Alumna Shaula Stephenson Applies iSchool Coursework to New Job as Digital Archivist

Community Profile

Alumna Shaula Stephenson is using her skills in digital preservation and information retrieval to manage digital assets for a fine arts museum.

As the new Digital Project Archivist at the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, Stephenson is working to survey and manage the museum’s electronic exhibition files and media assets. The digital objects will eventually be uploaded to a digital asset management system (DAMS) and made available to museum staff for reference and research.

“We’re implementing a centralized system to organize and save the original high quality files, which will allow staff to download lower-quality derivative files. This will reduce the storage problems of having large duplicates saved in multiple places,” Stephenson explained.

Stephenson’s MLIS classes, combined with her past work experience, made her an excellent match for the position. Her knowledge from INFO 202 (Information Retrieval), INFO 256 (Archives and Manuscripts), and INFO 259 (Preservation Management) has proved especially useful.

“My Preservation Management class with Vicky McCargar focused heavily on digital preservation and digital asset management, so I was familiar with the structure of these systems even before I began working with them,” Stephenson said.

Since accepting the position in April 2012, Stephenson has helped to research, evaluate, and select the museum’s DAMS. She’s also started to design a metadata schema to standardize asset description across shared drives, folder structures, and content management systems, and will be creating best practice guidelines to support cataloging efforts.

“Designing the metadata fields has been the most rewarding task so far,” Stephenson said. “I’m interested in thinking about the potential users of the system and what they’re going to need to accomplish, and discovering the best way to describe the digital objects to meet their needs.”

Stephenson enrolled at San José State University School of Information in spring 2010 after working for several years at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and as a patent secretary for a law firm. Our School’s online MLIS program appealed to her because she could earn her degree while continuing to work. The program’s flexibility also allowed her to take advantage of several volunteer and internship opportunities, including positions at the Mount St. Mary’s College Archives, the UCLA University Archives, and the Skirball Cultural Center.

“I really recommend that students make the effort to meet people in the field, through internships or professional networking,” Stephenson said. “I got my internship at UCLA because I contacted the archivist and interviewed her in person for my Archives and Manuscripts class, and she invited me to get in touch when I needed an internship. All of the opportunities I’ve had have been a result of networking and making the effort to meet people face to face.”

Stephenson also made the most of networking opportunities at the iSchool, becoming involved with the SJSU Society of American Archivists Student Chapter and serving as the chapter Chair from 2011-2012. She made connections with archives professionals across the U.S. and invited them to share their experiences as guest speakers at SAASC virtual student meet-ups.

Stephenson holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and European studies from Pitzer College in Southern California. She graduated from San José State University School of Information in May 2012.