Alumna Heather Devine Seeks to Make Tribal Information More Accessible

Community Profile

When Heather Devine’s aunt was working in Washington, D.C. several years ago, she visited the National Archives, copied much of the information available about their tribe, the Shawnee, and sent it to Devine. When the ream of paper arrived at Devine’s doorstep, it started her thinking about her tribal history, as well as access to information.

“It occurred to me that there are better ways to make this information available than in the form of a towering pile of paper,” she said. “It also made me think that there is a wealth of information about different tribes held in many different archives and other locations, which people who are part of those tribes don’t know about. They should know about it, and they should be able to access the information – and that’s what inspired me to pursue my MLIS.”

Devine graduated from San José State University School of Information in spring 2009, earning an MLIS degree with a focus on archival studies. She was drawn to archives in part because tribal communities “often combine archives and libraries into one repository, and they use archives to save records created by the tribe and for cultural history,” she said.

Devine wove her interest in indigenous knowledge throughout her coursework, interviewing Eastern Shawnee Chief Glenna J. Wallace for Prof. Debra Hansen’s oral history class, evaluating the facilities of her tribal library for INFO 259 Preservation Management, and creating an online American Indian genealogy pathfinder for a genealogy research class.

“I would recommend the school’s MLIS program to anyone who values flexibility,” she said. “iSchool offers so many options, making it easy to tailor the program to your needs. It’s also easy to make your coursework relevant to your interests.”

Devine earned her undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science and Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon and also holds a master’s degree from SJSU in Human Factors and Ergonomics. She then earned her MLIS while working full-time as a software engineer at Adobe Systems. Devine continues in that job today, and finds that her MLIS degree helps because much of her work focuses on “how information is presented and used.”

While at iSchool, Devine chaired the School’s American Library Association Student Chapter (ALASC) in 2008-2009. She continues to be active in professional organizations, serving as Secretary of the American Indian Library Association. She has also been working on projects related to library technology. For the ALA annual meeting in 2009, she wrote a web application to bring together online conference information, including photos from Flickr and tweets from Twitter.