Friday, January 22, 2016

New resource for Alaska territorial vital records

After three years, thousands of hours, and millions of images, the Alaska territorial vital records are now available online through a partnership between the Alaska State Archives and

The Alaska, Vital Records, 1816-1959 collection includes birth, marriage, death, and probate records from Alaska's territorial days. If you've ever used, then you'll be comfortable searching for your Alaskan ancestor, limiting the type of records you want, and viewing images of the original records.

To try it out, I searched for Andrew Kashevaroff, first curator and librarian of the Alaska Territorial Museum and Library. I found his death certificate from April 3, 1940. The search tool is user-friendly, and I can find this result even if I search for variants on his name like "Kashevarof" or "Kashevarov".
A portion of Andrew Petrovich Kashevaroff's death certificate.
This record alone would be a huge find for a genealogist. It includes a wealth of information, including his birthplace, his parents' names and birthplaces, his occupation, place and cause of death, place and date of burial, and names of his living children and other relatives.

I noticed that Kashevaroff was buried in Juneau, which took me to the Evergreen Cemetery map. Searching it showed where Kashevaroff is buried in the cemetery, but there was a discrepancy between the death record and the cemetery record. The death record says he died on April 3, and the cemetery website says he died on April 6.
Using the Evergreen Cemetery map, I could easily find Kashevaroff's grave to see what's actually printed on the headstone.

The headstone of Kashevaroff's grave shows that he died on April 3, 1940, not April 6. One possible explanation is that the cemetery recorded the burial date, since that would have been when his body came to the cemetery. This slight discrepancy highlights the importance of primary source material like the vital records from the Alaska State Archives.
Next, I looked for Kashevaroff's obituary in the Daily Alaska Empire newspaper microfilm for early April 1940. This was published in the April 3 issue.
Clicking on this image will open a larger image.
As any genealogist or researcher knows, the research process can be long and winding, branching out in many directions and doubling back. I'm thrilled that in the past three months, we've gained three incredible tools, including the Evergreen Cemetery map and Betty Miller's Vital Records that make Juneau history research easier. If you'd like guidance on using any of these resources, we're happy to help.

Read more:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Reading resolutions for 2016

If your New Year's resolutions include reading more books in 2016, your library can help make that happen. Whether you want to fill your nightstand with cozy mysteries, heart-pounding thrillers, scholarly biographies, or business manifestos, there are great free tools out there for you.
Resolved to read more this year? Get recommendations, read reviews, and download e-books from your library.

NoveList: All Alaskans have access to NoveList, a popular database for finding books based on genre, mood, setting, and many more options. I like to use NoveList before I travel to find books that take place in that locale. Last summer I visited Newfoundland, and enjoyed reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx and Sweetland by Michael Crummey, which I discovered on NoveList. As the database's name suggests, its focus is on fiction.

Goodreads: Last week, people were chatting about how they did on their 2015 Goodreads Challenge, where users set reading goals for the year, ranging from reading a handful of books to hundreds. This year's challenge is off and running. With a free Goodreads account, you can track the books you read, connect with friends, and find new books based on your reading preferences. It's like a social network for readers. And it'll help you keep track of which Jack Reacher novels you've already read.

E-books and audiobooks: I'll be honest - I was a late convert to e-books and audiobooks, but having books with me wherever I go has increased my reading. Waiting in line at the DMV? Read an e-book. Washing dishes? Listen to an audiobook. If you have a library card from one of the dozens of participating libraries on Alaska Digital Library (formerly ListenAlaska Plus), you can get e-books and audiobooks on your computer or device. If you live in a community with no public library, you can access Alaska Digital Library with a card from statewide mail services.
E-books and audiobooks can make a long wait at the DMV go faster. Photo: Gabriel White via Flickr, CC-BY-SA.

