When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke on video about the "47 percent" of Americans who don't pay income tax, it raised important questions about what kinds of taxes Americans pay.
And since Duke University Library's fabulous Answer Person is in the business of answering important questions, it's not surprising that thousands turned to the library's website for answers.
A 2004 posting by the Answer Person on the difference between the payroll and income tax received more than 21,000 views during the first week after release of Romney's video comments. The posting is the first answer to a Google search for "payroll versus income tax."
Attention comes softly to the Answer Person, whose identity has remained anonymous since he (or she) first appeared in 1982. Visitors to the library were invited to write questions in a book near the library entrance.
Initially the Answer Person was intended as a tool to guide library visitors, but very quickly questions started coming from all fields. Can wearing glasses deteriorate your vision? What kind of books can help me develop a world view? And, in 2004, a question about income and payroll taxes. To see the Library Answer Person's answer, click here.
In 2000, the Library Answer Person went online, taking its special combination of whimsy and information to the digital world beyond the campus. Throughout the three decades, the identity has remained a close secret on campus, even though one day the Answer Person did a live session answering questions on the quad.
However, things have slowed down since this past September when the Answer Person went into semi-retirement. But the answers live online.
University Librarian Deborah Jakubs said the web traffic this week is a sign of how libraries can serve the public. "It's just another example of how we sometimes get swept up in the times, without even knowing it!" Jakubs said.