As a web librarian at the San Jose Public Library, not only did I redesign and migrate the library’s old website to the open source Drupal platform, but I was given an opportunity to build a mobile web application for the library called Scan Jose. The application was widely recognized as an innovation in libraries; for my colleagues and I it was an exceptionally interesting dive into mobile experience design. In many ways, the lessons learned from this prototype were more valuable than the product itself.

The Scan Jose app took primary source artifacts, mostly historic photographs, from the California Room local history department at the library and created an interface for visitors to view the content on their mobile devices in the context in which it was originally photographed. Three tours with different narrative themes guided users through San Jose’s historic downtown with live directions between stops on the tour generated by the Google Maps API.

In addition to building out a mobile web app using the then-new HTML5/CSS3 specs along with jQuery mobile and the Google Maps API, I also added all of the content to Layar, an augmented reality platform. This provided another type of browsing experience. By pointing a device’s camera at the landscape, Layar would show the points of interest within the image and act as a window bridging the digital and physical worlds.