Review alerts: Since I work at the Alaska State Library, staying up-to-date with Alaskana helps me do my job. One tool I find really handy is an information alert that sends me an email whenever a book review that references Alaska or the Arctic is added to the EBSCO databases. If you'd like to create an alert like this on any topic, you can contact us for assistance.

Ask us! When people find out I'm a librarian, they assume that I spend all day reading books, usually while sipping tea and petting a cat. In reality, my professional life is filled with research requests, databases, and programming planning. But I enjoy reading and talking about books, and most of my colleagues do too. So ask your favorite librarian to recommend some titles for you!
Contrary to popular belief, this is not my job. But I can recommend a book for you to enjoy while drinking tea and petting your cats!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What we did in 2015

The Library's State Office Building location will be open through the spring. We will move the collection after we get occupancy in A.P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum.

Despite unfounded rumors that the Alaska State Library is closed, 2015 has been a very busy year for us. Here's a look at our year in review.

We answered 34,000 requests for information. These requests came from near and far: legislators looking for information to shape their decisions, authors wanting historic photos for their books, and children needing Alaska facts for their school reports. We also provided 15,000 full-text journal articles to state employees, helped people from around the world find genealogical information about their Alaskan ancestors, and showed people how to use their smartphones.

We hosted 58 programs and events that encourage lifelong learning for Alaskans. These included webinars on using e-books, leading effective meetings, and copyright, First Friday art openings, French language practice groups, lunchtime lectures, and opportunities to explore resources like Ancestry and Listen Alaska+. Although we've suspended most programs to prepare for our impending move, we're cooking up ideas for fun events in the Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum.
We exhibited artwork from the children's book Mary's Wild Winter Feast by local author Hannah Lindoff and illustrators Clarissa Rizal and Nobu Koch in February and March.

Through our interlibrary loan program, we provided library patrons with nearly 1,000 articles, books, and other materials not held by our consortium from libraries in all 50 states, Canada, and Europe. We shared our unique materials with libraries around the world, fulfilling nearly 500 requests. We also bid farewell to a longtime friend, Becky Orford, who retired in April. She had been the queen of interlibrary loan for many years and was a master at fulfilling even the most obscure requests.
Interlibrary Loan maven Becky, shown with one of her favorite books, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, retired in April of this year.

We provided 5,500 internet sessions to Juneau patrons, tourists, and researchers, many of whom have no personal internet service and rely on the library to access government information, news, email, and social networks.

We celebrated milestones with our community partners, including the opening of the Walter Soboleff Center, the opening of the Mendenhall Valley Public Library, and the 25th birthday of the Egan Library at University of Alaska Southeast. We also cheered for Craig Public Library's National Medal win, as well as the many other honors received by Alaskan libraries this year.
The spectacular grand opening of the Walter Soboleff Center inspired and excited us about our own opening next spring.

We prepared to move to our new home. The building we've affectionately called SLAM received an official and apropos name, the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum, and at the library, we've been weeding, measuring, and packing our collections to prepare for the move.
Governor Walker signs SB 63, which officially named our new building the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum, with the Richard Foster Reading Room.
Library staff admire the progress on the Richard Foster Reading Room during a site tour in November.

Thanks to all of our patrons and friends for making this a great year! Happy New Year from all of us at the Alaska State Library.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New resource for Juneau genealogists

Recently, I posted about the Evergreen Cemetery map, a great tool for genealogists and local researchers. Today I'm highlighting another newly digitized resource: the Vital Records, an index to births, deaths, and marriages listed in the Alaska Daily Empire (predecessor to the Juneau Empire) and the Weekly Douglas Island Newspaper from 1898 to 1936. You can find the digital version online at

The six volumes of the Vital Records are the result of fifteen years of work by local historian Betty Miller. Each volume consists of two parts - the first is an alphabetical list of all the names referenced in the volume and the second is a chronological list of the events with the page and column where the article was printed.
The paper volumes of Vital Records from Alaska Daily Empire are well-used items in our genealogy section. The ability to search them digitally will speed up our research.

