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Let Me Librarian That For You: The NYPL Was Google, Before Google

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East
2 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Question from NYPL archives posted on Instagram
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Adam and Eve’s heights, the reason why squirrels appear in 18th century English paintings, the therapeutic value of essence of pine needles, and proper etiquette post attending a New Year’s Eve bash. Sounds peculiar? Between the 1940s and the 1980s, these were some of the questions that the New York Public Library (NYPL) employees fielded. Before Google and the Internet, people relied on volumes of encyclopedias or asking their local librarian. After finding a box of information requests jotted down and filed by former NYPL staff, the current NYPL team decided to share them through their Instagram account. The queries are a mixture on manners, religion, and historical facts- some of which, still get asked since the library’s question-answer service continues (NPR). The team posts every Monday, with the hashtag #letmelibrarianthatforyou, a hat-tip to the expression “Let Me Google That For You.”

Last year, U.S. Senators Tom Coburn and Claire McCaskill introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act to argue that government records available through the National Technical Information Service –which comes at a price- can be found via Google search for free (The Wire). You learn something new (or old), every day.

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