Got a Question? Ask a Cleveland Public Library Librarian

Cleveland Public Library may be closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but patrons can still connect with our staff.

On Monday, April 20, the Library launched ASK CPL, which allows patrons to submit questions to a librarian or subject department manager 24 hours, 7 days a week. People can live chat with our staff Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Questions received after hours will receive an email response the next day.

From voting and census to genealogy research and library card inquiries, our knowledgeable ASK CPL staff is prepared to answer a variety of reference questions. Those seeking answers should look for the floating “Ask Us” chat bubble.

“Cleveland Public Library’s closure left a void in our community for those who rely on us as a source for information. ASK CPL is our solution to filling that space and providing a service to our beloved patrons during an already challenging time, “said John Skrtic, Director of Public Services at Cleveland Public Library.

Since its inception, ASK CPL staff has conducted nearly 400 interactions. A recent list of frequently asked questions shows patrons are seeking information on the following:

  • Status of their Library card and account
  • How to obtain an electronic Library card
  • Help accessing our digital collection including e-books
  • Genealogy research assistance

To date, the most unusual virtual reference question is about a much sought-after pandemic household item – toilet paper.

An ASK CPL user asked, “when was toilet paper invented?”

A. ​Toilet paper is a modern invention, making its debut around 1880 when it was developed by the British Perforated Paper Co​mpany. Made of a coarser paper than its modern incarnation, it was sold in boxes of individual squares. In America, the Scott Paper Company made its Waldorf brand toilet paper in rolls as early as 1890. The first rolls were not perforated, and lavatory dispensers had serrated teeth to cut the paper as needed. It was a nearly “unmentionable” product for years, and consumers were often embarrassed to ask for it by name or even be seen buying it. Timid shoppers simply asked for “Two, please,” and the clerk presumably knew what they wanted. To keep things discreet, toilet paper was packaged and sold in brown paper wrappers.

Cleveland Public Library is also offering Virtual Storytime for children and online resources for students, job seekers, and small business owners.