Library staffers field countless questions over years


You wake up, look around, scratch, yawn, and wonder: What day is this?

Who you gonna call? The library.

You can’t find a pattern printed in a women’s magazine in the 1970s.

Where to turn to find it? The library.

Want to tan a snake hide but can’t quite figure it out?

Where to get help? The library.

Who knew?

The library gets questions. Not some, not a few, not just now and then.

READ MORE: Toledo-Lucas County Public Library celebrates 175 years

We’re talking gobs, lots, a whole bunch. Questions by the hundreds. By the thousands. By the hundreds of thousands.

In 1947 alone, 218,040 questions were asked, ranging from simple requests of children to technical research questions that required hours of digging in indexes or journals.

Based on the library’s annual report in 1948, more and more people were learning to turn to their public library whenever questions arose, whether for family history, a manufacturer’s address, the source of a quotation, or the date of an event.

Sample questions from the 1940s? Sure, we’ve got some.

How much does the Empire State Building sway in high winds?

What are uses of sesame oil?

What is the history of milk bottles?

What songs were popular in President Lincoln’s time?

What did nuns do during the Civil War?

What Ohio sanitary laws govern the sale of bedding?

Where can you get a stuffed owl to scare starlings away?

And in the late 1950s: How do you build a fishing shanty? How do you take inventory in a coal yard? In which ballet is the can-can done? What are the most beautiful words in English language (dawn, hush, and lullaby were suggested answers.)

In recent years, we bet, numbers dwindled, what with the availability of the Internet. Good thing we wagered zip, zero.

Questions to the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library last year totaled nearly a half-million. The exact number, you ask? That would be 488,124 across the library system.

Some questions are answered lickety split; others, involving research by staff members, takes some time.

And yes, staff is often asked by the public: “What day is it?” (For the record, today is Sunday.)

Other questions often relate to values of antiques or family estate items, said Meg Delaney, Main Library manager.

One inquiring mind sought the value of a Gretsch guitar and a 1960s-era Fender amplifier. She had an offer. Was it a good deal? Nope. The offer was way low. “That turned out to be helpful information for the lady,” said Ms. Delaney.

Inquiries come from grieving relatives. Where can you bury kinfolk for free? They ask about options, Ms. Delaney said.

Questions that come in, she said, are really “soup to nuts.”

And at one nonlocal library, the gotta-share-this story goes, it was cat and mouse.

The query — how many calories in a mouse?

Seems a lady had a fat cat on a strict diet. But the hungry feline was pouncing and then feasting on a mouse, or two or three. Would the mice, the caller wondered, catapult the pet’s caloric intake into overload?

Our own research on the Internet came up with 30 calories per mouse, but that answer was found after pawing through many listings for “how many calories does a mouse click burn?”

No wonder the curious call their local library.

Contact Janet Romaker at: or 419-724-6006.