There are quite a few magnificent libraries around the world. However, without the people working inside, they'd be just warehouses. And this story is the perfect proof of that.

The New York Public Library has released a series of inquiries recovered from its 1940s to 1980s archives, revealing the many roles the librarian had to play in the days before the Internet. Some wanted to know how to become a mistress of ceremonies at a musical orgy, others were curious why 18th-century English paintings have so many squirrels in them. Judging from the quirky questions, it's clear that the public regarded librarians as a superhuman cross between oracles and therapists, asking them the most personal, complex or vague questions. Luckily, the staff dutifully copied everything out.

More info: nypl.org | Facebook | Instagram

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Clare Ashton
Community Member
11 months ago

The follow up question was "how do you remove an alligator from a pool?"

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All of these questions were asked either via phone or in person. However, the NYPL’s queries service is still running, providing answers to those who don't have the resources to look them up for themselves. According to librarian Rosa Caballero-Li, more than 100 questions still come into the NYPL's Reference and Research Services desk every 24 hours.

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MagicalUnicorn
Community Member
11 months ago

#goals since way before 1967

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"We answer everything," Caballero-Li told NPR. "Patrons can call us and reach out to us for anything they feel curious about, any service that they need — and I think that surprises a lot of people."

Interestingly, she said there's a surprising amount of overlap between the questions from the archive and the ones they receive nowadays. "These are questions that we are answering still, today, and we will probably be answering tomorrow, as well."

#3

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

Well as a human female being I hope that the OP got all the help they needed

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"You can find a lot of information online, of course, and that's great. But when you can't, or when you have too many answers, or you can't quite distinguish fact from fiction, that's when you reach out to us," the librarian explained.

And nothing is off-limits. "There are no stupid questions," Caballero-Li admitted. "Everything is a teachable moment. We don't embarrass people; we try to answer any questions they have with honesty and we try to refer them to appropriate resources that they might find useful."

"We don't know everything," Caballero-Li added, "but we can always point you in the right direction."

#4

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KatHat
Community Member
11 months ago

Pet squirrels were definitely a thing for a while.

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#5

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Vicky Zar
Community Member
11 months ago

Did that person think Harvard is a country?

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#6

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Molly Block
Community Member
11 months ago

Love this person's handwriting!

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#7

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Dirk Daring
Community Member
11 months ago

This question brought to you by Reefer.

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#8

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Daria B
Community Member
11 months ago

1940s style groupy. ♡

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#9

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He is love
Community Member
11 months ago

ahead of their time

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#10

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Dirk Daring
Community Member
11 months ago

Because of the one ball.

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#11

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

I googled it and the answer is still a mystery to me

Becca Gizmo the Squirrel
Community Member
11 months ago

I was about to Google it. Thank you.

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Mark Wilson
Community Member
11 months ago

Of all the bathtubs in all the towns in all the world...

Adam Francis
Community Member
1 week ago

3.7 percent

Molly Block
Community Member
11 months ago

Wow, who cares?!!! WHY would you need to know this? I guess bathtubs were sort of a new thing back then?? Instead of a wash basin, like a big metal tub, now thanks to the Victorians, bathtubs were the "in" thing to have? It is sort of interesting. I wonder if they ever found out an answer? I don't even know if Google could answer this one! So I asked. And wow-- here is the answer: "To understand how much the typical American home has changed in 60 years, look in the bathroom. It is hard to find one now that lacks hot water, a toilet and a bathtub. In 1940, barely half of the homes in the United States had all three features." And then, before I could find the answer, the page, a NYTimes site, wanted me to PAY to continue reading! JERKS!!!

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#12

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similarly
Community Member
11 months ago

That's actually quite sad, when you think about it.

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#13

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Kenny Kulbiski
Community Member
11 months ago

Thanks, Hannibal Lector. P.S any info on Fava beans?

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#14

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Tiny Dynamine
Community Member
11 months ago

According to Freud, it means you want to have sex with your mother.

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#15

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

clever marketing plan

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#16

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

I thought it was for a crossword or something but the spontaneous combustion doesn't fit

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#17

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

Adam's apple

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#18

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Tiny Dynamine
Community Member
11 months ago

A very good question, in that it is grammatically correct.

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#19

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Rabbit Carrot
Community Member
11 months ago

That’s the Boston Light. It’s both the oldest and the second oldest. The first structure was built in 1716 but burnt down/blown up by British troops. The current structure, and the one that still stands, was built in 1783. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1964. So perhaps she managed to sell it after all.

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#20

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

10th March 1355 BC

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#21

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Thomas Ewing
Community Member
11 months ago

"Living or dead, sir?"

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#22

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

Room 313 had to be a fun room to work in

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#23

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Rowlie
Community Member
11 months ago

Yes, however the husband should be notified at some point

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#24

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Ben Steinberg
Community Member
11 months ago

Sure, some bicowspids and some mooolers...

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#25

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Molly Block
Community Member
11 months ago

"hoovers" hahaha. I guess you could say that a vulture IS sort of a hoover, for sucking up and cleaning dead things!

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#26

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Rabbit Carrot
Community Member
11 months ago (edited)

The bible isn’t copyrighted but many translations are.

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#27

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Marleen Che
Community Member
11 months ago

Makes you wonder what people wanted to do with that information

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#28

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Molly Block
Community Member
11 months ago

LOL!

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#29

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Rabbit Carrot
Community Member
11 months ago (edited)

It’s not. It’s sheep’s milk fermented by mold nowadays grown in a lab (in the olden days it was fermented via the soil of local caves). If there’s worms on your cheese thrown it out as it’s gone nasty.

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#30

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Tinley's Aunt
Community Member
11 months ago

These days we win the sweepstakes on neurotic people. I think we win on psychotic, as well.

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Note: this post originally had 39 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.

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