Have you ever wondered what other people are Googling? 2018’s top searches included the deaths of some notable celebrities like Mac Miller, Stephen Hawking and Anthony Bourdain, alongside sticky-beak queries like “Meghan Markle” and “Black Panther”.
But what about before Google? Turns out, before a convenient internet search tool existed, librarians were the go-to information purveyors that would field our every question and deliver an answer – although they took a little longer than 0.2 seconds to check their sources.
The New York Public Library has blessed us by publicly releasing some of their favourite search queries delivered to their librarians before the digital age. If you’re keen to read some more of these question cards, hop onto Twitter or Instagram and search up the #LetMeLibrarianThatForYou hashtag. It’s a hoot!
1. Bovine teeth
"Has a cow upper teeth?"
You may think this is a yes or no question, but the answer isn't so black and white. It depends on what teeth you're asking about—cows do not have upper front teeth, but they do have upper molars.#LetMeLibrarianThatForYou pic.twitter.com/M6a6s5KbEN
— NY Public Library (@nypl) September 11, 2018
Ok, this answer actually surprised me. I thought it was a clear cut yes… before I googled it to confirm.
Also, don’t you love how *proper* these queries are? It reminds me of the very polite grandma that added a ‘please and thank you’ to her Google searches…
— Chris Peralta (@veryChrisP) June 16, 2016
2. Cannibal query
— NY Public Library (@nypl) October 31, 2016
I didn’t know that It frequented the New York Public Library? Creepy.
3. English homework
"Is it good poetry where every other line rhymes, instead of having each line rhyme with the one before it?"
— NY Public Library (@nypl) August 28, 2018
Imagine having to call up the librarian every time you had a question about your homework. Well, it turns out that a breed of ‘human google’ does still exist. Librarians the world over (and most notably, The New York Public Library with 2.5 million visitors per year) act like ‘information custodians’ for those of us who either don’t have access to the internet or are fed up with the non-human elements of Google… so, pretty much just old people.
But, don’t turn your nose up at the humble librarian. Even if you are digitally literate, talking to your school’s librarian, or the person behind the desk at your local library is a great source of information when you’re researching an important assignment.
Teachers love when you reference more reputable sources, like books or encyclopaedias over generic (or even dodgy) websites. And who better to help you find these books than a librarian?
4. Pigeon population
"Pigeon population of New York compared with sparrow population." We've seen estimates between 4–7 million for pigeons. As for sparrows? Well, we guess we'd better get counting . . . #LetMeLibrarianThatForYou
Before Google, here's what our librarians were asked by telephone! pic.twitter.com/yoLsF1XfcU
— NY Public Library (@nypl) August 21, 2018
Ok, why would somebody need to know this? I guess if you looked through your own Google search history without context, you’d find some pretty strange questions.
5. The Dyson of the animal kingdom
"Is the vulture the name of the bird that hoovers over animals?" #LetMeLibrarianThatForYou
Well, the vultures we know don't act as vacuums. However, vultures do hover or circle. When the birds find prey, they approach it quickly so that they can beat other predators to it. pic.twitter.com/Obt0kPsCnx
— NY Public Library (@nypl) August 14, 2018
I wonder if this is what they meant?
6. Too many to count
"How many grains in a ton of wheat?"
A lot! One pound is 7,000 grains, and there are 2,000 pounds in one ton. This means that one ton of wheat is 14,000,000 grains . . . we hope you didn't have to count all of them! #LetMeLibrarianThatForYou pic.twitter.com/Ej7cHs5Xh7
— NY Public Library (@nypl) September 4, 2018
This is another case of ‘Why would anyone need to know that?’ But, it must have been important if they went to the trouble of phoning the library!
7. Curious questioner
— Gothamist (@Gothamist) January 12, 2016
Marengo. Steve’s Hair and Wigs. October 18… Wait, what?
8. His name is Gatsby
— Great Books (@GreatBooksFnd) December 22, 2014
“Ought I to send a thank you note?” The 20th century now reads like the 1700s!
9. You never know when you’ll need to fight off a rogue squirrel
— NY Public Library (@nypl) January 21, 2015
Is this a thing that people in New York have to worry about? If so, that is terrifying.
10. On nightmares
— Solus UK Ltd (@solusuk) January 19, 2015
This one says: “What does it mean when you dream you’re being chased by an elephant?”
Well, according to this dream dictionary, getting chased by an elephant in your dream indicates a feeling of loss of control. It’s no exact science, so take that one with a grain of salt.
Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments!
GIFs via Giphy.com
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.