Monday, November 6, 2017

Internet Bandwidth: More computers = less for everyone

This is the first post in an occasional series on factors affecting internet access in public libraries. This information should apply anywhere where internet is offered.

Many libraries in Alaska face slow internet. One common reason is because there are too many devices (computers, laptops, smartphones, etc) for the amount of bandwidth a library has.

When you buy internet for your library, say 3x3 Mbps, that speed is delivered to your library wall. It is then available to be split up among your library computers and anything connected to your library’s WiFi network. 

Assuming that there are no tweaks to your network, you can find out how much bandwidth is available to each computer/smartphone/tablet connected to your network with this formula:

(bandwidth purchased) x 1024) / (total number of devices connected to your network) = current level of kbps per user

For example, let’s say that you purchased 3x3 Mbps for your library and you have two public computers. Each user would get:

(3x1024)/2 = 1,536 kbps per user – This speed for the two computers is excellent and should allow people to do most activities, including movie streaming, if you allowed that sort of thing. 

BUT. Let’s say you have a WiFi network and you also have five people out in the parking lot with smartphones or laptops. Now our calculation looks like:

(3x1024)/7 = 438 kbps per user – Here you have the same bandwidth delivered to the library wall, but because you have seven people working with it, each user only has 438 kpps worth of bandwidth. This is bad. It’s below the Edge Initiative’s recommendation of 512 kbps per user in order to deliver basic web browsing and e-mail. It’s very likely that all seven of your internet users are going to have unhappy experiences. 

Some libraries only have 1.5x1.5 Mbps for internet. What does their bandwidth look like for those two public computer users and five wifi users? Here’s the sad calculation:

(1.5*1024)/7 = 219 kbps per user.  At this speed, a typical cell phone photo of 4 MB would take two and a half minutes to download. It is unlikely anyone on this network is having  a positive experience. Yet the ISP has delivered their promised 1.5x1.5 Mbps to the library. 

If this is the source of your bad internet, your main two choices are 1) Buy more bandwidth (if you can afford it) or 2) Limit the number of devices that use your network. You could also tweak your network to block some usages or prioritize one computer’s access to bandwidth, but this won’t get you as much relief as either limiting devices or getting more bandwidth. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can offer advice on limiting or tweaking. If you are a library, you may also contact the Online With Libraries (OWL) program for advice on tweaking your network.

If you have questions or comments on this post, we'd love to hear them.


Edge Initiative Article
Benchmark 9: How much bandwidth does my library need?
By Samantha Becker, Sofia Leung, and Robert Bocher

Guest post: Damon Stuebner on the film Report from the Aleutians

On Friday, November 10, the APK will host three showings of the award-winning World War II film Report from the Aleutians by filmmaker John Huston at 1, 2, and 3 pm. LAM film and video specialist Damon Stuebner shares some background on the film. -Claire

Damon Stuebner during filming of his documentary about the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Storis.
Report from the Aleutians is the official U.S. Army film documenting the combat operations and daily life of soldiers serving in the Aleutians during World War II. While he is not officially credited, Hollywood filmmaker John Huston wrote, directed, edited, and narrated Report from the Aleutians.

Prior to the war, John Huston was Hollywood’s go-to-man for fixing poorly written scripts. His first venture into directing feature films won him two Academy Awards for the film, Maltese Falcon (1941). At the start of the World War II, Huston enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the recently established U.S. Army Signal Corps - Motion Picture Unit as a lieutenant.

Huston was quickly promoted to captain after receiving his first assignment to film at a remote Aleutian outpost on Adak Island in Alaska. Capt. Huston and his small film crew spent 6 months on Adak living and working out of the same tent and filming in all types of weather conditions. His chief cameraman, Lt. Rey Scott (a well-regarded Hollywood cinematographer prior to the war) received a medal for flying nine combat missions over Kiska in six days. While filming bombing missions himself, Huston had several close-calls. On one mission, enemy fire killed the gunner standing next to him. On another mission, the bomber that he was filming in crashed and caught fire upon landing.

