Stories from Siouxland Libraries



Learn with your eyes: learn with your ears

Karen Pratt has used virtually every service ― and every Siouxland Libraries branch. “I’m at one or more at least three times a week.”

Her most recent check-out discovery? Audiobooks.

“I thought the voices would drive me crazy, but I was pleasantly surprised.”

Karen prefers the author as narrator (“They know the story so well.") rather than the voice of an actor. When that’s impossible (as with Jane Austen’s Persuasion), “I listened to several to find one I liked.” If you’re passionate about an author, you can be persnickety!

And though her retention is greater when reading a book, Karen appreciates audio. “I take the long way home when I’ve not quite finished a chapter.”

Learn more about Karen’s favorite author. Contact Tammy Rockvam of the Jane Austen Society of South Dakota.

Book-loving families head to the library

Every Siouxland Libraries branch is a frequent destination for home-school families.

Mom (and head teacher) Katherine Haag and children, Autumn, Hannah, Aaron, and Isaac, visit Caille regularly to learn about topics that engage, educate and entertain. “All four enjoy picking out books that interest them,” Katherine says.

“Every time I come here, I feel welcome,” adds Autumn. “Reading is one of my favorite things to do!”

“Autumn, like her Dad, is a reader,” Katherine says of her eldest “She can read some chapter books in a hour. And Hannah shares their passion.”

As the Haag family left Caille that day with the 55 books they’d checked out, the librarians smiled.

“It’s wonderful,” Katherine says, “to get your kids excited about learning and watch the journey.”

Favorite books:

Hannah, 8: Puppy Place Series, Ellen Miles

Isaac, 4: Bunny Eats Lunch by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Katherine: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Autumn, 10: Kitty Corner Series, Ellen Miles

Aaron: 6: Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

A gathering place for after-school fun

At age 7, Anne Sullivan Elementary student Grace Leiss is a regular at Siouxland Libraries’ Oak View Branch when school lets out for the day.

She has her reasons.

A daily snack ― crackers, fruit, cheese ― through Oak View’s Food for All partnership with Feeding South Dakota. And engaging programs for youngsters in grades K through 5.

The most fun? For Grace it’s the programs with an arts and craft focus. And Chapter Blasters, which invites kids to “blast through the pages of a chapter book” for a chance to win the book.

“I like the stories,” Grace says. “... And we get candy if we stay for the ending.”

All things considered, “It makes me happy to come here because I get to spend time with the librarians and my friends.”                                     

A favorite book: Mossy by Jan Brett

Afterschool partnership boosts learning, behavior

Sioux Falls’ Anne Sullivan Elementary’s 2:45 p.m. dismissal triggers an influx of youngsters ― on average, 100 a day ― to Siouxland Libraries’ Oak View Branch across the street.

The pull? Programs that engage kids while they wait for parents to pick them up. And Food for All, a partnership with Feeding South Dakota that offers daily snacks ― some 37,000 since its 2015 launch.

“When you eat lunch at 10:45 or 11 a.m., your blood sugar will likely be low by the time school gets out,” says branch librarian James Borchert. It’s hard to learn or behave appropriately on an empty stomach.

“Over time,” he continues, “as we’ve offered snacks, engaging programs and fellowship, kids’ overall behavior has gotten better.”

Learning curve elevated!

Check out our homebound delivery service

It’s been a couple of months since Twila Tenclay was told she can’t drive until December for health reasons.

“What am I going to do?!” she thought.

She’s a woman who reads three books at once ― one with a faith focus (the Bible), an easy read (Sue Grafton’s mystery series), and a third that’s more challenging (John Adams’ biography).

Twila, who says she has Siouxland Libraries on speed dial, placed an emergency call and discovered homebound delivery.

Now she receives the library materials she wants, delivered to her home. And how’s that going?

Quite well, based on Twila’s smile as she discovers a recent title.

Even while she can’t drive, Twila Tenclay is traveling the world ― with books.

Favorite books:

Exodus by Leon Uris
John Adams by John McCullough
The Bobbsey Twins series by Laura Lee Hope
The Happy Hollisters series by Jerry West

Long-term relationship still going strong!

How long have Kay Torney and the Caille Branch been together? She pauses to reflect, then smiles, “Since it’s been open.” (1988 ― Happy 30th anniversary, you two!)

Kay’s there at least weekly, with audiobooks high on her check-out list. “I’ve always liked to listen to stories.”

Comparing wait time for a book in print to the same title on CD, she says, “It’s surprising how fast audiobook holds come up!”

