Mary Dimataris, M-I SWACO: Capturing expert knowledge with IADC Tech Pubs Committee
By Joanne Liou, Associate Editor
When Mary Dimataris began her career in the late 1970s, the copy machine was just becoming a common piece of office equipment, and a modem was considered “new technology.” In her first job out of college as Assistant Librarian for Magcobar, now part of M-I SWACO, she learned the process of gathering information for research projects. It begins with a search for reference materials and a bit of patience. She would type commands in code and wait for a response – while paying for the connection by the minute and by the amount of data retrieved.
“In those days, you took the telephone receiver and put it in the black box, which was an acoustic receptor. You would press it down and hope for a good connection at 45 kilobytes per second. That was the new and improved model,” Ms Dimataris, now Senior Technical Research Librarian for M-I SWACO, a Schlumberger company, explained. “You would sit there waiting for a response, and that was to get the reference, not to get the article.”
Then, the computer age happened. With computerization, not only could commercial databases be searched, but search time for references was reduced from hours to minutes. Later, the advent of the Internet and accompanying software further increased the accessibility of information and data. However, people still need help finding information. “The Internet is many times more vast than the largest research library ever was,” Ms Dimataris said, “but finding the right data and making it become usable information – or more importantly, knowledge – is still challenging.”
Ms Dimataris manages M-I SWACO’s science library, called the Knowledge Center, in Houston and helps gather information from published papers and trade journals for engineers, scientists, etc. “That can be in many different ways, but it’s making that connection, sometimes people to people, sometimes it’s books or magazine articles to people, and making sure that they have the information they need to solve the problem.” She peruses the books and journals to familiarize herself with the material. “This hands-on philosophy has served me well for the past few decades because it enables me to go beyond the basic answer in providing materials. As one of my favorite users explained, it was not just that I can quickly find the items he requested, but I will also ask if he needs these other related items he didn’t know to ask for.”
Libraries and their vast resources of information have always fascinated Ms Dimataris. “Early on I discovered I have this knack for understanding how information is organized. When I discovered there were science libraries, I was hooked.” Ms Dimataris received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in economics at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Texas at Austin.
In her current role, she often participates in projects from the earliest conception stage through helping prepare industry papers that may be referenced for decades. “I get to see an idea emerge from discussions with scientists, watch the refinement through project reviews by R&D, see IP emerge with new patents, track progress toward market and finally edit conference papers introducing the new technology,” Ms Dimataris said. She shares that experience with the IADC Technical Publications Committee (TPC).
Ms Dimataris has served as secretary of the committee since Dr Leon Robinson of International Drilling Consultants formed it in 2005. “The idea of capturing some of the knowledge of the industry experts is very powerful,” she stated. “People are an incredible information resource that is rarely appreciated.” Bill Rehm’s books – “Managed Pressure Drilling” and “Underbalanced Drilling” – are already classics, she said, and she is looking forward to the publication of two new books – Ron Sweatman’s “Well Cementing Operations” and “Driller’s Knowledge Book” by Juan Garcia and Dr Robinson.
The Big Crew Change highlights the significance of the committee and its publications, she said. “Writing is hard work, and it is so easy to forget to include something or to think you explain it clearly when it needs a little more polish,” Ms Dimataris said. “Doc Leon put together the IADC TPC to help the authors and encourage them to write.” The committee reviews an extensive outline to make sure all the necessary subjects will be covered, and “at least three very competent peers review every word,” she continued. “This additional step raises the quality of the book immensely and is unparalleled in the industry.”
Although the digital age has greatly advanced the way librarians like Ms Dimataris gather information, “I don’t ever see us giving up books totally,” she said. “Depending upon the usage, the needs and the readers, having multiple choices of formatting is excellent,” whether it is on a screen or from a hardcopy book. Referring to Sir Isaac Newton’s quote – “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Ms Dimataris said, “These books produced by the IADC TPC will enable the drilling industry to stand on the shoulders of our giants, today’s experts, and learn from them. I think the benefits of that will be incredible.”