Let Me Librarian That for You

Even if you lived most of your life pre-Google, do you really remember how you got information in those days? Maybe you used an encyclopedia. Perhaps you called a friend. And depending where you lived, maybe you asked the librarian – the high-tech way, by using the New York Public Library’s Ask a Librarian hotline. Back then, librarians were our search engines; if they didn’t know the answer, they knew where to find it. No Wikipedia? No problem.

Recently, someone at the NYPL stumbled on a recipe box full of questions that the Googleless had asked from the 1840s to the ’80s. In the spirit of sharing, the library decided to start posting the questions on Instagram in a new Monday series called, appropriately, #letmelibrarianthatforyou.

“In a world pre-Google, librarians weren’t just Wikipedia, they were people’s Craiglist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram all rolled into one,” the library said on its first Instagram post.

So many reasons to celebrate this holiday week, first of which is this is our 1,000th post! And to thank you all for being such an awesome community, we are launching a new Monday series: #letmelibrarianthatforyou. We found an old recipe box while cleaning out a desk, and it was labeled “Interesting Reference Questions,” the contents of which ranged from total stumpers to funny mispronunciations. People came to the library for reference, but also for info on buying and selling, looking for inspiration, crafty project ideas, and even to find photos. In a world pre-Google, librarians weren’t just Wikipedia, they were people’s Craiglist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram all rolled into one. “Is this the place where I ask questions I can’t get answers to?” – Phone question, September 13, 1947

A photo posted by The New York Public Library (@nypl) on

Would Google have been able to help you with the questions people asked the librarian? Take a look (Hat tip to Mental Floss for the images):

Yes! Google has an interesting answer.

If you can find the answer on Google, let us know.

Hmm. We can’t find an answer on the etiquette of suing for divorce solo in Reno – but it is legal.

According to this link from Google, the variety of apple is unknown – in fact, it might have been a banana or a pear.

Google gives up.

Via Google: Sixty-four days.

Not only can you find out how via Google, you can watch a YouTube video.

Librarian 1, Google 0.

Let us Google that for you

To follow the New York Public Library’s #letmelibrarianthatforyou on Instagram (along with other posts by the library), click here or follow NYPL on your Instagram app. (To learn how to get started with your own Instagram account, click here.)  

So, who does a better search – Google or the library? Tell us in the comments section below.


One response to “Let Me Librarian That for You

  1. There’s a bunch of people I need to forward this story to— if they haven’t seen it already, the first would be my librarian friends! librarians take all requests (for information and help) seriously. These samples are incredible: the children (all those born post- 1970) would be totally clueless about how to cope with even trying to find answers sans Yahoo, Google, You Tube etc.

Leave a Reply

Senior Planet’s comments are open for all readers/subscribers; we love hearing from you! However, some comments are not welcome here as violations of our Comment Policy. If you would like to express a comment about Senior Planet locations or programs, please contact Want to continue the conversation? Start your own discussion on this topic on Senior Planet Community.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *