Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Books for the Alaska State Museum's Discovery Room

The Discovery Room in the Alaska State Museum is home to the good ship Discovery, and is a space where kids can explore, create, and discover Alaska's art and culture. The Museum's curatorial and exhibits teams are continually adding new treasures to this room, including kid-centered exhibits, dress-up clothes, activities, and books, so if you came by last summer and didn't see enough for kids, come on back and check it out.
A rare quiet moment in the kids' Discovery Room at the Alaska State Museum.

Before we opened, the Museum's Visitor Services Manager asked me for help selecting 40 books that would be entertaining and educational for kids, teens, and their adults. Challenge accepted! I borrowed piles of books from libraries around the state, read reviews in Library Journal, School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews on Academic Search Premier, and asked other librarians for advice.

Here are the books that we selected, with links to Alaska's Joint Library Catalog where available.
  • Alaska's First People by Judy Ferguson.
  • Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide edited by David Burnie and Don E. Wilson. This huge animal encyclopedia has facts and habitat maps about animals from around the world. I would have loved this book as an 8-year old.
  • Anna's Athabaskan Summer by Arnold Griese, illustrated by Charles Rabin.
  • Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Are Those Animals Real? by Judy Cutchins and Ginny Johnston. The Wonderwall exhibit at the Museum's entrance contains taxidermy of Alaskan animals, and explaining them has been a challenge for Museum staff. This book provides kid-friendly information about preparing animals for exhibit.
    Talking with kids about Alaskan animals is fun, but answering the question, "Are these animals dead?" can be awkward.
  • Benny's Flag by Phyllis Krasilovsky, illustrated by Jim Fowler. The story of Alaska's state flag, designed by thirteen-year old Benny Benson in 1927. The illustrator is a Juneau artist whose work is in the Alaska State Museum's collection, along with Benny's original entry.
  • Berry Magic by Terri Sloat.
  • Big Alaska by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Big Enough Anna, by Pam Flowers, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. This true story about the author's solo journey in the polar north features a little dog who became the lead dog, and is a favorite of our former director.
  • Born to Run: Athletes of the Iditarod, by Albert Lewis. Everyone likes a dog portrait, and the sled dogs and their mushers featured in this coffee table book are full of character.
  • Carrying on Irregardless: Humour in Contemporary Northwest Coast Art, by the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art.
  • Charlie and the Blanket Toss, by Tricia "Nuyaqik" Brown, illustrated by Sarah "Anuyaq" Martinsen.
  • A Child's Alaska, by Claire Rudolph Murphy, photographed by Charles Mason.
  • Children of the Midnight Sun, by Tricia Brown, photographed by Roy Corral.
  • A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds, by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher. This beautifully illustrated Canadian title, published in Nunavut, includes scientific illustrations and Inuktitut words for many birds featured in the Museum's exhibits.
  • Dance on a Sealskin, by Barbara Winslow, illustrated by Terri Sloat. Our exhibits curator loved the illustrations of a young girl wearing a Yup'ik dance outfit with headdress, parka, boots, and dance fans, as she danced for the first time.
    Dance fans and drums like these are featured in the book Dance on a Sealskin.
  • Eye of the Needle by Terri Sloat and Betty Huffmon. 
  • Frog Girl by Paul Owen Lewis. Historical Librarian Sorrel Goodwin recognized Frog Girl as an example of balancing old and new traditions in storytelling and visual art in his webinar, "Selecting children's literature that accurately depict Native experiences."
  • Gone Again, Ptarmigan, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Great Serum Race, by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle. 
  • Heroes and Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, by Mary Beck.
  • How Raven Stole the Sun, by Maria Williams, illustrated by Felix Vigil.
  • I Would Tuck You In, by Sarah Asper-Smith, illustrated by Mitch Watley.
  • Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing, by Margaret Nicolai, illustrated by Dave Rubin. 
  • The Lamp, the Ice, and a Boat called Fish, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Beth Krommes. The story of the Karluk expedition to explore the polar north in 1913, with an emphasis on the Inupiaq family who helped the explorers survive.
  • Lucy's Dance, by Deb Vanasse, illustrated by Nancy Slagle.
  • Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, by Cheryl Bardoe. Developed in conjunction with an exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum, this book introduces readers to these fascinating animals that once roamed Alaska. The Museum's orientation area features an unusual display of mammoth tusks.
    Mammoth tusks in the orientation area are beautifully displayed but can be out of context for kids.
  • My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure, by Claudia McGehee. Rockwell Kent, the renowned painter and woodblock printer, spent a winter on Fox Island in 1918-1919 with his son Rocky. This illustrated account is told from Rocky's point of view.
  • North, the Amazing Story of Arctic Migration, by Nick Dowson, illustrated by Patrick Benson. Sara Lee, our resident Science-on-a-Sphere expert, is working on creating customized datasets that relate to this book.
  • The Raven and the Totem, by John Smelcer. One of the Museum's most popular publications series were booklets of Alaska Native myths and legends. This book compiles the stories into a single collection.
  • Recess at 20 Below, by Cindy Lou Aillaud. Created by a P.E. teacher from Delta Junction, this photo book shows Alaskan kids getting ready for recess in all weather.
  • Solomon's Tree, by Andrea Spalding, illustrated by Janet Wilson and Victor Reece. Based on a true story about a Tsimshian boy and his uncle who create a mask out of a log from the boy's favorite tree.
  • Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog, adapted by Donnell Rubay, illustrated by Christopher Canyon. The true story of John Muir's dog, Stickeen, is a perennial favorite for Alaskan visitors, and this version is adapted for young readers with beautiful illustrations.
  • Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity, by Lars Krutak. Selected specifically for teenage visitors, this book explores traditional tattoos around the world and accompanies the tattoo brushes on display in the Clan House exhibit.
    Tattoo brushes, face stamp, and other adornments are on exhibit in the Clan House.
  • Ten Rowdy Ravens, by Susan Ewing, illustrated by Evon Zerbetz. Zerbetz is the creator of We Are Written in the Layers of the Earth, the large glass mural in our Reading Room, and her bold, colorful style is reflected in this fun counting book.
    We Are Written in the Layers of the Earth by Evon Zerbetz, is the centerpiece of the Library and Archives area on the second floor.
  • Togo, by Robert Blake. Everyone knows the story of Balto, but Leonhard Seppala's lead dog Togo was every bit as heroic during the serum run that inspired the Iditarod.
  • Whale Snow, by Debbie Dahl Edwardson, illustrated by Annie Patterson.
  • Whaling Season, by Peter Lourie. Profiles John George, a scientist studying bowhead whales in Utqiagvik.
  • Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature's Footprints, by Jim Arnosky. Kids in Alaska have the opportunity to see a lot of animal tracks, and this book contains actual size illustrations of a variety of animals.
  • Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman. Although neither of the title animals are found in Alaska, this fun rhyming book introduces readers to different watercraft, including kayaks and canoes, which are featured prominently in the Museum's exhibits.
    Model watercraft, including a kayak like Yak's and a canoe like Gnu's. Full-size versions are on display throughout the Museum.
This is just a sample of the great Alaska children's books out there. If you've got a favorite that's not on this list, please share!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Alaska Book Week is October 1-8, 2016

