Check out the wonderful article about DDR Books’ recent addition of more than 3,000 titles in tomorrow’s Watertown Public Opinion by Brad Johnson!
It should also soon appear in The Argus Leader and the Aberdeen American News. It can also be found online here: https://www.thepublicopinion.com/…/watertow…/7152428001/
With 45,000 books in his collection, Donus Roberts takes on 3,300 more from Brookings collector
Story & Photo by Brad Johnson, Special to the Public Opinion
Unexpected treasures come in many forms, but Donus Roberts, owner of DDR Books in Watertown, did not know what was in store when an unsolicited phone call came.
Would he be interested in a large collection of books shelved in a home in Brookings?
At first, he balked at acquiring the approximately 3,300 books owned by Kelly Biddle of Brookings. Biddle was downsizing and his art, model train and the book collection had to go.
Roberts said he was told by Biddle’s nephew that Biddle’s primary requirement was “that his collection would go to someone who liked books.”
There is probably no one more appropriate than Roberts, a South Dakota Hall of Fame member who was director of forensics at Watertown High School for 39 years.
Being a long-time book connoisseur and the owner of one of South Dakota’s more interesting bookstores, Roberts was the logical person to acquire the books.
About 1,000 books donated to reservation communities
When he first viewed the collection, Roberts decided there were too many books he would never use. But he found a way to donate about 1,000 books dealing with science and educational topics to the state’s Native American reservation communities.
That left nearly 2,300 books, and he knew they would be a nice addition to the more than 45,000 books at his South Maple Street store.
In Biddle’s collection was an extensive set of World War II books and those dealing with the settling of the American Western Frontier.
“It is just staggering, the collection he had,” Roberts said. “There are incredible, incredible books on the Western Frontier.”
There also are “hundreds of biographies” and many boxes “on trains, planes and battleships.”
“He also had a great collection of humor,” he said. There also are unopened 3-D puzzles.
Nearly 200 boxes of books
The collection was a major undertaking to relocate and much of it remains in the nearly 200 boxes scattered throughout the store.
“It is kind of like swallowing an elephant,” Roberts said.
The collection is causing a major rearrangement of the store in anticipation of a June unveiling during a six-year anniversary celebration of the store’s opening.
“That’s when the real collection will be debuted,” he said.
Throughout his career as one of the nation’s most-respected debate and speech coaches, Roberts always knew he would open a bookstore in his retirement.
He bought his first book “as soon as I was able to afford one. I always was a book person,” he said.
People knew that he had a rare collection of books during his teaching years, but the library has exploded in size during retirement.
With the addition of Biddle’s books, his store now features a second-to-none collection of South Dakota books.
“It is my pursuit of South Dakota history and the Western Frontier that has driven me more than anything,” Roberts said. “So much of South Dakota history is just being thrown away, ending up in landfills.”
Opening a comprehensive bookstore as the world is consumed with internet-based information might not seem like such a great idea. But Roberts has seen a younger audience coming through his doors. People often spend eight or more hours a day on computers, he explained.
“When they sit down at home, they don’t want that same synthetic experience,” he said.
In Roberts’ bookstore they’ll be able to hold history in their hands. One collectible book in Biddle’s collection is a tome containing many of the comic illustrations that ran in Stars and Stripes during World War II.<
“Books are the best place to learn,” Roberts said. “I’ve traveled the world and I have hardly left home.”
When Roberts decided to start the bookstore with his wife, Lovila, also a retired teacher. “We never dreamed it would get this big,” he said.
“I haven’t looked back,” he said, “It’s been good for the town to have something like this store.”
About the time those words escaped his mouth, two new customers entered.
“Where are you from?” Roberts asked.
“Granite Falls, Minnesota,” was the reply.
Brad Johnson is a Watertown businessman and journalist who is active in state and local affairs.