Stories from Siouxland Libraries



Read to your children -- and they'll become readers

Olimpia Justice, husband Jason and daughters, Pia, 6, Luciana, 5, and Emilia, 3, have been regulars at the Downtown Library since the girls were babies.

"We're geeks," Olimpia smiles. "I was always the kid who sat with the encyclopedia and dictionary. I love reading."

As for the girls, mom can attest to the benefits of regular storytimes at home and the library. "I really didn't know how great an impact reading to them every day would have."

At 1 1/2, Pia read picture books to the cat. By 4, she was reading words.

Now, says Olimpia, a substitute teacher, "Pia's checking out books I see in 4th and 5th grade classrooms."

Not surprising when you learn how the kindergartner describes herself, "I'm a bookworm!"

Bookmobile advocacy launched civic career

It was a bookmobile that transported Cindy Heiberger from stay-at-home mom to Minnehaha County Commissioner.

Devastated, when in 2001, the Minnehaha County Commission cut funding for the library on wheels, now-Commissioner Heiberger attended a meeting to say so. "My heart was pounding."

But she lobbied so eloquently for children's access to books that she was appointed to head a committee to raise $88,375 and save the bookmobile. With five months to deadline, Heiberger took action. "I called people, went on TV and radio ..."

"Then 911 happened and the funds stopped."

At 4 p.m. deadline day, $18,000 short of goal, Bob Correa of Sioux Falls called then-Commissioner Carol Twedt with a question, "Did you raise the money?"

And an answer, "We're going to fund it."

Sharks at Siouxland Libraries!

Jen Rothenbuehler and sons Micah, 7, and Ryker, 4, call the Brandon library their home branch. "The boys each have a library card and they check out their own books, she says. By actual count, 21 items (books CDs, toys) at their last visit!

The three are also regulars at Brandon's 7 p.m. Thursdays Family Storytime.

Stories and books have expanded Micah's interest in sharks. A quick cruise through Siouxland Libraries' catalog reveals nearly 300 books (kids through adults) featuring the dorsal-finned denizens of the deep.

That should keep Micah learning for years!

Libraries are for learning

Jack Knutson's Granny gives Siouxland Libraries' Prairie West Branch five stars. "It's quiet, safe, up-to-date and the staff -- oh my word! -- they're so patient, so kind!" While that matters to every customer, it's especially important to the family of 14-year-old Jack, who is non-verbal. Homeschooled, with Granny as teacher, Prairie West is his classroom three days or so each week.

He communicates through a speech-generating tablet device. When he needs help from staff, Granny insists that jack do the asking. He's learning with the library's "educational and entertaining" computer programs. he's becoming comfortable around strangers.

Prairie West is an ideal classroom for Jack, says his proud Granny. "He's learning life, academic and social skills here."

Home away from home

New to town?

Head directly to a Siouxland Libraries branch, advises Doris Graeber. After moving from Aberdeen to Sioux Falls in 2017, "The Caille Branch was my refuge."

It was, she says, "my home away from home. The people there are wonderful. They made me feel part of the community."

A longtime fan of public libraries, Graeber credits her parents for instilling a love of reading. "There were always books at home and all kinds of choices to be made at the library."

And staff -- including branch librarian Carin Schleicher -- are ready to help customers discover new favorite reads. "The staff at Caille were immediate friends," she says. "They always go above and beyond the call of duty."

That's true at every Siouxland Libraries branch!

Siouxland Libraries -- Changing with the times


Things have changed at Siouxland Libraries since the 1950s. Ask Justine Watson (right), former assistant librarian for the Sioux Falls Public Library, and Pauline Striemer (left) who started the bookmobile.

The library once boasted four bookmobiles. "I got hired," Striemer laughs, "because I'd driven tractors on the farm!"

Watson began at the Carnegie Library (10th and Dakota). Demand eventually pushed the children's department to a building at 13th and Phillips Avenue until the 1972 completion of the Downtown Library, which "brought everything together again," she says.

Things have continued to change. Today there's just one bookmobile -- but 13 city and rural branch libraries to serve the areas' ever-growing population.

As for Justine and Pauline, they're retired -- and Siouxland Libraries customers.

A cool way to show history


If memories of history class make your eyes glaze over and you don't want that for your kids, Crooks Branch Library customer Matthew Orstad recommends Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. "True history is better than any crazy fiction."

His 9-year-old daughter Elizabeth is also a fan of Hale's six books that present historic events graphically. "Words can be consuming," she says, "with pictures you see what's going on. It's a cool way to show history."

Matthew acknowledges that people can be dismissive of comics. "But, he points out,"drawings -- cave art -- are the oldest form of storytelling."

In due course, sons Christopher, 6 (left), and Alexander, 4, will be introduced to the past graphically. Hale's books are available through any Siouxland Libraries Branch. 

A passion for learning and Siouxland Libraries

"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." That's David Johnson channeling the late newsman Walter Cronkite.

His passion for Siouxland Libraries put the DAKOTACARE Administrative Services sales manager front and center at the grand reopening of the Caille Branch Library.

An Ambassador with the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, Johnson says, "When they were looking for representatives at the ribbon-cutting, I raised my hand pretty quickly."

A card-carrying (and using -- mystery thrillers rank high) library customer, Johnson's home base is the Ronning Branch. He's a regular because -- again like Cronkite -- "I always want to be learning new things."


Siouxland Libraries offers refuge, engagement for teens

An after-school regular at the Caille Branch during the 2015-16 school year, Tom Redetzke says, "Sitting in a leather chair reading whatever I wanted was a highlight of my day."

When Caille's BLT (Board of Library Teens) met, Tom swapped the easy chair for one in a meeting room -- and discovered the power of teamwork. "Someone offers an idea. Someone else adds something and the original idea changes, generally for the better."

Now a freshman at Roosevelt High School, Tom no longer visits every day, though BLT meetings remain a priority. And with its recent renovation, Caille has changed too. "I miss the old Caille, but the new Caille is pretty darn good!"

Most Siouxland Libraries branches have teen groups. Ask a librarian.


We all have our priorities

When moving to Sioux Falls, what were the top of the to-do-list items for the Comptons -- Lisa and Allen? "When you go to a new city, signing up for a library card is right next to getting your driver's license changed," he says.

Siouxland Libraries card-holders for nine years now, the couple (she's an art instructor at Children's Home Society, he's with Chase IH Agriculture) gravitate to the Downtown Library, but she says they like to check out the other branches for books, magazines, music CDs and movies.

"Since the video stores have gone," Allen says, "the library has the best movie selection around."