Long before the internet was even a twinkle in the eye of Tim Berners-Lee, people were forced to use these things called “books” to store information. A “book” is a sort of USB stick made out of paper (“paper” is sort of like an Word document but made out of a tree). These “books” would be stored in places called “libraries” (a “library” is like Amazon, except you can walk around inside it). You could go into these “libraries” and borrow these “books” for free.

The people who worked in these “libraries” were called “librarians”. Members of the public would phone up these “librarians” and ask them questions and then the “librarians” would answer the questions. Sometimes the questions were difficult and the “librarians” would write the questions down on a bit of paper so they could look up the answer. Sometimes they’d just write down the questions because they were funny.

The New York Public Library recently found a cache of these questions which date back from the 1940s and have started putting them up on Instagram. The questions give an interesting insight to what was on the mind of people in the pre-Google days:

When one has guests, who kisses whom first. When told it was optional, the inquirer said ‘Well, I guess that it’s just like in introducing people—it all depends on who’s who”

“Is this the place where I ask questions I can’t get answers to?”


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

Finally, surely this one should be turned into a film:

You can follow the New York Public Library on Instagram here.

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