BROOKINGS – Described as “the most active volunteer at South Dakota State University’s Hilton M. Briggs Library,” Bob Bartling, 93, of Brookings, has been named Friend of the Library by the South Dakota Library Association.

The award was announced Sept. 26 at the library association’s annual gathering in Spearfish. However, Bartling wasn’t in attendance nor did he know he was nominated. The library staff surprised Bartling at a gathering Sept. 30 in the Archives and Special Collections Room. Bartling was greeted by about two dozen staff members and friends when he walked out of the Daschle Research Study and into the main area.

After Chief University Librarian Kristi Tornquist presented the award, Bartling remarked he was “tickled pink” and “at a bit of a loss for words.”

Since becoming a volunteer in June 2015, he has been instrumental in the acquisition of two new collections to Briggs Library: the Prairie Striders Running Club Collection and the Jim Koch Amateur Wrestling Collection. 

The Prairie Striders Collection was the specialty library that Bartling began in 1978 at his downtown running shoe store. The Koch Collection came thanks to his connection with the Koch family. Jim Koch was a 1969 SDSU graduate and a three-time conference place-winner at 160 pounds.

The nomination letter from the Briggs Library staff said Bartling “comes to the library nearly every day to index and promote the two collections to users in the community and throughout the country. He often gives tours of the Prairie Striders Collection. 

“When doing so, he highlights the other services and resources found in Briggs Library. Researchers from other universities make the trip to South Dakota to visit the library because very few places in the world have the resources found in the Prairie Striders Collection.” 

Striders’ collection developed over 4 decades

Bartling has devoted more than 40 years to growing the Prairie Striders Collection. It includes about 700 volumes of books, 5,000 periodicals and newsletters, the results of 16 annual races and a complete collection of Runner’s World magazine since it began in 1970, something that the publication itself can’t claim, Bartling said.

Long before the collection came to the library, he created an indexing system by handwriting information on 4-by-6-inch cards, which now total 6,000 to 7,000 cards and make the collection easily searchable.

Bartling spoke to this during the Sept. 30 awards presentation. He cited the Boston Athletic Association and New York Road Runners Club, which have reams of paper, but not the cross-subject indexing system that Bartling developed.

“They might be able to get you an article in half a day if you told them when it was published and by whom, instead of one minute in Briggs Library,” he said.

The library recently has been allocating student workers to convert Bartling’s handwritten card system to a searchable digital database.

Collections gain media attention

The story of Bartling and the specialty library has gained attention from the media, notably Runner’s World website ( and by Midco Sports Magazine ( 

The nomination letter adds, “Bob Bartling is a true friend of Briggs Library. The library staff look forward to seeing him each day and his passion for his work is contagious. He makes a point of being part of the library; he attends most of the special events and spends time getting to know the library’s staff. 

“Bob lives his life with enthusiasm and joy. He is always ready to lend a helping hand and offer a friendly smile. The Briggs Library faculty and staff believe Bob is well deserving of the Friend of the Library Award.”

It’s not the first time he has won a “friend” award. Bartling was the inaugural selection for the Prairie Striders Friend of Running Award in 2007. 

Bartling also continues to be quite active physically. On Sept. 28, he and his son, Dave, biked 28 miles during the Jack 15 road race, an event he has run 38 times. They biked from Bartling’s south Brookings house, got on the course, riding 12 miles until they reached the trailing runner, turned around and tried to pass all the runners before the finish line.

He was a bit chagrined that four runners beat him to the finish line.

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