or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 1/27/07

   February 2nd, 2008 Brian Herzog

Federal Reserve Board logoHere's another recent-past question which, like the snowfall amounts question, was tricky just because of the timeframe.

This time, two men needed to know what the 30-year mortgage interest rate on their home was in March of 2007.

I don't own a house, so the whole world of mortgages and escrow and everything else is a bit of a mystery to me. But lucky for me in this case, these men knew exactly what they needed, and where it could be found.

Only, we couldn't find it. Normally, they said, they look in the Boston Globe, which lists interest rates for any given day. However, we didn't have the Boston Globe in print back this far, yet it was too recent to be on microfilm - once again, the timeframe in question fell in that nebulous area between "current" and "historical" data.

But the Globe is just one outlet for this rate, which is set by the Federal Reserve Board. Instead of trying to sift through the Globe's website for this information, we went right to the source.

A Google search for "historical interest rates site:.gov" produced as the first result the Fed's selected interest rates historical data page. We scrolled down to the 30-year interest rate and clicked on "Business Day," which is a page that lists the rates for every business day back to 7/3/2000.

Happily, this was what they were looking for. In fact, they liked the listing so much that they moved to one of the public computers and kept researching other dates.

I kept looking on this website, too, and found a similar listing but for weekly release dates for the interest rates. This listed has more than just interest rates, and the listings go all the way back to June 17, 1996.

Not knowing much about home ownership and investing, I'm not sure what this information can be used for - but if I ever discover a use, now I know where to find it.

fed, federal reserve bank, federal reserve board, interest, libraries, library, public, rate, rates, reference question

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