Monday, October 5, 2015

Celebrating Alaska Book Week!

It's Alaska Book Week, a celebration of Alaskan authors and their books, created by 49 Writers. Libraries, bookstores, and schools hold book signings, author talks, writing workshops, and other special events that highlight writing in Alaska. To find an event in your area, visit

We're big fans of Alaska books at the Alaska State Library. Our collections and our research have a strong Alaskan focus, so we live and breathe Alaska books and documents. Here are a few recent titles that we've enjoyed this year.

Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2014.
Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America by Ross Coen
The fu-go campaign was a little-known episode from World War II in the Pacific. The Japanese military launched thousands of paper balloons rigged with incendiary devices that were meant to drift across the ocean to start wildfires and wreck havoc in the western United States and Canada. Although hundreds of these balloons were found, including many in Alaska, only one resulted in casualties, killing a minister's wife and several teens in Oregon. Ross visited the library in June and gave us a behind-the-scenes look at Fu-Go, including dozens of previously classified images. Although Fu-Go is a riveting read on its own, Ross' lecture added another dimension to my enjoyment of this book. If you missed it, you can watch the video here. We apologize for some technical difficulties with the screen-sharing at the beginning of the recording.

Published by Alaska Northwest Books, 2014.
Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska's Wildlife by Bill Sherwonit
I'm not the only library staffer who's been recommending Bill Sherwonit's collection of nature stories. Sherwonit, a former outdoors writer for the Anchorage Times, writes about his extraordinary and everyday animal encounters in a friendly, thoughtful style. The surreal feeling of meeting a wild animal on the street will resonate with many urban Alaskans, and Sherwonit includes not just bears and moose but other less common critters like wood frogs, sandhill cranes, and lynx.

Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2015.
So, How Long Have You Been Native? by Alexis Bunten
This anthropological exploration of cultural tourism is based on Bunten's experience working as a tour guide for a tribally owned tourism business in Sitka. Bunten addresses the struggle that Alaska Native communities face when trying to decide if they should embrace or denounce cultural tourism, which brings economic benefits but can also be viewed as selling out Native culture. Working in tourism is a rite of passage for many Alaskans, but this insider look at working in cultural tourism is unique.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
 A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans
For several years, Juneau was home to a friendly, solitary black wolf, who loved to frolic and play with local dogs around Mendenhall Glacier. He appeared in late 2004 and soon became a regular winter fixture. Nick Jans, a well-known Alaska nature writer and photographer, was among the first to encounter the wolf who was soon nicknamed Romeo by everyone in town. A Wolf Called Romeo is a great choice for dog lovers, nature enthusiasts, and anyone who had the brief opportunity to be adopted as a member of Romeo's pack. Nick Jans will be speaking about this book at University of Alaska Southeast's Egan Library for Evening at Egan on October 16.

Published by Epicenter Press, 2014.
Dreaming Bears by J. Michael Holloway
After Mike Holloway's first year of medical school, he was determined to have the most remote Alaskan adventure possible, so he caught a bush plane from Fairbanks to Venetie, then hiked to Gold Camp, the tiny home of Johnny and Sarah Franks. Johnny showed Mike traditional ways of hunting, fishing, and boat-building, and constantly told stories of his people. This began a lifelong friendship between a young doctor and the Gwich’in elder who became his mentor. Dreaming Bears is a quiet book about finding unlikely kindred spirits and learning from others’ extraordinary lives. I read this shortly after Karsten Heuer’s Being Caribou, and enjoyed the different perspective on the region and the people who have lived among caribou for thousands of years.

Published by Doubleday, 2014.
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
Although not written by an Alaskan author, In the Kingdom of Ice will appeal to Alaska history buffs for its grim but fascinating retelling of the doomed polar voyage of the USS Jeannette, which set sail for the Arctic in 1879 and was locked in the ice off Siberia for two years before wrecking. Based on Captain George De Long's diaries, rescued from the ice by engineer George Melville, this book tells a largely forgotten story of polar exploration in the Gilded Age. The library has several other titles on this subject, including two volumes of De Long's journals.

What Alaska books have you enjoyed this year? If you're looking for your next Alaska book, check out Amy Fletcher's list of new and upcoming releases in Capital City Weekly.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Getting ready for our move

 The Alaska State Library will join the Archives, Historical Collections, and Museum in the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum next spring. Although our move is months away, it's never too early to start planning.
The exterior of SLAM is mostly complete. Crews are working on the interiors and on landscaping the courtyard now.

One of the first decisions we made was to split our staff into two main teams, one in charge of the collections, including the books, periodicals, microfilm, and maps, and one responsible for the offices, like the files, furniture, supplies, and other paraphernalia that make an office run smoothly. This division allows our small staff to focus on more manageable pieces of the move rather than needing to be involved in everything. It's a lesson we learned from the Alaska State Museum's move last summer.

