Friday, July 14, 2017

Addressing concerns about EBSCO resources in SLED Databases

Last week, the Alaska State Library received this question via our Twitter account:

The World Net Daily (WND) article linked from Chickadee Chick's tweet reported on claims from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) that children in Colorado were able to search EBSCO databases and find sexually inappropriate materials. EBSCO is a national vendor of online indexes to magazines with linked full-text articles from the magazines. EBSCO databases are available to Alaskans through SLED. We have not had reports of Alaska students finding sexually inappropriate materials through any of the EBSCO databases on SLED, but we do take claims of possible harm to children very seriously.

Because it is never a good idea to take a single article from ANY source as absolutely true, our first step was to verify the WND story. We visited the NCOSE site to read the claims they made about the EBSCO databases. Next, we found a story from a FOX News affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, where EBSCO is located, that contained additional details on the claims, along with a response from EBSCO.

Our research and reading led us to conclude that there were some articles from professional journals discussing sexual matters that were inappropriately searchable from elementary and middle school databases. EBSCO addressed NCOSE’s concerns when contacted and removed the offending journals from their elementary and middle school databases.  The WBRC article indicated some additional controversy and additional steps being taken by EBSCO.

At this point, we contacted EBSCO directly, both to confirm the account we found from WBRC and to ask about the ongoing status of their work. They told us in part:

“Based on our reviews, we are confident that we have removed all content identified as being sexually explicit from these products. At this time, we are focusing our additional curation scrutiny on our other K-12 products to replicate the approach that we took with Primary Search and Middle Search Plus.”
“Please know that EBSCO is very mindful of issues around censorship and always remains neutral on topics; the content provided in our databases does not reflect EBSCO positions or opinions. As noted, we have strengthened our review system to ensure that questionable content does not appear in our K-12 products in the future and put plans in place to further empower product managers and consistently ensure the content in our K-12 products is age appropriate. Furthermore, in order to address additional concerns that may vary from school to school or district to district, EBSCO continues to maintain processes that enable individual libraries and school districts to control the content they provide and remove titles from their EBSCO databases. While customers have the ability to exclude any title as they may see fit, we are working toward the article level controls so that each customer can ultimately determine if a given article is deemed appropriate for their students/community.”    

Alaska State Library staff tried to find the materials that the original WND article stated were in EBSCO, but we could not find those items. It appears to us that EBSCO has made a good faith effort to remove these materials from their databases. At this point, we are satisfied with EBSCO’s efforts in this area.

Turning from EBSCO to internet access generally, you should know that all Alaska schools and school libraries have anti-pornography filters in place, as does any Alaska public library that receives federal funding for internet access. These filters are not perfect – they sometimes let materials through they should not and sometimes they block content they should not – like research on breast cancer. But the filters are there.

The Alaska State Library strongly encourages parents to be with their children online as much as possible and encourage their children to discuss what find. Parents are children’s first and best teachers.

If you have a concern about a particular resource or article that is available through the SLED databases, we ask you to do the following:

  1. Be as specific as you possibly can, because our databases have a LOT of journals. Please be sure to note the name of the database you are searching, the title of the article, the author’s name and the title of the journal in which the article appeared. The more specific you can be, the easier and faster it will be for us to address your concerns. Please state clearly why you find a particular resource inappropriate for children. 
  2. Start by sharing your concerns with your local library. If you don’t have a local library, you can e-mail us at 

Since 1994, the Alaska State Library has worked with the University of Alaska Anchorage Consortium Library to make EBSCO databases available through SLED to Alaskans at school, work and home. This is the first time content on EBSCO has been questioned. We hope that EBSCO’s action addresses the concerns of the Twitter user and others concerned about children’s access to databases paid for with government funds.


