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:

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

  • 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?
  • 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!

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

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