Nyabony Gat is Health Education Coordinator for Southcentral Alaska Health Education Center. She directs the Peer Leader Navigator program run by the Alaska Literacy Program, training people from Anchorage’s immigrant and refugee communities to communicate health information to their peers. Recently, the PLNs have played an important role in communicating COVID-19 vaccine and testing information, overcoming challenges in language, education, and conflicting information.
Elisabeth Jacobson is winner of CLIA’s Sue Sherif Literacy Award, named for a longtime Alaska librarian pivotal in efforts to support literacy In Alaska. As a volunteer, Jacobson was crucial in starting a Bethel chapter of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides a free book every month to children under age 5. She did everything from raise funds to register participants to network supporting agencies, and hopes to expand the library to the rest of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the future.
Vered Mares is managing partner for Writer’s Block, an independent bookstore in Spenard. Disregarding its infamous roots as a porn shop, in 2018 Mares and her co-owners turned the spot into a bookstore, arts venue, café, and community hub. Writer’s Block is a consistent supporter of emerging and established authors, hosting readings, book signings and other events. Despite a major earthquake, pandemic, and an economic downturn, Mares has made Writer’s Block a literary center for Anchorage.
The University of Alaska Press was created in 1967 as a nonprofit publisher and distributor of books about Alaska and the circumpolar regions. Books in multiple genres, from Alaska Native culture to natural history, from memoir to poetry, have been published over the decades. In the past five years, UAP has suffered drastic budget cuts and now operates with a bare-bones staff. Despite the lack of resources, UAP continues to publish critical books for Alaska, including those preserving cultural literacy, new literature, reprints of Alaska classics, literary journals, and more.
Matthew Komatsu of Anchorage was selected for his leadership in building Danger Close Alaska, a literary community of civilians and veterans. The program was started in 2016 to provide opportunities for writers of all levels. Komatsu is an author and a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been widely published in literary journals, nominated twice for Pushcart Prize and won a 2017 Alaska Literary Award. In 2018, Komatsu received a grant from the Pulitzer Center to travel to Japan to explore the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in which his grandmother was killed. Learn more about Komatsu and Danger Close at https://matthewkomatsu.com/
Dr. David Stevenson of Anchorage is director of the UA-Anchorage Creative Writing and Literary Arts program, and guided the low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program from its inception. In addition to teaching and mentoring others, he is a novelist and book reviewer, and has written extensively on mountain climbing and the outdoors. Stevenson’s short fiction collection, Letters from Chamonix, was the 2014 winner of the Banff Mountain Book Award for Fiction and Poetry. For more about Stevenson, visit his blog at http://ddstevenson.blogspot.com/.
Dr. Phyllis A. Fast, an anthropologist, professor, artist and author of Koyukon Athabascan descent, is winner of a posthumous CLIA award. Born and raised in Anchorage, she earned her bachelor’s degree at University of Alaska-Fairbanks as a young woman, and then returned to school in her 40s to earn a masters from UA-Anchorage and her doctorate from Harvard. She taught at UAA and UAF before retiring in 2014. She was the author of the award-winning Northern Athabascan Survival: Women, Community and the Future. Her writings also include two children’s books and four Native American novels. She died in September 2019.
