Continuing with the tradition from last three years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2011 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January 2011. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Kiyomi Deards (blog, Twitter).

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background? Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

I’m very international by heritage and philosophical bent. I’ve lived in Japan, Kansas, California, and Nebraska and have moved 20 times so far, mostly before the age of 20. My family is mainly in Japan and the Midwest but we’re an eclectic bunch and you can probably find someone I’m related to in most large countries. I was raised in a family which took the phrase liberal arts very seriously; I think all of us have our own mix of artistic and academic interests. To my knowledge I am the only one who holds degrees in all four areas: the arts (performing), sciences, social sciences, and humanities. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with minors in Music and History from the University of Redlands, followed by a Master of Science in Library and Information Science at Drexel University.

I left Redlands aspiring to be a PhD candidate in Chemistry and realized two weeks into the degree that 3.5 years of constant research and classes equaled a very burnt out Kiyomi who had no interest whatsoever in taking more classes at that time. On the flip side I loved teaching general chemistry lab and was fortunate to be kept on as an adjunct professor for the remainder of the school year. Seeking more steady employment a faculty member referred me to an environmental testing laboratory having heard that I’d specialized in spectroscopy as an undergraduate.

I was hired as a GC Specialist Chemist (a rather ostentatious title required by the state) and later promoted to quality control manager. When you test the wastewater and drinking water for the area where you and your family live you tend to take your job very seriously. Working in the environmental testing industry you quickly learn that a lot of politics are involved in which laws are enforced and there’s always someone who thinks they can throw money or threaten you into giving them the results that they want. You really love and support those businesses that practice consistent and ethical water treatment and testing practices. Eventually I decided it was time to do something else.

After lengthy consideration I decided librarianship was the way to go, I could still play with spreadsheets and datasets, I could interact with people, and most importantly my job would involve me wearing a variety of different hats and keeping up with multiple areas of science and technology. Being able to spend holiday’s with friends and family instead of called into work was the icing on the cake. I quit my job, went back to school full-time for 14.5 months, aggressively learned about librarianship and marketed myself as a potential science librarian, and had an offer in hand within 16 month of quitting my previous job.

Currently, I am the librarian for Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics & Astronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln University Libraries (try saying that one three times fast!). I serve on the University’s Judicial Board, the Libraries’ Data Curation Committee, and several professional association committees. On any given day I may be assessing electronic resources, lobbying vendors, providing instruction, tutoring in the Chemistry Resource Center, attending science and library conferences, purchasing materials, preparing a presentation, performing research, applying for grants, etc.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

Recently I spent a large amount of time working on my second year reappointment folders (yes, librarians can be tenure track too!) Now that those are in I’m hoping to focus on writing up two research projects which are complete and in need of analysis. The project closest to my heart is my study examining how individuals working in libraries with visible and non-visible medical conditions are treated in the work place. I was inspired to examine this issue based on my cousin’s experience completing a college degree, starting, and running a successful business, while being chronically ill. Although my cousin eventually died from his condition it did not hold him back from pursuing his dreams of running his own Eco Friendly construction business. Even in this bad economy he was turning jobs away.

For the purposes of this study I decided to examine Academic, Special, and Public libraries. In the future I’d like to collaborate with other scientists to examine this issue in science. I suspect that we may be losing some of our brightest stars because of the rigidity of our educational system, and because many people do not know their rights to accommodation. When people think about accommodating those with medical conditions there seems to be a feeling that all accommodations must be really onerous, whereas many people may only need a slight accommodation such as a first floor office to avoid stairs or a nightshift to avoid daylight. Some individuals may need to take a smaller number of classes to accommodate their health, but if they can pass the classes and do the research I believe that they deserve the degree. I’ve heard people argue that if a student can’t do the work in the same conditions as everyone else how will they obtain a job, but to me that is presumptuous and assumes that what the student wants to do with their degree follows a strict path.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

I love how many science blogs are out there, seeing what interests scientists across disciplines. I am a compulsive reader, and fortunately my job requires that I keep up with all the disciplines that I cyberstalk.

As an undergrad I was very fortunate to have Jodye Selco as my mentor (she still is), the internet was starting to go mainstream, but overall, the people you interacted with in science were your department. Now I have science friends all over the world who I hear from on a regular basis. We share our ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, and we inspire each other to try new things, research in new directions. 15 years ago this was very difficult, now it’s almost embarrassingly simple and I for one revel in the online science community.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and others? How do you integrate all of your online activity into a coherent whole? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?

I’ve had my own websites off and on since 1995, when I decided to change careers I started because I wanted a name that would be easy to remember (obviously no one was going to remember how to spell my name). As I’ve leaned more and more toward science I sometimes contemplate changing the name but I figure people who know me know that I’m pretty hard core about Science and Librarianship and those who want will keep reading and those who don’t can stop. My main social network is Twitter followed by LinkedIN with Facebook and Google+ trailing behind. I prefer the first two networks because I can scan them quickly to pick up trends in topics and see what people are up to.

I don’t completely separate work and personal online, as a general rule of thumb I post science and library related issues anytime with personal interest comments and links after hours and on weekends. Without these connections it would be impossible for me to even begin to keep up with all the areas I need to follow to do my job effectively. When I’m really busy I tend to post minimally and just allocate a few minutes here and there toward scanning so I don’t fall too far behind. If I feel overwhelmed I just stay offline for a bit. Overall I find this activity helps keep me focused, honest with myself, and connects me to the vast communities of scientists and librarians.

When and how did you first discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool science blogs by the participants at the Conference? What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2011 for you? Any suggestions for next year?

I’m not sure when I first discovered science blogs, but I first encountered science online around 1997 when I helped write a chemistry lab to teach students to look for and evaluate scientific information online. I think my favorite blog is Kate Clancy’s Context and Variation although it’s very hard to decide between that and Carin Bondar’s Biology with a twist. Another favorite is Mathew Francis’ Galileo’s Pendulum.

The best aspect of Science Online was meeting a whole conference full of people who were enthusiastic about science, learning, and spreading information about science. The worst aspect was not having enough time to get to know everyone there!

In the future, assuming we all had tons of time and unlimited funds, I’d really like to have a summer version of Science Online because one 3 day meeting a year just isn’t enough time with all the wonderful people I’ve met through this unconference.

Is there anything that happened at this Conference - a session, something someone said or did or wrote - that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, or to your science reading and writing?

For me the conference reinforced my theory that there’s always something new and interesting you can do with a science degree; if you don’t love your job keep trying new ones until you do, it’s a risk but one that’s paid off for dozens of Science Online attendees.

Thank you! I hope you can make it to ScienceOnline2012 in January.