no babies in the library!!

Young babies and toddlers can sometimes be loud in the library. They scream and run around, often disrupting real patrons’ placid library experience. Parents have no control. These little menaces really have no place in our buildings. NO BABIES OR TODDLERS IN THE LIBRARY!!

Is there any library that would dare post this sign or slide down this slippery slope thought process? No library would post a sign like this, but plenty of library think like this, right? Replace “babies” with “cell phones” and see what happens.

Cell phones can sometimes be loud in the library. They ring loudly, often disrupting patrons’ placid library experience. People have no control. These little menaces really have no place in our buildings. NO CELL PHONES IN THE LIBRARY!!

Not too far from what we really see in practice, eh?

The point that I’m sure I’ve written about here before is that if librarians are going to take up this issue they need to concentrate on patron behavior, not specific devices. These devices can be used silently in a multitude of ways, just like babies and toddlers can be in the library without screaming. And if *gasp* on occasion a baby screams or someone’s phone plays the “La Macarena,” so what? It is simply part of this wonderful and sometimes messy existence in the Public. If you wouldn’t dare put up a sign like the one above, you similarly shouldn’t put up such a sign about a phone. After all, more people enter your building with a phone than a baby. Won’t somebody please think of the cell phones?

Note: This morning I had the idea to start a repository of good, positive signage for libraries. I might still make some signs that people can use to replace their crummy, mean signs in the upcoming days but I got sidetracked with this!

37 thoughts on “no babies in the library!!”

  1. I so agree. It still amazes me that libraries ban cell phone usage. We never have and its not been a problem, we deal with loud noise issues as they arise with cell phone users making up a minority of them.

  2. I’ve had patrons actually request that I tell mothers to stop their infants from crying or leave the adult department. In one case the patrons got into a shouting match. In another, when security asked a mother to keep a better eye on her child that was running around near the stairs (scary), she picked up the child, handed him to the guard, and told him to do a better job.

    I know this is not the point of your post – but guess what, some patrons think we are are that baby noise, cell phone, tutor, etc. police. We always blame librarians for repressing patrons, putting up unfriendly signs, etc. But there’s some real tension here regarding widely divergent patron expectations as to what behavior, level of noise, etc. is acceptable at the library.

  3. @HK
    You’re right about that very real tension about patron expectations. We’re always managing them at the NPPL. It isn’t easy, is it? One of my points for the post (though I guess it is only implied) is that despite how difficult managing this may be, there’s a nicer way to do it than mean signs.

  4. and I thought this was going to be a post about teens. hmm… I’ll have to go check and see if Mishawaka has “No Cell Phone” signs as well as No Teen no MySpace or Facebook signs.

  5. There’s a difference between a baby and a cell phone. Babies are a force of nature over which mankind has no control. Cell phones, on the other hand, can be muted or turned off. One-sided conversations are irritating as well, see

    Libraries should be an oasis where one is isolated (if one chooses) from the outside world. I mean isn’t that what a good book is supposed to do? Take you to somewhere else? That is hard to do if a cell phone keeps ringing in your ear.

    I think comparing cell phone bans to facebook bans is comparing apples to oranges. A cell phone ban is a courtesy issue while facebook, etc. is a content issue. I don’t think libraries should be poking their noses in other people’s business just as I don’t want someone else’s business thrust upon me via their cell phone.


  6. You’re so crazy.

    For a minute I thought this was your Passion Quilt pic. What a thing to be passionate about, I thought.

    My favorite part of the post: “It is simply part of this wonderful and sometimes messy existence in the Public.” Beautiful. True. And applicable in all things ‘public’, not just the “Public”.

  7. @talking books librarian
    Isn’t it sad that you thought a library was banning babies?

    i need to do a passion quilt thing, but it might be more fun to do a anti-passion quilt! would that be an apathy quilt?

    i’m not disagreeing about the fact that there should be quiet areas in the library. can you agree with me that there’s more positive ways to create this arrangement than lame sign and mean attitudes?

  8. I’ve had a patron come to the counter complain about a loud child, unbeknownst to him , that child was mine.

    If you open your doors to the public, expect noise.

