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Blog Posts by Subject: Reference

How to Search The New York Times

Over the years working at the reference desk, I get this question a lot: "Do you have the New York Times on [given date]?" I reply, "YES! Which formats are you interested in seeing? We have some bound copies, microfilms and digital resources." It is one of the most popular primary sources that patrons often want to see.

Whatever the patrons are researching, the NYT is quite useful for a variety of subjects: genealogy, history, social sciences, etc.; the newspaper covered and still covers many international, national, regional and local issues. We 

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Survival: Tips and Resources on How to Survive with Patience and Fortitude

Most New Yorkers do not aim to simply survive, but to thrive. But let’s face it, we’ve all taken it on the chin of late. People from all over, not just New Yorkers, often feel their stress-levels rising. Whether you're trying to survive workplace stress, natural disasters, or physical violence, mental toughness, physical fitness, active participation in your community and 

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Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was)

Between 1892 and 1954, over twelve million people entered the United States through the immigration inspection station at Ellis Island, a small island located in the upper bay off the New Jersey coast. There is a myth that persists in the field of genealogy, or more accurately, in family lore, that family names were changed there. They were not. Numerous blogs, essays, and books have proven this. Yet the myth persists; a story in a recent issue of The New Yorker suggests that it happened. This post will explore how and why names were not changed. It will then tell the story of Frank 

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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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Make Your Move

There is a good chance that you are starting your summer off in a new home. May, which has been referred to as National Moving Month, kicked off the relocation season. Anyone who has ever moved knows that it is a very involved process. It is so involved, that at times (perhaps while figuring out pet transportation or carrying boxes full of books), you might want to rethink the whole thing. Flooded basement filled with zombies? A wacky obstacle you might rather live with instead of 

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The Art Underfoot: NYC Manhole Covers

Art can be found in many places: on the walls at home, in museums and galleries. We walk through New York City and cities around the world looking at buildings, parks and street life, rarely looking down. But there is also art underfoot! Take a look at manhole covers. Manhole covers have intricate designs and other uses. Manhole covers may be a lost forgotten art.

Manhole covers protect people from falling down below, but manholes serve as a vital passageway to subterranean conduits for water pipes, telephone communications, electrical power and other 

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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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A World of Digital Pictures

photo via flickr by tuppusWe here at AskNYPL get regular requests for digital images on different topics and we're always happy to share the New York Public Library's very own Digital Gallery. While the NYPL Digital Gallery does a wonderful job with its collection, making things easy to find and accessible, we don't always have the content folks are 

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The Fascinating Phonebook

The phrase "I'd rather be reading the phonebook" as a (mildly) preferable alternative to boring tasks has given telephone directories a bad reputation. One that I admit I never thought to put to question before. Recently, however, when Special Formats Processing began working on a large collection of telephone directories from the United States and numerous countries around the world, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the directories turned out to be. Of course, there isn't time to actually read any phonebook cover to cover (although the covers themselves can be very 

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Predicting the Future, at the Library

Since my early childhood, I loved going to the library. There were so many strange books, some written in other languages, with pictures, diagrams and magazines with glossy photos of people in far-away lands, living exciting lives.

My childhood seemed so problematic, so mundane and regardless of what I thought or did, tomorrow would come and go...

Every day brings us all a little closer, but to what? The books, magazines, movies and television of the day often depict two worlds, two evolving futures.

Often while daydreaming of the future, we can not 

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Factcheck Your Friends: Misinformation on Social Media

New Yorkers experienced two major life events in the past few weeks: a superstorm and a hotly contested presidential election. Those two events have more in common than you might think. They both stressed us out. They both left us blurry with some of the details... what happened and what didn't, what was said and what was only hearsay. What was underreported and what was blown way out of proportion.

With social media 

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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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How Did the Pigeon Get to NYC?

One can scarcely think of any park in NYC — or any city, really — without envisioning the ubiquitous pigeon there as well. Despite signs requesting you not feed the birds in adjacent Bryant Park, the library has more than its share of feathered patrons.

But how did this non-native species become the bird most associated with New York City? Pigeons are certainly not indigenous, but they have made themselves quite at home in the Big Apple. In

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Cycling in the City

via flickr, macz_outCycling is not only great for your health; it’s better for the environment and less expensive than other forms of travel. Currently the city is working toward making NYC more friendly to cyclists and as a library we're trying to make information regarding cycling a little easier to find.

So, here are some helpful resources regarding cycling programs, biking clubs, books, blogs, and other practical guides. At the end of this post you’ll also find a list of library locations equipped with bike racks!

The

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On the Trivial Pursuit of Useless Information

I don't have a very good memory of the fiction books I read and enjoyed as a child. What I do remember is an obsession with encyclopedias, almanacs, atlases, the

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Rose is a Rose is a Rose: How to Search the Meanings of Words and Phrase Origins

My hope is that this blog will serve as a useful starting point for anyone seeking or researching the origin of words and/or phrases, also called etymology. Both print-based and web-based sources are included.

Here are some web resources on word and phrase origins and a few print resources.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) The online edition of the 20-volume dictionary, access with your library 

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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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How to Find Your Next Favorite Book: Readers' Advisory Resources

You may not be aware, in this age of social media and auto-generated recommendations, but librarians are usually pretty good at suggesting books that match your reading tastes and habits. The technical term for this is "Reader's Advisory," and we try to spend time getting to know a wide variety of authors and genres of writing so that we are always ready to give you a tip when you ask for one.

Librarians are not 

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I Remember It Had a Blue Cover and... Finding Books by Their Plot Lines

Fictional works are usually cataloged by author and title, not by subject or plot line, which makes identifying books by their plot or story line difficult.

Before you start your search it would help if you can identify everything you remember about the book, plot, character names, time period in which the book may have been published, genre, etc. All these can help in identifying the title and author of the book.

There are some resources online that can help with a search for a fictional work if all you have is a plot line. Also sometimes the best way to 

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Fifth Avenue From Start to Finish: The 1911 Equivalent of Google Street View

One of the treasures of the New York Public Library is the photographic publication "Fifth Avenue, New York, From Start to Finish." Luckily for us, this rare and beautiful collection of photographs has been digitized for anyone to view at any time — with the added advantage of being able to zoom in and truly examine the world in 1911 all up and 

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