She's been Taft's Librarian for 22 years and she will continue to read at storytime
Kathy Edgecomb has officially stepped aside as director of the Taft Branch of Kern County Library.
But, she’s not completely divorcing herself of the job she’s been devoted to for the past 22 years.
She’ll do a little traveling with hubby Nick, for sure, but she isn’t going to be totally detached from the system.
Specifically, she plans to continue doing the one aspect of her job she enjoys the most – reading stories to preschoolers every Thursday morning and taking part in Grandma’s Attic storybook time on Saturday mornings.
“I just love reading to kids,” she said. “I’ll be one of the volunteers now.”
The children’s section of the library has always been her favorite.
“The one thing I will miss the most about retiring is reading all those brand new kids books when they come in.”
One of the first things on her agenda now that she’s retired is attend a storytelling festival for adults in Mariposa.
“It’s a good time,” she said. “It brings people together from all over.”
Edgecomb also plans to spend more time with her four grandchildren, who live in Bakersfield. “They’re all under the age of five, so that’s high on my list.”
Edgecomb has seen the library change over the past two decades – changes brought about by budget cuts and technology.
When she started in 1991 the library was open five days a week.
“Then it went to four days and then three. And before I started working at the library I remember it being open six days a week.”
When the county budget improved recently, a day was added, but that could be in jeopardy.
“Now we’re at four days again, but budget cuts are coming because of KMC,” she said. “There has to be a five percent budget cut.”
She’s referring to a financial crisis at Kern Medical Center.
County administrators say other departments must take another hit to help keep the financially ailing – but critical – hospital afloat.
“But through it all we still have a nice library here, and we have a real good staff,” Edgecomb said.
COMPUTERS = CROWDS
Technology has impacted the library in both good and bad ways – but mostly good because the library was able to provide an additional level of service, she said.
“When we added computers for the public in 2000 we went through all the growing pains trying to develop policies. We had people lined up to get on the computers.”
That created crowding around the front desk and dramatically increased the noise level, she said.
But the explosion of laptops, tablets and other electronic devices has all but eliminated the drawbacks ushered in by technology.
“So many people have smart phones now so we don’t have people waiting to use a computer,” Edgecomb said.
The library also provided telephone and babysitting services, although those weren’t part of the plan.
“Sometimes we had kids lined up to use the telephone as soon as school let out so they could call mom or dad to pick them up. Some kids didn’t have a place to go after school so they would come here to visit and socialize.”
But when the Taft City School District launched its after-school program the library ceased to be a place to hang out or use the telephone.
“We don’t hardly get anyone asking to use the phone anymore,” Edgecomb noted.
Those changes have reduced the noise level too.
“It’s a lot quieter place now,” she said.
Another technological advance that is impacting libraries are e-books – books readers can download onto devises such as the Kindle.
“I think it balances out over time because there is not a huge selection of e-books.”
Edgecomb said the Taft Branch plans to soon install two computerized self-checkout systems soon.
“It’s not supposed to be so we can cut staff, but is supposed to maintain what we have. There have been a lot of changes in the last few years.”
She points to “a great group of volunteers,” a partnership with the Taft College library, Friends of the Library groups, and the generosity of the community as catalysts to keep Taft Branch humming.
“That’s all been great. It’s nice to have that kind of support.”
She’s also proud of the mural that local Girl Scouts helped create that dresses up the front of the library.
“Every time I come to work it makes me smile.”
Edgecomb has produced a lot of smiles too.