A library that houses ancestry information about millions of Iowans needs immediate repair.

The front wall of the Iowa Genealogical Society Library in Des Moines must be repaired immediately and while the mostly-volunteer group has secured a loan, it must quickly raise another $30,000 to supplement that loan. The facility was once a car dealership and Iowa Genealogical Society president Nico Hart says the glass panels that make up the building’s front wall were installed 30 years ago.

“Weather got in behind it and, in April, wind got behind it and popped out 12 of our panels. They didn’t fall, but they bulged out. We were able to remove them and save them,” Hart says. “A structural engineer’s report says that whole wall needs to be rebuilt, that the actual building wall behind it has deteriorated. In fact, there are places where you can put your fingers through the actual inside wall of the building.”

On Monday, one contractor will begin reconditioning the glass panels and another contractor will start rebuilding the wall. There’s a mezzanine or entry area behind that damaged front wall, so the library’s materials have not been damaged. 

Hart says the library has a vast amount of ancestry information: “A huge periodical collection, city directories, Census on films, vital records, the early Polk County probate records, vital records for all the Iowa counties, obituary collections.”

Volunteers staff the library to help visitors sift through the materials to find their ancestors.

It took 11 semis to haul all the materials to the building when the Iowa Genealogical Society moved in eight years ago and each year the collection grows. Hart says the organization wants to keep the library in that location, because it has its own parking lot and is just across the street from the State Historical Building in Des Moines.

The group’s “Saving Face” fundraising effort is about a third of the way to it’s immediate $30,000 goal, with the long-term goal of raising another $85,000 to pay off the entire loan.  Hart says contributions to the project are tax-deductible and may be sent to the Iowa Genealogical Society, 628 East Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309-1924.