We love Alaska books, so naturally, we love Alaska Book Week, a statewide celebration of Alaska's authors and books, created in 2011 by 49 Writers. Here are a few Alaska books that I enjoyed this year. (Note: Image links will take you to publishers' websites. Text links will take you to the book's record in Alaska's Joint Library Catalog. Other formats may be available.)

Published by University of Alaska Press, 2016.
Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold, by Deb Vanasse, is a biography of Kate Carmack, once the richest woman in the Klondike. Kate, born Shaaw Tlàa, was a Tagish woman and wife of George Carmack, who may or may not have discovered the gold at Bonanza Creek, but certainly reaped its riches. Although much of Kate Carmack's life is a mystery, Vanasse's extensive research about the lives of women and Natives who have largely been excluded from the historical record provide a new perspective on the Klondike gold rush. I run through Klondike country every year, and this book made me think about the land and its history in a new way.

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.
Heroes of the Frontier, Dave Eggers' newest novel, is the blockbuster Alaska book of the year, due to Eggers' considerable star power. It tells the story of Josie, a down-on-her-luck dentist from Ohio who is running from her demons with her two young children in tow. Setting out in a dilapidated RV with a vague plan to visit her "sister" Sam in Homer, Josie, Paul, and Ana encounter wildfires, wild animals, and genuine Alaskan characters while looking for meaning in their own lives.

Published by Mountaineers Books, 2015.
I may have been the last person in Alaska to read Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner, but I finally picked it up this year, then went on to read his newest nonfiction work, Swallowed by the Great Land. Ordinary Wolves is a much-recommended novel that follows the childhood and young adulthood of Cutuk, a white boy growing up in a sod house in remote Alaska, desperately wishing to be a great Inupiaq hunter. I find Kantner's nonfiction work to be equally if not more compelling than his fiction, but any of his books will give you a sense of life in the far north, further off the grid than most people can even imagine.

Published by Island Press, 2015.
I picked up Future Arctic: Field Notes from a World on the Edge by Edward Struzik last fall, and found it accessible and informative. Drawing from 30 years studying the Arctic in Alaska and Canada, Struzik explores the Arctic from natural, political, and cultural perspectives. At a slim 199 pages, Future Arctic is a great introduction to the current state of the top of the world and the way that climate change has affected this vulnerable region.

Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
I just started To the Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey's long awaited second book. Her debut novel Snow Child was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for fiction and book club staple since it was published in 2012, so I know I'm not alone in eagerly awaiting this next one. Last year I enjoyed Hampton Sides' In the Kingdom of Ice, so I'm liking the expedition diary format of Bright Edge so far.

What's your favorite Alaska book of the year?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How many people lived in Juneau during the peak of the gold rush?

This information is pulled together for easy access in Census Alaska: Number of Inhabitants, 1792-1970, compiled by Alden Rollins in 1978.

