2023 RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services

Rebecca Clarke, Manager, Adult Services – St. Louis County Library, selected winner of the 2023 RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services

Rebecca Clarke

For outstanding achievement in coordinating resources and discussions for multiple 21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge programs in partnership with YWCA Metro St. Louis, demonstrating the very best in public librarianship.” – Award Committee statement

PROJECTS: The 21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge is a unique approach to help expand an individual’s understanding on racial equity and social justice and encourage the habit to continuously learn through weekly articles, resources, discussions, and reflections on the Challenge topic. The first Challenge centered around “Racism is a Health Crisis” and the impacts of racism on the health of the community. In 2022, the Challenge focused on “We Can’t Wait,” the immediacy of listening, learning, and acting to address inequities in our community.


  • Devoted to the highest quality of library service, with 15 years of experience in public libraries.
  • Coordinates and guides adult programming at St. Louis County Library, providing ideas and support in the development of system-wide programs and initiatives that closely align with community needs, strategic priorities, and DEI goals.
  • Leads a department at St. Louis County Library that planned over 940 virtual and over 280 in-person programs during the past 2.5 years, with attendance exceeding 61,700.
  • Actively establishes and cultivates beneficial relationships with community organizations and partners in St. Louis County, such as YWCA Metro St. Louis, Aging Ahead, and Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri.
  • Possesses proven ability to identify and develop successful programs based on a calculated assessment of community interests and needs, resulting in an 82.5% increase in programming attendance at Jamestown Bluffs Branch in 2017 and the fourth-highest program attendance system-wide at Natural Bridge Branch in 2020.
  • Leads a department that celebrated its 103rd graduate from the online high school program for adult learners. The graduation rate for St. Louis County Library’s program since its inception in October 2017 is over 70%, well above the national average of 58%. A joyous graduation ceremony was hosted in March 2023, with over 340 people in attendance.
  • Collaborated with colleagues to establish the Welcoming Ambassador Education Program at St. Louis County Library to help 50 staff members become better equipped to welcome immigrants, support diversity, and create a sense of belonging. 
  • St. Louis Storytelling Festival committee member since May 2021. In 2022, the 43rd Annual Storytelling Festival featured seven nationally-renowned storytellers, regional storytelling, oral history and writing workshops, school and senior center visits, and more. Over 8,400 people were in attendance.
  • Co-Chair of the Big Read community-wide reading initiative at Springfield-Greene County Library District from April 2011-2014. Led an effort to greatly increase the number of invested community partners for the Big Read, reaching over 5,000 participants in 2013 and 2014.


  • “Turning a Pit into a Park and Other Lessons from Leslie Knope” presented at the Missouri Library Association Conference 2017
  • “Big Read Community Partnerships Provide Big Fun for Everyone” co-presented at the Missouri Library Association Conference 2013
  • “The ABCs of XYZs: Reaching out to 20/30-Somethings” co-presented at the Missouri Library Conference 2011


  • St. Louis County Library (St. Louis, MO) May 2014-Present
    • Manager, Adult Services – September 2020-Present
    • Branch Manager, Natural Bridge – October 2018-September 2020
    • Branch Manager, Jamestown Bluffs – December 2016-September 2018
    • Assistant Branch Manager, Florissant Valley – May 2014-December 2016
  • Springfield-Greene County Library District (Springfield, MO) August 2008-May 2014
    • Reference Librarian, The Library Station – August 2010-May 2014
    • Reference Associate, The Library Center – August 2008-August 2010


  • 2012 DEMCO New Leaders Travel Grant of $1,500 given “to enhance the professional development and improve the expertise of public librarians new to the field by making possible their attendance at major professional development activities”



Established in 1990, the RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services, sponsored by Data Axle is a citation and $1,500* monetary award presented to a library or library system for developing an imaginative and unique resource to meet patrons’ reference needs.

The selection committee was Chaired by Jason Coleman.