Pre-Internet Research – Calling the Library Reference Desk

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I recall doing research in high school by getting on the LIRR and visiting the New York Public Library. It had the most enormous card catalog room. Where I would look up some obscure references and hand them to the librarian.

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In time my book would appear, and I could sit in the reading room. There was NO checkout from the New York Public Library — at least not for lowly high school students like myself.

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The other way to do research in those days was to call the library reference desk. My local library which was no larger than a small mall store had a reference desk where you could ask questions in person or by phone.

This great article http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/28/librarian-new-york-public-librarys-quirkiest-enquiries reports on questions asked the New York Public Library during the pre-computer, pre-Internet days. The questions are hand written on 3×5 cards.

Is this the place where I ask questions I can’t get answers to?’ – Phone question, September 13, 1947

‘Question received over telephone: Any statistics on the life span of the abandoned woman?’ 1963

Check it out.

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