Long before the days when people could get answers to any question under the sun in a moment’s notice, people often wrote down questions and gave them to librarians who would attempt to find and answer their questions after searching through the whole library.
“If we didn’t have the Internet right now, and you were looking to find out information on the migratory patterns of blue birds, you couldn’t just go to a computer and ask,” said Morgan Holzer, New York Public Library’s Information Architect. “You had to find an encyclopedia, which were expensive, so you would go to your library. And if you were at the library and didn’t want to find an encyclopedia, there’s a person standing right there who you could just ask and who had been trained to either give you an answer or tell you where to find an answer.”
Morgan continued to explain, “Or if it was a hard one that they might have to ask someone later on or couldn’t answer right away, they would write it down.” Recently, New York’s Public Library stumbled upon a box of some old reference questions, with dates ranging from the 1940s to the 1980s, and it’s really a historical mind-trip.