30+ Real Questions People Asked Librarians Before Search Engines

Before there were search engines, we asked our embarrassing questions to… the librarian. Here are some real questions that people in the mid-1900s asked, of all people, their librarians.

How smart was he, really?

How much did Napoleon’s brain weigh?

Every kid at some point wants to know…

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

Interpret my dreams, please.

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


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


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

I wonder how the librarian answered THIS one!

What is the significance of the hip movement in the Hawaiian dance?

This person wants an honorable woman–lots of them.

Q: What country has the highest number of honorable women?

A: Well, it’s a matter of definition, isn’t it?

How inspiring

A woman wanted “inspirational material on grass and lawns”

How many days until this baby arrives?

What is gestational period of human beings in days?

Getting the library’s help with sales

A Swiss manufacturer of baby carriages wanted to know whether the N.Y.P.L. didn’t have a list of expectant mothers.

Whom kisses whom first?

Question: When one has guests, whom kisses whom first?

When told it was optional, the inquirer said, “Well, I guess that it’s just like introducing people–it all depends on who’s who.”

Is a black widow spider more harmful dead or alive?

This was one busy librarian!

Within 5 minutes on the telephone:

  • Name of Napoleon’s horse
  • Name of a wig maker in Miami
  • Date of opening of baseball season in N.Y.
  • Books on human spontaneous combustion
  • Who were the Sever Sutherland Sisters?

Abandoned women . . .

Any statistics on the lifespan of the abandoned woman?

Is he wondering if he is one of them?

How many neurotic people in the US?

Very polite

When writing to a sailor, should one always spell the word “weigh” as in Anchors Aweigh out of courtesy, even when it is usually spelled “way”?

We’d all like to know: How do I find out the name of someone worth 27 million dollars?

Those darn squirrels!

Can you be more specific?

Do you have any books on human beings?

Only if you want to.

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

Is it “City Bully” or “Sitting Bull”?

A question of biblical proportions

Does anyone have a copyright on the Bible?

Another biblical question

What kind of apple did Eve eat?

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, “Oooooo! I couldn’t pick up a dead mouse!”

Apparently sexism wasn’t off limits either

Does the female human being belong to the mammal class?

How to be a mistress of ceremonies at a musical orgy.

This caller found Adolf Hitler!

Well, they are a form of transportation!

Do camels have to be licensed in India?

How to sell a lighthouse

If only the answer were yes, this whole blog post would be unnecessary.

Does the NYPL have a computer for use of the public?

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