Meet the ‘human Google’ of the New York Public Library

Posted at 2:18 PM, Mar 08, 2019

In an age where you can essentially look up anything on the internet, the New York Public Library is helping people find answers to their questions the old-fashioned way: books.

Deep inside one of the largest libraries in the world, beyond the glitz of its famous reading rooms, sits a man who helps answer a variety questions from visitors. On this particular day, one visitor wants to know who Dr. Seuss’ favorite character from his book is.

Bernard van Maarseveen is like a human search engine, often referred to as "the human Google."

Instead of scouring the internet for answers, he descends into the depths of the libraries research stacks, looking for a needle in a haystack of 53 million books.

Van Maarseveen, assistant manager of the “Ask New York Public Library” program, gets calls and emails on infinite subject matter, usually from people who fall into a few categories.

"Mostly, it's those who can’t look things up in Google, so it would be, tends to be, seniors,” he says. “Sometimes students doing a class assignment, sometimes people for whatever reason don't have internet connection.”

He says scanning the shelves, knowing he might make someone's day, is one of the best parts of his job.

As for the answer to a visitor’s Dr. Seuss question, van Maarseveen finds a book with the answer: Lorax.