The lengths book nerds go for books. Am I right? I mean, I’ve been wearing a hardhat to work for the past couple years. The historical collections library where I work is nearing the end of what has been a lengthy construction of a new building that will reunite the State Library, Archives & Museum under one roof. (I don’t know how long it has been since these three entities separated to begin with.) Strangely, we’ve been re-shelving our books while the place is an active construction zone. They tell me the hardhat is for in case a construction worker drops a wrench on my head, though it seems to be more often protecting me from my own self dropping books on my head when I can’t quite reach high enough to push them onto the shelf!

Hard hat in library

This phase of the project has in turn made people crazy, apprehensive, and a bit giddy. And we haven’t even started the growing pains of actually being in the same building together yet! Let me share a secret with you: Behind that severe hair bun, pencil skirt, and stern look over the glasses, many librarians have a crippling fear. Change. Thus I was inspired to look into the history of the library and have found it has already gone through some major changes!

Take a walk with me downtown to a little blue and white church…

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

Alaska was once owned by Russia, and you might think that this picturesque blue and white church is a vestige of their occupation. It is in a way, but not directly. (This ties into the library, I swear…)

I was surprised to learn that the initiative to build St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in 1894 came from Alaska Natives. While under Russian occupation, the Alaska Natives were introduced to Greek Orthodox Christianity. The Native languages were incorporated into the services, and some even went as far as to be baptized. After Alaska was purchased by the United States, arriving missionaries attempted to stem the use of the Native language and convert them to their own sects of Christianity. Many Natives retreated to the Greek Orthodox services where they could use their own languages. My interest in this spot, is more academic than spiritual. Father Andrew Kashevaroff arrived in Juneau in 1913. He was a teacher and historian, and he was appointed the first curator of the Alaska Historical Museum and Library. It is somewhat humbling to be able to stand outside the church doors and know that the first curator once stood in that same spot.

The Museum and Library has shifted buildings several times, and was eventually divided into two separate buildings, since Father Kashevaroff’s time. I’ve been told that the museum was once housed in the same space that is now my favorite restaurant, The Rookery. This amuses me since a space where one should never have had food now serves delicious burgers!Rookery

While reading about the history of the church, it appears that women were members of the church community and choir, but never priests. At the time then Alaska Governor Thomas Riggs appointed Father Kashevaroff as curator, women did not hold political offices either. I am glad that today, despite being a female, I am able to be among those that continue the work he started. And we will be continuing that work in a new building being honored with his name and opening on the 116th anniversary of his founding the organization!

I think if the library has survived the influx of female employees and several previous building moves, everything will be alright in the end.

So this year #worldbookday takes me from a small orthodox church to a library under construction-and then perhaps out to dinner. Burgers do sound good after all that shelving…

Where will #worldbookday take you? Where’s the most interesting place you’ve gone or what’s the strangest thing you’ve done for love of books? Tell me about it in the comments below!

*Information for this post came from:
The First One Hundred Years: St. Nicholas Orthodox Church 1894-1994.

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