Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dalai Lama Events at Birmingham Public Library Scheduled for October 14-23

To help the public learn more about the Dalai Lama prior to his Birmingham visit in late October, the Birmingham Public Library will offer several free programs and resources.

The following locations will feature free screenings of the documentary 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama:

Wednesday, October 15, 12:00  p.m., Central Library
Tuesday, October 21, 12:00 p.m., Avondale Library
Tuesday, October 21, 6:30 p.m., Springville Road Library
Wednesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m., East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 10:00 a.m., Smithfield Library
Thursday, October 23, 11:00 a.m., Titusville Library

A resource list about books and DVDs on His Holiness will be available at Birmingham library locations in October.

Part of Human Rights Week will include the city's A Celebration of the Human Spirit Film Festival, a two-day film festival with movies that celebrate the human spirit, the quest for freedom, and the power of individuals to change the world. Walden Media will host free screenings on Friday, October 24, at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and on Saturday, October 25, at the Alabama Theatre.

One of the movies is The Giver, a 2014 film based on Lois Lowry's young adult novel of the same name. The book was the winner of the 1994 Newberry Medal and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Lowry will attend the Friday, October 24 screening. The book is also one that the Birmingham Public Library gave free to patrons this fall as part of its Read It Forward campaign. Libraries in downtown Birmingham, Ensley, North Birmingham, Five Points West, Woodlawn, West End, Wylam, Avondale, and Titusville still have free copies of the book.

The four Walden Media films are free, but attendees must register in advance via EventBrite. Here's the schedule:

Friday, October 24, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art, 7:00 p.m.

Friday, October 24, The Giver, Birmingham Museum of Art, 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 25, I Am David, Alabama Theatre, 2:00  p.m.

Saturday, October 25, Amazing Grace, Alabama Theatre, 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BPL Staff Supports Community As Part of Training Day

Staff Modeling Up-Cycled Scarves and Bags

Last week the staff of the Birmingham Public Library gathered together for the annual day of training. Every year on this day, the staff supports the community by collecting Christmas toys for Mayor's Office-Division of Youth Services and canned food for the local food banks.

This year a new opportunity to support the Birmingham community was initiated by the library's United Way coordinator, Stephanie George. Stephanie, who has a passion for crafting and recycling, asked staff to help her with her United Way fundraiser by donating old T-shirts. She took the used T-shirts and up-cycled them by creating beautiful scarves and bags. The scarves and bags were sold for five dollars each during the day and $475 was raised. The fund raiser not only made use of recycled materials, but was also a fun and creative way to support a most worthy cause. The BPL staff look forward to seeing what new fundraising project Stephanie creates next year.

Stephanie George 

The City of Birmingham and the Birmingham Public Library to Show Free Film Screenings Prior to the Dalai Lama's October 26 Visit

The Dalai Lama will be in Birmingham this week as part of Human Rights Week. Prior to his public appearance on Sunday, October 26 at Regions Field, the City of Birmingham and the Birmingham Public Library have planned several free film screenings that celebrate the human spirit, the quest for freedom, and the power of individuals to change the world.

Several library locations will show the documentary Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama, October 21-23:

Wednesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m., East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 10:00 a.m., Smithfield Library
Thursday, October 23, 11:00 a.m., Titusville Library

Walden Media will host free screenings of different films on Friday, October 24, at the Birmingham Museum of Art and on Saturday, October 25, at the Alabama Theatre.

The four Walden Media films are free, but attendees must register in advance, via Eventbrite. Here's the schedule:

Friday, October 24, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art, 7:00  p.m.

Friday, October 24, The Giver, Birmingham Museum of Art, 9:00  p.m.

Saturday, October 25, I Am David, Alabama Theatre, 2:00  p.m.

Saturday, October 25, Amazing Grace, Alabama Theatre, 7:00 p.m.

For ticket information about the Dalai Lama's October 26 appearance at Regions Field, please visit

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Magic City Classic Comes to Birmingham, October 25

The Magic City Classic is an annual American football "classic" between  Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University, two of Alabama's most prominent historically black universities. The game is payed at Legion Field in Birmingham, and some of the festivities held in conjunction with the game include a parade and the "Battle of the Bands" between the two schools' marching bands.

In the early seventies, I had a memorable experience—one of excitement, curiosity and fascination. I was curious as to why my mother dressed me in my finest to sit outside in the frigid temperature, and excited to attend one of the most renowned HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) football games. It was formerly known as the "Classic,” but later the name was changed to the "Magic City Classic.” I was also excited by the number of people gathered at the Classic, or as some labeled it,  “The Fashion Show,” where they dressed in their finest consisting of long fur coats with matching hats, leather suits, and, leather gloves. The half-time featured performing bands and presentation of the homecoming court in beautiful dresses, long gloves, and tiaras. I was not fascinated with the football game itself, but I was fascinated by how family and friends bonded and the camaraderie of attending a HBCU game, even if they didn't attend either school.

