Dave Lundquist: Mapping out a captivating career

The son of two library lovers and a bibliophile himself, Dave Lundquist naturally aspired to be a librarian while growing up.

"I wanted to do something where I could be around books all the time. It's kind of ironic, because I don't work with books," said UC Davis' maps and government documents librarian.

Though Lundquist hardly seems to mind these days.

An expert on cartographic work ranging from medieval European documents to Gold Rush-era California real estate plans and new digital mapping data, Lundquist loves to regale colleagues and friends with stories of his favorite maps and their origins.

"People say, 'Uh-oh, Dave's talking maps,'" Lundquist said.

Lundquist, Shields Library's most senior employee, came to UC Davis in 1966 fresh out of library school at UC Berkeley.

For a spell he did work with books in the cataloging department at Shields, but in 1972 Lundquist happily accepted a transfer to the maps and government documents room.

With no formal training in geography or cartography, he's familiarized himself with the library's 200,000 maps though "assimilation, osmosis and propinquity," Lundquist said.

In the early 1990s he used his expertise to help renowned author John McPhee research a The New Yorker story about the controversial and massive waste tire pile in Westley, on the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley. The pile was the largest in the state before a September 1999 fire destroyed it.

"I was the one who showed him how to measure the size of the pile," Lundquist said.

By overlaying a UC Davis aerial photograph of the canyon where the tires were dumped over a topographical map, McPhee and tire waste consultant determined that the pile held 34 million tires. McPhee's story, "Duty of Care," with a good mention of Lundquist, appeared in the June 28, 1993, issue of The New Yorker.

Lundquist lives in Davis with his wife, Doris. The couple's son, Marc, is a student at St. Mary's College in Moraga.

What's your favorite map in UC Davis' collection?

It may vary on what I'm working on. But one of my favorites is the first map of Benicia (1850). It's one of a kind, a pen-and-ink drawing and the first California real estate map.

What I like about it that it epitomizes the Western spirit. The streets march boldly up from the bay. It would have been hard to travel up those hills in horse and buggy.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?

The interesting and challenging questions that come to me. Also the people I get to work with, my colleagues.

What's the most challenging part of your job?

Probably the most frustrating thing is to have all of this information (in the map room) and to not have it used to my satisfaction.

What's your favorite spot on campus?

Probably the map room here. I like to come over, take out some maps and just study them.

A close second is any spot in the art department parking lot.

Do you have a favorite library?

My own. It has everything I'm interested in: art books, photography, history. And I love a good conspiracy theory. I find these really interesting, not believable, but interesting.

How do you unwind?

I don't get wound up very much. Right now I'm working on a Web page about the Japanese-American relocation. I find it interesting something of that magnitude never showed up in history books. Also, I read books, collect books. I like to go on eBay and look for book bargains.

Is there something about you that people would be surprised to know?

I don't think so. I've worked here for so long and most people here have worked here for so long. And I'm not a particularly complicated person.•

Media Resources

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, abagronis@ucdavis.edu

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