    When did the public library become a hallowed hall of research?

    That said, I tend to draw the line at PC volume.

  9. I think there should be more “lame signs and mean attitudes” in this world. It adds spice to an otherwise dull, drab existence. Seriously, I think some people think a lame sign is one that forbids them from doing something they want to do and the person who enforces the rule, as laid out in the sign, has a mean attitude.

    Still, there are different ways to go about enforcing any rule. I’ve seen colleagues at my library bellow out, “No cellphones in the Library!” That is guaranteed to raise hackles. I, being perfect, have the better approach. I quietly go up to phone users and say, “we ask you don’t take or make telephone calls in the library.” I used to say “cellphone calls,” but then the man bellowing at his laptop over skype claimed an exemption because he was using his laptop, not a cell phone.

    As for signs, no on reads them anyway. They need to be posted only to protect the staff member enforcing the rule. We have also noticed that people seem to find them handy for writing down telephone numbers when they don’t have scratch paper handy.

  10. I think these are two different issues. There is certainly an acceptable amount of noise in the library, I work in the childrens’ section at a public library, as well as a school library, so I am used to a level of noise that other people would find unacceptable. However, the problem with the cell phones is that when they do ring, people do not speak quietly, they scream or talk very loudly and it is not a 1 minute quick conversation, the people I have witnessed, will sit there talking for over 15 minutes. Plus, some of these people have the most inappropriate conversations about their health or other personal things that no one else around them cares to hear about.

  11. On the one hand I agree, on the other. I’m not likely to overhear a baby talking loudly about it’s sex life, in great detail about a medical procedure, drop the f bomb, gossip about someone else, or complain about a medical problem that only a special ointment will solve. Unfortunately the banning of all cell phones is based on the bad behavior of, well I was going to say a few people, but unless people where you are behave differently, it’s really most users. I’d much rather have to ask everyone to turn off their phone that explain to someone why their conversation about their “itchiness” isn’t appropriate.

  12. Yeah, you can’t expect babies or toddlers to exercise self-control, and we all look sympathetically at the parent who is unable to stop a tantrum, but just tries to get on with it. Cell phone users OTOH, sometimes refuse to exercise self-control, and yes, they sometimes go on irritatingly about inappropriate subjects. But that’s why we have rules about being obnoxious in the library.

    I’d rather deal with obnoxiousness as needed than punish the innocent cellphone user talking quietly or texting. Banning cellphones from the library throws the baby out with the bathwater, as it were, and puts staff in the position of enforcing an arbitrary rule. There’s nothing wrong with banning all conversation from designated quiet areas, though. It’s the behavior, not the technology.

  13. As I mentioned yesterday i’m all for baby banning.

    Well, okay, of course not- but i’m still shocked that cells are banned anywhere. Or why anything is *banned* anywhere. Perhaps we could spend more time on viral courteousness instead of on making signs that ban things that annoy us.

  14. I’m embarrassed to say I saw that sign and I thought it was ligit. [Not so much the messaging under it, but still]. I didn’t necessarily think your library used it, but I fully believed some did, and [horror] it made perfect sense to me. Ha ha. I’m awful.

  15. Maybe we should ban bad parents and loud talkers? As mentioned before, it’s the behavior, not the device. Could are signage start encouraging manners instead?

  16. I think much of the problem is the mix of expectations about what sort of space a Library should be. Unfortunately I think that signage is result of behavior that does not benefit the common good. I just try to stick with the middle road of what is the best for the most.

    I do support a ban on the use of cell phones in the library unless there is a designated place- – -your other comments reflect many of the reasons why. I’ve never had to deal with it because folks lose reception on their way down to my underground youth services cave. Saves me much angst.

    My problem with kid noise isn’t when kids are being kids- – it’s when adults aren’t teaching or interacting with their child and the behavior escalates. It’s the adults behaving badly, not the kid. As the mother of two small torando boys I understand the line. By the same token I think many adults just don’t see the Library as the “kids library” too and view it with the expectations of how an adult must use the Library.

