Difficult questions posed to the NYPL reference desks before the net


In the New York Public Library's Instagram account, Information Architect Morgan Holzer is posting images of 3x5 cards pulled from a shoebox collecting 50 years' worth of weird questions that were posed to the system's reference desks, which were strange and notable enough to warrant addition to the collection.

It's a great collection of the kinds of weird miscellanea that today we pose to search engines without thinking twice, but which were once the province of a hard-working cadre of information specialists who were asked to figure out how to sell notable lighthouses one day, and what the natural enemy of a duck was the next day.

Here's some current reference questions from NYPL:

Are vegetables and fruits being sold to American supermarkets that are fertilized with human excrement?

What are the chances of survival after someone’s heart stops for more than five minutes? I am having trouble finding a good source that breaks this down. The databases are tough to use and google is being no help. Thank you for any help you can lend!

I am looking for articles in sociology about how individuals in small group settings tend to look outward to have their needs met, while people in larger groups tend to look inward. The specific context is about people with developmental disabilities who live in residential facilities, and trying to get support for the proposition that people are better off in smaller settings where they would look more to the community rather than the institution for support. Thank you for any guidance about searches or articles.

I'm looking to do a comparison between the efficiency of buses versus the subway. At rush hour, how many people can load and unload from a subway train (say, the 4 at Grand Central)? About how long does that take? 10 seconds, 45 seconds? Through how many doors in how many cars? Thank you in advance!


Hilarious Questions Posed to the NYPL Pre-Internet
[Hannah Keyser/Mental Floss]

Reviewsontues images [Instagram via Enjoygram]

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