Continuing our series of interviews, we’re happy to introduce all of you to Diane (DeDe) Dawson. In a project that relies so heavily upon the literature, it is a good thing to have a science librarian on our side!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do (professionally)? Any other interesting facts?
I am originally from the Toronto area, but have just recently moved to Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada) to work at the University of Saskatchewan as the Natural Sciences Liaison Librarian. I am responsible for Geology and Chemistry subject areas, so I maintain the collections in these areas as well as provide reference and “information literacy” instruction to students and faculty. Basically, I help them find the information that they need and teach them effective literature searching skills.
I have quite a varied background. My undergraduate degree is in Biology, my main interest being evolution and zoology. I completed an honours thesis project on several trilobite species found locally (in Ontario) – collecting all the specimens myself and performing some basic morphometric analyses. Certainly I’ve always had an interest in natural history in general, and a particular fascination with fossils. So, during the summers I worked in the Vertebrate Paleontology lab of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. After graduation, I remained at the ROM as a technician for several years and was lucky enough to be involved in an excursion to collect Jurassic marine reptile fossils in northern British Columbia! But it turns out though that my interests are much older… and without backbones! I ended up returning to invertebrates for my MSc thesis in Earth Sciences: graptolite phylogenetics. During the process of my Master’s thesis research I began to realize that I also really enjoyed the literature search, and while I loved paleo, I didn’t see a career in it for me. Academic librarianship presented itself as a profession more suited to me and a way to maintain my connection with the academy.
Why did you decide to participate in the ODP?
Besides my longstanding interest in all things paleo, I also have a very strong interest in open access issues and what we librarians call “scholarly communication.” Being a librarian I am all too aware of how expensive some library resources are, particularly scientific journals. The exorbitant costs often put the research published by scientists out of reach of the general public, and increasingly out of reach of budget-restricted institutions too. I realize that I am in a privileged position in having access to many of the articles that the public does not, so I want to be able to help the ODP gather this kind of data. I also want to support any effort that shares knowledge, increases collaboration across disciplines, and challenges barriers to accessing information. I am very intrigued by the concept of the ODP as a potentially new form of scholarly communication and collaboration in the sciences, and I’m eager to see how the project unfolds!
So far, what has been the best part of the ODP for you, and why?
The best part so far has been to put my library’s collection to use! I am always assisting others to use the collections here, but now I have a purpose for the collection too. I am relatively new to this library, so have not had a lot of time (or reason) to explore the stacks yet. It is very satisfying to be able to pull some of the dusty old journal volumes from the shelves and make use of them! I have also been able to identify and correct some access problems with electronic journals during this process. So I’m actually doing my job at the same time!
What have you learned from your participation in the ODP?
I have learned what a scapulocoracoid is!
What advice would you give those who might be interested in helping out with the ODP?
First spend some time reading through the ODP website, especially some of the tutorial postings about anatomy and what the abbreviations in the forms refer to. This has saved me from hassling the project leaders with lots of questions! Also, I found it easiest to start with verifying some of the articles already entered. This has given me a better feel for the process, and what to look for in the articles. Soon I might look for some new articles myself…