Sealaska Heritage Institute and Best Beginnings are joint recipients of the Sue Sherif Literacy Award, for their excellence in early childhood literacy. Sealaska Heritage Institute created the “Baby Raven Reads” series as part of its early literacy program for Alaska Native families, and Best Beginnings created “Seasons of Alaska.” Both series highlight indigenous themes and Alaska Native authors, illustrators and photographers, with the goals of encouraging young children to become readers, allowing Alaska Native children to see their cultures reflected accurately, and improving cross-cultural understanding. To learn more, see https://sealaskaheritage.org/institute/education/education-programs/baby-raven-reads and https://www.bestbeginningsalaska.org/seasonsofalaska/
Stephen Rollins, dean of the UAA/APU Consortium Library at the University of Alaska Anchorage since 1998, has spent decades modernizing Alaska libraries. For nearly 20 years, he has been chair of the Statewide Databases Coordinating Committee and a member of the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) Advisory Group, making online resources and services available to all Alaskans. He is one of the founders of Alaska’s Digital Archives, the Alaska Library Network, UA’s institutional repository, and the Alaska Library Catalog, a shared system serving more than 80 Alaska libraries. Currently interim executive director of the Alaska Library Network’s board of directors, he has served on numerous boards and partnerships advancing library programs, services, construction and more. He will receive the Sue Sherif Award for Literacy, named in honor of a former state librarian and ACB board member.
Irene Sparks Rowan was raised in Haines, and started her career as a teacher in Bethel. However, in the 1970s she became a prominent figure (and one of few women) in the fight to establish the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act, and in subsequent efforts to build corporate and cultural structures throughout Alaska. For more than 50 years, she worked on Alaska Native issues from Washington, D.C. to Anchorage. Retirement doesn’t seem to be in her nature; in 2001, Rowan was the force behind the first Alaska Native/American Indian Heritage Month, now an annual event. In 2015 she established the Alaska Native Media Group, encouraging indigenous media professionals in the state. Last year, she organized the first Alaska Native Book Fair, which highlights indigenous authors, and plans to repeat the event this fall.
Arctic Entries came to a small Anchorage stage in 2010, and outgrew one venue after another as its popularity expanded. Founded by Tara Loyd and James Keck, Arctic Entries follows the mold of nationally-known storytelling programs such as The Moth: seven Alaskans have seven minutes to tell a true personal story in front of a live audience (shared later via radio and podcasts). The program is an all-volunteer effort. Each year, proceeds from the event are shared with a non-profit partner. Frequent sell-out crowds and audience enthusiasm have sparked similar efforts around the state.
David Ongley retired in 2017 from 20 years as director of the Tuzzy Consortium Library, which serves the Utqiavik community, seven outlying villages, and Ilisagvik Tribal College. With a passion for building a library that reflected its community, Ongley wrote numerous grants to preserve documents, oral histories, and local publications. He helped create the Alaska Library Association’s Native Issues Round Table and was a leader in developing “Culturally Responsive Guidelines for Alaska Public Libraries,” which has become a model for all public libraries serving Native patrons.
Dick Reichman of Anchorage is one of Alaska’s best-known playwrights. He was the resident playwright at Cyrano’s Theatre Company and has had 11 world premiere plays produced. As a mentor, writer, actor and director, he has had a strong presence at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez over the years. Some of his productions include “The Ticket,” about an imaginary meeting between Wally Hickel and Jay Hammond; and “The Big One,” a chronicle of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Peggy Shumaker of Fairbanks is an internationally recognized poet and non-fiction writer who served as Alaska’s writer laureate in 2010-12. She is the author of eight books of poetry, including the recently-published Cairn, and a memoir, Just Breathe Normally. In 2008 she founded Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press, to publish literature and fine art from Alaska. In addition to her writing and speaking, she serves on multiple boards and is a guest editor for several literary journals.
BOB, Books on Board, is Homer Friends of the Library’s bookmobile program. A totally volunteer effort, BOB is stocked with donated books that are given to children and adults, who are encouraged to exchange other books for them. Volunteer drivers take BOB to various locations in the Homer area on a regular schedule. BOB was awarded the CLIA Sue Sherif Award for Literacy, named for a longtime Alaska librarian pivotal in supporting literacy efforts through the state library system.
Sherri Douglas recently retired after more than 31 years at Anchorage Public Library, with most of her career spent in library youth services. She launched several critical projects promoting youth literacy and community engagement, including the Ready to Read Resource Center, the Play and Learn Center, and Teen Underground. A past president of Alaska Center for the Book, she has volunteered for a broad range of literacy and literary events over the years.