Sometimes, Kay says, she’s given up on a book a few chapters in, only to try again later ― and discover a favorite. With some stories, “It has to be the right time.” 

Any time is good for a trip to the library, though. “To me, it’s the best money the city has spent!”

  A favorite book: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wrobleski

Library programs inspire adventures in learning

In a sense, the Devlin sisters ― Bryn, 12, Erin, 10 ― attend Siouxland Libraries School.

Except ... it doesn’t exist. And the girls are homeschooled by Rachel, their mom, with assistance from dad, John.

But the Downtown Library and Caille Branch exert an “almost daily” educational pull for books, study ― and programs. When one engages her daughters, Rachel pushes ahead, “Let’s learn more while it’s exciting.”

At a “Solar Energy” program, they made an oven from a pizza box and foil. At home they experimented further. “It melted cheese on nachos really well,” Rachel says.The four read R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder,” saw the movie, then compared and contrasted the two.”

"It was,” Rachel says, “an animated discussion. We’re still obsessed.”

Discussing ― and learning. 

Summer program helps create all-the-time readers

What boosted sign-up for this year’s Summer Reading Program over 2017 ― 80% for grades K-5; up 315% for 6-12?

Kate Bleyenburg, who with kids (l-r) Kole, Anna, Nora and Aden, is a regular at the Ronning Branch, says this year’s program encouraged library visits in addition to tracking goals online.

“It brought our friends back into the library,” she says smiling. “We were elated!”

Kole and Aden biked there often to check out books and collect prizes for meeting reading goals. Their sisters came frequently, too.

“The librarians here have become friends,” Kate says. “And when one says, ‘I know just the book for you ...’ we love that!”

Reading at Ronning is year-round for the Bleyenburgs!

Favorite books:

Nora, 4: Rocky and Daisy series
Anna, 5: Bob Books for beginning readers
(They helped her learn to read this summer!)
Aden, 8: The Bad Guys series
Kole, 9: Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
Kate: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Launch a new the library!

With a Ph.D. in Leadership for Higher Education, Kevin White is a well-educated man.

But with an ultimate goal of serving as a department chair or dean, he’s pushing onward and upward ― working on research that will bring him closer to that goal.

A favorite place to study and write is the Caille Branch Library, where he reserves a study room three times a week or so.

“It’s a quiet place to study,” Kevin says, awarding extra points to his favorite “Create” study room. That’s because it’s farthest from the bustle of the main desk. 

And how’s work going on his project?

Very well, thank you! Kevin speaks with academic authority, “Siouxland Libraries enables qualitative research from all over.”

Helping readers use their DEAR time!

Mary Niedringhaus

For Mary Niedringhaus, there’s no time like DEAR time. What?!

The retired Brandon elementary teacher smiles, “When kids needed to mellow out, I’d say ‘Let’s have DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time.’ ” They’d read, then write about why they liked a book or didn’t.

Mary, who’s long kept a book diary, maintains, “Any book worth reading has a quotation worth remembering.” She records those.

“I request books. That’s the most marvelous service.” And even without books to pick up or return, Mary visits the Brandon Community Library at least weekly “just to see if there’s anything new. When I go to the library, I’m going into a place of wonder.

“Now that I’m retired I have lots of DEAR time.”

A favorite book: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Digital Reading House stores books read, memories

Johanna, 8, signed up for Siouxland Libraries' Summer Reading Program "because I like reading."

What kind of books? "History."

Favorites? The Who Was? series by Scholastic.

"I actually read the one about Michael Jackson in four days," Johanna says. Since then, she's gotten acquainted with Annie Oakley and Babe Ruth, and others!

Johanna creates a room for every book read in the digital Reading House she built using the Minecraft app on her dad's cellphone. "I decorate the rooms," she explains, then logs her daily reading minutes there as well as on Siouxland Libraries' website.

Kids who read 600 minutes or more are entered into a drawing (one entry per person). Winners will choose from among these grand prizes --

Johanna's in the competition!

(It's not too late to sign up!)

One family--many reasons to visit the library: Part 3

Joshua Meuller is a 5-year-old who knows what he likes. "I like to come to Caille to play."

A favorite "playground" is a low round table in the kids' area that supports four computers. "I like going on the computers."

His mom Sarah likes that, too, because as he plays, Joshua is learning. A favorite program, "Getting Ready for Kindergarten," shows kids how to button a shirt, tie shoe laces, make a bed, and more. Another helps sort through shapes and match colors.

Mom says Joshua's in the 4-year-old preschool at St. Michael's School. "Nope," he corrects her proudly. "I'm in the 5-year-old preschool!"

