Sioux Falls Man Donates Collection Of Nearly 18,000 Books

$750,000 Collection Going To University Of Iowa

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The University of Iowa has struck gold. Not the kind that lies in the federal reserve, but one of paper in a Sioux Falls man’s basement. After 20 years of collecting, he is donating his one-of-a-kind collection of 17,500 books worth an estimated three quarters of a million dollars.

Seventy-three-year-old Allen Lewis’ love for science fiction and fantasy began at the age of 12.

Lewis said, “Fantasy and science fiction writers explore certain problems or areas within our society today and then expand them and put them in another location.”

But it wasn’t until the late 90’s that he began what turned into more than 17,000 books that takes him to another world. Most are hard bound, first editions, first printings. Many contain signatures. He has 30,000 from authors, editors and artists.

“I’ve never run into anybody in the world that has as many signatures as I have,” said Lewis.

When he can’t get one at a convention, his wife will. Even his granddaughter has played a part.

Lewis said, “It’s hard to turn a pretty cute 12-year-old girl down when she brings you a book to be signed.”

But out of room and his four children unable to take them, Allen has decided to donate his prized possessions.

Lewis said, “The University of Iowa, which is getting this collection, has a big collection of the early 1900’s and even the late 1800’s and has very little modern so I fit right in with where they want to go.”

The University said they would pay someone to box and ship them. But with a little help, Allen wanted to do it himself. When the time comes to let them go, he hopes it won’t be the last he sees of them.

Lewis said, “I’m going to go see what they did with it and hope I don’t cry.”

Allen says he’s read about 25 percent of the books in his basement and would not pick a favorite. However, he says his family will keep around 150 of their most beloved. Once the books are gone, they hope to donate the bookshelves to an organization, school or church that may need some.

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