Read on the Fly is the brainchild of Erin Kirkland, an Anchorage-based author who created and writes for the family travel website Alaska on the Go. Last year she launched Read on the Fly at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, placing bookshelves with free books for children to read at the airport, or to take on their travels. The program has now grown to include Fairbanks, Juneau, and Ketchikan airports, with local volunteers and businesses helping out; more Alaskan airports are scheduled to join.
X’unei Lance Twitchell is from the Tlingit, Haida and Yup’ik nations, and is an assistant professor of Alaska Native Languages at UAS in Juneau. He was part of a team of language advocates who worked to make Alaska Native languages the co-official languages of the state of Alaska. He is currently studying in the world’s only language revitalization doctorate program. Twitchell is also a multimedia artist in poetry, fiction and non-fiction, drama, Northwest Coast Native design, and music.
Muldoon Elementary School is the recipient of the Sue Sherif Literacy Award, which honors a retired state librarian. For nine years, students and teachers have worked in the school’s Student Treasures Program to write, illustrate and publish their own hardbound books, ranging from graphic novels to history to science. Students work on writing, grammar, punctuation, story layout and design. Through the Anchorage School District online public access catalog, the books are available to all ASD students and staff, and through WorldCat to readers worldwide.
Regan Brooks is the founder of Story Works Alaska, an all-volunteer organization that provides storytelling workshops to several Anchorage-area high schools. Storytellers and coaches work with students on skills that transfer to reading, writing and public speaking. Story Works Alaska also encourages connections among students and their communities. A former high school science teacher, Brooks began the program in 2014 with support from Vik Patel of Arctic Entries and teachers Temperance Tinker and Rachel Kittoe of West Anchorage High School; more than 1,000 students have taken part since then.
Kathryn Ohle, PhD, is the recipient of CLIA’s Sue Sherif Literacy Award, named for a longtime Alaska librarian pivotal in supporting literacy efforts through the state library system. Ohle, assistant professor of Early Childhood Education at UAA, spearheaded “Supporting the Preservation of Native Languages and Encouraging Early Literacy with Children’s Books.” The collaborative project works with United for Literacy, students and families to provide free children’s books in Alaska Native languages via a free digital library with translated texts.
Don Rearden was raised in southwest Alaska, which is the setting for much of his writing. He is the author of the award-winning novel “The Raven’s Gift,” chosen as book of the year for the Anchorage Reads program in 2015. He describes himself as “a screenwriter, a novelist, and when the mood hits, a poet and tundra philosopher.” He is also a well-regarded associate professor at UAA and was founding board president of 49 Writers. A former Native Youth Olympics coach, he continues to work with rural Alaska youngsters in video and other writing and suicide prevention programs. His debut work of non-fiction, Never Quit, will be published by St. Martins in March 2017.
David Cheezem is proprietor of Fireside Books in Palmer. A nominator described him as “a tireless promoter of Alaskan writers,” hosting readings and other events to highlight their work. Cheezem, himself a writer and poet, holds an MFA in creative writing, and has also served as a borough school board member, planning commissioner, and president of the Palmer Arts Council. He and his wife established Fireside Books in 2001 as a place “where good writing was honored and celebrated.”
Joseph Gorski is Director of Technology and Federal Programs for the Kashunamiut School District in Chevak. Dr. Bob Whicker is director of the Consortium for Digital Learning of the Association of Alaska School Boards. The two helped form a team which translated an interactive children’s book series into the Chevak region’s Cup’ik language. The result is a series of the very first interactive storybooks written and narrated entirely in Cup’ik, helping readers of any age learn to read and speak the western Alaska language. The project has sparked interest in school districts around the state.
