Charlotte Observer, Sunday March 11, 1934. A regular column featured the most interesting questions customers asked at the Library.
Assistant Library Director Charles Brockman at a public service desk in the old Carnegie Library.
Reference area in 1956
Telephone reference expanded access to the Library. This 1986 photo was taken in a temporary facility in the former Sterchi's Furniture Store.
A carousel of reference materials in the middle of the telref call center kept some answers within easy reach.
Staff member Everett Blackmon in Telereference
ALIS, the Automated Library Information System, was introduced in 1980.

They say Google can bring you 1,000 answers, but a librarian can bring you the right one.

Librarian Ed McDonald recalls his time in the early 2000s at the “telereference” desk as “library triage.” A group of librarians sat at a big round table with a carousel of reference books in the center. They’d take calls and online chat questions about everything from finding an obscure quote or date to how to fry okra. They’d look up the answer on the spot or refer the customer to someone who could.

In the 1920s and 30s, a regular column ran in the Charlotte Observer, featuring questions answered by the Library. Library Director Hoyt Galvin, who led the system from 1940 to 1970 saw the Library as a “university for the people.” He expanded the research collection, the Library was designated a US Government Documents Depository, and he initiated an ambitious historical study of Mecklenburg County. Galvin also committed to making the resources of the 1956 facility accessible to all, desegregating the entire system with the opening of the 1956 Main Library building.

Last year, your Library received and responded to over 430,000 questions. The internet has changed the way we access information, but the Library is still a connector, making a world of information, reference materials and virtual programs available 24 hours a day through ever-evolving means.

This audio tour was created using resources from your Library’s Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room.