Friday, July 28, 2017

Oglala Lakota College's "Build Your Own Library" program

Did you know that most tribal colleges also operate as the public libraries for their communities?

Oglala Lakota College’s Woksape Tipi is a decentralized educational and library system that operates thirteen libraries that support the district communities of Pine Ridge Reservation and the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Woksape Tipi functions as the academic library for its students who attend OLC classes across Pine Ridge Reservation, in Rapid City, and in Eagle Butte, on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Woksape Tipi also functions as the public library for the reservation communities. It also partners with the area K-12 schools and the reservation-wide Head Start Program. When school is out for the summer, children have limited access to books in their communities, so the Build Your Own Library Program was introduced to provide outreach in the form of giving away new and gently used books for all ages in communities across the reservation. The program has benefited from IMLS support and has provided the communities of Pine Ridge access to the fabulous mobile book delivery van for the past five years. Short of calling it a bookmobile, the outreach technician travels to all the college centers to maintain the branch libraries and provide personal assistance to patrons.

two boys holding up "reading ninja" book bags in front of Woksape Tipi  Academic Public Library Archives Oglala Lakota College Van

The donors who support our wish lists through supporting programs like Friends of the Pine Ridge Reservation as well as individuals who support us throughout the year with book donations from their communities provide the backbone of the program and are our library heroes. “We are incredibly grateful to the individuals and organizations who support us and our efforts to get books to families,” stated Michelle May, director of Woksape Tipi. “Support like this is essential when it comes to highly rural communities such as ours.” Additionally, Woksape Tipi staff are striving to reach some of the more invisible community members, such as those in detention centers, nursing homes, and veteran’s programs through the Build Your Own Library Program. We believe providing local access is incredibly important when spreading the word about literacy and higher education for our community members. It also brings community members closer to their branch libraries through this program. It has been one of our most successful outreach projects, and we’ll continue to make it work for our communities in the best ways we can each summer.

--Tawa Ducheneaux, Oglala Lakota College