I've worked at my local public library long enough to be on a first-name basis with many of our patrons. And the rest greet me with the courtesy and respect that, as a trained professional, I deserve.
Except for when they don't. From time to time, a patron will call me "sweetie." Or "honey-bunch." Or "dear." And I'm not alone. Recently a fellow librarian posted this lament on Facebook: "A patron just called me baby. Can I go home now?"
The comments this inspired from other librarians were sympathetic:
I hear you. I've got a Master's Degree in Library Science. So naturally, I want to be greeted with "Hiya cupcake!" What?
I hate being called pet names. "Do you have the latest Grisham, lovey?" ICK.
A patron called me "doll" the other day. I didn't realize that my library was in a film noir movie starring Humphrey Bogart.
I'm not a baby. I'm old enough to collect social security. A little respect, please.
Today a student half my age called me "hon." And an older professor called me "sweetie." *sigh*
Just wait till you get to be my age and they start calling you "young lady." I'm in my 60s and I get this all the time. They think they're being charming, but it's just a cutesy way of saying "You're old."
The clear consensus? Librarians are not babies, kittens or cupcakes.
I'm always being called "honey" or "sweetie" -- and I am neither! Grrr.
We have a patron who calls everyone "kitten." We haven't been able to stop him.
When I go to the hospital, I don't call my doctor "baby." Why is it okay to call me "baby?"
One of my regulars calls me Madame. It always makes me feel like Heidi Fleiss.
I got called "honey-baby-sweetie" once. By a woman. I guess she thought it increased her chance of good service. No.
Sometimes, it's just be a Southern thing:
The use of diminutives is particularly Southern. I've come to realize that most of the folks who do it mean no harm. They're just substituting words like "honey" or "sweetie" for "Mr." or "M'am."
Exactly! When a woman with a southern accent calls me "Hon," I don't mind.
I have a tendency to call people "sweet pea." Sometimes I'll slip and call a patron "sweet pea." Or a co-worker. I always apologize.
I'm in my 50s, and I was called "Hon" by a young woman from Georgia not long ago. It was probably a cultural thing, but it was still jarring.
Agreed. I respond on a case-by-case basis. There are things I let slide with some groups of people that I wouldn't take in stride with others.
I used to have a great distaste for one patron who always called women "baby." But then my son went to work for him and found out that he always calls men the same thing. Ah, the South.
Of course, there are certain patrons who can get away with anything:
We have a patron who calls me "love," but he's 65 and has the most lovely cockney accent so I don't mind it. He sounds like Michael Caine. But from anyone else? Nope.
I once had a patron who spoke with the most wonderful drawl. She could tell me to kill and eat my own dogs in that accent and I'd still think she was delightful.
One of our patrons always calls me "darlin'" but he's an old sweetie so I put up with it.
And a few librarians are actually okay with being kittens:
Being called "sweetie" or "baby" doesn't bother me. I appreciate it when people try to be nice. After all, there are many worse things to be called!
Calling people honey-sweetie-dear-lovie isn't necessarily meant to be demeaning or sexist. And I know from experience that it's a hard habit to break!
Everyone has things that offend them. Being called "sweetie" isn't one for me. As someone who isn't religious, I'm much more bristle-y when someone tells me to have a "blessed day."
I'm not religious either, but I always get a kick out of "Have a Blessed day." And I love it when my favorite nun patron says "God Bless You" after she checks her books out. Which, I suppose, just proves your point!
I have far less tolerance for pet names coming from a man than from women. But whether it bothers me usually depends on the tone of the interaction before the pet name was used.
Librarians, by nature, are polite and well-mannered. But sometimes even the nicest librarian will push back:
Being called "sweetie" by a patron is a huge pet peeve of mine. I always correct them with "You can call me by name or Madam Director -- it's up to you."
I had a patron who always called me "baby." I just ignored him until he finally changed to "M'am."
We have a patron who calls everyone "cupcake" and I always respond, "That's Doctor Cupcake to you, pal." (I'm a doctor of jurisprudence.)
My favorite solution?
I always respond to people who call me diminutives and make me feel uncomfortable by calling them "Hoss" and giving them a hard stare. It works really well.
I can't wait to try that.
If every time a librarian got called "baby," her or she could go home, maybe that would stop the practice. Even better? Every time you call me "sweetie" or "baby," I get to place a small "annoying patron" fine on your account.
If that doesn't change your behavior, at least my putting up with your lack of respect would benefit my library.
In the meantime, sugar, here's a little advice. If you want me to waive your overdue fine? Don't call me "baby."
(Roz Warren is the author of OUR BODIES, OUR SHELVES: A COLLECTION OF LIBRARY HUMOR