    I’ve had to put up yucky signage now that denotes a big box of snacks with a no over it. After finding pudding packages in the stacks, banana peels mushed into the carpet and snack messes o’plenty I finally caved and put up a sign. It is mess, and allergy safety issues as people seems to leave their buffet behind with them.

    Again- – -it’s the adults behaving badly and not the kids. As a parent I have to plan around the physical needs of my child too. I think the solution is that it should be mandatory that every library have some sort of designated snack area. I’ve seriously bucked for having a cafe style place- – -we need it.

  17. I cannot stand listening to people talk on cell phones. I believe that it is badd manners and generally inconsiderate to talk on a cell phone in a library, or even a bookstore for that matter. If people are talking on phones in a library or a bookstore and staff does nothing, I will leave. I don’t go to those places to listen to people talk on phones. What happened to the days when people spoke on the phone in their own homes?

    I agree that we should be kind to patrons when we ask that they take their phone conversations out of the library. Patrons can use their phones to check messages or use texting, but if they want to talk it is polite to take it outside or to the lobby. If we don’t enforce this rule, then patrons who come in to read and enjoy the peaceful environment of the library that they remember from their youth will be sorely disappointed.

  18. Can you believe that we are still talking (debating) about the cell phone thing in libraries. It is something that is still hotly bantered in my own organization and reading your post makes me see that this is something that will go on for a while. Truly, what we are talking about here is human behavior. Policy happens to get mixed in with this because we are PUBLIC libraries. Don’t people (the public) really self-manage themselves to the most degree? Just dreaming here, but: what if we let this be the policy: if you don’t like it, say something about it directly. Policy can be persnickity, no?
    Tony Tallent

  19. @tony

    you’re so right. this is still a big issue and might continue to be as people become ever more reliant on their mobile devices. you’re also right about policy. policies are most often blanket statements and blanket can smother! less hard, immutable rules, more human interaction sounds great to me.

  20. I find that patrons do expect a quiet environment for the most part. Maybe this is age related? What I’m wondering is why a sign giving directions is considered “mean”. There are prohibitive signs everywhere including traffic signs and signs in other businesses. We all have to sacrifice for the greater good. Grow-up people and save the “mean” label for the truly mean actions.

  21. I feel that a quiet reminder that others use the site also should be sufficient–children in my age were “seen but not heard”, and most of the time were frightened of adults. Cell phones are a modern meance, that we all fall prey to (even me) but there are places and times for it to ring loudly and with fervor (the library, hospital & school are not proper places)-however telling some one to muffle a child or a cell phone is tantamount to declaring wwIII, so just the quiet reminder which usually works should be sufficient.

    I do not work in a library, but have dealt with public most of my life and find them as a whole just thoughtless-not rude.

  22. Last week, I printed out a copy of the fake “No Babies” sign and put it in my office to see how the many librarians and library professors I work with would react. I got a lot of “Whaat?” “Hunh?” and “Um?” in response. Which I then followed with an explanation that it was a parody of the Cell Phone signs. Most everyone seems to be getting it (that it’s the tone of the signs, plus apparent ignorance of the fact that you can use cell phones for more than talking). I just had one person today though who refused to see the parallel. Luckily, he’s not currently working in a public.

    Thanks for handing me this fun experiment! :)

  23. there aren’t any no cellphone or no food signs in our library. i haven’t been working here very long but i’m assuming that the librarians before realized that it’s not really a realistic request. i like to think that we respect people enough to use their common sense about what is and is not acceptable library behavior. the one noise sign we do have is a reminder that headsets are available for checkout at the circulation desk; a hint that audio from the computers are a no-no. but i do have to verbally remind patrons of this as well.

    as someone noted above, it is difficult to be put in the position of behavior police. i use my judgement on what most people would consider acceptable.

    as for the no babies sign… if it was up to ME, it would be the first one to put up. before the no cellphones, before the no teenagers, before the turn off your ringers. but thank goodness that it is not up to me.

  24. We have small libraries where I live, and we have never experienced the baby problem. Now cell phones and older children talking loudly and playing video games is a different story.

    There should be a fine for those who use their cell phones!

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