Monday, January 12, 2015

Before Google.... there was a Librarian to ask!

If Google can't answer your question these days, who are you going call? A librarian, of course.

Image source: www.pinterest.com
Several weeks ago the folks at the iconic 42nd Street building of the New York Public Library in Manhattan happened upon a box of old reference questions. These questions were ranging from the 1940s to the 1980s - asked by patrons. Spokesperson for the library, Angela Montefinise points out, the questions are compelling. And perhaps they speak to a gentler, more naïve time. Perhaps they don't.
Here are a few gems, lightly edited for clarity:
  • Is it proper to go to Reno alone to get a divorce? (1945)
  • I just saw a mouse in the kitchen. Is DDT OK to use? (1946)
  • What is the life span of an eyelash? Answer: Based on the book Your Hair & Its Care, it's 150 days. (1946)
  • What does it mean when you dream of being chased by an elephant? (1947)
  • Where can I rent a beagle for hunting? (1963)
  • Can you tell me the thickness of a U.S. Postage stamp with the glue on it? Answer: We couldn't tell you that answer quickly. Why don't you try the Post Office? Response: This is the Post Office. (1963)
  • Does the New York Public Library have a computer for use by the public? Answer: No sir! (1966)
And there was this typewritten note found on a cataloging card:
  • Telephone call mid-afternoon New Year's Day, 1967: Somewhat uncertain female voice: "I have two questions. The first is sort of an etiquette one. I went to a New Year's Eve party and unexpectedly stayed over. I don't really know the hosts. Ought I to send a thank-you note? Second. When you meet a fellow and you know he's worth twenty-seven million dollars — because that's what they told me, twenty-seven million, and you know his nationality, how do you find out his name?"

A wise librarian can often help in those situations. That's a fact!

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