My 12 month old baby got kicked out of the Marble Falls, Texas Public Library last week. We go to this library when we are on vacation, visiting family in Texas, and my kids need to get their read on.
Libraries have rules. I get and respect library rules.
Big kids need to take care of books and be mindful of their volume. Little ones, at a developmentally appropriate age, need to be taught to speak softly, to respect the wonderful things that we discover inside libraries.
We do this.
We are book lovers. I’m a writer and an editor. My spouse is a professor. We are into books.
We geek on author events. We thrive on locally-owned bookstores and public libraries and book swaps. We sit and read as a family every night. We are library regulars. At home in San Francisco there are no fewer than four kind librarians at our neighborhood branch library who know my children by name. We follow the rules of the library because our family has an obnoxious obsession with books and we are annoying rule followers.
Which is why I was utterly dumbfounded when my 12 month old baby was asked to leave a public library for being, well, a baby.
He was supervised by me. I squatted (in awkward mom fashion) right next to him and showed him pictures in the baby books while the Big Girls browsed for chapter books. We placed the baby books back on the shelf as soon as he tired of them.
He was not screaming or having a tantrum or wandering about unsupervised in a stinky diaper. I admit, he did talk loudly.
“Da! Da!” he said. This actually means Dog. All things with four legs are dogs right now, including cows and reindeer, but that is another adorable story.
While he pointed at dogs (they were really goats, but whatever) a librarian with a syrupy fake voice came over and asked me to ask the baby to use his Inside Voice. I explained that I would do my best but that he is 12 months old and has no idea what an Inside Voice even means. (The kid still thinks that llamas are dogs.)
“Then you will have to take him outside,” she said.
This is Texas. Outside is 167 degrees on a good day in the shade. I stared at the librarian in disbelief then loaded my baby on my hip and threw a prompt, redheaded Texan-style fit. The older, crustier librarian looked up from her desk and glared at me with such malice that I feared she might morph into a Grimms witch and eat my chubby baby.
I tantrum-ed my way out the door, while my husband ushered the Big Girls out with more dignity than I could muster. Once we were outside he stopped me from rushing back to complete my yelling by reminding me that Texas is an open carry state and there are probably people with guns in the library. This shut me up fast. But I stomped out into the heat, defeated and saddened.
Later I ranted on Facebook and a friend said her small children were also thrown out of that same library for the crime of being small children.
So I wonder…If they throw out supervised, joyful infants who have no developmental concept of being quiet, who else do they boot from the aisles of the Marble Falls Library?
Do they throw out developmentally disabled children or adults who do not know how or are incapable of being quiet? Do they throw out hearing impaired people who cannot hear or control their vocal range? Who else does not make the cut at the Marble Fall Library?
I wonder about families who may be intimidated by libraries, who take their babies and small children and then get kicked out for noise infractions. Would such a family be so (rightly) pissed off that they never visit a public library again?
Like I said, we are book people. Unfortunately we have to go back to the Marble Falls Library as it is the only game in the small town. There is neither small independent bookstore nor a mega box chain. The only other place to get a book in town is Walmart.
But I wish that these librarians would grow a heart or two before they push out someone who may decide they forever hate libraries.
Libraries are for families. Libraries are for children and babies and grandparents and rich people and poor people. If those librarians continue to treat little ones like an infestation, they risk disenfranchising a generation of their next customers. They might as well say, “Have fun on your phones, you punkass kids! We hope you learn to think critically and be creative from your emojis!”
A baby getting ejected from a library may seem like a small infraction in a world with so many big problems, and it is. But doesn’t such a world owe its youngest and most vulnerable citizens a bit of compassion that comes in the form of a book?
And if babies can’t be babies in the children’s section of a library then I don’t know where the fuck else to go.
Good luck with the next generation, Marble Falls Library. I’ve got my eye on you.