We've also been working on de-cluttering our lives. That means going through old files, sending reams of paper to recycling, dumping broken equipment, and surplussing unnecessary furniture. Much of the furniture will move with us to the new building, but not everything. Since the work spaces in SLAM will conform to the Alaska space standards, we all need to consolidate our work areas. We're having a contest to find the oldest unnecessary paperwork in our files.
Although not the oldest we've found, this triplicate form for ILL statistics from 1992 did not make the cut to come over to SLAM with us.

The downsizing effort extends to our collections, which we've weeded extensively. For non-library folks, that means removing outdated or little-used materials from the library collection to make room for new stuff. We had held onto VHS and cassette collections but finally decided it was time to get rid of the non-Alaskan ones.

Since Murphy's Law is always in effect, we've had two big influxes to our library recently. The first is a large collection from the Department of Transportation library in Fairbanks. The DOT library consists of 22,500 items and was previously housed at Mather Library at University of Alaska Fairbanks. Although not everything will come here to the Alaska State Library, it is still a significant collection that will get integrated. The second is a reference collection from the Alaska State Museum. When the Museum closed last year, its reference collection was boxed up and put into storage. This collection consists of museology and Alaska history materials that will be particularly relevant to patrons of SLAM. We're excited to introduce both these collections in our new space.
Seventy-two boxes of books from the Alaska State Museum will get added to our collection prior to the move.
We'll keep you posted about the lessons we learn related to the move as it progresses. We're busy researching moving plans, picking supplies, and measuring our collections now.

Monday, September 21, 2015

How much is the 2015 PFD?

Governor Walker announced today that the 2015 PFD will be the largest in history by three whole dollars. Palmer middle school student Shania Sommer presented the amount, $2,072.

Here are the amounts for the past eight years.

2015 $ 2,072.00
2014 $1,884.00
2013 $900.00
2012 $878.00
2011 $1,174.00
2010 $1,281.00
2009 $1,305.00
2008 $2,069.00

We previously posted the amounts for 2002-2007. The payment amounts since 1982 can be found at the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation website.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Closing some doors and keeping one open

As we prepare for the opening of the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum next year, our Division's public areas have gradually closed. The Alaska State Museum closed in February 2014 to prepare for the collections transfer and building demolition. The Alaska State Archives closed their research room in the spring of 2015 after moving their records to the new collections vault. The Historical Collections reduced their hours so that staff can pack and move the books, negatives, photographs, and maps.
The Alaska State Museum closed in February 2014 so the building could be demolished and the new galleries and reading rooms are being constructed on the site. Photo by Damon Stuebner.

Alaska State Library's Information Services will be the last section to move into the new building, and is now the only one of our Division's research areas open to the public. We can help you request historic Alaskana items from other libraries, view Alaska newspaper microfilm, and recommend ways to get the information that you need while our Division's other sections are closed. We're on the 8th floor of the State Office Building across from the bear and the Waasgo totem pole.
If you walk in this door of the State Office Building, the Information Services section is on your right. If you come from Willoughby, take the elevator to the 8th floor and walk past the snack bar and the organ.

We have also started Historical Reference service on Thursdays and Fridays from 1:00-4:30 pm. Historical Collections staff will be on hand to answer your Alaska questions, help with research, and bring historic Alaska books, photos, and other materials from the new storage vault for you to peruse in the Information Services Reading Room. We hope you'll come by!
You too can find MINING INFORMATION, ALASKA MAPS, and the LATEST PERIODICALS at the public reading room of the Alaska State Library, still open on the 8th floor of the State Office Building. Alaska State Library - Historical Collections PCA 277-023-005.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What was the equivalent of counties in Alaska before boroughs were created at statehood?

Prior to the creation of boroughs, it seems that there really wasn’t anything analogous to counties in Alaska, but perhaps the closest things were judicial districts. There were three, and later four, judicial districts, and they did take care of some administration responsibilities for their areas. You can find more information on this at the Alaska History and Cultural Studies website, at

Melville C. Brown was the first judge of the Division No. 1 district, which covered southeast Alaska. Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, Brown-Melville-C.
Arthur H. Noyes was the first judge of the Division No. 2 district for western Alaska. Noyes used his position to jump claims and was removed from the judgeship in 1902. Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, Noyes-Arthur-H-1.

James Wickersham, who later went on to be Alaska's congressional delegate, was the first judge of the Division No. 3 district for interior and southcentral Alaska. This district was later divided into two separate districts. Alaska
State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-Wickersham-James-1.

As mentioned, there are currently four judicial districts. You can find them listed, with the courts located within each, at