Do you ever wonder what people did before they could look to the internet for the answers to all their bizarre and potentially embarrassing questions? There was no Google search. There was no Yahoo! Answers to turn to when you thought you might be pregnant. There were no strangers on Quora, ready to answer all your cringey relationship questions. Many of the answers to citizens burning questions were probably not in the encyclopedia, farmer’s almanac, or an atlas. Instead, these queries could possibly be satisfied with a time-consuming visit to the library. But usually, at least in the era of telephones, information-hungry individuals would simply call the closes thing they had to an oracle: their local librarian.
As internet-savvy millennials, it’s embarrassing to admit that we can’t remember the last time we actually set foot in a physical library. Gone are the days of needing to borrow the computer to do research for school, or sneak some time on Neopets or Livejournal. And while the pandemic is definitely preventing some people from getting their book-borrowing on, library usership was already experiencing a very steady decline. According to data from the IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services), people in the United States only visit a library 4.1 times a year. Even more sobering? Physical library visits declined by 3% each year from 2012 to 2019. It’s starting to feel like libraries, despite their transition to a virtual existence, are sadly becoming obsolete.
If you rewind as far back as the 1940’s, libraries played a much consistently important role in the lives of Americans. And as we mentioned earlier, librarians were the go-to people for questions that people couldn’t easily answer. We’re sure that current librarians are happy to be free of this pressure. While the Internet has definitely helped ease the responsibility of library workers, their jobs, thanks to some intel from the New York Public Library, have become a lot less hilarious. A few years back, the New York institution began publishing all the crazy questions on Twitter with the hashtag #letmelibrarianthereforyou. The queries are painstakingly transcribed on index cards (remember those?) both by hand and with the assistance of a typewriter. While some of the topics are wholesome and kind of seem like they’re asked by an inquisitive five year old, many are hilariously unhinged – just like the questions you might find on the aforementioned Yahoo! Answers. This gallery boasts some of the best and craziest questions, but you can find a whole lot more if you follow this link or search the hashtag yourself. We think you’ll come out of it with a newfound respect for those who work in library sciences.