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.

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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 I’ve tried a few different explanations, like “fancy librarian” or “person who works with historical documents.”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.

 

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UCLA Information Studies: Fields of Endeavor || Featuring Kelly A. Kolar (Middle Tennessee State University)

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 Kelly A. Kolar.

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Name: Kelly A. Kolar

Graduation Year: 2004

MLIS Focus: Archival Studies

Job Site: Department of History, Middle Tennessee State University

Title: Assistant Professor, Archival Management and History

 

What do you do all day?

After finishing my MLIS I worked at The Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War in Culver City, CA.  After a few years I returned to UCLA to pursue a PhD in Russian History with a research focus on Soviet archives.  Currently I work as a professor in the Public History program at MTSU, which trains students to work at historic and cultural institutions, including museums, historic sites, and archives.  As a professor may days vary widely, so what I do all week is:

I teach graduate seminars on archives and collections management to MA and PhD students pursuing degrees in Public History and undergraduate History courses, meet with students about their thesis or dissertation work, and work on my own research.

 

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

The most interesting item ever?  Off the top of my head, that is difficult to choose.  I’m sure the clear answer will come to me in a month or so.  Much of the collection at The Wende Museum documents everyday life in the Communist Bloc and my favorite items were usually those related to East German rock, LPs and magazine covers that highlighted the glory of officially approved “socialist” rock.

 

First personal item that you put on your desk:.

A six inch figure of “Misha,” the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

 

Most frequent response when you tell people what you do:

People are usually very excited to hear that I teach in a public history program, more excited than if I tell them I teach history.  Several studies have indicated that Americans trust museums as sources of information above books, professors, and the media, so perhaps this reaction is a reflection of that sentiment.

 

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

Pursue a MA or PhD in History.  If you are interested in researching and teaching about archives, but also have a passion for history, then a public history program may be the place for you.

 

One piece of advice for recent grads on the job hunt: 

Use the relationships you have developed through your internships and professional association networking to seek advice about the hiring process, resume, cover letter, etc.  Your professors are excellent educational resources, but most are fairly removed from the hiring practices in the field.  If you can talk to someone who actually does hiring, he/she may give you insight into the process that will help you prepare.

My advice for students who still have coursework: Take advantage of UCLA courses outside of the Information Studies department.  When I started the MLIS program I noticed that many of the jobs I was interested in stated a preference for applicants with two Western European languages, which I did not have.  I enrolled in German courses while I completed my MLIS.  My first job after finishing the degree at The Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War was only possible because I could read German.  Use undergraduate classes to diversify your skills, or build an area of specialty, be it additional languages, computer science, design, etc.    

 

Favorite archive to visit:

For my own research I have mostly visited archives in the former Soviet Union, especially in Moscow.  My favorite archive to work in is the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (the former Communist Party archive), which is just a couple of blocks from the Kremlin in Moscow. The reading room is on the top floor with lovely views of pre-revolutionary buildings and rooftops.  I have also rarely been given microfilm there!

 

Favorite/Most memorable course from UCLA IS Program:

My most memorable course was taking part in the UCLA – St. Petersburg State Academy of Culture Student Exchange.  I spent Winter quarter of my second year in St. Petersburg conducting research for my thesis on the founding of independent library associations in the Soviet Union in the perestroika/glasnost era.  Because library education is at the undergraduate level in Russia, I was able to guest lecture to some of the classes.

 

Job or internship site while in UCLA IS Program:

University of Southern California, Specialized Libraries & Archival Collection

I did two quarters of an internship at USC working on the Felix Guggenheim Papers, a collection of a Los Angeles based German-American literary, who had extensive ties to the German literary émigré community during the World War II era and on.

 

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

I wish I had taken subject cataloging!  I have many times been grateful that I took descriptive cataloging and wish I had taken both cataloging courses offered.  While I was in the MLIS program I did not anticipate doing much cataloging in my career, but it has actually popped up in nearly every job I’ve held.