Norma Baca, Research Librarian
“My work allows me to meet the information needs of Laboratory staff working on weapons-related research in support of our National Nuclear Security Administration’s Labs and sites as well as our partners in the Department of Defense,” Baca said.Preserving our valuable, one-of-a-kind records is what Norma Baca says is the best part of her work day. Her job doesn’t involve just preservation, though – she also hunts for treasure. As a research librarian at the NSRC, Baca performs technical information research and retrieval from a wide variety of collections. Those classified and unclassified collections include Manhattan Project data, technical reports, and legacy records.
Baca arrived at the Lab in March of 2011 after working for the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, where she managed records and microfilm for state agencies, municipalities, courts, and other entities. Her extensive record and archival management experience have made her a great fit for the NSRC.
“I’m very proud of accessioning and cataloging irreplaceable legacy records,” Baca says. “These materials date back almost 80 years to the Lab’s beginning and are the foundation of our weapons work today. Scientists and engineers rely on our collections – and us – to meet today’s mission needs.”
Hadley Hershey, Archivist
With 10 years of experience as a librarian, digitizer, and archivist, Hadley Hershey brought an exceptional set of qualifications when they joined the NSRC in 2020.
Among Hershey’s numerous duties is helping protect and share the valuable collections that scientists, engineers, and researchers rely on to meet work goals and safeguard our nation’s security.
“This is my dream job,” they said. “I always wanted to work in an institution that combined my fascination with history with my passion for protecting and sharing information resources.”
Hershey contributes a unique perspective through combined experience in libraries and in theater, where they worked as a lighting designer, production manager, technical director, and stage manager.
“I learned how to work through technical and logistical challenges, often with limited resources and time,” they said. “My experience has allowed me to gain experience working with a variety of media types and has given me experience in many different kinds of work environments.”
Hershey’s skills and background help successfully navigate duties that are never the same from day to day.
What makes this dream job even better? “I get to be a part of a team of people that are just as passionate as I am about safeguarding the irreplaceable media in the NSRC’s collections,” Hershey said.
Laura McGuiness, archivist
“They’re so beautiful!” Those were Laura McGuiness’s first words on her first day of cataloging library materials. Her boss asked if she was talking about the books. McGuiness replied, “No, the records!”
So began McGuiness’s career in libraries 10 years ago. Her love of cataloging and recordkeeping led her in 2020 to the NSRC, where she digitizes and creates metadata (data that describe and give information about other data) for the physical collections and ensures the readability of digitized materials through quality-control practices. Her work allows scientists, engineers, and researchers to find and access materials vital to their national security work.
Balancing speed and accuracy are both McGuiness’s biggest challenge and greatest achievement as she manages the tens of millions of items in the NSRC. This balance is also why McGuiness says she loves her job: she contributes to work that is important not only to the Lab and to the country, but also to research and security on a global scale.
“It is nice to know that I am consistently contributing to a larger purpose,” McGuiness said.
Meanwhile, she is working to employ her expertise in metadata to improve document discoverability in the NSRC.
“By populating accurate metadata as well as bridging gaps in any existing metadata, we are ensuring materials are digitally archived in such a way that perpetuity is ensured,” McGuiness said. “Ensuring accessibility for specific users to find and view these materials can ultimately aid in the Los Alamos mission of furthering scientific innovation.”
Brye Steeves, Communications Specialist
Her title is Communications Specialist, but Brye Steeves says her job is a blend of a little bit of everything.
“Really, I’m a storyteller,” she said. “I share strategic messages on behalf of the NSRC and the Lab that are woven through written stories, website content, social media posts, podcasts, books, short videos, long documentaries, events, speeches, presentations, photography, and graphic design. I also often fulfill editor and communications manager roles to ensure consistent messages and high-quality published products.”
Her success at accomplishing numerous roles on a daily basis stems from her particular experience and education. With a resume that includes a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations, which informs her understanding of weapons and their role in the world, and her work experience at the Department of Defense, Federal Reserve, and as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor, Steeves thinks her job at the NSRC is the perfect fit.
“I value being able to work somewhere with such an important mission,” she said.
Much like seeing her byline on the front page early in her career, Steeves still feels the rush of gratification when the NSRC publishes its products.
“These are the result of working with incredibly talented people and under leadership that values outreach,” she said, “not to mention nearly 80 years’ worth of materials in the NSRC always make for fascinating subjects.”
Chris C’de Baca, NSRC Group Leader
Even though he’s worked with the Lab’s classified collections since the late ‘90s, Chris C’de Baca is still surprised sometimes.
“My favorite part of the job is when we have a serendipitous discovery of incredible information,” C’de Baca said. “Every now and then, one of the NSRC librarians will pull records for a researcher and, thumbing through the documents, they discover a one-of-a-kind report or memo authored by a famous LANL scientist that nobody knew we had.”
As the NSRC’s Group Leader, C’de Baca manages the librarians, archivists, historians, digitizers, and others who do the work to make the vast amount of nuclear weapons information discoverable and retrievable.
While juggling oversight of the funding, staff, and work scope needed to meet researchers’ needs, C’de Baca has helped his team adapt to the strict security requirements of a classified setting as well as recent limitations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. He doesn’t take all of the credit for this transition, though.
“Our unified effort is the cornerstone for the success of the NSRC,” he said.
Looking ahead, C’de Baca said, “It is essential for me to do everything I can to make sure that future generations of LANL employees are aware of and can access the priceless nuclear weapons information that the Laboratory has curated since World War II.”