Hilarious Questions Posed to the NYPL Pre-Internet

New York Public Library
New York Public Library

People Google a lot of strange things. But while the anonymity of the internet certainly helps them feel comfortable indulging certain inquiries, our curiosity as humans didn't start with the invention of the search engine.

"If we didn’t have the Internet right now, and you were looking to find out information on the migratory patterns of blue birds, you couldn’t just go to a computer and ask," says Morgan Holzer, New York Public Library's Information Architect. "You had to find an encyclopedia, which were expensive, so you would go to your library. And if you were at the library and didn’t want to find an encyclopedia, there’s a person standing right there who you could just ask and who had been trained to either give you an answer or tell you where to find an answer."

And sometimes those librarians in the general research division—who are responsible for fielding all sorts of inquiries, either over the phone or in person—wrote down the questions they were asked.

"When they heard one they hadn’t heard before, that was a little weird or a little funny, they might write it down," Holzer says. "Or if it was a hard one that they might have to ask someone later on or couldn’t answer right away, they would write it down." Recently, the Library stumbled upon a box of some of these old reference questions, with dates ranging from the 1940s to 1983 (and a particular concentration of questions from the '40s and '60s).

Some of the cards include notes on who was doing the asking: A lady who asked for "a book on Reincarnation that has illustrations ... seemed relieved that she could come in and look at it." Some include answers: What is the life of an eyelash? 150 days. And some aren't questions at all: On January 20, 1983 a reader approaches the desk and said, "You'll have to forgive me, I'm from New Jersey."

But most just speak for themselves:

Starting this week, Holzer will post one of these cards on the Library's Instagram each Monday. If this has inspired questions of your own, you can take it to the librarians with Ask NYPL. Even in the age of the Internet, the Library gets 1700 reference questions a month—and that's not including inquiries about the logistics of the Library itself. These days, people are looking for resources to help them with difficult research topics. Check out some of the recent questions posed:

Are vegetables and fruits being sold to American supermarkets that are fertilized with human excrement?
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What are the chances of survival after someone’s heart stops for more than five minutes? I am having trouble finding a good source that breaks this down. The databases are tough to use and google is being no help. Thank you for any help you can lend!
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I am looking for articles in sociology about how individuals in small group settings tend to look outward to have their needs met, while people in larger groups tend to look inward. The specific context is about people with developmental disabilities who live in residential facilities, and trying to get support for the proposition that people are better off in smaller settings where they would look more to the community rather than the institution for support. Thank you for any guidance about searches or articles.
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I'm looking to do a comparison between the efficiency of buses versus the subway. At rush hour, how many people can load and unload from a subway train (say, the 4 at Grand Central)? About how long does that take? 10 seconds, 45 seconds? Through how many doors in how many cars? Thank you in advance!

And if you've got a family lighthouse to unload, it can't hurt to ask:

Brie Larson Punched an Old Woman in the Captain Marvel Trailer—This Might Explain Why

Marvel Studios via YouTube
Marvel Studios via YouTube

by Natalie Zamora

Marvel fans have been on cloud nine all day, a​s the first official trailer for the highly-anticipated film Captain Marvel was ​released this morning. Besides seeing Carol Danvers (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) in Air Force and her awesome suit, one quick shot certainly threw us off.

Toward the end of the trailer, ​Captain Marvel punches an innocent-looking elderly woman on a train, after the woman simply gave the superhero a smile. Upon first watch, we were so confused, and so were tons who took to social media to ask about it.

However, there is a pretty simple presumed explanation for Carol Danvers's action.

As Carol is back on Earth, she has to readjust to the planet she barely even remembers coming from. She's obviously rattled upon getting on the train, and when one person makes eye contact with her, she interprets it as danger. Comic book fans know Carol's dealt with Skrulls, which are shape-shifting aliens. We're assuming she thinks this poor old woman is one of them, and honestly, we can't blame her.

We don't have proof that this is what's going on, and Carol could technically just have some seriously bad anger issues we're not aware of, but we're pretty confident in this assumption, and so are tons of fans.

We'll find out what really happens when Captain Marvel hits theaters March 8, 2019.

Glow-in-the-Dark Star Wars Undies Have Arrived

MeUndies
MeUndies

Star Wars geekery has been taken to the next level. Underwear brand MeUndies just unveiled a new pattern that bears the likenesses of several of the space opera's most iconic characters and glows like a lightsaber when it gets dark outside.

The original pattern was hand-drawn by the MeUndies team, and it features Chewbacca, Yoda, R2-D2, C-3PO, Darth Vader, and a Stormtrooper. According to the company, it’s the first time a Star Wars print has featured characters from both the Dark Side and the Rebel Alliance together.

And naturally, the stars and Star Wars logos glow in the dark. The underwear is made from a fiber called Lenzing MicroModal, which is derived from beechwood trees and is said to be three times softer than cotton.

Star Wars boxers for men
MeUndies

Star Wars panties for women
MeUndies

Men’s undies, priced at $24, come in four styles: trunks, boxers, briefs, and boxer briefs. Women’s options include a cheeky brief, bikini, or boyshort, all of which cost $18 apiece. However, if you sign up for a MeUndies membership, $4 to $8 will be taken off each pair, and you’ll also gain access to exclusive prints and lower member prices. MeUndies carries sizes ranging from XS to 3XL and ships to the U.S. and Canada, as well as some other international locations.

Head on over to the MeUndies website to pick up a pair for yourself or for the Star Wars fanatic in your life, and remember: When you wear these undies, the Force will be with you, always.

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