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Patience Frederiksen, Grants Administrator, Alaska State Library
By Claire Mayo

"I've always felt that back East you can tinker with things, but libraries have been set up back there," says Patience Frederiksen, Grants Administrator for the Alaska State Library. "In Alaska, you can build a library from the ground up. You can make a very large impact and there's a freedom with my job that I just really relish."

Patience came to Alaska in 1979 from her home state of Rhode Island to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She withdrew from courses before the first semester ended because she fell in love, as she says, and life got in the way. Later she went to Syracuse to attend Library School.

Patience began her library work in the Z.J. Loussac Library in Anchorage, but because of the plummeting oil prices in the late eighties, she was laid off. Two weeks after losing her job she was hired in a grant-funded position in Juneau. This was a one-year position working at the public library doing reference training for the public, state and university libraries. "After six months in that position a position opened up in the state library, and I was a government publications librarian, and I've been with the state library twelve years," says Patience.

Patience Frederiksen
The State Library Branch in Anchorage, home to the library development officers who help statewide libraries, has been Patience's home since 1999. As grants administrator, Patience has no small task. She is in charge of allocating $1.5 million of state and federal money to all libraries in the state of Alaska. Here is how it works:

There are two grant programs. One is a standardized grant, which is given to every public library in the state every year. Libraries must apply and meet certain requirements and then the grant money is used to cover the operating costs of libraries. Then there are Inter-Library Cooperation Grants, competitive grants libraries can use to promote different projects such as bringing in special speakers, covering training costs -- anything their normal budget can't supply.

Regional services grants also serve the state of Alaska in unique ways. The public library in Juneau and the public library in Fairbanks buy and ship books to people in towns were there is no public library. People in these towns can set up a profile of what their families enjoy -- eight-year-old level books, mysteries, cookbooks -- and then the grants cover the cost of buying the paperbacks to send to towns with no public library. "So virtually everyone in Alaska has a library either by being in a town with one or by the regional services program," Patience says.

"There is a lot of cooperation going on to help the small libraries if you don't have the money to buy the materials," says Patience. The public library in Anchorage provides another set of regional services. If a small public library has a reference question it can't answer it can call Loussac on an 800 number for assistance.

One difficult part of Alaska libraries is the size of some of the towns. "We have some libraries that are entirely run by volunteers," says Patience, "so they don't get a salary and in order to obtain our grants their libraries have to be open 10 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year." That is a big commitment for small towns, especially for the few towns that get absolutely no local money, and are therefore running solely on the $6,400 the grants issue. Because the grant requires that $3,500 be spent on library materials, there isn't a lot left over to fund operational costs.

Alaska has an incredible range of libraries. Patience says they're grouped like this: Anchorage municipal libraries are in a class by themselves just by virtue of the size of the population, Fairbanks and Juneau are grouped together and then the top 20 libraries in the state go down to populations of 1,000. "We have 65 libraries that serve populations of less than 1,000. Other states will talk about small, rural libraries with populations of 6,000. When we're outside at national meetings we have to educate people on just how small small can be."

Between sending out grants applications, reviewing the proposals, writing annual reports, and compiling Alaska library statistics for publication in the national library in the United States, Patience stays busy -- but she loves her job at the State Library helping to make libraries possible for every Alaskan.

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