Marieta's Retirement Ramblings

Special Collections, Council Bluffs Public Library


Another location with hidden genealogy treasures:

Special Collections Department
Council Bluffs Public Library
400 Willow Avenue
Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503

Phone: 712-323-7553

Since the Special Collections Manager was going to be out of the library the day of my visit, she had arranged for Marlys Lien, The Adult Services Manager, to met me. Marlys, then, introduced me to Jo Weis, who is very familiar with the genealogy collection in the Special Collections area (and is also active in the Pottawattamie County Genealogical Society which operates the Frontier Heritage Library).

Jo started out showing me the extensive collection of microfilm, which includes many area newspapers, Pottawattamie County vital records, naturalizations, wills, deeds, and Council Bluffs city directories and telephone books.

Next, she took me to the Reference Work Room where I saw drawers of photos, and shelves of books, atlases, and original newspapers—a nice collection.

However, I think Jo was saving the best for last! She then showed me a phenomenal collection: shelves and shelves of 3-ring binders of clippings, neatly organized by topic, dating 1930s to 1990s. Since the binders are “black,” they are known as the “black books.” This 60-plus year collection covers a wide range of topics. She says some of the most popular are: Houses, Buildings, Business, Biographies, Gambling/Casinos and Schools.

Later, Marlys showed me the many online databases available to library card holders. I was caught by surprise! The library allows non-county residents to purchase a library card for $5/month or $60/year. To see what databases are included, go to their website, select the eLibrary tab, then click on Databases. Note: is only available for in-library use, however, the other databases are available to card holders. Just hover over each icon and read what is available. You may be be surprised!

While the many resources in this library would be very helpful to genealogists, the black books are definitely the hidden treasure in this library and access to significant research databases is an added bonus.

The more personal, on-site visits I make, the more convinced I am that I would never learn about some of these things by visiting a website or calling the repositories on the phone.