In this age of technology finding nearly any information can be as simple as typing your question into the search bar on Google. However, there is another, more personal way to find out information. You can call 917-ASK-NYPL and a librarian at the New York Public Library will attempt to answer any questions you may have using archives gathered over 120 years.
“call 917-ASK-NYPL and a librarian at the New York Public Library will attempt to answer any questions you may have using archives gathered over 120 years.”
The call line was set up in the 1960s and is run by a team of 9 librarians and information specialists, who can be reached from 9am-6pm, Monday through Saturday with any questions you may have, whether they are about the library itself or a wide range of other topics (Science, history, news, and grammar are the most common). Before Ask NYPL was created many people still took their questions to the New York Public Library. Recently a box of questions was discovered with some questions dating back to the 1940s. The box contained some of the most unusual questions the librarians had received by phone or walk-ins. Besides calling, you can also reach Ask NYPL by text, chat, or email.
Since July 2015, the team has answered just shy of 60,000 phone calls. (They also fielded 20,000 emails, 17,000 chat messages, and 500 text messages. The department also gets one or two snail mail inquiries a month.) The library keeps records of their most absurd and memorable questions, from phone calls and in-person queries, dating as far back as the 1940s.
“Since July 2015, the team has answered just shy of 60,000 phone calls.”
We posed a few of the more inscrutable vintage queries to today’s question-answering team, to see how they would explain the world to their inquisitive patrons.
No matter how advanced technology becomes, or how easy it is to look something up, sometimes you just need to talk to a human more knowledgeable than yourself.