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BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS Minneapolis 1998 -

Make that the central library's eight reference desks: Business and Economics; Technology/Science/Government Documents; History and Travel; Literature and Language; Art/Music/Video; Sociology/Religion/Sports; Children's; and Special Collections. (This last one houses the library's Minneapolis Collection, a treasure trove of photographs, documents, and old City Council minutes.) Last year the 46 info-sleuths who staff the desks answered more than 1.15 million questions--almost 440,000 of them by phone. Recent samples include the racial makeup of the Linden Hills neighborhood; attendance figures for the North Stars' last seasons in the old Met Center (neither the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission nor the Dallas Stars could answer that one); and the Blue Book value of a 1993 Honda Civic. Like most very smart people, they don't know everything--but they can figure out where to find it.

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