Ummm... She smiles. "You just turned 5, but it's still the 4-year-old preschool."

One of Joshua's favorite books: Snow Dude by Daniel Kirk.

One family--many reasons to visit the library: Part 2

Katelyn Mueller is a reader. "I love family storytime," says the 6 1/2-year-old. A regular visitor to the Caille Branch, she continues, "I love how they tell the story. And the sound of how they turn the page."

Katelyn is also a writer. The author of "A Girl Who Became a Sinssitest," she's aiming for that very career. "I want to be a scientist when I grow up."

An illustration from "A Girl Who Became a Sinssitest"

She presented the library with the only copy of her latest book. "It needs a barcode. Then I want someone to check it out."

Through Caille's FuNdAy MoNdAy program, Katelyn connected with a pen pal at the Ronning Branch. And what did they write about? "Stuff we're learning."

And what you're reading? "OF COURSE!"

A favorite book: The Gigantic Turnip, by Aleksei Tolstoy & Niamh Sharkey

Coming next week: Joshua Mueller's story!

One family--many reasons to visit the library: Part 1

Sarah Mueller career-shifted from veterinary technician to full-time mom two children ago. She and husband Nathan are the parents of Isaac, 1, Joshua, 5, and Katelyn, 6 1/2. The family reads together every night--generally books from the library.

The Caille Branch is a favorite destination. "You can take your kids to the library to hang out or go to a program," Sarah says. Either way, "They're learning."

She enjoys their regular visits too, including storytimes. "I like how they tell the story--the drama." The kids do, too.

There's plenty more to engage youngsters: computers with learning games, a play area, and books.

As for Sarah, "The kids are getting old enough so I can pick out books for myself!"

A favorite book of Sarah's: Summer at Willow Lake, by Susan Wiggs
A favorite book of Isaac's: On the Go, by Leslie Jonath

Coming June 14: Katelyn Mueller's story

A friendly new face at Siouxland Libraries

If 8 1/2 seems young for retirement, Cheryl Gaeckle begs to disagree.

In human years, her Golden Retriever Sophie is pushing 60--and Sophie's poised for a second career.

For nearly a decade, Sophie worked for a woman who was losing her vision. It's an intense profession, Cheryl says. "As a leader dog, she's at attention--stop, look, listen--full time. She can't relax fully."

Late last year, Cheryl says, "Sophie grew tired of her service. She wants to be a dog now."

And since she loves kids, Sophie's preparing for a part-time job as a Tail-Waggin' Tutor, who encourages struggling readers by listening as they practice.

"What a great thing for Sophie and the kids!" Cheryl exclaims.

Siouxland Libraries: A great teacher's aid!

Looking back on 35 years teaching kindergarten in Brandon, Marcel Boscaljon acknowledges, "A lot has changed since I started." Like greater emphasis on emotional security and social skills. "Academic skills flow from those."

But as from Year One, Marcel relies on the Brandon Community Library for books that engage and instruct. "The stories have built-in lessons--about persistence, hard work."

"We read, then discuss."

Marcel once spent an hour or so at the library every Saturday checking the card catalog for the best books to illustrate a topic. Now, "I can access the catalog from anywhere, reserve books, and pick them up."

And what does Marcel do with those hours saved? "It's extra planning time to enrich lessons with songs and movement."

Lucky kids!

A favorite book: Miss Suzy by Miriam Young.

Be a reader! Siouxland Libraries can help 

Claire Godber is a reader.

The high school junior pauses when asked how long she's been going to the library. "Forever, I guess. I love checking out books."

While she'll read "anything in the teen section," Claire's drawn to fantasy and dystopian fiction. A favorite--Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series. "The main character is great...super snarky. She doesn't let anybody control her."

Reading is for everyone, Claire insists smiling. "Just because you don't like reading doesn't mean you don't like reading." It's a matter of finding the right books!

Her advice: "Go to the library. There's a whole bunch of stories waiting for you. You'll find some you love.

"You just have to be willing to look!"

Help for kids to bridge the summer reading gap


Barb Wigg's passion is helping struggling young readers become confident ones. That's why the former elementary education teacher (27 years, thank you!) has headed Sioux Falls' Reading Bridge summer tutoring program since 2001.

That year, 29 kids worked with seven tutors. The 2017 roll call--700 kindergarten through 5th grade students working with 80 tutors! Without summer help, Wigg says, kids who find reading a challenge can lose as many as two grade levels.

