Do you ever find yourself asking, “What did we do before Google?”

Well, what did we do before Google, particularly for our oddest and most encyclopedia defying questions? Sure there was our local library, maybe consulting our own dictionaries or encyclopedias, but sometimes those just weren’t enough. For the past forty years, the New York Public Library’s “Human Google” has been answering those stumping pre-Google inquiries.

Oh, and guess what, you can still call them today!

Image: New York Public Library home of Ask NYPL

Source: Jiahui Huang // Flickr

Yes, if you don’t want to Google that pressing question about that obscure animal or quirk of history, you can call the New York Public Library’s “Human Google”, and get your answer.

Join one of EWC’s favorite channels, (one that’s definitely worth checking out!) Great Big Story, for more on this fascinating factoid curiosity…

We’ve paired this video with thought-provoking discussion questions perfect for the classroom in this touchstone on our education platform, EWCed!

Celebrating Curiosity!

I just love that they still get 30,000 calls per year! What a wonderful service to know is out there in the world.

When was the last time you went somewhere other than Google (or the internet) for an answer to a question? I think I may have used a dictionary a little over a year ago when the power was out and I had to prove a point about a definition.

Maybe we are missing something in just being able to “Google it.” Perhaps there was something to the sense of exploration or discovery that came with having to leaf through a book or two for an answer to our question. Along the way, maybe we took the time to read up on one more encyclopedia entry or learned the word right above the one we were actually searching for in the dictionary. Certainly, we can’t overlook the power of an eye-catching image in sparking curiosity.

For me, Ask NYPL proves it’s still an amazing world for a few reasons. First, it makes me infinitely happy that people out there are curious enough to pick up the phone and ask for answers. And Second, it reminds me of how wonderfully sidetracking curiosity can be. We shouldn’t take for granted our curious impulses, but instead, embrace them, and maybe, along the way give the New York Public Library’s “Human Google” a call.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


Spur on your curiosity!

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  1. “The New York Public Library Has a Human Google.” YouTube. Great Big Story, 17 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 Dec. 2016. <>.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV