Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



8 OVER 80: A love for the library

LEONARD, N.D. -- Helen Kistler jokes that she has the same line of thinking as Sarah Palin when it comes to her 40 years of service to the city's library.

Helen Kistler, 82, of Leonard greets 6-year-old Cort McDonald as he arrives to check out books from her at the city library.

LEONARD, N.D. -- Helen Kistler jokes that she has the same line of thinking as Sarah Palin when it comes to her 40 years of service to the city's library.

"Like Mrs. Palin said, if nobody else wants to do it, I'll run for president," Kistler, 82, said with a laugh.

Since 1971, Kistler has worked hard to keep her little town's cozy library going -- especially when there was a push back then to use the building for bathrooms for the park.

A group got together to protest that idea and, since, the library has done well, she said.

"All of us enjoy the library so much," said Kistler, the library board president. "The children are very happy to come here and take out books."


For two hours on Saturday mornings, Kistler opens the nearly 100-year-old Watts Free Library, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although she's technically the librarian, she brushes aside the title, saying she doesn't have the degree and formalities aren't important.

"It's more important to keep the door open here and keep it going," she said.

The little library runs the old-fashioned way. Book borrowers sign their name on the library cards and enjoy seeing who else has checked out the books.

Kistler estimates the library has nearly 3,000 books and continues to add more. The library takes requests, and she gets ideas for kids' books by consulting with her daughter, Diana, who works at the Davenport school office.

Kistler drives to Fargo to buy the books and likes to have titles about North Dakota or by North Dakota authors. Mysteries and romance novels are the most popular selections, she said.

Cort McDonald, 6, of Leonard, recently made a trip to the library and said he likes going there.

"You get to check out books, and there's also kids' books," he said. "If there was only adult books, kids would not have fun at the library."


His mother, Kelly McDonald, said she's been going to the library since she was a little girl.

"I love the library. It's a great place for me to come with the boys on Saturday and take out some books," she said. "Helen's great. She has given a lot of her time to keeping this place running."

The library receives funding from a mill levy and from donations. All of the money goes toward books, Kistler said.

City Auditor Marcia Wendling said the library is a nice addition to the small town.

"We just let her have at it," Wendling said. "She's run it so many years and done such a good job on it."

Kistler said she's loved reading since she was little and doesn't expect to step down from her library volunteer work anytime soon.

"I love it. It's not that hard," she said. "The more people that come, the happier I am."

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.


8 Over 80: Helen Kistler of Leonard from Paul Amundson on Vimeo .

What To Read Next
Get Local