With Reading Bridge, they maintain or gain. And it's free!

This summer the program will be offered at every Siouxland Libraries branch--one-hour sessions twice a week--July 9 through August 2. Sign-up begins April 16.

Oh yeah...Reading Bridge kids say it's lots of fun!

Learn more, sign up--click here.

Libraries are for learning SO many things!

Lorie Hogstad and her 2 1/2-year-old grandson are regulars at Prairie West. "We've been going for storytimes since Wesley was 9 months old," she says.

But not long ago, the two (with Wesley's parents' permission!) relocated to the Downtown Library for the five-week Wee Read & Play Workshop. It's for 1- to 3-year-olds, parents, grandparents, and caregivers.

While her grandson heard stories, played with toys, and made new friends, Lorie listened as experts told the group about child development and early learning; then followed up with one-on-one conversations. "Then," she smiles, "I'd report back to my daughter."

Lorie has sky-high praise for the workshop. And some advice--"It's great to take advantage of all Siouxland Libraries has to offer!"

See for yourself!

So many reasons to appreciate Siouxland Libraries!

What makes Ken Cahill such a fan of Siouxland Libraries Caille Branch? Where to begin?

Like all branches, it's inclusive. "Despite Sioux Falls' economic growth, there are people here who are hurting financially," he says. Caille has books, music, movies to check out or download--for free.

Cahill says the library's public computers are in demand. "It's a great resource for people to search job sites, which are virtually all online these days."

Now retired, he enjoys "the spectrum of age groups" Caille attracts. "When the parking lot's full in the morning, I know it's storytime!" Cahill says beaming.

"Anything you want to read is available here," he adds. "You can even get tax forms. One-stop shopping."

In short, "The library is for everybody!"

 Book lovers love Siouxland Libraries!


An Oak View Branch regular, retired teacher Trudi Nelson, is described as a "voracious" reader. But what does that mean?

 Trudi always has three or four books in progress, though she strives to exercise "borrowing" restraint. "I try to keep the number of books checked out under 30."

That's a challenge. "I come across really great books...and I'm always looking for more!" What is guaranteed to coax Trudi's library card out of her purse? "I'm a sucker for the word 'secret' in a title or blurb."

How does she maintain that voracious pace? "It helps that I read fast," Trudi says.

And it helps that Siouxland Libraries continuously updates its collection. "I'd be poor if I had to buy all these books," she says, smiling.

When learning is fun, kids don't want to stop 

Most every Wednesday, Carol Skillman and her 8-year old grandson Jace head to the Prairie West Branch where the Imagineers gather "for after-school adventures with stories and activities."

Wide-ranging topics--air, the five human senses, chameleons--draw kids in grades K-5 for a storytime, followed by crafts that continue the learning. At one recent mid-week session, a story and video introduced knights, armor, and weaponry.

Then, using sturdy paper, crayons, and colored markers, everyone got to make their own shield. "The Imagineers is really a starting point," Carol says. "The kids go home and expand from there." Jace made a visor, breast plate, arm and leg plates, and sword.

Carol smiles, "He tells me Wednesday is his favorite day."

Libraries are caring, sharing communities

Nikki Flatequal heads to Siouxland Libraries' Caille Branch four times or so a week.

Heeding her doctor's advice to "get out and do things" while recovering from health challenges, Nikki says, "The library became my getting-out."

Caille, she notes happily, is a community. Staff and regulars know each other by name. "If someone at the next public computer asks, 'Do you know how to do this?' we help each other."

It's a sharing community, with an informal magazine exchange among customers. Nikki gives and takes--"I love looking through old food magazines."

As for entertainment, "I used to have Netflix, but it didn't seem frugal when the library loans movies and books for nothing. I'm a big, huge checker-outer!"

Long story short, Nikki says, "The library's my friend!"

When a dog listens, kids learn

First-grader Bradey Lemme has a reading coach. Sitting there next to him.

He's Shep, a Tail-Waggin' Tutor at Siouxland Libraries Ronning Branch. (Shep and his human, Cindy Bailey, were featured last week--see story below.)

Bradey's mom, Melissa, brought together her son and his Tutor last fall. "Being corrected made him shut down," she says. Reading to Shep has built Bradey's confidence.

Cindy Bailey has seen the boy's reading skills progress. "It's amazing! When we started, Bradey recognized three or four words a page. Now he tells me, 'The words I know, I'll read. When I don't know, I'll point to it and you'll help me.'"

It's like that at home now too. Melissa smiles,"It's great to see your son enjoy reading."

Call 367-8140 for more information.

