Blogger Cen Campbell

Trial and Tribulations of a Children’s Mombrarian

Little people rule my life. They  offer an innocent, wise and precious view into the developing human psyche, and they humble me on a regular basis.

When I’m working, I’m either developing and presenting storytimes for little people, or developing professional resources for other children’s librarians who present storytimes for little people.

When I’m not working, I’m also at the mercy of a little person. One might assume that since I have a 3 year old at home, it must be easy to put storytimes together and get through the piles of books and apps that I need to review. The case is often the opposite.  Somedays I’m not allowed to sing at ALL, or if I am, I’m not allowed to sing “storytime songs.” Some days I’m not allowed to read anything but Richard Scarry, let alone try out new books or apps that I’ve never used in a program before. Somedays Jude (below, with Nancy Pearl) is totally jazzed about the fact that his mommy is the “story lady” and sometimes, if he attends my programs, he gets upset that I have to pay attention to the other kids.


I know many children’s librarians who are also moms with young kids. Together we deal with the modern-life struggles of getting to preschool and then work on time, showing up to work with peanut butter smeared all over the back of our shirts, and having to make tough decisions like “Should I keep him home from preschool today with that runny nose? I have class visits all morning and there’s no one who can take over for me on such short notice!”

Having a child of one’s own certainly informs one’s professional practice, and I find that since I had my son, I *get* a lot more about why children’s librarians do what they do. I’m a better children’s librarian now that I know what it’s like to have a kid of my own, and I’m a whole lot less judgmental of the parents that I see in my library and elsewhere.

Working with people who understand children and motherhood is also a huge relief. The children’s departments I’ve worked in have been predominantly staffed by women, many of whom are also mothers (with kids of various ages). My pregnancy was a vomity one, and once when I tossed my cookies in the middle of a training session, I was given looks of sympathy, a garbage can and regaled with similar morning-sickness stories. Then we went on with the conversation as if nothing had happened.

It’s hard being a working mom; it’s really, really hard. But every day I am grateful to be a member of a profession that KNOWS how hard it is, and that often has flexible hours and people to make it just a little easier. Rock on, children’s mombrarians!


  1. mrsyb

    I am so glad that I am not the only one who hears, “No Mommy, you can’t sing to me!” Makes practicing finger plays and apron stories very difficult!

  2. Rita smith

    Well said. Glad to know I’m not the only one who is always allowed to sing at home! The other quirk of being a “mombrarian” are days when your preschooler cries because you’ve returned a library book. “But I don’t want anyone else to have turn!” he screams. That preschooler is now 8 and his favorite kind of book are the ones we own at home.

  3. Kim

    Thanks for this! I am at a point where I am a full-time Youth Services Librarian but I would like to start a family in the near future. I would take any tips I could get about balancing life as a “mombrarian”. 🙂

  4. Michelle Peltier

    It’s really hard to be a “mombrarian” in a small library that is primarily staffed by older folks. It’s not that they aren’t parents… but they are parents of grown children. Out of 25 staff members, only 3 of us have elementary or younger aged children. My kids are the youngest, and I have to constantly think, “Well, I could keep them home with that cough…but no one will cover the 4 programs I have today.” Do I upset the 100 kids and 100 parents, or do I upset the babysitter? Thanks for the post. I hope others will read it and put themselves in our (sometimes peed-on) shoes.

  5. Rick

    Don’t forget us popbrarians, too.

    After spending years telling parents and caregivers to read to their kids every day, I was surprised to bring home a collicky baby who wanted nothing to do with books for a good 4 months. I grew a massive appreciation for the power of songs and bounces, though. And I’m happy to report the early book-sharing refusals were short-lived. At 14 months, we refuse our baths and naps but love book-time.

  6. Jennifer H

    Hunter was the same as Jude. He couldn’t understand that mom was doing storytime for everyone, not just him.

  7. Rebecca Dunn

    Love that picture– What a great post! Being a working mom is hard, but I feel better about being a working mom in this profession than I think I would in any other profession out there. The mothers I work with have children around my age and treat my 2.5-year-old like their own grandchild. They are also my best council when it comes to parenting advice. My work schedule is a bit wonky. I typically work nights and weekends, so I try and make sure to bring home a bag of books that my daughter gets to raid in the morning. I practice storytimes on her first to see which books catch her interest, but am also “not allowed to sing”. My husband tries to bring her to every one of my storytimes, which I love even though she constantly tries to join the show. It’s a juggling act balancing work with home. My family makes me a better librarian, there is no question. I also feel being a librarian helps me be a better parent, but that’s not to say that I don’t come home most days and flop on the couch exhausted. It’s comforting to know there are other “mombarians” out there going through the same thing. Power to the mombarians! You’re all superheros in your own right!

  8. Claudia Haines

    My kids are older (elementary age), but I continue to deal with the same challenges and reap the same benefits. Since I live in a small, single public library town, my kids have generally embraced their mom’s role as the children’s librarian. They even help me with storytime any chance they get.

    One of the most subversively great parts of the mombrarian life is that carpooling, school events, sports, etc. are great outreach opportunities where I get to meet a lot of kids and parents. When I greet them by name at the library they are thrilled. “You’re (O…’s) mom!”

  9. Giulia

    I’m glad to have found your blog. I am a mom of two toddlers and an aspiring mombrarian, planning to do an online MLIS degree starting in 2015. I know it won’t be easy, but it’s so good to know that there are others out there making it work.

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