Nancy Lord was Alaska’s Writer Laureate from 2008-2010. The author of works of fiction, memoir, and non-fiction, she has also taught at the college level and at school residencies throughout the state, and is part of the core faculty for Kachemak Bay Writers Conference. Her honors include fellowships, artist residencies, a Pushcart Prize and the Celia Hunter Award of the Alaska Conservation Foundation. She is active in conservation and community-building, including chairing Homer’s successful new library campaign.
The Alaska Native Language Archive, housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library, works to preserve and digitize Alaska Native language materials. With origins in materials gathered by linguist Dr. Michael E. Krauss at the Alaska Native Language Center, Dr. Gary Holton, Stacey Baldridge, Wendy Camber, and Professor Emeritus Krauss have expanded and preserved the collection, and make it accessible to researchers and Native language speakers. The archive holds more than 15,000 documents in the 20 Alaska Native languages, including some of the earliest recordings available.
Novelist Eowyn Ivey of Chickaloon, library advocate and award-winning author of “The Snow Child”; Polly Tocktoo of Brevig Mission, an ardent reading volunteer for Imagination Library and Best Beginnings; and Ron Inouye of Fairbanks, long-time Alaska historian, librarian and volunteer.
Sandy Solenberger was selected for her volunteer work with the Tuzzy Consortium Library, Best Beginnings, the Imagination Library and Friends of the Library in Barrow. Her focus on literacy for young children reaches outside Barrow to seven villages across the North Slope.
Greg Hill, director of the Noel Wien Public Library in Fairbanks, was nominated for his creation of “Guys Read,” aimed at increasing readership among fourth grade boys in Fairbanks. The humorous and innovative program has spread to other communities in the Interior, and to a “Gals Read” program as well.
Tom Sexton has celebrated Alaska and poetry for decades. The former UAA professor helped establish the school’s creative writing program, was poetry editor for the Alaska Quarterly Review, and served as Alaska’s poet laureate in 1995. He is the author of 11 collections of poetry; “Bridge Street at Dusk” is his most recent.
Rachel Epstein organizes events at the UAA Campus Bookstore, and enthusiastically promotes Alaskan writers and writing. She brings a steady line-up of Alaskan authors to the attention of the campus and Anchorage community, as well as events for students and amateur writers.
Emilie Swenning of Nanwalek, for her efforts in establishing an Imagination Library in her Kenai Peninsula community, with library space, materials and financial support; and to 49 Wrters, an on-line blog that has grown into a statewide resource for writers, through writing workshops, retreats, courses, authors’ reflections, event listings and other tools.
Ed Bovy and Alyssa Crandall, of Greatland Graphics, for their work organizing and founding the annual ReadAlaska Book Fair in Anchorage; Best Beginnings, a statewide partnership of organizations and individuals dedicated to providing young children with the best possible start for learning; poet and publisher Anne Coray of Port Alsworth, for her establishment of North Shore Press and encouragement of Alaska poets and their work; and Carol Schwartz of the University of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay campus, for her work founding and organizing the annual Kachemak Bay Writers Conference.
No awards given in 2008.
Alaska Sisters in Crime, for its highly successful mystery writers convention, Bouchercon 2007, and support of literacy efforts statewide; and Sue Sherif, school library/youth services coordinator for the Alaska State Library, for long term work in literacy efforts in Fairbanks and Anchorage.
Lila Vogt of Anchorage, treasure for Alaska Center for the Book, member of The Poetry League, and supporter of literary events and activities; Corey Hall, youth services librarian at Kenai Community Library and supporter of numerous Alaska literacy groups including the Kenai Peninsula Reading Council; Judy Ferri of Fairbanks, for her work with the Golden Heart Reading Council, First Book Fairbanks, and the Alaska State Literacy Association; and ICE-FLOE, a circumpolar poetry journal, and its editor/publishers Sarah Kirk and Shannon Gramse.
