ONE WOULD THINK people would call the library to ask questions about books. Not true, at least not all of the time.
The following questions, asked of and recorded by the staff of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Telephone Reference Service since 1983, illustrate the wide scope of concerns and interests held in the heads of your friends and neighbors:
"How many crimes are committed annually in the U.S. by nudists?"
"Can you tell me what all the animals in the world are?"
"What was the first tree and how long did it live?"
"Was author Margaret Mitchell menstruating when she was run over by a taxi?"
"How much longer will a 71-year-old man live? I need to know how long I have to get even with somebody."
"What do countries have to do for us to declare war on them?"
"Off the top of your head, could you tell me what is currently happening to our chimpanzee population?"
"I have chipmunks in my washing machine. What can I do about this?"
"I need the names of all the people nicknamed `The Human Fly.'"
"Is masturbation injurious to the health of a senior citizen?"
"Will I float in the air during an eclipse?"
"Is your telephone working?"
"I have to do a report on the holi-cost. Do you have any information about that holiday?"
"Do chickens have knuckles?"
"You mean, on their feet?"
"On either their hands or feet."
"How deep is half a hole?"
"What do foxes do in a vineyard?"
"Why do people drink deer blood?"
"Do you have any books on female pregnancy?"
"What's the proper way to address a dead man?"
"I'm looking for a picture of an old-time monkey grinder."
"I need to know how to wash a pet python."
"In Baltimore City, is it legal or not to masturbate at peep shows?"
I'd say that we of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system have our work cut out for us. I love my job, actually.
My work with Pratt's Telephone Reference Service affords me nearly endless opportunities to do two of my favorite things in the world: to talk on the phone and look up bizarre facts.
The overwhelming majority of the questions we receive are extremely interesting but not quite as amusing as the ones listed above.
If you have any questions, you can call the Telephone Reference Service at (410) 396-5430. We're paid by your tax dollars to be delighted to answer them for you.
Holly Tominack answers reference questions with her fellow librarians at the Pratt. She lives with her husband in Little Italy.