Interview with Dr. Hyerim Cho

Interview with the 2022 Gail Schlachter Memorial Research Grant awardee, Dr. Hyerim Cho.

By Jason Coleman, member of RUSA’s Achievement Awards Committee

In early May I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Hyerim Cho, the 2022 winner of the Gail Schlachter Memorial Research Grant. We discussed her motivation for becoming a librarian, the research she plans to conduct with the grant, and her drive to improve video game recommendation services. This brief conversation introduced me to a new author and changed my perceptions about why I play the video games I do. The interview has been edited for length.

Dr. Hyerim Cho
[Jason Coleman]. I understand you’ve been interested in library science since you were an undergraduate student. What led you to want to go into this field?

[Dr. Cho]. It was a rather naive fascination toward this librarian occupation. So when I was in high school, I loved this Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s work. In one of his works, Kafka on the Shore, there is a librarian character named Oshima. I was fascinated by how the librarian served information to the main character and guided the main character to find themselves. The storyline and the way that libraries and librarians are depicted in those novels made me curious to know about what it would be like to be a librarian.

[Jason Coleman]. When you went into library school did your perceptions of the book change?

[Dr. Cho]. On a fundamental level, I think my perceptions stayed the same. The jobs that librarians do are depicted really well in many of Haruki Maurakami’s novels. However, they don’t include some of the small details of working in a library like the work involved in creating records or the need to work in front of a computer all day.

[Jason Coleman].I don’t know if it would have been a very fun novel if he had included all of those details.

[Dr. Cho]. True, but I strongly recommend his books to anyone who is interested in libraries and librarians’ jobs in general. Libraries are a core element in a lot of his stories.

[Jason Coleman]. Congratulations again on being the winner of this year’s Gail Schlachter Memorial Research Grant. What research do you plan to conduct with the grant?

[Dr. Cho]. During my doctoral dissertation research project the theme of people using video games to cope with their mental and emotional health appeared continuously.  That led me to wonder if this is actually one of the reasons that people play video games. In the project I proposed for the grant, I will be trying to verify that video games regulate or enhance people’s moods, and if so, which elements of the video games are actually important for those effects. Based on those findings, I am also hoping I can make some suggestions to improve video game recommendation and reference services to enable video game players to find video games that will help them regulate their moods.

[Jason Coleman]. Fascinating. I would love to be a participant in that study.

[Dr. Cho]. To answer these research questions, I am planning to conduct a focus group with people who can talk about their video game information needs and the reasons they play video games. After that, I will conduct some semi-structured interviews and analyze the data. I will also obtain help from a mental health expert to verify my findings.

[Jason Coleman]. What kinds of emotional regulation do you think people are looking for from video games?

[Dr. Cho] It really varies. It can be something really, really simple like playing simple cute games when you are just barely awake in the morning in your bed preparing your mindset to start a day or relax a little bit. Or it can also involve the desire to play some puzzle games in between classes or work especially when you are feeling a little bit nervous or anxious. Some of my previous participants also shared with me that sometimes they play portable video games at a hospital when they go through painful medical treatments so that they can distract themselves from that physical pain. Some also mentioned that they play games with their friends to actively cope with their PTSD as well. Having this fellowship kind of feeling often helps them feel better.

[Jason Coleman]. Many of the research projects that you have worked on relate to a desire for better recommendation services. Can you describe what improvements you think are needed in video game recommendation services?

[Dr. Cho]. Each different type of media tends to have unique features due to the format. For video games, some of the features that have been frequently discussed by my previous research participants or in video game communities include artistic style, visual style, characters, music, overall sound effects, game play style, and mechanics. Video game players have different needs and different preferences in general. Some people like to play games that have beautifully designed worlds and characters and some want to play games with stronger narrative or storylines. Finding games that are similar to what they already like is really difficult. Understanding the diverse needs and preferences of video game players is an important step for enhancing current recommendation services.

[Jason Coleman]. What advice would you give to librarians who want to get involved in research but are not sure where to begin?

[Dr. Cho]. If you are ever interested in the line of research that I am conducting, please just contact me directly. I will be more than happy to have a conversation with you. If you are interested in conducting your own research, I think librarians often have great resources already. They have this knowledge about their user group – the patrons who are visiting their libraries. And they have their own knowledge as librarians too. And they can easily talk to the patrons who are participating in the programs or visiting the librarians in general as well. And compiling these kinds of experiences can also be another great research project that a lot of people will be interested in knowing about. However, if you want to participate in one of my research projects or become a co-author, I would really, really love that opportunity to have your insights on more practical, hands-on experiences with patrons in library settings. That would be wonderful.

[Jason Coleman]. What is the best way for people to reach out to you?

[Dr. Cho]. By emailing me at

[Jason Coleman]. Is there anything else that you would like to share today?

[Dr. Cho]. I would like to thank you again for this great opportunity. I am really excited that I can finally work on the research project that I’ve been wanting to do for so long.

[Jason Coleman]. I was a member of RUSA’s Achievement Awards Committee and I can say that we had a large number of very, very compelling applications to go through. It was not an easy decision, but yours really stood out as having an impact on the library profession by expanding our ability to meet the needs of our patrons.