Do you have a nagging question that you just can't answer? Whether you're looking to settle a quibble over a piece of trivia or need a deep dive on genealogical research, you can find your answers at the Des Moines Public Library. Librarians are research experts, and the Des Moines Public Library research team assists people across the world. Since 2013, this group has assisted patrons in six countries, 38 states, and 229 cities.
Questions for our research team came in from every corner of the country
A vast majority of questions come in via telephone; in fact, our telephone reference team answers, on average, more than 97 questions a day. Other questions are sent in via email or written on a form at the library. Many times, our staff is able to answer these questions immediately. When a more complex question is asked, or more thorough research is required, the question is handed off to our Premium Research Team.
A few quick stories from our research team last year:
The Hawkeye Insurance Building
A woman and her brother from Ohio were re-creating a road trip their father and grandfather had done back in the early 1900’s. Their grandfather had kept a diary, listing everywhere they stayed, including a night in Des Moines. The patron wanted to know if the hotel they stayed at was still in existence, as they’d like to see it. Although no longer a hotel, we identified the building (the Hawkeye Insurance Building) and learned it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We also found some street photos showing what the area looked like at the time their family came through.
Original drawings of the Central Library
We had a request from an architectural student in Italy asking if we could provide her some pictures of our Central Library building different from those she could get on the Internet. I scanned some original blueprints and other historical items that we had in Special Collections, and I also took around 30 pictures of the interior and sent those to her. She replied back: Thanks for everything. You’ve been so nice and the whole material is something precious and so interesting for me! I hope one day I’ll be able to visit this wonderful library! Best regards, Ludovica.
We were contacted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about needing scans from our collection of yearbooks for an exhibit called Americans and the Holocaust. What started as a simple transaction became an exchange of conversation and information. Beyond the original request for scans, the archivist also shared all the documents that would be in the exhibit, and we sent her a few articles from our Register microfilm about Franz Goldberger and Hazel Hostetter. The scans we sent are on display in the Museum.
Our staff helps patrons research the answer to a variety of questions, from simple trivia to phone numbers and more. In addition to the stories above, here is a sampling of questions staff were asked last year:
- How is my grand-daughter related to my uncle’s daughter?
- What was the weather like on April 13, 1902?
- Is turtle soup helpful for preventing or curing migraines?
- How many people are receiving home care with a diagnosis of dysphagia in each state?
- Are there any local pest control services that use natural products to kill sugar ants?
- Where in Des Moines can I shoot a music video?
- What organizations will help an elderly homeless woman with health issues find housing?
- What is the composition of beryllium in tools?
- Does Iowa Code specify if an eviction notice must be served before sundown?
If you have a question that requires some digging and you don’t have the time or the resources, call 283-4152 ext. 3, email email@example.com, or stop by the info desk at any branch. You can also learn more about Premium Research Services on our research team page. Send us your questions and let our research team do the work for you!