Cindy and Shep: Connecting kids to reading

Cindy Bailey loves introducing her border collie Shep to youngsters at Siouxland Libraries' Ronning Branch. The two go there to help kids become better readers.

A registered therapy dog and Tail Waggin' Tutor, Shep sits quietly as youngsters read to him for 15-minute sessions each.

A big challenge in mastering that all-important skill is the embarrassment of making mistakes. But dogs don't judge, which encourages improvement.

"Shep loves kids," Cindy says. And kids love him. They read one or two books, then get to play with the dog. For youngsters, she adds, "It's an incentive."

As for Cindy--"I get to see how kids started and how much progress they've made. I love it!"

Next week's story: A boy who reads to Shep.

Try something new--Cook the Book

Cook the Book, huh? Susan Bunjer thought it sounded like fun. Choose from among selected recipes from a specific cookbook, prepare one, then gather for a meal at the Colton branch with others in the program.

Given the option of creating an appetizer, entree, salad, or dessert from Amy Thielen's The New Midwestern Table cookbook, Bunjer chose Maple-Nut Goodie Bars.

But, "I didn't have a candy thermometer." Enter Midwestern resourcefulness. "My meat thermometer worked just fine."

As for the meal, which also included Chicken with Wild Rice, and Meatballs with Hmong Sauce, "It was such a fun evening," Bunjer says. "New recipes, new people, new ideas!"

The next Cook the Book is Ree Drumond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks--Come and Get It! Details here.

Siouxland Libraries for education, entertainment...and the occasional small bag of popcorn.


Dr. Katherine "Kit" Collins moved to Sioux Falls from Wisconsin in October 2015 to be near her daughter's family.

She left behind Milwaukee Area Technical College, retiring after 27 years, most recently serving as associate dean in the school of business. Kit also left behind her husband, not yet retired.

The Caille Branch was often an evening refuge. When she learned about its Oscar Film Series, "I ran to the library for the schedule.

I remember seeing Sully," Kit recalls. "They give you a little bag of popcorn. And you can bring a beverage. So nice!"

This year, she won't be attending Caille's Oscar-nominated film series by herself. Now retired, her husband is joining her.

Interested in the Oscar Film Series? Call 367-8144.

Volunteering "more fun than a paying job!"


Siouxland Libraries delivers books to local daycares. Know how they get there? Book bins are dropped off monthly, many by volunteers--like Carol and Bruce Christiansen.

Returning to Sioux Falls in 2002 after 27 years away, they spotted an appeal for Daycare Delivery helpers on a library bulletin board. Carol remembers, "We thought, 'That wouldn't be bad!'"

Not bad? It was great! Their single route became two (each delivering to nine or so daycares each month).

And Bruce became BOOK MAN! That's what the kids chanted, jumping up and down, when he delivered the goods.

Three years later, family obligations prompted the couple's delivery "retirement." "That was a sad day," Carol says. "We really enjoyed it!"

New volunteers needed!

Just keep reading! 

Jennifer Smith Hoesing challenged herself to read 50 books in 2017. Ambitious!

So how'd that go?

Executive director of Stockyards Ag Experience at Falls Park, she estimates completing about 30. But that's not counting three or so children's books read daily to and with her 7- and 3-year-olds. "You do what you can," she says with a smile. "Any amount of reading is good."

Among Smith Hoesing's 2017 favorites: Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere; Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale; and Elizabeth Strout's Anything is Possible. She notes that, "All have a common thread of women doing incredible things."

As for 2018, Jennifer says, "I've set a more realistic goal:

  • Read 15 books (at least two nonfiction);
  • Participate in five library programs (like Crafternoon)."

Any amount of reading is good indeed!

Bedtime, anytime, long-distance storytime


Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved storytime with her grandparents, Nana and Pa (also known as Marilyn and Shannon Henderson). Helen, 3, is in Michigan. The storytellers live in Sioux Falls, where they stock up on books from the Downtown Library.

By cellphone or iPad, they enjoy FaceTime storytime often.

Helen loves stories about animals, and the Hendersons keep her further engaged by swapping characters' names with those of family members. And reinforcing good behavior: "She's being such a good little girl. Just like Helen!"

Come February, Helen's family will relocate to Sioux Falls. Talk about happy endings!

"But," says Marilyn smiling, "I can see us still FaceTiming."

Siouxland Libraries has the stories!

A trip to the library = a journey of discovery!


For Edward Edmonds, the library was a quiet place to study.

