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Google versus The Librarian

Molly headshot

My sister-in-law is twenty-three. Recently we were having dinner together and had a minor disagreement about the lyrics of “Summer Nights” from Grease. Our first impulse was to Google the song, but my phone was plugged in upstairs and her battery was dead. My husband was able to settle our argument by using Google on his laptop. (She was right, I was wrong.)

“What would we do without Google?” my sister-in-law asked. “How would we answer questions without it?”
“We’d call a librarian, “I responded.
“What do you mean, we’d call a librarian?”
“Exactly that. We’d call the reference desk at the local library and ask the reference librarian to search out the answer for us.”
“People do that?”
“Yes! All the time!”

Author Neil Gaiman once famously said that “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” Here at UDPL, we believe that reference is one of the most important services we, and all libraries, provide!

The New York Public Library recently unearthed a collection of archived reference questions dating from the 1940s through the 1980s. They have been posting them to their Instagram Page (http://instagram.com/nypl/) every Monday morning. Here’s one of my favorites:

NYPL Reference Question

Photo from the NY Public Library archives, posted to instagram.com/nypl


UDPL does NOT and has NEVER kept record of our reference questions, but, we do get many of them each day. Sometimes people are looking for tech help (we can help you!) sometimes people are looking for historical information (we have a local history collection!) and sometimes people just want answers to settle bets (we can do that too, although we won’t take sides!)

What question do you have that UDPL can help you answer?!