SAA @ UCLA presents “UCLA Information Studies: Fields of Endeavor.” The Fields of Endeavor series introduces UCLA Library and Information Studies program graduates and current interns who are out in the field taking knowledge learned in the program and putting it to use! We are excited to feature East Coast archivist, Tammi Kim.
Name: Tammi Kim
Graduation Year: 2011
MLIS Focus: Archives
Title and Site: Affiliate Assistant Librarian –
Manuscripts and Archives Department, University of Delaware | Newark, DE |
What do you do all day?
I am one of two project archivists hired to process the senatorial papers of Ted Kaufman and Joe Biden over the next two years. Ted Kaufman was Biden’s long-time chief of staff (1976-1995). He was specially appointed to the Senate when Biden became Vice President in 2009 and the papers from his office came to the University of Delaware after his term ended in 2011. Me and my co-archivist decided to start with his papers mainly because his collection is much, much smaller than Biden’s (pre-processing stats: 38 linear feet vs. around 2000 linear feet – congressional collections tend to get really hefty in terms of linear feet). I’ve been at this job for about two months now (and I previously worked at a political archives and research center in 2012), so most of my time right now is spent surveying every single box on the shelves to verify their contents and playing around with an Excel spreadsheet that lists box inventories for all the accessions that make up the collection. We’re also starting to sort all the data to determine potential subgroups, series, subseries, etc.
Right now we are definitely in the project planning and appraisal stage. At this point we are experimenting with various project management tools and creating lots of Gantt charts, timelines, and WBS (work breakdown structures), and estimating metrics for how long it should take us to complete specific steps of the project. Part of my job also includes working with the IT department in the library to build an electronic records workstation to accession and process the electronic records associated with the two collections. And we also know that we’re going to run into audiovisual materials from days of olde (VHS, audiocassettes, minicassettes, Umatic, etc.), so we’re also writing best practice policies and workflows for how to accession and process these formats.
Eventually someday (hopefully) we will also write the finding aid and maybe even come up with ideas on how the collection will be used for future exhibits and instruction sessions (the collection won’t be open for use until Biden has left public office for two years). I’m also planning on coming up with a project that a graduate assistant from the Political Science department will work on and supervise him/her. And me and my co-archivist are already talking about future opportunities to potentially collaborate on a session proposal or paper about managing large hybrid collections. Right now I am just thankful that I have another peer archivist to bounce ideas off of and to manage this project. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of boxes we need to go through!
Most interesting item, record, document, etc. you have come across:
There is a Joe Biden bobble head doll that hangs out in the archives here at UD! He’s not part of the collection, but a local minor league baseball team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, were giving them away at a game a few years ago. The head of Special Collections was nice enough to stand in a long line to get one of these for the department.
At my last job (the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia) I have to say one of the neatest things I found in a collection was a ceramic commemorative whiskey jug in the shape of an elephant from the 1976 Republican National Convention. He still reeks of whiskey. Also, I always find the more colorful constituent letters (the contents of these letters range from really obscure requests to extreme rage) written to members of Congress pretty entertaining.
First personal item that you put on your desk:
I hung up cubicle art, including a “Hey Girl! Ryan Gosling Archives” Valentine’s Day card and a vintage 1960s postcard from Portugal with cross-stitching.
Most frequently asked question when you tell people what you do:
When I tell people I’m an archivist I usually get, “So do you get to work with old books?”. When I tell people the current project I’m working on I get, “Oh, have you found anything scandalous?”
Recommendation(s) for students who’d like your job:
Get hands-on processing experience – it definitely helps to have experience working with political papers, but experience working with institutional records helps a lot, too. I’m no technical expert, but I am really starting to believe it does help to know a little bit about programming. In general, don’t be afraid of technology and working with non-paper formats. And get used to moving heavy boxes around and deciphering NARA’s accession numbering system.
One piece of advice for upcoming grads on the job hunt:
Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people at events and conferences. You never know who may end up becoming your future boss or helping you get to a future job! Networking and meeting different people through conferences and workshops has helped me out tremendously in getting both jobs I’ve had post-MLIS. Conduct informational interviews with people whose job you are interested in to get more of an inside perspective on what their work is like.
When you are applying for a job, really stop to think, “is this something I really want to do and am I really qualified to do the work?” And if you have the flexibility to move, don’t be afraid to apply for jobs in places you normally have never heard of or imagined living in (Dela-where?). And when you get to the interview stage don’t be afraid about talking about yourself and asking your interviewee(s) questions about the work and workplace.
Favorite/Most memorable course from UCLA IS Department:
Issues and Problems in Preservation of Heritage Materials with my adviser, Ellen Pearlstein. The class worked on a collection of ancient Roman and Etruscan artifacts that had been collected by a former principal of Venice High School and is housed at LAUSD’s Police Department. It was a challenging and fun class, although I kind of stayed away from hot glue guns for awhile after the class ended. I also really enjoyed taking Subject Cataloging with Jonathan Furner because it turns out I spend a lot of time navigating LC’s Authorities web portal to find subject terms to attach to finding aids.
Course you wish you had taken/was offered at UCLA IS Department:
Digital Records Management and Digital Preservation class with Jean-François Blanchette. I ended up dropping out of Mahnaz Ghaznavi’s Information and Records Management course during a particularly hectic quarter, which I now wish I would have stayed in! And I kind of wish I would have taken a project management class or a workshop, too.