The head of our department, David Lowe, retires today, after a career at the University Library stretching back more than forty years. This afternoon, the Library gave him a grand send-off attended by scores of current and former staff, with speeches from former full and acting University Librarians among those given, ending with a lovely speech by David himself.
Apart from one year at library school in Sheffield, David has been in Cambridge since he left school to study German and French at Jesus College. He first came to the University Library as a trainee for one year; after completing his library course, he returned to take up employment at the UL once again. He was appointed as the German specialist in 1979 and held this role for over twenty years, during which time he had a crucial role in accessions such as the Stefan Heym archive and he led work with other UK libraries to set up the German Studies Library Group. He then moved up to become head of the new European Collections and Cataloguing department, which recently merged with English Collections to become Collections and Academic Liaison. Through these roles, David has had a fundamental effect on the University Library’s collections, either through direct selection, through careful instruction to new staff regarding selection, or through the negotiation of both small and vast donations.
One of the most important values that David has instilled in his team is the need to interact with what is new. Every year, for instance, our department, led by David’s example, reaches out to new graduate students working in the languages that we collect, offering help and providing a named contact. This gives us insight into what these newest of researchers are working on. It was also David, a self-confessed technophobe, who recognised the opportunities for promoting our collections that the introduction of a blog would provide.
David’s legacy can be seen physically in the books in the library but also, crucially, in the people he has worked with. For readers, he has always offered untiring support and genuine interest in their work. For the donors with whom he has worked, David’s zeal and care are unmistakeable. Even the booksellers he has used have found in David as much a friend as a customer. For the library staff with whom he works, David provides something particularly important in our rather hierarchical working life: for him, each colleague is respected and encouraged no matter their grade, their department, or their background. For his own department, Collections and Academic Liaison, his genuine personal interest is one of the main things we will particularly miss. Our department is made up of many different nationalities, with many staff far from home. What they find in our department, thanks to David, is a warm and genuine close-knittedness, and this familial relationship with David is one that will continue long after today.
We are so grateful to David and wish him the very best of health and happiness in his retirement – and we hope to tempt him back for the occasional guest blogpost.