Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back on track!

The votes were counted this morning, and the unofficial results are that Proposition #1 (authorizing the City Council to select a library site anywhere within city limits) garnered 816 Yes votes and 500 No, while Proposition #2 (restricting construction of a new library to city-owned property downtown) had 524 Yes votes and 795 No.
There are still about 100 absentee and question ballots to be counted, but it's clear that the voters have told the City Council to go ahead with the project.  We will soon be on our way to meeting the deadline for State matching funds for the construction of a new, accessible, user-friendly library!
We want to thank everyone who devoted their time and attention to this issue, especially the Borough residents who - even though they weren't able to vote - wanted to give their support.  The whole political upheaval has been a little surprising to us librarians, since we normally lead such uncontroversial lives.  It's put the library project in the forefront of people's minds, however, and spurred some really interesting discussions.
If you want to know more about the library project, the history of the library, and the upcoming steps along the path to a new facility, please visit

Saturday, August 21, 2010


School starts next week, as you can tell from the aisles of school supplies at the local stores.  My son is starting preschool this year (yea!) and to him, going to school means you have to have a backpack.  He's spent the last couple of weeks packing and repacking his backpack and practicing wearing it around the house. 
There are kids in Ketchikan who can't afford to buy new backpacks in addition to all the other school supplies they have to purchase.  Dawn Rauwolf, of PATCHWorks, is collecting new or gently used backpacks to give to children in need.  The Ketchikan Public Library is a drop-off site for these, and there is a short donor form that you can fill out so Dawn knows who to thank (if you want to remain anonymous, that's fine too).
This backpack drive is a wonderful idea, and we're very happy to be able to see the donations arriving.  In fact, yesterday someone dropped off two new backpacks - 1 for a boy, 1 for a girl - that were not only brand new, they were stuffed with school supplies!  Brand new pencils, erasers, tissues, calculator, ruler, pencil box, 3-ring binder....what a sweet gift for a child at a time of the year when people don't ordinarily think of donating to others (unlike traditional giving times such as Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Thank you so much to all the people who have dropped off donations so far, and a huge thank you to Dawn and PATCHWorks for coming up with this idea.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cookbooks galore!

There's quite a range of new cookbooks on the shelf this week here at the public library:
Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge: the ultimate guide to mastery, with authentic recipes and stories by Grace Young.  Wok cooking is an art, and award-winning author Young starts her book off with a lengthy section about selecting, seasoning and heating a wok, as well as tips on how to prepare the garlic and ginger that are ubiquitous in Oriental cooking.  Her recipes are varied in both taste and ease of preparation, and she includes some interesting side stories about the history of wok cooking.  Try "Stir-fried salmon with wine sauce"....yum!
Just Five Ingredients: over 120 fast, fuss-free recipes by Ainsley Harriott, is a great book for cooks who are looking for simplicity and elegance.  You're probably not going to have some of these ingredients lying around your kitchen (pancetta, smoked chicken breast, duck fat, buffalo mozzarella), but you can either splurge or substitute.  No fresh swordfish?  Use halibut.  No Puy lentils?  Use green.  No harissa?  Don't know what harissa is? (I didn't).  It's a spicy paste of garlic, chilies, cumin, oil and coriander - easy to make.  Add an exotic touch to your table with a minimum of fuss.
Quesadillas by Donna Kelly offers a huge variety of fillings grilled between tortillas. Shrimp & fontina, gorgonzola & spicy beans, provolone & prosciutto, or cherries, cream cheese & coconut streusel.  If you have kids that love quesadillas (and I do), but you want to expand beyond taco meat and shredded cheddar, this is a good way to stretch their taste buds without pouting.
Recipes From the Root Cellar: 270 fresh ways to enjoy winter vegetables by Andrea Chesman is a fabulous book to get you through the winter.  When inexpensive fresh produce becomes limited, the staples of potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots and squashes can help you eat well during cold months.  Teamed up with slow-cooked meats or served by themselves with savory spices or nutty grains, these veggies epitomize Autumn .
River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin shows you how to save all those berries you picked and vegetables you grew and herbs you nursed all summer long.  Pickles, jellies, sauces, jams, chutneys, cordials, vinegars.....this book is from the U.K., and may have some ingredients that you won't get here in Alaska, but you can always improvise!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The home stretch

It's just a little over a week until school starts, and your kids have probably hit their boredom threshold.  They're tired of riding bikes, playing with the other kids in the neighborhood, going to the playground, even (with the glorious weather we've had lately) tired of going to the beach.  How to keep the little nippers entertained until the end of August?
Make it Wild! 101 things to make and do outdoors by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield have plenty of ideas for idle hands.  If you would still like to spend some more time at the beach, have them make elaborate pebble patterns, or rows of little stone towers (pg. 21).  Make rafts out of driftwood, feathers and leaves and hold your own regatta (pgs. 56-57).  A trip to Ward Lake can provide the opportunity to make leaf bowls (pgs 140-141), natural mobiles (pgs. 152-153) or leaf art (pgs 26-31). 
Some of the projects are a little more elaborate - smoke decorated pots, tissue paper kites, twig furniture, felt making - but most of them just require a few suggestions and directions to fire up the kids' imagination and they can get immersed in the design themselves.  I do not recommend the balloons that you set on fire, especially with the dry spell we've had lately.  (The authors think that tethering the balloon down with string so it doesn't fly off into the trees sufficient enough caution, but I can't agree with that).
If you don't have time to do these fun activities this summer, don't worry.  Some of the coolest ideas require ice and snow.  The giant snow sculptures dotted with tea lights (you really have to see the photos) are fabulous, as are the ice lanterns and ice windows.  This book is full of creative, artistic fun your kids can experience in the waning days of any school vacation.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do you SLED?

