Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Librarians and Babysitters

Grumpy can be good. Or at least understandable. I understand grumpy, and could have called this blog Grumpy Librarian, except there was probably already a blog called that.

In Bowie, MD, some mornings they wake up Grumpy. Other mornings they just let her sleep. And last week they interviewed her for the local newspaper, where she complained that librarians are not babysitters.

Some people like to point out the completely obvious, even if they don’t know they’re doing so. This person was complaining about public libraries being filled with high school students during the after school hours. The horror!

It could be obvious that librarians aren’t babysitters because librarians are librarians, and they do librarianly things like clearing printer jams, not babysitter things like enforcing bedtimes.

It could also be obvious that librarians aren’t babysitters in this scenario because – and I guess this wasn’t obvious enough – high school students aren’t babies, as much as they look that way to our old and jaded eyes.

The babysitting question is almost legitimate if we changed up the story some and made the children in the library smaller and younger. If libraries were overwhelmed with unsupervised five-year-olds, then it might make sense to complain.

But these are high school students, and the biggest complaint from the library patron is that…they’re sitting down and taking up a lot of seats.

My god, this is definitely the sort of “abuse in our system” that we should thank the woman from uncovering. Teenagers wantonly sitting on chairs, and sometimes on the floor “with their classmates lying on the floor next to them resting their head in the sitting student’s lap.” It’s like something out of Clockwork Orange!

Seriously, this is the worst thing someone can complain about? Teenagers sitting in a library?

The people not complaining are the librarians, because as one of them says, “it is a public library and it is open to all.” They’re also not complaining because contrary to what the grumpy patron says, the librarians aren’t having to act as babysitters, because there are no babies around.

That’s important to note, because it’s pitched partly as a complaint on behalf of librarians, who are presumably too busy shushing each other to complain. Thank goodness they have concerned patrons to complain on their behalf.

“According to one librarian, parents either don’t trust their children to go home or the child is afraid to ride the bus home. How does that equate to the librarians’ responsibility? What happens if one of these children gets sick or injured in the library? Who would be responsible?”

What if a child got sick or injured? What if an adult got sick or injured? Oh no! Wait, I think the librarian can handle that. Dialing 911 will take care of most emergencies. Plus there’s probably a book on basic medical care somewhere in the library if worse comes to worst.

More concern about the poor librarians. “And, she added, ‘Tell me, what is a librarian’s hourly salary?’”

First, can you get an hourly salary? I suppose she means a librarian’s hourly pay rate.

It’s probably a matter of public record, but I’m not going to search for those records. Nevertheless, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for librarians is $55,370 per year or $26.62 per hour.

The median household income for Bowie was 99,105 according to a 2007 estimate, so it’s not exactly poor and probably pays its librarians reasonably well. So lets assume the median income for librarians is around $26 per hour.

The grumpy patron seemed to imply that librarians weren’t being paid enough to take on the awesome responsibility of babysitter.

According to UrbanSitter, the hourly rate for babysitters in Washington, D.C. is about $12.25. It’s probably a little less in Bowie, but maybe not. Thus, the median librarian is making a little more than twice what the median babysitter makes.

That’s kind of depressing in its own way, but it implies that babysitting isn’t overwhelming in its responsibilities, which is of course why we let teenagers do it, probably some of the teenagers sitting comfortably in the public library instead of standing in an alley doing drugs or something much, much worse.



  1. Most YS librarians I know would kill to have that sort of problem. More teens in the library? Yes please!

    The big issue with “babysitting” was always parents who dropped off their toddler/preschool/elementary school aged children and then left them unsupervised. And that really goes back to a problem with the adult patrons and not any issue with the little ones.

  2. $26.62 an hour?

    YOWZA! I’m working in the wrong city.

    • lori curry says:

      Heck I might go back to babysitting. That’s about what we custodians make at the community college.

  3. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    I have never, in the three states and four libraries I’ve worked in, met a “librarian” making 26.62 an hour, and many that were making do with half that. I suspect we’re classifying all Directors and Managers as “librarians” to get that figure…average starting Director wage in my neck of the woods…about $100,000 yearly. Average starting “librarian wage? About 14.50 an hour.

    • In the library I work at the only librarian’s are managers. Everyone else working in our respective departments are paraprofessionals. The starting salary for a librarian at my library is $26.25.

    • I was hired at $55,000. This is the starting salary. My director makes at least double this.

    • Community College Librarian says:

      I’m an “adjunct faculty” librarian at a community college in IL making over $30/hr.

  4. My library has an elementary school and middle school close by so we do a lot of what we consider “free” baby sitting after school. Most of the kids play on the computers, do home work or converse reasonably with each other. We do sometimes get complaints from adult patrons about the noise in the library during the after school hours and we state that this is a noisy time of day for us. That said, we don’t tolerate any excessive noise and will ask the students to leave if the they choose to disregard a warning. Physical rough housing is not tolerated at all and the students fighting or chasing each other through the library will quickly be shown the door. Our regulars who like a quiet library know to avoid visiting during the couple hour period after school.

  5. Oh, no! There are teenagers where she can SEE THEM! Call out FEMA, it’s a disaster!

    Honestly, she couldn’t even fabricate a complaint about noise levels?

  6. “The median household income for Bowie was 99,105 according to a 2007 estimate, so it’s not exactly poor and probably pays its librarians reasonably well. So lets assume the median income for librarians is around $26 per hour.” BWAHAHAHAHAHA really?? Can I tell you the number of wealthy suburban libraries I’ve worked at where my starting salary was more like $13 an hour. Please. Rich people don’t stay rich by paying others well, AL.

  7. Wish I was making close to that… I get paid slightly more than the parapros… Of course our paras are top notch and do more than a lot of librarians…

  8. What nobody seems to be addressing is behavior. If they are behaving like adults in the library there’s little to fuss about. If you have them behaving like teenagers and disturbing others boot em out and let Taco Bell deal with them. In kinder and better funded era thier high school library might have been open a little while after school. These days they might not have one at all.

    • >”behaving like adults” / “behaving like teenagers”

      I’m going to have to object to the wording here. This presumes that the default behavior of teenagers is rowdy and uncooperative–which is not necessarily the case. It sets the state of being a teenager at odds with being an adult, where the behavior expected of the teenager is *expected* to be unacceptable. It’s not a good mindset from which to approach teen patrons and teen services.

    • So if a preschooler fails to act like an adult, we should boot them out? Because generally I find the youngest ones the most disruptive, but they’re acting in a developmentally appropriate manner, so no complaints. You cannot expect a teen to behave like an adult. You can expect them to behave respectfully and mindful of where they are at – which is the behavior policy in a nutshell.

  9. Ana Quiroz says:

    I don’t belive you… There is any blog in the web called Grumpy Librarian. I already searched…

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