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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Curiosities at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 13, 2015


Having a librarian in your conversation can fill the air with an endless stream of useless facts, or can enlighten the conversation with tid-bits of never ending facts that have been accumulated over years and years of working in a library.


It depends on your perspective, I guess.


The fascinating part of working in a library is that each day brings new questions to be answered, new books to be explored, and Internet searching that leaves the librarian’s brain stuffed with bits and pieces of information.


I have always claimed that librarians know a lot about everything, but are experts about nothing.  It is impossible to look up one thing without bumping into information about something else.


Many times we are looking for answers to questions that need refining.  We find an answer, but must make sure the question is correct for that answer.


If I am using YouTube to locate an answer, it then develops assumptions about my interests so that now that I searched for information about the 1958 Chrysler Imperial automobile; it thinks I am a car buff and now I stare at all kinds of classic cars.


Since I was trying to find information about the Steubenville Capitol Theater Robert-Morton Pipe Organ, it assumes that I want to know about any and all theater pipe organs.


Books were easier, as they sat quietly on-the-shelf waiting for someone to remove them from the shelf and perform a search.


Regardless of the format, people love “curiosities” and want to know “more” about a subject.  Whether it is the biography of a famous or not-so-famous person, or how something works, or the history of this or that, curiosities sell books.


I noticed the book, “The Book of Extraordinary Facts” the other day, and checked it out for evening reading.  Sorry to report that there were still a few brain cells remaining that weren’t clogged and the entire evening was spent filling those with more useless facts.


Here are my favorites to share with you:


The only person to play both Major League Baseball and NHL Hockey was Jim Riley.  He was born in 1895 and played for both the St. Louis and Washington baseball teams, and the Chicago and Detroit hockey teams.


The Great Fire of London started in a bakery in 1666 and lasted three days, destroying 13,200 homes.


Since they were introduced in 1787, more than 300 billion pennies have been produced in the U.S.  Beginning at the 1893 Chicago’s World’s Fair, some 12 million pennies have been squished into odd shapes in the popular souvenir machines found at museums, amusement parks and vacation spots.


By law, any man who comes face-to-face with a cow in Fruithill, Ky. must remove his hat.


It is illegal to drive a car while asleep anywhere in the State of Tennessee.


Kermit the Frog was named by creator Jim Henson, for his friend Kermit Scott who became a philosophy professor at Purdue University.


California’s Catalina Island is the home to about 200 buffalo; all descended from a small group of buffaloes taken there in the 1920s for the shooting of a movie.


In 1916, Jeanette Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.  She was also the only person who voted against both World War I & II.


The sport of “badminton” was once called “poona.”


The Barbie doll actually has a full name: Barbara Millicent Roberts.


There are 318,979,564,000 different ways to play the first four moves per side in a game of chess.


The inventor of the first electronic vote recorder in 1869 was Thomas Edison.


Only John Hancock and Charles Thomson signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  Most of the other delegates signed it August 2, and some others signed it 5 years later.


Although the State of Ohio is officially the 17th state to join the Union in 1803, Congress failed to vote on the Resolution until August 7, 1953 during Ohio’s Sesquicentennial.


Now, does your brain feel like it is filled more than when you started reading this?