Many moons ago I wrote this article for the Natural Mamas website: A plea from a Sling Librarian. It was an attempt to explain a little more about what I do, and what my life entails. It was written after a spate of “requests”. Time has come to update it.
The sling library is currently my sole source of income. It became my full time job in September 2013. For the last 3 years I have our my heart and soul into it. I have always tried to be as flexible as possible on arranging events, creating new meets and out of hours hires. I have been known to make 3 or 4 visits a day to the post office to get slings posted across the country as soon as requested, even taking them with me on holiday so I can post from the nearest post office.
I work and run NESL primarily alone with support from a lovely bunch of ladies who peer support. Working by myself though does not mean I work in isolation. I have colleagues and friends across the country who are all helping their region to carry their babies too. We have our own support networks where we can chat and ask for help. Where newer libraries seek the advice of more established ones. Where we ask if they have experienced x,y or z. But, over recent months I have noticed something. I have noticed librarians becoming frustrated, upset, and some simply wanting to give it up. I have read comments in various Facebook groups moaning about local library. Why?
We live in a 24 hours a day/365 days a year fast food, fast service culture. We have grown expectant that our question will be answered instantly, when they aren’t we often take to Social Media to complain. An entitlement culture has developed in our day to day lives. Unfortunately this has an impact on the services sling libraries provide. Many are run on a voluntary basis. A few like myself provide our income and others pay their staff as part of a CIC. However, no matter what model they operate under we should not need to be ‘on duty’ 24/7. We should not be expected to reply instantly (even if Facebook has for the past year had the responsiveness button). We have our own families. We have our own opening hours. We are allowed a day off.
Over the past few months I have seen how other librarians, as well as myself, have to face this attitude of entitlement daily. We have faced comments such as:
“It’s too far for me to return” (please remember that for 7/10 sessions I travel to them too), “We have swimming (or any other baby class) at that time”, “that’s when my baby naps”, “Its’ too expensive”, “I can’t afford deposit”. Others are worse, “I haven’t used it so don’t think its fair you keep my money”, “can’t you come and collect”, “I see you live nearby can I simply pop in”, “I can’t return today, I’ll bring it tomorrow”.
The last of those comments is particularly frustrating as it assumes we have nothing else to do but wait for you to come. When you hire you are given a date it is due for return, by hiring you agree to those terms. If your library operates a deposit system and you can’t afford it ask if there is an alternative you can do. You won’t know unless you ask. Yes, I am aware that best laid plans with babies don’t always run smoothly. I know babies can have a bad night, they might be poorly, you might just simply need to sleep. We aren’t ogre’s: we are mums, we do understand. If you contact us and explain solutions can be found, but sending us messages after slings were due back, or telling us what you are going to do is not appropriate. You would not tell your GP or hairdresser – “I can’t do that time, I’ll just come now” etc. You would accept that they give you an appointment. Why should a sling library be any different?
If we make a recommendation for a carrier based on the size of your child, do not ask us to give you a toddler or preschool size, when we have judged it is not suitable. If you decide to buy that size, that’s your choice, but don’t ask us to go against manufacturer instructions or recommendations, or product recalls, so that you can carry, that would invalidate our insurance. We are wanting to keep your baby safe, it isn’t us being mean. Don’t ask for a one to one service and not expect to pay a fee. We have insurance, training, overheads to pay. We can’t afford to give our services away. We are just trying to make a living; pay our mortgages, allow our little ones to go to clubs on trips, we are not huge multinational companies.
I will continue to do my best to be flexible. Currently, for example, I can’t do 1;1 appointments due to my annual exam marking season but I am ensuring sling library sessions run, I am still offering postal hire. Out of hours hires are offered if I can do it. This is getting increasingly difficult as my children are doing an increasing number of clubs and mums taxi is in full flow.
Please, I simply ask that you consider how you phrase your request. Please ‘ask’ your sling library if you can do something, don’t tell them what you are going to do. All sling librarians want to help as many families as possible so there is always a solution. We just ask that you accept we aren’t on call 24/7 and, that even if we are a business, our families will come first.