Have you ever used the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) to find the website of a tribal agency, State office, or Alaska Region department of the federal government?  Have you used SLED to find websites about tidal currents, meteor showers, volcano updates, or marine weather?  Have you ever used SLED to find Alaska-related facts for your students, your homework, your family down South, tourists or a local trivia contest?

If you have used SLED and you value this Alaska State Library & UA libraries resource, please let us know.  It takes money to maintain this site, and the Alaska State Legislature, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Institute of Museums and Library Services and the federal government have been very supportive in the past.  However, it really helps if they know that this service is being used and being appreciated.  A website hit counter can provide the numbers, but it's so much more interesting to hear real people relate their own experiences with SLED, so please let us know!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A must for Patrick O'Brian fans

Do you know the difference between a stuns'l and a sprits'l?  Can you explain "the weather gage"?  Are you an ardent fan of Patrick O'Brian's nautical adventure series featuring Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin?  Then you would probably enjoy our new biography of the first American naval officer John Barry.
John Barry: an American hero in the age of sail, by Tim McGrath examines the life of someone who expressed many of the qualities that we've come to associate as 'American'.  The son of an Irish farmer, Barry escaped to sea to avoid the barbaric penal laws of 18th century Britain.  In the American colonies, he quickly worked his way up from an ordinary seaman to the skipper of a schooner, and by the time he was 30 he was the captain of the impressive new merchant ship The Black Prince.  A powerfully-built, 6' 4" man with a strong temper and a good knowledge of seamanship, Barry earned a reputation for himself.  While captain of The Black Prince, Barry set the record for the fastest day of sail in the 18th century.
But it was his exploits during the Revolutionary War that cemented his place in history.  His was the first Continental vessel to capture an enemy warship, his 36-gun frigate Alliance defeated the British warships Atalanta and Trepassey simultaneously, and he fought (and won) the last battle of the American Revolution.  When the infant republic founded an official Navy, Barry was selected by George Washington to be the First Captain of the United States Navy.
Beat that, Jack Aubrey.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A fitness book for real people

A year after I had my daughter, I had an epiphany.  I was sluggish, everything took an effort, and I was still wearing maternity clothes because I couldn't fit into any of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.  Not good.  But when I started looking for a exercise book or video (we have an absolute slew of them here at the library), I came up against a problem.  Perhaps you've had this problem too.
Most exercise guides seem to be aimed at people who are already fit.  Frankly, if I could do 50 sit-ups in 10 minutes, I wouldn't need an exercise guide.  When you're just starting out on the path to fitness, you need a guide that assumes you can't do any sit-ups, pushups or roundhouse kicks.  A guide that accommodates your stiff joints, tight muscles and spare tire.
Big Yoga: a simple guide for bigger bodies by Meera Patricia Kerr does just this.  She gives you a brief history of yoga, the simple equipment and clothing that will make things more comfortable, advice on how to get around the "stumbling blocks" and excuses people use to avoid exercise, and proper breathing techniques.  But the meat of the book is the section on Hatha Yoga poses.  Each pose is illustrated with a clear photograph, a description of the techniques and benefits, and - most importantly - considerations and adaptations.  For instance, with the Easy Sitting Pose (#38) she advises that if you have a bra with an underwire, you'll want to adjust the position of your arms so you don't feel pinched.  When you do the Triangle Pose (#33), you can rest your hand on your thigh if you can't reach all the way to the floor.
This book is informative, supporting, and reassuring for anyone who is new to exercise and looking for a way to gently ease into a healthier, fitter lifestyle that will alleviate aches, stiffness and fatigue. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Indiana Jones

You may have heard the recent interview on KRBD (courtesy of Shady Grove Oliver from KCAW - a CoastAlaska station in Sitka) with Dr. Donald P. Ryan.  This archaeologist talked about his work, and the excitement of finding the long-sought tomb KV 60 a mere half-hour after beginning the search.  You may have been intrigued at the way in which the well-preserved mummy he found was matched to the known remains of the famous Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt.  You may have been drawn in by his obvious enthusiasm for his life's work and the field of archaeology altogether.  You may have said to yourself "by golly, that man should write a book about this".
Well, he has.  Beneath the Sands of Egypt: adventures of an unconventional archaeologist was recently added to our new book shelves (as I was listening to the radio interview, I thought his account seemed very familiar - when I hopped on our online catalog, I realized why).  Learn more about this real-life Indiana Jones and the combination of tedium and serendipity that make archaeology such an amazing career.  And if you want to listen to Oliver's interview with Dr. Ryan, you may.