or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week ¦ 12/22/13

   December 28th, 2013

clearing a snowblowerI was out all this week for Christmas, so this question is from last week.

In library school, I learned in my Reference courses that there are three types of questions public library staff should not answer - medical, legal, and financial - because we're not qualified to give professional advice in those areas. This patron's question adds a fourth type of question To Never Answer:

Patron: Hey Brian, do you know how to fix a snowblower?

We had gotten two snowstorms that week, and he explained that he tried to push his snowblower into an frozen snow bank, and it stopped working. This is one of our regular patrons, and, not to be mean, but, I'm honestly surprised he could even use a snowblower, let alone try to fix one.

I told him no, I didn't, which is true. The only thing I know about snowblower repair is to clear jammed snow with a stick, and not your hand, in case the blades continue to spin after the snow is cleared. I did help the patron quickly look up a few potential repair shops, and hopefully he was able to get it working again.

Speaking of snowblowers, have you ever seen how they clear railroad tracks? Just knowing that exists makes shoveling my driveway easier.

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