Trinity’s Sub-Librarian, Sandy Paul, will retire this week. The Sub-Librarian’s post was established in 1773 and Sandy has been in the role for 11 years and has worked at Trinity for 25 years. We caught up with him to hear about his career and his plans for the future.
When did you join Trinity College?
I joined the staff in 1995 when the retrospective cataloguing project started and the library began to automate. I was appointed Cataloguer and Team Leader. I became an Assistant Librarian in 1996 and the Sub-Librarian in 2009. I’m an antique but, hopefully, a treasured one.
What has changed during your time in Cambridge? In College? In the library world? In the city?
Cambridge has changed a lot since the 1990s – and dramatically over the past few months. Had I been writing this in January 2020 I would have been complaining about the changing nature of tourism in the city but, in August 2020, it would be nice to see some of them back! Trinity College Library has changed enormously since I arrived in 1995. Then, we had a card catalogue and that was about it. Since then, a fabulous online catalogue has been created and all of our practices are automated. We have a terrific digitisation project underway and a social media presence which has been invaluable during lockdown. The Wren may be closed to readers but we’re able to reach out to the world. The change has been remarkable.
What are your favourite aspects of the job? And least favourite?!
I’ve been able to handle wonderful objects every day over the past 25 years and few librarians have the opportunity to work in such magnificent surroundings. The Wren is an exquisite place. Very unlike the all the other libraries I’ve worked in. My first library job was the public library in Easterhouse, a notorious housing scheme in Glasgow. That was in 1980. I had a summer job there when I was a student. I’ve come quite a long way – from Mills and Boon to medieval manuscripts.
My least favourite thing? The pressure of increasing tourism was a source of concern until March this year. I doubt that will be a problem for a while!
What is the most memorable moment of your time as Sub-Librarian?
It has to be my trips to West Horsley Place in Surrey to look through the Crewe Collection of books, to sort them and to help oversee their return to Trinity. It was a sensational experience; a one-off. We found such wonderful things there and continue to do so now they’re here. I found a letter from Casanova to his nephew in a book a few weeks ago. That was a find.
What do you enjoy reading?
At the moment, cookery books. Elizabeth David has been a good companion over the past few months. I haven’t stuffed a sheep yet but her writing is so evocative of time and place and I can dream that one day I might be able to “motor” through France again and polish off lots of good wine and food. I’ve become very fond of Skye McAlpine whose recipes are really easy and work well for an untalented cook like me. The Oxford Companion to Wine has been a huge asset as the regular deliveries arrive from NY Wines of Shelford.
Do you have a favourite book/manuscript from the Library?
There’s a lovely book in the Wren that I like very much. It’s Turgot’s Plan de Paris (U.17.45), an atlas of 20 non-overlapping bird’s-eye view maps of Paris published in 1739, drawn by Louis Bretez. It’s a wonderful book and full of interest. It was, at one time, possible to buy prints made from the original plates in the shop at the Louvre (I have two) but I think that might have stopped. It’s not an especially rare book but it makes me think of Paris and how much I’d like to go there as soon as I can.
What are you looking forward to during retirement?
Enjoying a lot of good food and wine and getting out of Cambridge for a bit. I look forward very much to seeing face masks disappear and being able to go where I want, when I want. A bit of normality.