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.


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.