Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hiroshi Kashiwagi Interview
Narrator: Hiroshi Kashiwagi
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-khiroshi-02-0031

<Begin Segment 31>

AI: Okay, so, well, I wanted to go back to your, your work situation changed in 1966, because you, that was, was that the year that you were hired at the library?

HK: Yes. Well, I worked at the Buddhist Churches of America headquarters, and I was, well, English secretary, I took notes at their meetings in English, and then I was translator, they would write their reports, and then I would translate that. And also, what else did I do? I answered, well, I edited the English publication, monthly publication. So I did that for 1957 to '65, I believe, then I, I decided I would go to library school, and so I commuted from San Francisco to Berkeley, and I started in the summer of '65, and went through June of '66, I think. Took me three, three terms. And I got my master's degree and, and I was promised a job at the library as soon as I got my master's.

AI: At the San Francisco?

HK: Yeah, public library, and they, they were interested in my Japanese background so I could start their, their Japanese collection, but then when I was interviewed, well, the head librarian thought that I had, I had a good background in literature, American literature, especially, so I was hired for the literature department as staff of the literature, which covered foreign language collections, I also worked on the Japanese collection. So that I selected Japanese books and got them for the library. And then as part of my assignment, I also did Gaelic -- [laughs] -- which I never knew, but selecting books in the library, you catalog, so I don't know, I kind of managed that. I don't know if I was doing much good, but there weren't that many Gaelic readers. [Laughs] You learn, you learn a few prominent writers, and Japanese, too. You don't, you have no time to read the books, even glance through the books, but you go through magazines and they're, they list the publications, their ads, and you soon learn the prominent writers of the, current, contemporary writers as well as past classic writers. And so any work that's under their names, you select it. And then there are Akutagawa Prize and Noma Prize, so anything that wins those prize, automatically you select. So it was fun and easy, library work was so easy for me. [Laughs] I really enjoyed it. And it was always a challenge because we were doing reference, and we would get questions over the phone and in person, and you have to know the answers real quick, or know exactly where to go. And I got very good at that. [Laughs] Yeah, it was, it was fun. Literature was, I had background in literature. I mean, things were in my head that others would have to find, and so I was good doing that, and then I was transferred to science and documents, which is a little different, I didn't have the background, but more challenging. And documents meant government documents, the San Francisco Public is a repository of... or is it a depository? Anyway, we get all the documents from, from Washington, or from Denver or wherever, and it's kept there, and so we look up bills and laws and stuff. And it was, it was really a challenge.

Every, every day I, I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed going to work. Just that sometimes it was hard to get along with some of these women librarians who were heads of departments. And so although I had a background in art and music... not in music so much, but art, my, my major was art history at Cal, so, and we had a music department, and music I would have to learn, because... but I didn't work in that department because of the department head. I mean, nobody liked her, and I wouldn't want to work for her, unless I want to be a slave to her. [Laughs] And so I, I didn't work that, and so I felt that I didn't use my art background. As a librarian, reference librarian, you use whatever you have. The more you have, the better, and the idea is to help the patron in any way possible.

So it was a challenging job, and I enjoyed it. And it made possible to support the kids, not too well. Our kids would finally say nowadays that, tell each other that, "We were deprived." [Laughs] But at the time, they didn't know that. [Laughs] Yeah, well, I stayed away from Boy Scouts. Scouting? None of that. [Laughs] I didn't have the time, I didn't like the scouting program, and, and luckily, our kids were not into athletics so much. When the middle son was to some extent, but not so that he was on teams, and I had to be there and take him and this and that. So I was spared of all that, and it seemed like they didn't miss that so much. Certainly they didn't miss scouting, because they know nothing about it. [Laughs] So that was it, and whenever we went anywhere, they came along with us. So we didn't go anywhere, really. Sometimes meetings would be combined with social evenings, and then we'd bring 'em back and they'll be asleep, and I'd have to carry them up. But, yeah, they didn't seem to mind, and they wore hand-me-downs, and my wife bought day-old breads, and we got along. And we did without a lot, and found that very challenging and fun. So that was our, our early parenting life, yeah.

AI: Well, I also wanted to ask you about some of your earlier years at the library. You must have been one of the very few at that time, one of the very few racial minority people on staff.

HK: Oh, yes. I was probably the first, I don't remember that there were any... there might have been a Latin, Latino, maybe, although he claimed not to be, you know. [Laughs] But yeah, I think I was the most visible minority to be hired.

AI: So, did you feel any extra expectation or pressure being in that position?

HK: Not really. Not really, because I was in my specialty. And I was hired for certain skills I had, and then as I worked, I learned that there was nothing that I couldn't learn to, to do, master in library. I mean, it's not all that complicated. Some librarians make everything so complicated, they're so busy. [Laughs] Used to make me laugh, because I, I was able to do things quickly in my... I developed so that I knew the answers, many of the answers in my head, and then I knew exactly where to go, and then you get it, or on the page. I had a kind of visual memory. When I took tests, I knew exactly where in the book the answer was, and then I'd just lift it from there, so that when I studied a part in my play, I knew the lines exactly where on the page. But if they rewrite it and retype it, then I have to learn the whole thing over again. [Laughs] I can't picture it on the page.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.