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

Reference Question of the Week – 12/16/07

   December 22nd, 2007 Brian Herzog

Danger: Made In ChinaI got a call from a staff person in the Town of Chelmsford's Board of Health office (I'll call her Kelly). Kelly said that a mother called her in a panic, and was hoping I could help with the mother's question.

The mother found her daughter playing with a pair of Fiskars scissors, and was worried. The scissors said "Made in China" on the side, and the mother called the Town's Board of Health to find out if they had lead paint on them.

I can understand the concern, considering the numerous recent news stories concerning dangerous Chinese-made toys, but:

  • scissors are not toys, and,
  • if I found a little kid playing with scissors, "lead poisoning" wouldn't be my first safety concern

Anyway, Kelly wasn't having any luck finding information, so I gave it a try. I did a Google search for lead recall site:.gov, and along with a number of state health agencies websites, I found a couple very useful Federal lead-related product warnings/recalls:

I found these while still on the phone, and Kelly was delighted to take down these urls. I asked her tell the mother that if she needed more information, to call the library directly, and we'd keep looking. So far, she hasn't called, and as far as well could tell, Fiskars scissors are not on any of the recall lists.

Even though the library wasn't this mother's first thought for an information search, our good relationship with other Town offices allowed this question to make its way to us. I am often calling the Town Clerk or Tax Assessor or someone for help on relevant questions. When I do that, I also try to chat a bit, so they'll think of the library in a situation just like this.

Not only is it important to market ourselves to our patrons, but we also need to raise awareness with other agencies that deal directly with the public (the "information first responders"), so they will refer patrons to us if they can't themselves help.

china, lead, libraries, library, paint, public, recall, reference question, toy, toys

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Reference Question of the Week – 7/22/07

   July 28th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Toys seen on the Antiques RoadshowThis week's question is both humorous and kind of sad.

An older woman walked up the desk, dragging behind her a small boy, and I immediately took them to be a grandmother and a reluctant-to-be-at-the-library grandson. She asked if I could show here where the books on antique toys where.

I walked them over to the 745.1's [?], and as soon as the grandmother saw book spines with titles like "Antique Toys" and "Toy Price Guide," she launched into the following story (paraphrased here down from about a five minute speech):

The reason I'm asking for these books is because I want to teach my grandson not to be so reckless and rough with his toys because he breaks most of them before long and I was watching Antiques Roadshow and a little girl brought in a toy that I had when I was young and it was worth $5,000 and I want to make my grandson read these antique toy books so he'll learn that if he takes care of his toys they may be worth a lot of money some day and I made him watch Antiques Roadshow with me but he was still playing rough so I'm going to make him read these...

And then she leaned down to look at the books on the shelf more closely, at the same time calling to her grandson.

Being a child, he had moved on to other things. As it happened, when we walked up to the shelves, the grandson ended up standing by the 741.5's [?], which are books on comics. By the time his grandmother was done with her speech and wanted him to look at the antique toy books, he was fully engrossed in a Garfield book.

She yanked him over to her, said "thank you" to me, and started pulling books off the shelf. As I walked away, I could hear her saying, "now look in this book for your transformers to see how much they're worth..."

I found this whole exchange kind of funny, in using the future value of a toy to get a child to play gently with it now (I don't think this would have worked on me). But this is also sad, because not only was the kid obviously not enjoying his library experience, but it must also be pretty unhappy not to get to play with your toys the way you want. But I don't have kids, so I certainly can't talk.
antique, antiques, antiques road show, antiques roadshow, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, reference question, toy, toys

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