Assuming that the height of the gold rush in Juneau was about 1915, I’ve provided figures from the 1910 and 1920 censuses.

  • State: 64,356 (this was the largest number between 1880 and 1930) 
    • First Judicial District (Southeast Alaska): 15,216 
      • Juneau District: 5,854 
        • Auke village: 218 
        • Douglas town (incorporated): 1,722 
        • Juneau town (incorporated): 1,644 
        • Killisnoo village: 351 
        • Treadwell town (incorporated): 1,222 
Juneau town was a little bigger in 1900 (1,864), but all of the other locations in the Juneau District were quite a bit smaller.

  • State: 55,036 
    • First Judicial District: 17,402 
        • Juneau District: 5,893 This was broken out a little differently, and may possibly include more area, as I didn’t notice Angoon or Thane on the 1910 census. 
          • Angoon village: 114 
          • Auke village: not listed 
          • Douglas town: 919 
          • Juneau town: 3,058 
          • Killisnoo village: 256 
          • Treadwell village: 325 
          • Thane village: 421 
Although the source book cannot be checked out, feel free to contact us for a lookup if you're interested in a different date or area of Alaska.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

First Folio at the APK

We were so honored to be Alaska's host site for the national traveling exhibition First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library. The exhibit opened on July 26 and closed on August 24.
The exhibition featured an original First Folio, the first edition of Shakespeare's collected works, printed in 1623. Photo by MaryLou Gerbi.

The First Folio exhibit was different from our usual fare of Alaska history, and some visitors were surprised to find the nearly 400-year old treasure here in Juneau. One visitor remarked, "Last summer we were in London and didn't see a First Folio. This year we're in Alaska and we find one here!" It's been fun to hear about peoples' encounters with Shakespeare, from those who remember memorizing the To Be Or Not To Be speech in high school to people who have acted in Shakespeare's plays. One fifth-grade Shakespeare fan showed up wearing The Tragedie of Hamlet printed on her pants!
Enrique Bravo performs the To Be Or Not To Be speech from Hamlet with Theatre in the Rough on August 12, 2016.

The First Folio exhibit has been a wonderful way for us to connect with our community in our new facility. We had four weeks of diverse programming, including art and theater workshops for kids, performances in our beautiful atrium, and school visits by several brave teachers, who brought their classes during the first week of school! We shared lectures via the Online With Libraries videoconferencing system, thanks to a little bit of ingenuity from our IT wizard and the OWL support team at UAF.
Participants in Shakespeare's costumes & crafts youth activity, led by guest artist Valerie Snyder of BrownBoots Costume Co., show off their creations.

If you read a part in the Theatre in the Rough dramatic readings, led a workshop or gave a lecture, or came by to enjoy the exhibit, thank you for making this incredible opportunity so fantastic. And thank you to the generosity of the project sponsors and the fearlessness of the Folger Shakespeare Library in sending their intrepid First Folios out into the world.  

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the support of Google.org, Vinton and Sigrid Cerf, the British Council, Stuart and Mimi Rose, and other generous donors. It is produced in association with the American Library Association and the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Book Cart Repairs (Or, The Aftermath of a Library Move)

During our move, we damaged several of our brand new book carts. We purchased a style that our cataloger specially requested for use after the move, so we were disappointed that the carts had held up so poorly to the wear of moving.
Bent casters on the carts made them unstable and unsafe for use.

Fortunately, since they were new, the vendor was very helpful in providing us with the tools to repair them. They sent us new casters and new caster sleeves (the plastic inserts that go into the legs of the carts), and a caster sleeve removal tool.
The handle on the caster sleeve removal tool slides up and down, giving you some leverage for extracting broken caster sleeves.

When I removed the casters using a pry bar, I discovered that the stems were severely bent and needed to be replaced. On the most damaged casters, the plastic sleeves were also cracked, so I removed them using the caster sleeve removal tool. It wasn't clear to me exactly how to use it, but our Deputy Director came by and gave a demonstration. I wish I'd been quick enough to record a video of it. You screw it into the sleeve just like a corkscrew and then the handle slides up and down, allowing you to work out the broken sleeve. It made an enormous racket in our work room, so I recommend it for working out some aggression.
One of the bent caster stems.

We had one older cart with square legs that needed some re-shaping. It had been overloaded previously and collapsed, causing the metal to stretch. My colleague used the side of the pry bar and a mallet to coax it back into shape. Then I hammered in the new caster sleeves with a rubber mallet, and pounded in the new casters using the mallet and a screwdriver to get the right angle without hammering on the wheel. The manufacturer said that it's important to make sure that the casters are fully seated in the legs before using the cart.
The new caster sleeve wouldn't fit into this socket, so it needed to be hammered back into a square shape.

Although they're not as good as new, all the carts that were damaged during the move are back in service in the new Library. The manufacturer noted that fully loaded carts should be moved with care over door thresholds and uneven ground to prevent this kind of damage. If your library is planning a move, care for your book carts by making the terrain they need to travel as smooth as possible.