Student Mia Jaeggli Creates Digital Archive at UC Berkeley Library

For her LIBR 292 Professional Experience class, SLIS student Mia Jaeggli created a digital archive to preserve exhibits from the reading room at the University of California at Berkeley’s Environmental Design Library.

The exhibits are a collaborative effort between Berkeley’s Environmental Design Archives and Library, where Jaeggli works as a technical services work leader. Jaeggli thought of the project after taking LIBR 240 Information Technology Tools and Applications, which piqued her curiosity about software to enable Web 2.0 technology. “I’m not a very techy person, but I took 240 and my inner geek came out,” said Jaeggli, who expects to graduate in Spring 2010.

When Jaeggli proposed the project, she immediately received a positive response from the Environmental Design Archives curator. The first thing Jaeggli needed to do was find user-friendly and free software to make the digital archive possible. She discovered the open-source software called Omeka, which was created by the Center for History and New Media to allow for the creation of complex websites that grow and evolve. Jaeggli became such a fan of Omeka during the project that she’s since “been on a mission” to let other archives and libraries know about it, and is going to speak on a panel discussion about Omeka at the Western Round-Up of archive associations in Seattle this April.

The special project not only taught Jaeggli how to digitize a collection; it also served as a crash course in project management. Jaeggli had to create an ambitious yet realistic schedule to fit into the shortened 2009 summer session, work with the IT department to secure server space, coordinate with a photographer, sketch designs for the layout of the online collection, and train the archival staff to populate the database. “The schedule really forced me to think about what I could do in three months and at what point each deliverable would have a deadline,” she said.

The first exhibit to go online in September 2009 was “Fatal Design,” which displays the evolution of design for public cemeteries in the U.S. Future collections will be based on physical exhibitions shown at the Environmental Design Library, while others will be “born digital.”

Jaeggli will also be making a presentation about the new digital archive at an upcoming program offered by the San Andreas Chapter of the Special Libraries Association (SLA). The program was made possible when our School’s ALA Student Chapter (ALASC) recently received the “Design-a-Program” award from the San Andreas SLA Chapter. ALASC officers pitched the program idea to SLA, and they agreed that it would of interest to their members. The program will explore how special libraries can highlight their collections and reach beyond base clientele by creating digital exhibitions with open source tools. See Happenings: SLA Award for details.

Jaeggli became interested in librarianship after graduating with a degree in fine arts. She taught ceramics to children, which she enjoyed but found she couldn’t make a comfortable salary. In contemplating new a career, Jaeggli often thought about how much she enjoyed her library job as a student at Iowa State University and decided to enroll at SLIS.

Her experience with her LIBR 292 project underscored why she enjoys the intellectual challenge and versatility of librarianship. “I don’t feel like you could ever be pigeonholed in this profession – you have to be a multitasker, and if you have an idea to try something new, you can often find a way to do it,” she said.