Years later, the Magic City Classic has transformed the city: the economy flourishes, RVs arrive a week early to secure a good parking space, vendors abound, stylish cars are everywhere, sky shows are broadcast with radio personalities Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey, tailgating is de rigueur, and T-shirts are high-fashion.

Located in the center of the classic festivities is the Smithfield Library, (formerly the Booker T. Washington Library and the first library for blacks in the state of Alabama), a vital link and iconic landmark located in one of Birmingham’s most historical districts. Because the streets around the library are blocked off for the game, Smithfield library will close at 1:00 pm. on Friday, October 24, and will be closed on Saturday, October 25.

It's time for family, fun, and good food! See you next year!

University Websites

Magic City Classic Schedule of Events

Magic City State-Farm Facebook

Historically Black Colleges and University Resources
I'll Find a Way or Make One: A Tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities
History of African American Colleges and Universities

Black Colleges and Football Resources
Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights 
Integrating the Gridiron: Black Civil Rights and American College Football


Yolanda Hardy
Smithfield Library

Monday, October 20, 2014

November is National Novel Writing Month!

If you've ever thought about writing a novel, it's time to blow the dust off your keyboard and get busy!

National Novel Writing Month challenges people of all ages to write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. This year, NaNoWriMo expects 400,000 participants from 616 affiliated chapters across six continents. “Every year, we're reminded that there are still stories that have yet to be told, still voices yet to be heard from all corners of the world,” says Executive Director Grant Faulkner. “NaNoWriMo helps people make creativity a priority in life and realize the vital ways our stories connect us. We are our stories.”

To participate is easy: simply sign up at Writing begins on November 1 and ends at midnight on November 30. Anyone who crosses the 50,000-word finish line is declared a Winner. In the meantime, NaNoWriMo lets burgeoning writers connect with a worldwide community of like-minded novelists through discussion forums, online chats, and weekly "pep talks" from big-name authors such as Jim Butcher, Tamora Pierce, Brandon Sanderson, and many more! Local events and meet-ups are organized in communities across the globe by a legion of volunteer Municipal Liaisons (Birmingham's is none other than yours truly, BPL Collection Management librarian Jared Millet).

To be clear, National Novel Writing Month is not a writing contest in the traditional sense. There are no judges to grade the quality of your work and there is no Grand Prize of publication at the end. It is a marathon, plain and simple. To produce a novel worthy of publication requires years of editing, revision, and mastering the craft of authorship. NaNoWriMo is a path to that all-important first draft and turns the dream of writing a novel "some day" into the reality of writing a novel now.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Librarian's Guide to Interviewing

Ziggy interviewing cartoon

One of the remarkable things about being a librarian is that some people think we know everything.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people ask for my opinion or ask me a question about something in which I have no expertise.  For example, people walk up with all manner of cell phones and ask various questions about them.  I have a Windows phone, which definitely puts me in the minority, so when someone asks me how to do something on an iPhone or Android phone, I may be able to figure it out, but I have no first-hand experience.  The same is true for various laptops, tablets, etc.  

Since people ask for my opinion on various topics, I’ve decided to discuss a topic that I have experience with, but I’m in no way an expert.  I have interviewed and hired people to fill vacant positions, as needed, for many years.  I have also co-interviewed with others who were filling vacant positions.  I’m not a human resources professional, but based on my personal experience hiring people, I am going to give you, the reading public, some tips on interviewing.

Tip 1:  Read the job description.  If you are applying for a job that requires you to spend your shift shelving books, you do not have a desk job.

Tip 2:  Know something about the company you are applying with.  Question: How often do you use the library?  Answer: I haven't been in a library since high school.  Unless you just graduated, chances are that things have changed.

Tip 3:  Dress like you are going to a job interview.  Your outfit might look great at a nightclub, but since you aren't headed to one, you may want to change clothes.

Tip 4:  Arrive early for your interview or at the very least, be on time.  Keep in mind that the interviewer has scheduled it at a specific time for a reason.  Showing up late not only gives a bad impression, it throws the interviewer’s schedule into disarray.  Call if you're going to be late, don't wait to apologize once you get there.

Tip 5:  If you want the job, don’t make insulting comments about the interviewers, the questions they ask, or the company you are applying with.  I have been amazed over the years at some of the things applicants have said during the interview.  I’m thinking, “he or she didn’t just say that.”

Tip 6:  If you want an expert’s advice about interviewing, consult the resources we have at the library.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Renasant Offers Entrepreneurial Success Series

Renasant Bank is reaching out to help small businesses succeed with a free six-part entrepreneurial success series. Series topics include Financial Management, Networking and Relationship Building, Social Media, Tax Information, Business Plan Components, Human Resources and Access to Capital.

