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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Why can't I just call it SLAM?

Here at the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum, we're having a bit of an identity crisis, in that nobody knows how to identify us. Since the early phases of our new facility project, the building has been called SLAM, an acronym of State Library, Archives, and Museum. I've always liked SLAM. It's easy to remember and fun to say. When I worked as a SLAM Project Assistant, I received an email that I had "the coolest job title ever."

Now that construction is finished and we have an official name, we've transitioned away from SLAM to the APK, an initialism of Andrew Petrovich Kashevaroff, our eponym. We usually have to add "formerly known as SLAM" for anyone to know where we're talking about, but we hope that it'll catch on with time. Father Kashevaroff was the first curator and librarian of the Alaska Territorial Library and Museum, which eventually evolved into the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum. He gave 20 years to this institution and laid the foundation for everything that we do. It's an honor to be part of his legacy. So if you're headed to our beautiful building, help us out and call it the APK.
Studio portrait of Kashevaroff taken by Calvin Studio in Sitka, circa 1934. The caption reads, "The Very Reverend A.P. Kashevaroff, Curator and Librarian of the Alaska Territorial Museum and Library in Juneau." Alaska State Library Historical Collections, PCA 243-3-005.
Father Kashevaroff and another man with a large spruce round in the Alaska Territorial Library and Museum. This object is currently on view in the timber section of the Alaska State Museum. Alaska State Library Historical Collections - PCA 243-3-008.

Or, if you want to be official, you can go with the whole mouthful: The Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum. And if you're unsure about how to pronounce it, you're not alone. Although Russian-speakers might cringe, we say it:

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?