Interesting Questions to the Reference Section of the New York Public Library – 1944 to 1979

Before the internet people of New York asked their librarian about ducks, divorce, orgies, worm cheese and, well, just ab out anything

This collection of questions asked of the Reference section of the New York Public Library pre-date the internet. Ranging from 1944 to 1979, librarians made notes of some of the calls.


NYPL questions


“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 wentto [sic] 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 name?”

CS 1/2/67″



“What percent of All The bathtubs in the World Are in the U.S.?


NYPL questions


“Do camels have to be licensed in India?
Telephone May 15, 1944


NYPL questions


“15 June 1967
Question: What is the natural enemy of a duck?
Lib: What do you mean?
Q: Well, a whole flight of them landed in my pool and I have waved a broom at them but all they do is look at my and quack. I thought I could introduce the natural enemy into the pool area.


NYPL questions


“Inquiry at desk.. Nov. 1948
“Can I get a book telling me how to be a mistress of ceremonies at a musical orgy?”

[Letters in signature difficult for me to make out]
NOV 20 1948″


NYPL questions


“Terrified female voice.
“What’ll I do- I just saw a mouse in my Kitchen? IS DDT any good for ’em.”
Suggested she get a Trap, she wailed
“O-o-oooo! I couldn’t pick up a dead mouse!”


NYPL questions


“What kind of an apple did Eve eat?
Telephone request
NB 9.28.56”


NYPL questions


“Does anyone have a copyright on the Bible?


NYPL questions


“Is it proper to go alone to Reno to get a divorce?


NYPL questions


“Why do 18th century English paintings have so many squirrels in them, and how did they tame them so that they wouldn’t bite the painter?



‘[Question:] Could you tell me the thickness of a US Postage Stamp with the glue on it?
[Answer:] Sorry we couldn’t tell you that quickly, why don’t you try the post office.
[Reply:] ‘This is the post office.’



“Please give me the name of a book that dramatizes bedbugs?”

– PQ 9/22/44



“Is it good poetry where every other line rhymes, instead of having each line rhyme with the one before it[?]

by phone, Feb 14, 1944”



“Is there a law in NYC whereby a child can become unrelated to its parent if they don’t like each other?”




“What does it mean when you dream you’re being chased by an elephant?”




“What is the therapeutic value of essence of pine needles?”




‘Please explain to me the poem Crossing the Bar by Browning!!’



‘Where can I find something on the comical aspects of pregnancy?”

Sept 3 / 1[9]62




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