New alert over X-rated materials .. In School!  (World Net Daily, 6/30/2017 

Could your kids find pornographic articles on school computers? (WBRC Fox 6 News, 6/28/2017)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Lecture Series from the Alaska State Library

We kicked off our summer lecture series here at the Alaska State Library on June 6, with Mike Dunham's presentation on William Seward and Tsar Alexander II, the statesmen behind the Treaty of Cession. Mr. Dunham wrote two biographies on these men and their roles in the shaping of Alaska, called The Man Who Bought Alaska and The Man Who Sold Alaska. His talk featured a wealth of historical photographs, maps, and other gems, and his years of working on radio showed in his engaging speaking style.

Next up, on July 8 at 2:00 pm, paper conservator Seth Irwin will stream in to share his work preparing Treaty of Cession maps and manuscripts for the sesquicentennial exhibit that will open at the Alaska State Museum this fall. Seth was the first conservator to use the new paper lab in the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum. It is the only paper conservation lab in the state, and we're thrilled to have it operational. He spent six weeks in Juneau this spring, stabilizing fragile 150-year old documents, removing cellophane tape, and cleaning stains. He'll also answer questions about your own personal papers and photographs and how to care for them.
Seth Irwin works on a Treaty of Cession map in the paper conservation lab. Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Museum.

In August, Professor Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes from the University of Alaska Southeast and the current Alaska State Writer Laureate will discuss the portions of her writing that examine our society's histories and heroes from a deeper perspective. Her talk ties in with the Alaska State Museum's summer exhibit, Decolonizing Alaska, which looks at the effects of colonization on Alaska's land and people. Professor Hayes will be here for August First Friday at 7 pm.
Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes. Photo courtesy of the Rasmuson Foundation.

In September, Ketchikan- and New York-based artist Jackson Polys (aka Stephen Jackson and Stron Softi) will present an artist talk about his work on the third iteration of the Seward shame pole that was raised in Saxman Totem Park in April. The original pole was erected on Tongass Island by Chief Ebbit in the 1880s and a replica was raised in the 1930s. Jackson will be here for September First Friday at 7 pm. Jackson had a solo artist exhibit at the Alaska State Museum in 2009, and you can see the online exhibit here.
Jackson Polys. Photo courtesy of the artist.

We hope you can join us for these programs. If you're not in Juneau, you can tune in via the Online With Libraries videoconferencing system at an Alaskan library, or you can watch the livestream. Visit for the livestream links. If you missed this month's presentation, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum also hosted Dunham at the Valley Public Library during his visit to Juneau. You can see the recording at

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mannequins revisited

Two summers ago, we were busy preparing to open our new building, and I shared some photos from a statewide mannequin workshop for museum professionals, organized by Museum Services Curator Scott Carrlee and funded by an IMLS professional development grant. The workshop was a fun and productive way for museum staff from around the state to learn valuable exhibit-making skills, network with each other, and help the Alaska State Museum churn out 35 mannequins in one week.

All of those mannequins are now part of the Museum's permanent exhibits. After the workshop, heads and arms were added and the mannequins were covered with a stretchy, gray finish fabric by expert sewers at the BrownBoots Costume Company. The curation team decided on the gray fabric to provide a neutral backdrop for the garments, rather than trying to make the mannequins too lifelike.

Here are the mannequins-in-progress alongside their completed exhibit. Mannequin-makers, do you recognize your work?

Anchorage Stealers t-shirt (ASM 97-20-1)
Undressed and dressed mannequin for Anchorage Stealers t-shirt in the Contemporary Alaska gallery
The Anchorage Stealers mannequin was one of the few that needed finishing on the bottom, since it's suspended in the air.

Silk caftan (ASM 94-39-1)
Mount-maker Jeff Thole works on the first stages of the mannequin for the caftan, presented to Mikhail Kuhkhan by Adolf Etolin.
It's hard to believe that the trapezoid shape above became the mannequin for this silk caftan. The tricorner hat had extensive conservation work prior to exhibit.

