Logan Lazalde, Digital Archivist
Thorough documentation captures decision-making, promotes efficiency, and allows your colleagues and successors to understand and continue your work.
Logan Lazalde is a digital archivist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. He received a bachelor of arts from The Evergreen State College, a small experimental school in Olympia, Washington, before earning a master of library and information science at Wayne State in 2020.
Q: What was your path to the field? Did you always know you wanted to work as an archivist, or did you discover that later?
A. While I was an undergrad, I began collecting ephemera—mostly early to mid-twentieth-century American postcards, but also bits of paper from the Soviet Union, like chocolate wrappers, matchbox labels and bookmarks—and eventually decided to digitize my collection and share the images on Flickr. Preserving and sharing history was gratifying work, and I wondered if there was something similar I could do for a living.
Q: Working for the Space Telescope Science Institute sounds incredibly interesting! Were you interested in space prior to taking this job?
A. Yes! I received a copy of Isaac Asimov's Great Space Mysteries when I was five or six and read it so often that the binding fell apart. I thought, for a time, that I'd grow up and study quasars, neutron stars or some other exotic phenomenon described in the book. In a parallel dimension, there is a me who happily satisfied that dream—a me much better at math than this me.
Q: Why did you choose Wayne State’s School of Information Sciences?
A. I sought an MLIS program that regularly offered archives and digital preservation courses and would allow me to remain mobile in case the right internship or job presented itself. The clincher was my early interactions with SIS staff and faculty, who were helpful and passionate about their roles as educators and information professionals.
Q: How did the MLIS program prepare you for your current role?
A. When I came to STScI, the Institutional Archive was only a year old, and my colleagues and I had to turn thousands of files into a searchable and browsable collection. With no standards in place, this young archive was the perfect laboratory for applying what I learned at Wayne State.
Learning about Dublin Core, PREMIS, EAD, DACS and other schemas and standards helped me devise a custom metadata schema for describing scientific materials at the item level; assignments utilizing ArchivesSpace, PastPerfect, and Preservica gave me criteria by which to judge and select a collections management system; and the courses Website Development and Digital Curation and Preservation provided me with a technical and intellectual foundation for implementing a web archiving program. I could go on!
Q: What kind of projects do you work on at STScI? Is there a project that you've worked on that was especially interesting to you?
A. My first few years at STScI were dominated by what felt like one very long project: setting up and internally publicizing a collections management system.
In the last year, I've written a guide detailing our custom metadata schema and how to apply it to digital objects, wrote another guide detailing our digital preservation workflow, tracked down decades-old Halloween photos for retirement parties and early James Webb Space Telescope concept art for documentaries, converted thousands of PDF files to PDF/A, and created item-level descriptions for everything from International Ultraviolet Explorer observation logs to emails about masking policies, among other projects.
One project I'm starting to work on and am excited about is conceptualizing and implementing a web archiving program. The STScI Newsletter, published continually since 1984, demonstrates why a web archiving program is necessary. In the last four decades, an issue of the newsletter has gone from being a bound physical document to a PDF file to a series of linked web pages containing complex formatting and dynamic elements. To maintain the intended viewing experience of the current newsletter, we need software that captures the web page as it looks in a modern browser and replicates it in perpetuity.
Q: What do you feel is the most important or surprising thing you've learned about the library and information science profession?
A. The necessity of documentation. It’s not a glamorous or much-talked-about facet of the profession, but it’s important. Thorough documentation captures decision-making, promotes efficiency, and allows your colleagues and successors to understand and continue your work.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A. I am incredibly fortunate to be in continuous contact with groundbreaking science and acquainted with the people who make that science happen—not just the scientists and engineers but the visualization specialists, science writers, event planners, web developers, administrators, facilities staff and many others.
The idea that I have a connection to the Hubble Space Telescope, the scientific instrument that took the images that filled Asimov's Great Space Mysteries, is as surreal to me now as when I arrived at STScI four years ago.
Q: What advice would you give current students?
A. I recommend attending conferences hosted by the Society of American Archivists, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, Code4Lib and similar organizations. Students and early-career professionals often qualify for travel scholarships and reduced registration costs, and sometimes cheaper virtual options are offered. These conferences allow you to make valuable connections and learn about new developments in the field.