Before Google, librarians had the answers to everything

Before Google you had to ask a Librarian at New York Public Library | Image shows cow with the question,

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

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…


2. Cannibal query

I didn’t know that It frequented the New York Public Library? Creepy.


3. English homework

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

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

I wonder if this is what they meant?


6. Too many to count

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

Marengo. Steve’s Hair and Wigs. October 18… Wait, what?


8. His name is Gatsby

“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

Is this a thing that people in New York have to worry about? If so, that is terrifying.


10. On nightmares

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

Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.


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