Chief's police uniform (ASM III-O-416)
Textile conservator Sarah Owens of the Anchorage Museum works with exhibits specialist Aaron Elmore (kneeling) and mount-maker Tanna Peters on the first fit of Chief's police uniform.
This police uniform was one of several that required torsos and legs, a special challenge for the mount-making team!

Child's parka (ASM II-A-3647)
Although the goal for most of the mannequins was a natural posture, some garments were uncooperative. The parka for this mannequin was tight in the shoulders, so the arms had to be sticking out to prevent strain on the garment.
This was probably our smallest mannequin, and it looks even tinier in the exhibit in its sweet little swans' down parka. The parka was made in Siberia and traded to Alaskans.

Reindeer parka (ASM II-A-4816)
A roomy parka like this one requires a very large mannequin to properly support it while on exhibit.
Adding the head and arms helped fill out the folds in this reindeer parka once worn by territorial governor George Parks.

Japanese uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175)
This mannequin for a Japanese World War II uniform (ASM III-O-174 and III-O-175) was one of the first ones we created.
Our mannequin-making skills improved with practice! Although most visitors probably don't notice, this mannequin looks a little stiff.

A multitude of mannequins!
Mannequin-makers at work in the Museum's collections processing room during the workshop.
This World War II case shows the variety of uniforms worn by the US military in Alaska and also demonstrates the wide variety in mannequin shapes and sizes!
Even heavy coats like these have fully finished mannequins inside to support their weight and make them look like they're being worn.

We hope that everyone who helped out with the mannequins has had a chance to visit their creations and enjoyed this look back at the mannequin workshop!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Planning a visit to the APK State Library, Archives, and Museum

Summer is just around the corner, and if you're anything like me, you're dreaming about your summer travel plans! If Juneau is one of your of stops this summer, a visit to the new Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum should be on your to-do list.

How to get here:
The APK is located at 395 Whittier Street, a short walk from the cruise ship docks or an easy drive from the airport or ferry terminal. If you're coming from the docks furthest south, it's a straight shot along the waterfront. Thane Road becomes South Franklin Street, then Marine Way, then Egan Drive. You'll travel past City Hall, the blue Wharf building and the float plane hangar, Centennial Hall, and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Turn right at the traffic light onto Whittier Street and you'll see the Nimbus sculpture in our front plaza.
This is the view of the APK State Library, Archives, and Museum that you'll see when you turn onto Whittier from Egan Drive. Photo by Lara Swimmer.

If you're coming from the airport, ferry terminal, or other points north, head south on Egan Drive towards downtown. There's only one highway in Juneau, so it's hard to miss. After you pass the Douglas Bridge, then take a left at the traffic light onto Whittier Street. The APK will be on your left, just past the KTOO radio station.

Where to park:
If you're in your own car, you can park in our underground parking garage off Whittier. One local called it the nicest garage in town, and visitors can park there for up to three hours while in the building. The gates go down when the building closes, but you'll still be able to get out if you're in the building. If you've left the facility and the building is closed, your car will be waiting for you when the gates open in the morning.
Our parking garage is well-lit and provides easy access to the APK facility. The public entrance with stairs and elevator is in the far corner of this photo.

What's here:
You'll find the Alaska State Library on the second floor. There's free wi-fi and public computers to check your email or share photos on social media, and newspapers like the New York Times and periodicals like The Economist, Wired, or Time to help you get your news fix. If you want to do genealogy research or look at historic photos, you can visit the Historical Collections and Archives Research Center.
Patrons in the Alaska State Library's Richard Foster Reading Room. It's a great place to relax, research, or keep in touch with folks back home. Photo by Lara Swimmer.

