1. Choose a topic. It is a lot harder than you’d think to pick a topic that’s specific enough so you’re not overwhelmed, but broad enough that you can find information. A topic like “gold” will be too broad, but “gold panning” (a specific way of finding gold) will be more manageable. When in doubt, do a few sample searches in our catalog to see how many results you get and whether you’re interested in any of them.
2. Decide what you want to know about the topic. Do you want a biography of a person? The history of a town? Photos of an event? The questions that you come up with here will help you figure out what things to search in the catalog, and what questions to ask our librarians. Be prepared that they will ask you specifically what you want to find. Be aware that “I want to know everything about Denver” is too big of a question, but “I want to know more about the early founders of Denver” is a good start.
3. Do some sample searches in our catalogs.
a. Start here in the Denver Library Catalog
b. Look for photos and other digital images in the Digital Collections
Once you find something that looks interesting, copy down the title and call number. It’s easier to hit the ground running at the library if you already have something to start with.
4. Get a library card. You can do this online, at your branch, at the main building, or in the Western History and Genealogy Department. Your visit will go faster if you have one when you arrive. If you’re applying at the library, we’ll ask for photo ID (or your MyDenver card), your name, current address, contact info, and birth date.
5. Check out our hours and location. If you’d like to bring your class or a group, please contact us at least 2 weeks in advance. This allows us to be prepared with staff and potentially library materials for your visit, and will improve your overall research experience. Give yourself enough time for research. Sometimes retrieval of items takes a bit of time, so make sure you have plenty of time to work with librarians and the materials brought to you, to help you complete your research.
6. Come prepared. You can bring pencils, laptops, notes, a phone, or a camera. You may want to bring a sweater or sweatshirt. Please leave behind food and drinks, overly bulky bags, and winter jackets. We have lockers where you can lock these things away. Backpacks, laptop cases, purses, etc. are all okay to bring, but if you’re doing research in our Mullen Room, we will have you put these in the lockers as well.
7. How teachers can help student and librarians. Many times students have papers or assignments due by a certain date. To “help us, help you”, we suggest to teachers that they encourage students to use our resources, and they coordinate with us ahead of time as to the assignment and due date. Many times, students come in all at once, and knowing what materials they need ahead of time helps us be better prepared.
8. Be ready to explore and learn! We think we have the coolest stuff in our collections, but sometimes it takes a little detective work before you can find the thing you need. Be patient, be brave, and be open to talking with the librarians. They will help you along the way.