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Posts by Matthew Boylan

One Man’s Library Education and the "Double V"

A Dutch author wrote to Ask NYPL, the ready reference division of The New York Public Library, with a request for information about a staff member of the NYPL on Staten Island in the 1940s. This library worker had been instrumental in encouraging the educational interests of the man who became the subject of the author's book.Read More ›

Children's Theater in New York City

A patron wrote in to ASK NYPL, the virtual reference service of The New York Public Library, to find out about the state of children's theater in New York City. More specifically, the patron wanted to know the total number of children age 6-11 in each of the five boroughs of the City; the various theaters in the City that feature children's 

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Children's Libraries in New York City

By far the largest number of children's books—especially those for circulation (lending) to children and their families—is to be found at The New York Public Library. The largest collections of children's books in that you can visit are at its Children's Center at 42nd Street as well as the many children's rooms in the 87 neighborhood branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. There are also children's 

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Cross Country Travel in 1912

An author telephoned Ask NYPL, the ready reference division of The New York Public Library, stating that she needed the "real facts" as to a cross country railroad trip from Seattle to Groton, Massachusetts in 1912. Indeed, this was the final information she would need to complete her novel. What would be the duration of each "leg" of such a trip? Which railroads would be taken? 

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Searching the Bible Online

The Bible is the most widely read book in the Western world. And since the advent of public libraries in the United States, patrons have always asked every conceivable type of question about it. ASK NYPL, the ready reference division of The New York Public Library that takes patron queries by telephone, email, chat and text, is often asked about biblical quotations, what was said (and by whom), what was the language used, and where did the quotation, phrase, name or 

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From Tokyo to New York, In Search of History

When the question arrived in our inbox at Ask NYPL, I noticed the email address ended in ".jp"

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Beyond 311: How to Direct Complaints to NYC, State or Federal Agencies

Landlord-Tenant Disputes: Heat and Hot Water, Eviction, Foreclosure Complaints with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTA) Consumer Fraud and "Rip Offs" Discrimination based on Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation Landlord-Tenant Disputes: Heat and Hot Water, Eviction, Foreclosure

Landlord-tenant disputes are a fact that a large percentage of New York City residents must confront at one time or another if they live in this 

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Navigating Health Care in New York: Researching Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and Providers

Many New Yorkers no longer have much choice about who their health care provider is. Many times New Yorkers — if they are fortunate enough to have an employer sponsored or other health care plan — may be asked to choose from among those health care providers who belong to a particular heath care maintenance program or other health insurance program.

Other New Yorkers may be enrolled in the Medicare Program if they are

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How to Research and Employ an Attorney

At some time in their life, most New York City residents will need to employ an attorney. This may reflect the need to make a will, a

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How to Find Free or Low Cost Legal Services in New York City

These services are generally available only to those of limited financial means. However, there are also certain legal services that are available for those of moderate means. If you are a person of limited financial means who faces a civil legal issue — one that is not a criminal offense — certainly the most comprehensive source of information about your legal rights is LawHelp.org. Its assistance is also 

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Legal Resources at NYPL and Elsewhere in New York City

Without a doubt, the best location in the New York Public Library to conduct legal research about legal issues that arise in either the state or the city of New York is the Science Industry and Business Library. SIBL has a selective law library that contains such essential New York legal research tools as McKinney’s Consolidated Statutes of New York (annotated with New York and federal cases and state agencies that cite the 

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The Second Time America was Bombed in World War II

A patron wrote ASK NYPL to ask about her uncle, who died in March 1945 while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. She granted us permission to share the story of the search here.

The patron knew very little about her uncle "Buddy." When the Army notified her uncle's next of kin of his death, they did not disclose how or where he died. Further, her uncle's military records had been destroyed in the 1973 National 

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Gilbert King's "Devil in the Grove": Thurgood Marshall and A Cry of Rape

Arguably the most important American lawyer of the 20th century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown versus Board of Education when he became embroiled in an explosive and deadly case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement and cost him his life. Author Gilbert King's new book Devil in the Grove, published later this month by HarperCollins, is the definitive 

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Virginia Woolf's Typewriter

The reference librarians of ASK NYPL recently received a very interesting question about Virginia Woolf.

“Virginia Woolf typed all her major works and other writings on a typewriter. But what brand of typewriter did she use?”

I immediately recalled the one brand of typewriter that dominated the Anglo-American market for typewriters in the years that Woolf was most prolific as a published author (1915-1943): the Underwood — 

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Ask NYPL: The History of The Library Shop

Photo by Herb ScherThis question was recently posed to the Ask NYPL reference librarians: “What were the predecessors to The Library Shop located off Astor Hall in the Schwarzman Building?” This is a question whose answer proves to be quite intriguing. What we found reveals a room whose uses were as varied and that served as many needs as The New York Public Library does itself!

Under the original and all later

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How to Buy a Diamond

"When is the best time of year to buy a diamond?"

This question was recently posed to the ASK NYPL virtual reference service of The New York Public Library. First, if you're looking for a diamond whose size is a half carat or larger, make sure your jeweler offers you a grading report from one of the reputable diamond-grading labs below. To properly evaluate these reports, you must understand the four "C's" of diamonds: carat weight, cut, color and 

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A Digital Public Library for America?

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one... Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe... seems to have been designed by nature.

— Thomas Jefferson,

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