A recent University of South Dakota Law School graduate, he's put in hours of learning at Siouxland Libraries branches. Then, passing a book display one day, "I saw one that caught my fancy." He checked it out.

Edward is now a fan of graphic novels, a passion shared by his eldest son Ty, 12.

It's the Caille Branch children's play area that sparks son Elijah, 4. "I like to fix meals in the kitchen! I like the sink..."

Now studying for the South Dakota Bar Exam, Edward reflects, "It was the journey from front door to the study room that made me decide, 'I've got the library card; I should use it!'"

Siouxland Libraries: Your Information Hub!

Here's how Carmen Toft sees it--"The library is an information hub."

It offers books, CDs, a variety of programs and, "People who work there know the community."

And, she notes, "Nonprofit groups can host events (at no charge) and share information."

Toft is a co-founder of LEAD (Leaders Engaged and Determined), which works to engage more women in the political process. ("Men are welcome, too!" Toft smiles.) The organization meets regularly at the Downtown Library.

In addition to being free to nonprofits, Toft lists the following benefits of gathering Downtown:

  • Central location
  • Ample parking
  • Space for large groups or small
  • Up-to-date technology
  • The ease of making reservations

Meeting rooms are available at all Sioux Falls branches, Brandon, and Colton. Click here for details.

Learn to read; keep reading to learn

"It's simple, says Julie Grossman, "When you read, you learn."

Books entertain, enlighten, and educate. "I've always gone to the library," she says.

"As a kid," Grossman smiles, "I used to hide a good reading book inside a textbook."

And what avid young reader hasn't ducked between the sheets with a book and flashlight, in response to a parent's command to "Turn out the light!"

Grossman wanted her son Charlie to be a reader. When he was young, she asked a librarian for help. "What does he like to read?" the librarian asked -- then pulled books from the shelves. "Try these."

"She turned Charlie [now working on his master's degree] into a reader," says his grateful mom.

Ask a librarian!

 Tail Waggin' Tutors help kids learn to read


Add "celebrity manager" to Ann Smith's volunteer resume. The superstar is Roxie, her 10 1/2-year-old collie mix. A certified therapy dog, she attracts followers at every visit to the Downtown Library.

Roxie is a Tail Waggin' Tutor, who visits the library with Ann to listen as kids read. Ann explains, "Reading to dogs builds kids' confidence. Dogs don't judge; they don't notice mistakes."

She says some young readers pick books especially for Roxie. "I think she wants to know about Clifford [the Big Red Dog]," one girl said, and settled in to read.

Over time, a child's reading ability and confidence can improve as they practice a skill that will lead to success in school.

Gives "going to the dogs" a brand new meaning!

Oak View and Whittier great places to learn

 Now 11, Emran Anbesse and his family came to Sioux Falls from Ethiopia five years ago. This fall he began sixth grade at Whittier Middle School ("It's the best! They make learning fun.").

Emran also awards high marks to Siouxland Libraries' Oak View Branch, where he discovered robotics. A member of Bots in Black, which meets there, Emran maintains, "Robotics actually makes you smarter."

To back that claim, he recalls a recent grass-growing science project. Kids planted seeds that were nourished by "two powerful lights for 12 days straight." The challenge? Remembering to water the grass.

Later, Emran says, "I thought, 'What if we'd outfitted a robot with a timer and it did the watering?'"

Next time.

Lifelong learners value Siouxland Libraries

As a consultant for The Good Samaritan Society, Shirley Halleen traveled the U.S. by car for nine years, working with healthcare facilities in 10 states, including Florida, Texas, Oregon, and Colorado.

That's a lot of miles!

But she journeyed even farther, thanks to Siouxland Libraries' audiobooks. Reading, after all, is traveling.

"I loved getting in the car and driving," she says. "I'd check out at least 25 audiobooks--history, biography, historical romance. And a few that involved learning about new subjects to tax my brain!"

That habit followed Halleen into retirement. A stop at Siouxland Libraries' Caille Branch precedes her every road trip. "I'm not done learning," she smiles.

Learn with your eyes; learn with your ears. Siouxland Libraries has the goods!

Library resources and programs support homeschoolers

Jessica Medici is both mom and teacher to Avala, 8, and Siena, 7.

With homeschooling, the girls are full-time learners.

  • Fractions -- "I'll say, 'Let's make cookies and double the recipe,'" Jessica explains.
  • Grocery shopping -- "At 40 cents a pound, what's the cost of six bananas?"
  • Do zebras and horses eat the same things? "Let's go to the library and find out!"

