Getting to Know the Biomedical Libraries’ Staff: An interview with David Sandberg

One of my favorite photos of one of my favorite memories. I went riding with my niece in Vermont, it was a great day. Goldy was a very bad horse though, he liked to bite the other horses.

1. What is your job and how long have you worked for the Dartmouth Biomedical Libraries?

I started at the Biomedical Libraries in November of 1992. It was during Bill Clinton’s first run for the White House. I was a Circulation Assistant. DHMC had just opened a year was really miraculous when this big white glamorous building appeared in this field. Deer would be bouncing around in the parking lot. I remember watching the Clinton Inauguration on a TV in the library. I left seven months later and worked for private firms for 12 years – then returned in November of 2004. In 15 years I have worked on many projects at Dana and at Matthews Fuller. The most challenging was working on a large de-accession project. It was a huge project but rewarding. I’m currently an Information Access Assistant working at the Dana Biomedical Library.

2. What is your favorite part about your job?

Easy – working with medical students. They are all just really amazing people. It’s a privilege to help them when I can. They all have varied backgrounds and interests but they all want to be great doctors.

3. What is your least favorite part about your job?

Saying goodbye every year to folks who are moving on to their residencies or somewhere else. Odds are you never see them again. Sad but part of the cycle.

4. How are you spending your isolation?

I adopted a Maltese puppy in the first week of February. If you are going to be home quarantined then it’s great to be with a puppy. You will not be bored. Ever. Not a good time to be low on towel paper. I hit the absolute worst time to be low on paper products.

5. If you have any pets or kids, describe them as your co-worker and tell us what they are doing right now.

I have a 12-year-old Pekinese named Happy Ming who was a gift from my father. He went blind in April. I am his seeing-eye human. We are learning a new way to get him exercise and keep him cheerful. He gets lots of attention and TLC. He has always been hand-fed. The puppy is Dodger – he is asleep under my desk. Andromeda is my cat. She was hunting in the basement last night and is now asleep in her chair in the living room. She runs the house, no question about that.

6. What pantry meal are you proudest of?

I have zero interest in food. I never have. I eat the exact same meals every day 365 days a year. For breakfast it’s always just one hard egg, I only eat the white with toast. Happy gets the yolk. I seldom eat lunch. Dinner is always Boca Burger with vegetables, and some dessert. I just have no interest in food, I don’t know why. I do eat pizza on Friday nights, that is a treat.

7. What are you reading/watching during your isolation?

I am reading a biography of Lord Byron. He was the first modern celebrity. A great, larger than life-sized story. His lifetime was filled with similar celebrated folks – the Prince Regent comes to mind. Lady Caroline Lamb. Shelley. Great but not admirable individuals. Striving but not endearing people. The Regency was the birth of the modern. They were rebels, they broke a lot of conventions. It was Caroline Lamb who said of Bryon “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”

8. What is your hobby?

In the Fall of 1993 I decided to collect guidebooks to all of the world’s museums. Big and small. I own several thousand now. As well as a collection of seven hundred city maps and schematics. I have met fascinating people all around the world who went and bought guides for me. My favorite was from Tsaritsyno outside of Moscow. A new Russian friend got on the Metro and bought the guide for me one day. That was wonderful. Real magic.

The world is a big place with lots of good people. A lady in a bookstore in Lisbon went to the Ajuda Palace and got me the guidebook. It was almost impossible to get. I owe her so much. Then she went to Mafra and got me that palace guide, also. People are so generous and I am grateful to them. I always remember them years later when I look at the guides. My collection is the work of many hands. I have guides in many languages.

There are ten museums that I always have the current guide for: The Louvre, the Prado, the Uffizi, the Rijksmuseum, The Met, the Hermitage, the Vatican Museums, the Kunsthistoriches Museum, and the US and UK National Galleries. I was born in Boston so the MFA, too. The most beautiful museum guide is to the Queen Emma Summer palace in Honolulu. It’s small but so visually intimate. It’s in the hills above the city. My personal favorite guide is to the Cairo Museum – though most of the exhibits have been moved to the new Grand Egyptian Museum at the pyramids. There is no guide for the GEM right now. I am waiting. It’s been a real journey collecting these guides, I can go anywhere on a winter’s day by sitting down with these guides.

9. Where’s a favorite place you have traveled and where would you most like to travel to next?

Vienna. I just loved Vienna. I have been to Europe eight times. Vienna has a vibe like no other great city I have visited. I love the way Austrians speak German. The way they wait for pedestrian lights. Always. There is a sweet fatalism to Vienna. Der tod das muss ein Wiener sein = Death must be Viennese. The Viennese believe you must enjoy life while you can and the whole city is a celebration of all things beautiful and dynamic.

I loved the hum of the Ringstrasse at night near the Hofburg. Mozart died young. I remember his apartment on Domgasse my first night in the city and I loved it. I walked through his rooms near the Cathedral and was amazed by the ambience of the spaces. Vienna is all about enjoying this moment in time. Appreciating how wonderful things are and also how fleeting they can be. It also has Sacher torte, the best chocolate cake in the world. I am hoping to go to Berlin in 2021 or 2022 when the Museum Island fully reopens. I would also like to visit the palace ensemble at Potsdam.

10. What frivolous things do you miss about being out in the normal world?

Bookstores. Cones at McDonalds, I’m utterly addicted to them, it’s like my curse, I have to limit myself to one or two a week. Movies!


This post was written by the Water Cooler Committee, Samara Cary, Paige Scudder, Elaina Vitale, and Samantha Wiebkin, for the Biomedical Libraries.

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