A birthday that goes down in the books

He’s been working in the library field for 30 years.

– The Gilroy public library may have its own history section,
but employees on Tuesday helped celebrate a little history
themselves as one of their co-workers blew out 80 birthday
GILROY – The Gilroy public library may have its own history section, but employees on Tuesday helped celebrate a little history themselves as one of their co-workers blew out 80 birthday candles.

Ed Cavallini, who commutes from Monterey in his old Volkswagen bus flowered with anti-war bumper stickers, turned 80 years old Tuesday and is still working 30 hours every two weeks as an employee at the Gilroy Public Library.

For once the library was not quiet, as the entire library staff erupted in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” in the front lobby. As cake was eaten, one very appropriate gift was given to Cavallini – a book titled “Old Age is for Sissies.”

“You don’t see many people who are 80 and still working,” Head Librarian Lani Yoshimura said.

But working at a library wasn’t always in Cavallini’s plans.

Cavallini graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in cinematography and achieved a master’s degree in information technology from San Jose State. He worked at Lockheed Martin as a senior program coordinator in charge of mediation between engineers, but says he was never completely happy.

Jeanne Cavallini, his wife now of 58 years, was a librarian at the time and loved what she did. So he decided to follow in her footsteps and took a significant pay cut to become a librarian at the Milpitas public library. And he couldn’t be happier with his decision.

“This was the best move I ever made,” Cavallini said. “After a certain amount of time, the money does not seem as important as leading a fulfilling life.”

For the next 22 years Cavallini worked in Milpitas helping readers find the perfect book while offering a little insight along the way. In 1974, he spent time working on a grant program through the library called Project Serve.

Cavallini and the project team drove around the community, taking books to underprivileged families and institutionalized adults who could not get to libraries on their own. During the project Cavallini met Yoshimura.

“I have known Ed for 30 years. He has been like a father to me and has taught me everything I know,” Yoshimura said. “His non-threatening approach to problems and people makes him a counselor and a great friend.”

Cavallini decided to retire from his librarian job in Milpitas three years ago, but he realized he could not leave it completely and barely a week later began working two days a week at the Gilroy library. He says he chose Gilroy because he has become so familiar with the county library system that he did not want to start over in Monterey. He knows that most of the money he makes from driving to Gilroy goes to gas, but doesn’t care.

As some of his co-workers joked that he always had a messy desk, they all agreed that Gilroy’s library would not be the same without him. One fellow co-worker, who has known Cavallini for 15 years, remembers one time in particular when his caring personality stood out.

“I was sick, and I sent him a little note with a poem telling him I could not come in to work and, to my surprise, he sent me a poem in return. He is just one of those caring individuals,” said Linda Glawatz, children’s program librarian for the library.

Cavallini has been involved with the Santa Clara County library system for almost three decades and has seen many changes over the years, but he says the most important thing for people to understand is that the library is becoming more and more useful.

“With the evolving new media there are so many opportunities for people here to use free Internet,” Cavallini said. “Most people think there are just books at the library, but there is so much more.”

Cavallini said he has always believed in expanding the mind through books. In fact, he and his wife would not let their three children watch television until they were happy with books, he said.

It would seem to make sense that one of Cavallini’s favorite books is “Alice in Wonderland” because he said, “It allows your imagination to run wild.”

And just when will Cavallini decide to retire? Well, don’t expect him to quit anytime soon.

When asked how long he will stay at the library, a big smile came on his face and he replied, “As long as they want me to.”