iPad Applications Class Guides Student Silke Higgins to Digital Librarianship

Student Silke Higgins is pursuing a career in digital services, thanks, in part, to the inspiration she received from an MLIS course she completed during Fall 2010, regarding iPad applications and other new media. Her experiences in the course included designing webpages and creating an e-book, which persuaded Higgins that the mobile web is “the ideal medium” for increasing access to information.

“As soon as I started the class, I realized it was one of the most relevant courses I was ever going to take,” said Higgins. “Here’s an opportunity to present information in an exciting and interactive format. It’s a way to share content that people can digest in this information deluge, and enjoy learning.”

LIBR 287 Seminar in Information Science: iPad Implications and Applications focused on the impact the iPad has on other technologies and on its potential uses in libraries. Taught by SLIS Lecturers Dr. Jeremy Kemp and Steve Sloan, the course provided technical skills in web and application development.

“I can’t say it was easy,” said Higgins, who has a BA in anthropology. “I took LIBR 240 concurrently, which focuses on technology tools and applications, and that helped me. It was a challenging learning process, but it was the most engaging, amazing, and fascinating thing I’ve ever done. If you’re willing to learn this, you can do it.”

Higgins transformed one of her undergraduate anthropology field reports into an e-book using SIGIL, an open-source e-book editor. SIGIL creates ePub files, which can be viewed on the iPad or any e-book reader.

Higgins also designed a mobile version of the Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History website. The Sourisseau Academy, affiliated with San Jose State University’s History Department, is located with Special Collections on the 5th floor of King Library. Higgins completed a digitization internship at Sourisseau in the summer of 2010 and was hired as an assistant archivist in August 2010.

Believing that the archives profession “is one of the most important fields for preserving society’s cultural and historical aspects throughout the world,” Higgins is particularly excited about the potential advantages mobile technology has for archives. She sees tablet devices like the iPad as the ideal way to access archival holdings in an enjoyable and interactive way, and said “digitization and digital presentation is a huge step forward for archives in increasing access.”

The path to librarianship and archives work was not always so clear to Higgins. As a young girl growing up in Germany, she dreamed of being a librarian but knew there were few opportunities to pursue the career she wanted in her native country. “That library dream came and went,” she said.

Higgins immigrated to the United States in 1998, and decided to continue her education by preparing for law school. She earned an AA in Paralegal Studies from DeAnza College and studied Anthropology at San Jose State University, but during her last semester she took a student job at King Library and started to reconsider her plans.

When a professor suggested that she look into SJSU’s Library and Information Science graduate program, Higgins was eager for the opportunity to follow her childhood dream. She enrolled in the MLIS program in Fall 2009 and focused her elective courses on archives and technology.

Higgins plans to graduate in Spring 2011 after completing the e-Portfolio as her culminating experience. “I would like to say to everyone that the dreaded e-Porfolio it is not really to be dreaded at all,” Higgins advised. “It’s an excellent way of summarizing what you’ve done as a student, reviewing your work, and preparing yourself for that job search and interview. Enjoy it as an opportunity to really celebrate what you have done.”

In addition to her position at Sourisseau Academy, Higgins also works as a graduate student assistant in King Library’s Special Collections. She hopes to continue working with digital services in an academic library environment in her future career.