The Alaska State Museum's permanent exhibits were fully re-designed over the past four years and present a wide-angle view of the state's history, including Alaska Native cultures, the periods as a Russian colony and an American territory, and post-statehood. There are also displays about industry in Alaska, shipwrecks, World War II, a children's Discovery Room, and three temporary galleries with rotating exhibits. Find more info at

The APK is home to Raven Cafe, run by the fantastic folks who operated Twilight Cafe over by the State Office Building. Their specialties include enormous adobo burritos, breakfast sandwiches, house made soups, refreshing fruit smoothies, and coffee and espresso drinks to keep you going. This summer, local literary maven Katrina Woolford will be running our gift store, which will have art, books, and other gifts for everyone at home. She plans to open for business by June 1.
Raven Cafe is a popular spot for visitors, locals, and staff to grab coffee or lunch. The Cristobals are always cooking up new creations so their menu is never the same. Photo by Lara Swimmer.

When to come:
Summer hours begin in mid-May. The Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, and Archives are open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and Mondays for research appointments. The Alaska State Museum will have transitional hours in early May, and 9:00 am-5:00 pm daily from mid-May through mid-September. Call (907) 465-2901 for the early May schedule.

Winter hours for the Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, and Archives are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Winter hours for the Alaska State Museum are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Hope to see you here at the APK this summer!

Monday, March 13, 2017

ADA Accommodations at APK State Library, Archives, and Museum

When we moved into our new building, we wanted to make everyone feel welcome, including people with disabilities. Our Division's ADA coordinator worked with Assistive Technology of Alaska to select devices and equipment for our visitors with mobility issues, cognitive disabilities, deaf or hard of hearing, and low vision.

Unlike our old space in the State Office Building, the door of Reading Room at APK has an activator button, and we can keep the doors propped open so it's easy to navigate in a wheelchair. There is an accessible restroom on the first floor, as well as large stalls in all the restrooms. We also have wheelchairs, a rollator, and two cane seats available for use within our facility. At our public computers, we have adjustable height desks and the option to use a trackball mouse.
Located right outside our door, this button will open the door to the Reading Room. Kids have been impressed that there are no visible wires attached.

Hard of hearing visitors can request a pocket talker to communicate with staff or amplify a presentation or tour. The visitor wears a set of headphones and the presenter speaks into an amplifier about the size of a deck of cards. There are also desk amplifiers on the Library's front desk and the Museum's reception desk for people with T-coil hearing aids. Deaf and hard of hearing visitors can request a sign language interpreter for any programs or events at the APK with at least five days notice by calling 465-2910.
If a visitor has a hearing aid with a T-coil, they can activate it while talking to us at our reception desks. This enables us to communicate discreetly with hard of hearing visitors without yelling.
Thanks to our volunteers, we are actively adding captions to all of the videos that we post on our YouTube channel. Although auto-captioning has improved a lot in recent years, we still have to manually create captions for some videos. We are using's web editor to create manual captions, and although the process is slow, we prioritize the videos for which patrons have requested captions.

One very low-tech tool that we've implemented are communication boards. They are single, laminated pages with images for commonly asked questions or items, like restroom, elevator, water fountain, or help. We had a speech therapist come through last summer and she was thrilled to see one of these cards at the Library's desk.
This communication board helps overcome communication difficulties of all kinds, from language barriers to hearing impairments.

For people with low vision, we have a large print option on our public computers and large print keyboards with bright yellow keys and larger labels. These keyboards are not very expensive and have been popular with our low vision users. We also have digital magnifiers that magnify up to 13.5x and have been especially good for looking at detailed materials like topographical maps.
High contrast, large print keyboards like this have been a hit with our low vision users.
The Pebble digital magnifier makes small words and images more readable. I noticed much more detail on these topo maps when I tried it out.

We administer the Talking Books program for Alaska, providing audiobooks and Braille books for Alaskans who can't use standard print books. It is a free service that supplies special playback equipment and delivers books and magazines postage-free. If you or someone you know might benefit from this service, you can find out more at or by calling 1-888-820-4525.

If you need accommodation to visit or enjoy your state library, archives, and museum, please contact us to make arrangements. Contact info is available at