionize libraries and information sharing.

“I could reach anybody who had that URL address,” he says. “I could see that libraries had services to evolve and that digital technologies might have solutions. It was on us to figure it out.”

Now, as head of Library Informatics and Computing at Montana State University (MSU) Library, Clark is certainly doing his part to develop those solutions.

“Jason can envision a tool that would improve library service, [then he] researches, then builds it,” says Gretchen Caserotti, director, Meridian Library District, ID, and a 2010 Mover & Shaker, one of Clark’s nominators.

Clark’s projects include BookMeUp, a mobile-optimized web app that suggests books based on a user’s search query and location. Other examples include the “book in browser” publishing template—an IMLS Sparks! grant-funded project for publishing books in web browsers—and getSEMantic, a web app that shows the top-linked data sources extracted from any given URL.

He recently began working with some of his MSU colleagues on a “linked people project,” which will connect the MSU library’s staff database to the Linked Open Data cloud, in an effort to make it easier to discover staff and their subject expertise on the open web. All of his work is open source and available for other interested libraries on GitHub.

Clark views these apps and prototypes, in part, as teaching tools and looks to continue coding even as he takes on more management-oriented tasks at MSU.

“I still see myself in that kind of research prototype role,” Clark says. “I use code a lot to demonstrate what might be possible. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a prototype is worth 2,000 words. The moment someone sees it work on a screen, they start to understand.”

This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.