Computer-based programs at home and Siouxland Libraries also keep the girls on pace academically. And, "We check out activities on the library website and always get a copy of Across Siouxland Libraries," Jessica says. "We go wherever."

"The girls pick out what they want," she smiles. "And I pick out things I'm interested in, too."

Siouxland Libraries has something for everyone!

 Library card lets you research from anywhere!

 Jon Lauck is the author of seven books. Seven!

He'll be at Siouxland Libraries Downtown Library from 6:30-7:30 p.m. November 14 to talk about the most recent, From Warm Center to Ragged Edge: The Erosion of Midwestern Literary and Historical Regionalism, 1920-1965. It focuses on history, politics, culture, and economics.

You can't make that stuff up. So how does Lauck gather facts? With his Siouxland Libraries card, which gives access to Interlibrary Loan and ILLiad.

"I'm old enough to remember when you had to go to a library," the author says. "With ILLiad, you can do your research from home."

Critics agree. Kirkus Review calls Lauck's latest work "both concise and meticulous, carefully considering a dizzying wealth of scholarly and literary resources..."

 Siouxland Libraries: Last, best resort

Terry Hirsch gets it. "Libraries aren't just about books on the shelf," declares the Indianapolis woman (far right). Sometimes they have information that can't be found anywhere else.

Her goal, as a volunteer with the 2017 U.K. Faces of Cambridge project, was to help find photos of the 8,939 WWII military personnel who are buried or memorialized in the U.S. cemetery there.

Hirsch's unsuccessful online search for Sioux Falls Washington High School graduate Lt. Jack M. Conners, 389th Bomber Group, finally prompted her call to Siouxland Libraries for assistance.

Branch Librarian Dan Neeves delivered--a photo from the 1939 high school yearbook to be displayed along with pictures of others who died.

"Nobody better to help than a librarian," Hirsch says.

Listenas KSOO's Patrick Lalley interviews Hirsch, at 4:10 p.m. on Tuesday, November 7.

Cracking the secret code--libraries can help!

Ralph and Sue Olawsky, certified teachers, started Leaps-n-Bounds Childcare Center 21 years ago. Ralph describes it as "a cross between a one-room schoolhouse and a family farm" -- with field trips.

Those outings regularly include the Ronning Branch Library for storytime, puppet shows, movies, and books. Leaps-n-Bounds also gets a big box of books every month through Siouxland Libraries' Daycare Delivery Program.

"The technical word for reading is decoding," Ralph explains.

At first, "Language is a secret code that only grownups know. But kids are early receivers of language. The first word most learn is their own name. Then family and friends' names.

"The goal is to get them curious (stories!), so they'll want to learn more."

Siouxland Libraries is here to help!

A world of entertainment and no cost!

Within three weeks of Sara Weber's return to her Sioux Falls hometown, she got a library card.

She applied online, then went to the Downtown Library (a short stroll from her downtown loft apartment) to complete the process.

Weber, who prefers e-books to print, downloads library books to her cell phone. "Wherever I go, I have a book with me. I read whenever I want for short--or long--periods of time."

A graduate of the University of South Dakota Law School, Weber asserts, "A library is a valuable public resource that offers a whole world of knowledge and entertainment at no cost."

Reading daily builds a foundation for learning

"I was hesitant," admits Laura Williams, about the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. "I thought keeping track of the titles would be a hassle."

So why did she go ahead and sign up Ericka, then 2?

Laura knows that reading with children from birth helps them develop learning skills.

Now 3, Ericka is working on her third 1,000 Books! At 6 months, sister Kennedy is in the 700s.

The girls collect small prizes for every 100 books, which accumulate quickly when reading five to seven at a sitting. And there's this: Every reading of the same book (children love repetition) counts toward the 1,000.

A champion of the 1,000 Books program, Laura has two words for other parents of preschoolers: "Try it!"

Library research assures artistic accuracy

What do bronze and battle fatigues have in common? Darwin Wolf.

Perhaps the best known sculpture by the Sioux Falls artist is that of South Dakota's first U.S. senator R.F. Pettigrew. It marks an entrance to Falls Park.

But 782 miles due west in Hot Springs, at the Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home, is another. It honors the Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient for whom the home is named.

Wolf's research at Siouxland Libraries assures the authenticity of his works from garb to gear -- and more. The expression on the sculpture's face, for example. "What Fitzmaurice was looking at (on the Khe Sanh battlefield) is what I was looking for in the library."

From books to bronze.

Helping customers keep their reading resolutions

First, the Hardy Boys series. Then John Holter graduated to Robert Ludlum.

