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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