UCLA Information Studies: Fields of Endeavor || Featuring Sara Seltzer (UC Irvine Special Collections and Archives)

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 Sara Seltzer.


Name: Sara Seltzer

Graduation Year: 2012

MLIS Focus: Archival Studies

Job Site: UC Irvine Special Collections and Archives

Title: Archivist


What do you do all day?

Broadly speaking, I’m responsible for accessioning and processing materials in all collecting areas and formats, as well as maintaining and updating policies and procedures for archival administration at UCI. Primary responsibilities include reviewing finding aids to ensure compliance with our procedures, editing EAD files, and uploading them to the Online Archive of California, accessioning new acquisitions and creating minimal finding aids to facilitate discovery, and integrating recommendations outlined in the Guidelines for Efficient Archival Processing in University of California Libraries with our accessioning and processing manuals. I also serve on the department’s reference desk four to six hours a week, contribute to our social media accounts (blogs, Twitter, and Pinterest), and supervise student workers and interns working on archival projects.


Most interesting item, record, document, etc. you have come across:

A (purported) fragment of the scarf that strangled Isadora Duncan.

First personal item that you put on your desk:

A print of Van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms.

Most frequent response when you tell people what you do:

Most people have no idea what an archivist is. I’ve tried a few different explanations, like “fancy librarian” or “person who works with historical documents.” The best response I’ve received after giving the longer-than-usual and most accurate definition of an archivist has to be, “Oh, like Indiana Jones!” It’s so hard to burst the bubble of someone who thinks you’re that cool.

Most frequently asked question at work:

“Can I take pictures of this?”

Recommendation(s) for students who’d like your job:

Be comfortable with being a well-rounded archivist and try to gain experience with different aspects of archival administration, including processing, reference, and outreach. Don’t be afraid to envision yourself outside your comfort zone when reading the description of a potential position. And if you don’t have experience with all the required responsibilities, be sure to express an interest in learning about and gaining experience with them.

One piece of advice for recent grads on the job hunt (having to do with networking, resume, cover letter, and/or interview):

I’ll give you two.

1) The degree is just the first step in landing an archival job. It will not get you a job on its own. Employers look at your experience; that’s what sets you apart from all the other people with the same credential. Intern/volunteer and/or work as many jobs in as many places as you can before graduating, or work furiously to get that experience post-graduation if you didn’t during school. Solid experience is essential to making it in the real world.

2) Let your passion show when you interview. I can’t stress enough how critical personality is to being successful in the job search. You aren’t just being evaluated on your archival merits during an interview. Interviewers are also considering how you would fit in with the institutional culture and existing team dynamic, and want to see that you are passionate about the profession and the position. Don’t let nerves stifle your enthusiasm when it counts most.

One archival intern commandment you would establish:

Though shalt not complain about working for free.

Favorite archive to visit:

The British Library’s Sir John Ritblat Gallery.

Favorite/Most memorable course from UCLA IS Program:

Luiz Mendes’ descriptive and subject cataloging courses. Luiz is wildly entertaining and is a walking AACR2 (and probably RDA) manual. You will gain a tremendous amount of practical experience in his classes and thoroughly enjoy yourself (you’d be surprised how fun cataloging can be!). If you’re at all interested in cataloging, Luiz is the master.


Job or internship site while in UCLA IS Program:

I completed internships at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Getty Institutional Records and Archives, and the Balch Art Research Library at LACMA.


Course you wish you had taken/was offered at UCLA IS Program:

Digital Preservation. This is a critical topic to learn about, and I wish I would have devoted time to it during graduate school.