Title card from Report from the Aleutians via Wikipedia.
Along with Huston’s narration, Report from the Aleutians also featured his father, Hollywood actor Walter Huston, as co-narrator, and bomber pilots who had flown combat missions over Kiska played themselves in voice-over roles.

The U.S. Army wanted Report from the Aleutians to be released as a short film, but Huston insisted that the film be released in its original form as a feature length documentary. The film won a New York City Film Critics Circle Award (1943) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (1944). The film lost to Divide and Conquer, directed by famed Hollywood filmmaker, and Huston’s commanding officer, Major Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life).

Huston also served as chief cameraman for the joint U.S./British Army film Tunisian Victory, and he shot newsreel footage during the Allied Invasion of Italy.

Report from the Aleutians was the first of three films Huston directed for the U.S. Army. His second, Battle of San Pietro, became the standard for how Hollywood makes war films even today. While billed as a documentary, it was largely a re-enactment of how U.S. forces, despite being greatly outnumbered and having taken heavy casualties, captured the San Pietro Valley in Italy. His third film, Let There Be Light, which examined the effects and treatment of “combat fatigue” (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), was deemed so controversial by the U.S. Army that it was listed as classified until 1980, when it was released to the National Archives. Today, film critics consider Let There Be Light to be one of Huston’s greatest films.

After the war, Huston returned to Hollywood as an actor and director. He appeared in 54 films and went on to direct 47 motion pictures, including such Hollywood classics as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The African Queen, and Moby Dick.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How can I find historical Alaskan weather?

Here in Juneau, we're constantly talking about the weather, even though it's pretty consistent, especially this summer (read: so.much.rain). But what if you want to know what the weather was in the past?

We recently had a question like this from a patron looking for the weather on the day he was born. He asked that we send him the weather section from the newspaper in the town where he lived. That was a great idea. It worked especially well because there was a big storm on his birthday so there was a full article on the weather. We have one of the most complete Alaska newspaper microfilm collections in the world and our microfilm scanners make it easy to scan an article and send it by email.
Juneau's weather report from Wednesday, September 13, 1916 as reported in The Alaska Daily Empire.

You can also find historical weather information from the National Weather Service, although the amount of information may differ depending on the local forecast office. Let's say I wanted to know what the weather was like in Nome fifty years ago. When I looked up Nome, it said that the local forecast office is in Fairbanks, with a link on the right side. Then I went to Climate and Past Weather.
The local forecast office page for Fairbanks. There is a link to Climate and Past Weather at the top of the page.

From the Climate and Past Weather page, you can find a tab called NOWData, which stands for NOAA Online Weather Data.

In NOWData, you can select the location and information type. Several of the options will give you historical weather data in various formats, so it's up to you which product type you select. I chose the Daily Almanac for September 13, 1967, which shows the high, low, and average temperature, precipitation, snowfall, and snow depth. It also provides the record highs and lows for the observation period, which goes back to the 1890s for many Alaskan locations.
The Daily Almanac for September 13, 1967 shows that the high temperature was 55, low was 36, and there was no precipitation or snowfall.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest post: Historic Alaskan newspapers online with Leah Geibel

Imagine firing up your computer, opening your web browser, and with the click of a button, searching through 100,000 pages of digitized Alaskan historical newspapers from the comfort of your home. Whether for historical research, genealogy, or school projects, this will soon become a reality for Alaskans with the Alaska State Library’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).
National Digital Newspaper Project Coordinator Leah Geibel, with her microfilm reader and project notes.

What is NDNP?
The National Digital Newspaper Program is a joint collaboration by the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities dedicated to preserving and providing access to our nation’s historical newspapers through digitization and inclusion in Chronicling America, a freely accessible web-based text-searchable newspaper database.

AKDNP: Alaska’s Role in NDNP
The Alaska State Library is coming up on one year since its inclusion in NDNP – so what do we have to show for it? First, let’s start with the roles and responsibilities of the library, which will help explain where we are now and where we’re going in the future.