Valerie Oliver, school librarian at Anchorage s Trailside Elementary School, for writing grants to provide reading tutors for struggling students and for her leadership of First Book Anchorage; Koht aen Kenaege Project and Dimi Macheras for reviving and teaching Ahtna Athabascan through the Chickaloon Village Council; Sharon Russell, a Palmer elementary educator, for promoting literacy in her community for over 40 years; and Barb Dalkey, for her financial and personal contributions to improving her Mentasta village students reading and writing skills.
Julie Drake and Steve Lloyd, owners of Title Wave Books, for promoting literacy in Anchorage by donating books to public schools, medical facilities, senior centers and shelters; Audrey Leighton, Wasilla author, who with her writer s group started Book Bonanza in 1998; Dana Stabenow, author of many books, editor of story collections, columnist and radio host, for her work as a founding member of Alaska Sisters in Crime; and Mike Doogan, author, columnist, and teacher, for delighting Alaskans with his unique sense of humor.
Eliza Jones, an Athabascan from Fairbanks and Huslia, who spent years completing the Koyukon Athabascan Dictionary; The Anchorage Literacy Project, whose volunteer tutors have provided literacy instruction to more than 10,000 adult learners; Anne Newell, a volunter with the Anchorage Literacy Project; and LitSite Alaska, an award-winning web magazine devoted to sharing and developing the literary arts and literacy throughout Alaska.
Sandy Harper, founder of the Alaska Center for the Book and co-owner of Cyrano s Books, Cafe and Off-Center Theatre; Ann McDowell for developing the annual Valdez Theater Conference; Bob Kneifel, Anchorage public transportation director, for the Books on Buses project; and Munirah Mawusi for initiating book discussion groups for prisoners.
Anchorage Women’s Club, for supporting literacy in Alaska since its founding in 1915; Alaska Poetry League, bringing poetry and the power of the written word to new audiences in Anchorage and Alaska; Cook Inlet Region, Inc., providing funds to bring authors to more than 60 Alaska communities; and Kathleen Putnam, for her work in building literacy in Alaska as coordinator of the Authors to the Bush program.
Alaska Northwest Books, publishers of Alaska books for more than 40 years; Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, for its Reach Out and Read program; Soroptimist International of Cook Inlet (Anchorage) for funding literacy programs and establishing libraries; and Ann Dixon, Willow author and librarian, for her work as a community volunteer in literacy.
Gustavus Public Library Reading Buddy Summer Program, for its innovative reading program; Hunik Zoo of Fairbanks, a newspaper of children s writing from Interior Alaska; Jacqueline Hutchins of Anchorage, a tutor in a Recreational Reading Program sponsored by the Rabbit Creek PTA; and Joan Borash, long-time leader and volunteer with Anchorage s Friends of the Library.
Posie Boggs, an Anchorage parent volunteer in a reading tutorial program; Mary Matthews of Fairbanks, for her work with the Literacy Council of Alaska; Claire Rudolf Murphy of Fairbanks, author of several Alaska children s books, including Gold Rush Women, A Child s Alaska, Caribou Girl and more; and The Alaska Geographic Society, for years of publishing books about Alaska.
Marilyn Remele of Wasilla, for her nine years of work with the Anchorage Literacy Project; Babies & Books, a program of Sitka’s Kettleson Memorial Library which gives books to children; Raise-a-Reader, a program of the Anchorage Council for Family and Community Education; and Wayne Mergler of Anchorage, editor of The Last New Land, an anthology of Alaska literature.
Nancy Warren Ferrell, Juneau author of Alaska: A Land in Motion and other titles; Lela Kiana Omano of Nome, for efforts to record from Inupiaq Eskimo and translate to English The Epic of Qayaq; and Doris and Russ Riemann of Anchorage, founders of The Book Cache stores.
Bruce Merrill, Anchorage Municipal Libraries, Alaska Collection librarian; Barbara Brown, Anchorage community activist; and Ron Spatz, Alaska Quarterly Review, in recognition of service to Alaskans.
Alaska Humanities Forum.