Becky Clark

Do Camels Have To Be Licensed in India?

Remember those halcyon days before we were yoked to our technology and had to rely only on our wits and old wives tales to get anything done?

I know for a fact back then my husband and I used to be able to watch a movie without looking up IMDB to remind us, “Who is that girl playing the sister?”

I’m pretty sure I used to be able to communicate without memes to punctuate my thoughts.

And I’m positive I used to write novels without the internet at my beck-and-call.

In fact, when I was still writing for kids, back [mumbles] years ago, I actually hired a woman to do some research for me about Civil War weapons. She returned to me, via the United States Postal Service, a slick presentation folder loaded with photos and all the information I wanted, and more. At the time I didn’t realize she was the precursor to my personal Google.

So it’s in this spirit I’m sharing some vintage images of actual questions received at the reference desk of the New York Public Library, all which make me realize I’d be a lousy reference librarian.



Yes, if they want to drive, get married, or work as a therapist.



Um … can I get one, too?



Would you like to expand your search to include donuts,

ice cream cones, and the weinermobile?



That question doesn’t even make cents.



Really? You’re going to start a poetry rumble with a librarian?

On Valentine’s Day??




Ah, a question as old as time. And always weirdly worded.


But my favorite question, and one that makes me want to research the NYC police blotter in the days following 6/6/58 …..

What were these people researching? Have you ever asked the reference librarian questions? Would you be a good reference librarian?


33 thoughts on “Do Camels Have To Be Licensed in India?

  1. Becky, love, LOVE this! As a newspaper reporter who started work before we had Google, I would occasionally call up a reference librarian with a random question.(They don’t get paid nearly enough!) I think some of the folks you cited querying the NYC library needed to be looking in the psychology section.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This is so hilarious!! That last one made me laugh/snort my coffee then go, “Wait. I want to know the answer.”

    In days of yore, when I was a baby copywriter, I had a relationship with a local reference librarian, who’d I’d call on to answer weird work-related questions. (You’d be surprised what you need to know about things like fruit stickers, for example. Or maybe not.) She was amazing. Fast, thorough, funny. We fell out of touch once the internet took hold, but I’ll never forget her.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. OMG, why, why, WHY is there no laugh ROFLMAO emoji in WordPress? Becky, these are classic!! I know I’ve asked some whoppers in my time but I can’t remember any right now. You do bring back memories of the library where I lived on the Upper West Side. It was such a creepy place that I’m sure they shot the creepy show “You” there. I didn’t know how the librarians worked there.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Rather than ask about the relative number of pigeons to sparrows in NYC, the person should probably have focused on the number of rats to people in the city: 5 to 1 (rats winning).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I bet somebody already posts statistics about rats because more people want to know about them. Maybe they read a newspaper blurb about it and thought, “Yeah, but what about pigeons? And sparrows?”


  5. This is so fantastic! LOVE. I love seeing the handwriting on the cards, in addition to the random questions. Amazing.

    (Also the IMDB part made me think of the Lila book coming out in May, in which her mother goes on a tiny rant about how her generation used to be perfectly happy wondering about things and not instantly knowing the answers, thank you very much.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s not just a generational thing, Cynthia. I was watching a recent-ish movie whose name escapes me where two younger characters said that same thing. There were two couples sitting around after dinner and they were trying to remember something. The older guy whips out his phone to look it up and the younger guy admonished him to try to use his brain to remember. [Okay, I couldn’t stop myself. I googled “movie Ben Stiller and Adam Driver” and was immediately rewarded with the title.”While We’re Young.”]

      I’m feeling weirdly ironic, and old and young right now…..

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Great article. I don’t think I asked librarians questions like this when I was younger. I didn’t get weird until later in life. I blame the internet!
    But, think about it. Now our questions are weirder, because we don’t have to ask someone else for the answer most times

    Liked by 2 people

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