By the end of the grant cycle, in August 2018, the Alaska State Library will have digitized 100,000 pages of Alaskan historical newspapers from across the state ranging in date from 1898-1922. These pages will be sent to Library of Congress in 10,000 page batches which will then be made available free to the public on Chronicling America (see above section). This will involve two sections within the library, Historical Collections and the Micrographics Lab. Micrographics is responsible for creating preservation quality duplicates of all microfilm reels being digitized for the grant which will eventually make their way into the hallowed stacks of the Library of Congress as preservation copies. Historical Collections is in charge of day-to-day management of grant operations ranging from gathering page level metadata from the historical titles chosen, to shipping content to vendors for digitization and performing quality control checks, to managing outreach through social media and creating programs and content aimed at providing instruction awareness of Chronicling America as an instructional resource for researchers, educators, and students.
Jerry Duncan, Microfilm/Imaging Operator, duplicates reels of newspaper microfilm in the lab at the APK. The red light is safe to use without exposing the film.

What titles were selected for digitization and how were they picked?
There was a lot of time spent, effort organizing, and views debated before a final list of titles was chosen. A sixteen member advisory committee comprised of community members diverse in experiences, geographic locations, and professions, but united in their passion for preserving Alaska’s history was tasked with this very important aspect of the project. Several factors influenced their final title selection such as technical specifications provided by Library of Congress, geographic coverage of the paper, completeness of the paper (meaning we weren’t missing huge chunks of its run), date range, and diversity of viewpoints recorded within the paper. With over 300 titles to choose from, 10 were selected for digitization during this grant cycle which the committee members felt were papers of record, had close to complete runs, were diverse in geographical coverage, and fell within the specifications recommended by Library of Congress.
  1. The Alaska daily empire (Juneau, AK ). 1912-1922
  2. Douglas Island news (Douglas City, AK). 1898-1921
  3. The Thlinget (Sitka, AK). 1908-1912
  4. The daily Alaskan (Skagway, AK). 1898-1922
  5. The Nome nugget (Nome, AK). 1901-1922
  6. The Alaska prospector (Valdez, AK). 1902-1918
  7. The Iditarod pioneer (Iditarod, AK). 1910-1919
  8. The Cordova daily times (Cordova, AK). 1914-1922
  9. The Seward gateway (Seward, AK). 1904-1922
  10. The Alaska citizen (Fairbanks, AK). 1910-1920

Where are we now?
The first batch of digitized pages is now available on Chronicling America. It includes 1,206 issues of The Alaska Daily Empire (1912-1918), 448 issues of the Douglas Island News (1898-1907), and 47 issues of The Thlinget (1908-1912). These pages are free to search at You can expect to see new batches of 10,000 pages go up monthly until we reach our 100,000 page limit.

The first page of the first issue of the Douglas Island News, November 23, 1898, viewable on Chronicling America.

Where are we going?

Anastasia Tarmann, the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project Director, has been meeting with educators to bring historic newspapers and other primary sources into the classroom, and plans to support other Alaska institutions with supplementary projects. We plan to continue educating Alaskans and other researchers on navigating Chronicling American and promoting NDNP through exhibits, social media, and public programs. We will also be focusing on reapplying for the next grant cycle, where we hope to extend our title selection to papers covering smaller, more diverse, and underrepresented communities!

Learn More & Follow Along!
For frequent project updates and a behind the scenes look you can check out the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project’s blog at

For project highlights, content features, photographs, contests and more follow the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project’s Instagram account @AlaskaHistoricalNewspapers

To contact the Project Coordinator for more information email Leah Geibel at To contact the Project Director, email Anastasia Tarmann at

Thanks to Leah for contributing this guest post! Leah has been with the Library since February and is busy bringing historic Alaskan newspapers to you! As someone who spends a lot of time looking through Alaska newspaper microfilm, I'm thrilled that this project will make research easier. -Claire

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)