These days, historical fiction -- "especially Steve Berry" -- wins acclaim from the University of South Dakota development officer, a former U.S. Army National Guard member. Holter awards bonus "likes" to Berry for separating fact from fiction at the end of each book.

"I'm a streaky reader," Holter explains. "I've read three-forths of All the Light We Cannot See and haven't picked it up in a month. But when I do, I'll likely finish it in one sitting."

So, no surprise, "I love getting automatic renewals by text."

He reflects, "The only New Year's resolution I ever kept was to read a book a month."

Siouxland Libraries is privileged to help!

Library resources help hosts welcome foreign visitor

Kristi Desaulniers considers hers an international family.

Her husband comes from Canada, Daughter Aida, 12, from Guatemala, and while their son's birthplace is the United States, the Desaulniers have hosted exchange students ("family") from Thailand, Germany, Morocco, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Honduras and Pakistan.

Learning about students' home countries and cuisine is a must for making them feel at home. The first stop on that quest? Siouxland Libraries Ronning Branch!

And Aida? "My mom gets the books, and then I read them," she says.

"We want our exchange students to have a home away from home," says Kristi, who taught in England and Switzerland.

That exchange, she adds, is a full circle. "We help the students learn about our country and they help us understand the world."

Spelling bees aren't just for kids

Robyn Anderson won Siouxland LIbraries' 2016 Adult Spelling Bee with her daughter looking on.

"It was embarrassing," Stephanie Bents confesses. Wha-a-at?! "I was happy for her," she explains, "but I work at the Downtown Library and to have your own mom win...."

Which she did -- fair and square. "Spelling," Robyn says, "has always been my forte." It took a couple hours that night to narrow the field of 35 to 40 to one. When mom won, Stephanie says, the crowd erupted, "Rob-yn! Rob-yn!"

"It's good for the ego," Robyn smiles. As for the 2017 Spelling Bee (October 6, at Icon Lounge), she shrugs, "I proved myself. I don't have to enter again."

It could be your turn this year! Register here to compete.

On the road and in the sky

The current title of Dzenan Berberovic's life story? Not Home Alone, but Away from Home.

A representative of the University of South Dakota Foundation, he's traveled 118,000 miles by plane and another 50,000 miles or so by car in support of USD. Since January 2017!

Berberovic spends much of that in-flight, on-the-road time reading -- with his ears. His Siouxland LIbraries card brings access to audio books on CD, RB Digital and CloudLibrary. For Free.

Always on the go, he says, "Listening to books is the one constant in a travel day."

There's more: "If you're looking to accomplish something or need a spark of motivation," he says, "you can often find that in a book."

In short: "I recommend Siouxland Libraries heartily!"

No card? Get a guest pass

Rachel Johannsen is a May graduate of the University of South Dakota. She spent most of the summer as a naturalist intern at Good Earth State Park. Now she's backpacking through Europe. Come September, she'll begin 10 months with AmeriCorps.

She hasn't really had time to get a library card, though her parents live near Siouxland Libraries Prairie West Branch.

Still, when she needed to print pages of information for her foreign adventure, where did Johannsen go? Yup! To Prairie West, where she got a guest pass to print (10 cents per page).

"I was surprised how high-tech things are now," she says. And delighted by the help from staff there.

There's every chance, Johannsen smiles, she'll soon be a library card-holder.

Borrowing -- and giving back

Alicia Ostman quickly lists the benefits of a book club:
* "You read things you'd never have picked up on your own."
* "It's an opportunity to walk in someone else's shoes."
* "Even if you're not crazy about a book, the discussion helps see things in a different way."
* "You establish a personal connection with other members."

Her Welcome Women's Book Club often uses Siouxland Libraries' Book Club to Go bags. "We don't have to buy the book or coordinate sharing. It's awesome!"

To show their appreciation, Ostman's book club annually donates 12 copies of a book to fill a bag for other groups. "It expands the collection for everyone," she says, adding with a smile, "It's also a feel-good thing."

You really should meet Lynda

Paul Schipper has a thing for Lynda.

That's, the online education company that offers thousands of video courses in software, creative and business skills.

Schipper shared his feelings on Siouxland Libraries' Facebook page: "Did you know that if you have a library card, you can set up a account and learn dozens of subjects?" At home, on your own schedule.

"Really awesome thing to give to career-minded people and hobbyists wanting to advance themselves," he added.

And a date with is free with your Siouxland Libraries card. Check it out! A final thought from Schipper: "If you're excited about learning and improving yourself, get together with Lynda!"