Although the digitized Vital Records are a valuable resource on their own, they work best in conjunction with the Alaska State Library's newspaper microfilm collection. Now you can search for a name, find the date, page, and column number for an article about that person, and then read the article in the Alaska Daily Empire or the Weekly Douglas Island Newspaper. We have four microfilm scanners that allow you to print, email, or scan to a flash drive or the cloud, making microfilm research easier than ever.
The Alaska Daily Empire is one of hundreds of Alaskan newspapers available in our microfilm collection.

Some Alaska newspaper microfilm is available for lending through interlibrary loan, so even if you can't make it to an Alaska library, you can find historic articles about your Alaskan ancestors. Ask your local library for more information.

Learn more:
  • Betty Miller wrote a short biography about her life and her work on the Vital Records. A longer bio about her family was published in Gastineau Channel Memories, Volume I.
  • The Alaska Newspaper Project microfilmed all the known Alaskan newspapers and created microfilm repositories at the Alaska State Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library, and University of Alaska Anchorage Consortium Library.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sneak peek inside the Kashevaroff SLAM

In June, we shared some photos from inside the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum. There have been a ton of changes since then, so we're pleased to share the progress with you!

The boards have been removed and the copper panels on the front are being installed. The exterior of SLAM is nearly complete and most of the work is happening inside.
The main entrance off Whittier Street leads into the atrium. The Museum galleries are on the left.
A very large map of Alaska will be laid into the floor of the atrium. The latitude and longitude lines for the map are being set now.
The outlines of the map are drawn onto the floor. This is a segment of southeast Alaska.

Inside the museum, exhibit pieces and large objects from the Alaska State Museum collections are being installed.
The Clan House will be home to the exhibits about southeast Alaska Native cultures. It's wrapped in plastic to protect it from construction dust and damage.
All of the boards on the Clan House were adzed by hand. It's such hard work that three people dropped out of the adzing team, leaving one woman to complete most of the project herself.

Alaska's other Native cultures will be represented but are not installed yet. Around the corner, we entered the history galleries, which will include sections on the period of Russian colonization of Alaska in the late 18th- and early 19th-centuries, World War II in Alaska, Alaskan industries, and political history.

This is the base for the Fresnel lighthouse lens from Cape Spencer. Behind it is a photo mural of Alaska's first territorial legislature in 1913. It is a reproduction of a photograph from Alaska State Library Historical Collections, PCA 461-26.
This large photo mural is part of the mining section. It is a large reproduction of a photograph of the Chilkoot Trail from the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, PCA 87-707.
This big case is in the World War II section, where several of the mannequins I've been working on will live.
The sphere for the Science On A Sphere system looks like Humpty-Dumpty, waiting to be installed in its very own gallery, seen below.
The new Science On A Sphere gallery will accommodate Sphere-related programming and allow visitors to play with datasets.
This window looks from the atrium by the Eagle Tree into the conservation lab, where the conservator will repair and stabilize objects, so that visitors can observe the process in action.

The second level of the Kashevaroff SLAM will house the Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, and Alaska State Archives, as well as the administrative offices.
The wood panels in the ceiling of the Alaska State Library's Richard Foster Reading Room are being installed now.
Looking into the Reading Room from across the bridge, Walter Gordinier's glass pillars provide splashes of color in the walls.
Our office windows look down Gastineau Channel and at our neighbors in the Willoughby District, KTOO and the Prospector Hotel.
A window from the staff area looks out into the Historical Collections and Archives Research Room.
This very important space is the restroom. We're eagerly awaiting these because everyone working on the SLAM site is currently using port-a-potties.
The balcony area on the second floor allows visitors to look down into the atrium and view Gordinier's glass artwork and the Alaska map from a distance.
Back downstairs in the atrium, looking toward the main entrance from the Eagle Tree.

We're so excited to open the Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum. A big thanks to our project team at the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and to PCL, who are busy making SLAM into a reality. We hope to see you all the grand opening next year!