Stories from Siouxland Libraries



Library inspires imagination, awakens artistry

Ed Baatz and his wive moved to Sioux Falls in 2008. Art classes at the Center for Active Generations led to painting, then woodcarving and woodburning for the retired Iowa farmer.

Early this summer, as he left the Ronning Branch, a book display caught his eye: Carving Tree Bark - Releasing Whimsical Houses & Woodspirits from Found Wood. The wedge of tree bark in his basement! Batz thought, "I'm going to try that!" He did an about-face to check out the book.

The piece, which conjures tales by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Brothers Grimm, adorns a wall at Ronning. "I'm thinking about calling it 'Billy Goat Condos,'" Baatz smiles.

One thing's for sure, says the former farmer, "I'm hooked on art!"

Siouxland Libraries card: a bargain at any price

Nine years ago, the Pattersons, then a family of four, moved from Sioux Falls to Harrisburg.

"It wasn't long," says Sara, who describes herself as a compulsive reader, "until I realized my [Siouxland Libraries] card didn't work anymore."

As the family increased with the addition of Caleb, 4, and Lydia, 3, the Harrisburg Library check-out limit of 10 wasn't enough to meet the demands of four kids, and "I needed stuff for me!"

Comparing the cost of downloading books to her Kindle to Siouxland Libraries' $63 annual non-resident fee, Sara concluded, "A library card is a better deal!"

And -- she can check out up to 50 items.

New first editions at the Downtown Library

Author/illustrator Katherine Britton has donated "Mrlen's New Baby Sister" and "Angel and the Cat" to the Downtown Library. (Stop by the Children's Department for a delightful read!)

Her mom photocopied the books for distribution and archived the originals. It'll be fun to show them off when the 8-year-old achieves her career goal of becoming a widely published author.

Is it hard to come up with characters? "No," Katherine shrugs, "I just think them up." She named Angel (a mouse) in the second book, "for my bestest friend."

A regular library visitor, the young author has other books in mind: "Corbin and the Watermelon," "Mrlen Goes to the Fair" and "Today I'm going to try to finish 'The Three Little Hamsters and the Big, Bad Dog.'"

Questions -- and answers

Andy Patterson is president/CEO of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation.

The organization he heads gave Siouxland Libraries a $50,000 City Blossom grant to help funds its Family Place Library.

The Downtown Library, 200 North Dakota Ave.

The grant was awarded in 2015.

Because, Patterson says, quality early learning programs like Family Place Library improve the lives of children -- and workforce development.

Kids start school ready to learn, which leads to academic success and more educated workers. "We're excited the library is working so hard to be a resource and connector for our community," he says. "Partnerships are important."

Agreed! No one organization can do everything. There is power in working together.

Building community through art

Invited to display his watercolors at the Downtown Library (July 1-August 31), Jim Heroux says, "I jumped at the chance!"

After all, as actors need a stage, writers seek readers and musicians perform, "Artists always like to get their work out to be seen."

A member of Sioux Falls' Eastbank Art Gallery at 8th and Railroad, Heroux is an advocate for original art. "It's unique," he says, "usually one of a kind."

"It's important for the community to get to know local artists," says the retired architect. That introduction is best provided by art displays in public places.

Places like Siouxland libraries. "It's one more way the library is a community builder," Heroux says smiling.

A-plus for 'new' Caille Branch Library

Jill Rallis, sons Alex, 9, and Robby, 5, are regulars at Siouxland Libraries' newly remodeled Caille Branch.

Jill: "I've been going to Caille since it opened." (1988).

Alex: "I like it."

Jill (reflecting on changes announced before renovation began): "My family was concerned about taking away the train in the children's area ..."

Robby: "How could they even lift it?!"

Jill: "I didn't really like the carpet and paint samples. Bright is not my favorite." But when she saw the new interior, "It really works!"

Some things are much the same ...

Alex: "I like the computers ... things about the human body and jigsaw puzzles."

Robby: Nods agreement at "jigsaw puzzles."

And the staff and programs at Caille? Jill, Alex, Robby: "We love them!"

Oak View Branch: A home away from home

When he was a youngster in Sudan, Yousef Konda dreamed of coming to the United States. Years later, as a refugee from that war-torn country, he did.

From first grade through high school, language learning had been part of his curriculum. "My first language is Nubian," Konda explains. "No. 2 is Arabic and No. 3, English." Here in Sioux Falls, that led to a career as an inrerpreter and occasional translator.

In his spare time, Konda often heads to the Oak View Branch Library to study, read or watch videos. "It's comfortable, smaller, people know who you are," he says. And the staff is "very knowledgeable."

"It's easy to get help from the ladies who work here." He pauses, then smiles, "They're a good team!"

What's for dinner? Siouxland Libraries can help!

When Billie Anderson and her husband moved to Sioux Falls in 1993, "Getting a library card is pretty much the first thing we did." These days the couple visits the Downtown Library about twice a week.

Anderson checks out cookbooks to "test drive" recipes (with a splatter shield to protect the pages). If there are a number of dishes that appeal, "I buy the book."

Funny thing, though. "I didn't notice the cookbooks as much, until I started following "What's New" online (, click the yellow box) that lists the library's latest books, movies, music and more. "It's addictive!" she smiles.

Give your child a love of reading

Everyone wants the best for their children.

That's why Nic Brokenleg wanted to instill his love of books in his son Miles. Dad began with comic books. "People scoffed," he says, "but Miles learned to love reading."

As Miles' choices became more complex, Nic told him, "There's a place we can go to check out all the books we want -- for free!"

Now 12, Miles drops his jaw to reenact that mind-blowing moment: "What?!"

How much does he enjoy reading? In competition with piano, tennis, and video games, "It's my No. 1 or No. 2 hobby."

His favorite books? Those "where a story feels so cool, it's a universe you want to live in."

As for Nic: "Reading lets you experience different worlds."


A reader needs Siouxland Libraries

Maurice Wallner is an avid reader.

He wasn't always, though. "As a young person, I didn't read that much." With the exception of the Hardy Boys series ... "very exciting."

In 1970, "I began reading seriously." And for pleasure. A fan of legal thrillers, Wallner lists Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen White and Robert Parker among his favorite authors.

A regular (four to six times a week) Downtown Library customer, he says he checked out 400 or so books last year and "probably read 250. With a lot of books costing $39-$40, it'd just be impossible."

"Aside from family and health," Wallner reflects, "the library is most important for me!"

What would he do without it? Long silence. Ironic smile. "Die maybe?"