Etsuko Edwards

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Library Manager

I started as a lunchtime cover just to start any job. Somehow I managed to find this job [from] a newspaper [that had] a little article on the library and it just started from there. That was 15 years ago. All I was thinking was that ‘I need work but not full-time.’ I just had my first child so I thought ‘just three hours a day, perfect.’ And somehow it worked for me and I started doing overtime from three hours to five hours, seven hours, and I got a full-time job!

I couldn’t even speak English properly in those days. I was just taking it day by day really. I never thought about anything. In those days I was thinking, ‘I am a foreigner, how can they give me an important part of the library job?’ This is English literature we are looking after so I was feeling like it [was] not my place for a long long time. But at one point I realised that nobody is working as hard as me. Some people come here just to get their wages. Just the existence – at work – but not [doing] much work and they take their wages with them. I thought ‘I’m pretty good for this,’ and started to get confidence (with experience as well).

Once I get here, I apply [myself]. It’s not that stressful. You just get on. I think I’m lucky to have this job. That’s my part of the story. I got to know people and the community through the job. I could be just one of the customers. I learned English here, I couldn’t even read. My child laughs at my pronunciation. I am behind the scenes most of the time and I work with a great team. I want artists and creatives to come and work with us here. We have a lot of activities for mothers and children.

To be honest, I have not seen [many] changes except for the recent council restructuring and budget cuts. We needed to change otherwise these kinds of places are the last places to change. In a way it’s good because people needed to shake off the habits but if that is going to affect the public that shouldn’t be [right]. I guess [there] has to be a balance. Even though we do not want the new changes, if we have to then they have to know the balance. It can’t be one-sided. That seems to be what’s happening to the library. The customer service [has] too much weight on one department. Anyway, it should be balanced and we don’t have any control.

[I have] thought about the future without the book because we have the audiobook, computer, tablet. People might not pick up the book. When that [day] comes, we won’t be needed. We’ll need customer service skills so we can go that way, one day. But people still want actual books. It’s a shame that the Librarian, those old-fashion people, are disappearing. It’s [an] unknown future really and we are just public sector workers and in that way maybe we [will] have some kind of job. But the library, realistically, cuts might happen.

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