Renasant staff and local experts are leading these valuable learning sessions throughout the Birmingham and Shelby County communities. The event is co-sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library System and Trudy Phillips Consulting. Complementary refreshments will be served.

Tracey Morant Adams, Senior Vice President Small Business and Community Development Director said of the series, ‘This free series is part of Renasant Bank’s continuing commitment to further the success of small business owners and entrepreneurs in our area. We are pleased to provide valuable tools and insight to help our local community businesses thrive and flourish.”

To register for any of the sessions, please visit:


Financing, Lending Sources and Credit
Pratt City Library
October 23, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Self-employed & Small Business Tax Workshop
Woodlawn Public Library
November 20, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

One-Page Business Plan with Financial Projections
Alabaster City Hall
January 15, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Contract Employees vs. Full Time Employees
Avondale Public Library
February 12, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Children's Book Reivew: Coraline

Neil Gaiman

This time of year kids and parents are always looking for a spooky story. One of my all-time favorites is Neil Gaiman’s novella, Coraline. I think it’s the perfect Halloween read for (almost) all ages.

Coraline is a little girl who is bored and lonely. Her parents’ eyes are always glued to their computers. They have just moved into a new building in a different neighborhood, an old mansion divided into flats. Without a sibling or a friend to play with Coraline explores the creaky old building and finds companionship with the wacky neighbors. Coraline becomes acquainted with Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two old ladies retired from show business, and Mr. Bobo, who is allegedly in the process of training a mouse circus. One rainy day when she is confined to the house, Coraline finds a peculiar door in her living room. Her curiosity is piqued when she opens the door to find the entrance bricked up. The neighbors all warn her to stay away from the mysterious door, but Coraline is a curious and stubborn soul, she has to investigate.

She opens through the door again and finds the brick barrier vanished. She follows the hallway into the Other World. She finds a flat much like her own with a family that is a lot like her family. Her Other Mother and Other Father bear a striking resemblance to her own parents, but there a few altered details. The most unsettling is that they have buttons sewn onto their faces where their eyes should be. For Coraline, it can almost be overlooked as the Other Parents are attentive and exciting. In fact, everything in the Other World is more interesting—her neighbors and toys are much more entertaining and she even meets a talking cat! However, all good things must come to an end and Coraline needs to go back into her real world. But the Other Mother offers Coraline a chance to stay forever. All she has to do is allow her to sew black buttons over her eyes. Obviously, this seems a very bad deal for Coraline, who flees in terror and makes it safely back to her side of the world.

There’s just one problem: her real parents. Coraline can’t find them anywhere in the apartment. She spends the next couple of days alone and afraid until she finds her family imprisoned behind the mirror. She correctly deduces that the Other Mother is behind this and she has no choice but to confront her to rescue her family. Coraline has to use her courage, wits, and help from a trio of ghost children (the Other Mother’s previous victims) to free her parents and the spirits of the children.

This book practically begs to be read aloud. Either by a parent or Neil Gaiman himself (the audiobook is fabulous!). It’s certainly horrific but in a way that will give kids a good dose of the creeps without keeping them up at night. The premise is certainly horrific. The thought of having buttons sewn over your eyes and your family spirited away is truly upsetting, but Gaiman’s clever writing keeps the tone lighthearted and it helps to take the edge off. I would recommend it for elementary school students at the youngest and it’s a great read for middle school, high school, and even adults. It is a creepy story for sure, so if you have a child in your family that scares easily you might want to try it first to see what it’s like.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

Popular Birmingham Noir Walking Tours Scheduled for October 26 and 30

Which of these buildings was home to Birmingham's most famous brothel?

Birmingham Noir: A Nighttime Walking Tour of Notorious Downtown Historic Sites

Fallen Women

October 26 and 30, 2014

Put on your walking shoes and join Birmingham Public Library Archivist Jim Baggett for a visit to some of Birmingham’s most infamous historic places. Learn about the Magic City’s most famous brothel, spectacular 19th century murders, political intrigues, and the scandal that nearly destroyed Bull Connor’s career.

Admission is free, but reservations are required and spaces are limited. These tours always fill early.

The tours begin at 5:45 p.m. in the atrium of the Central Library and last approximately 90 minutes. The tours end back at the library so visitors are welcome to park in the library’s lot.

To make a reservation contact Jim Baggett at

Back to Basics: Beginner Computer Classes offered for November

How do you turn this on? Why is this called a mouse? Why is it called "Windows," and where are the curtains? 

It seems that practically everything we do uses a computer. For many who have never dealt with a computer, these every-day operations can be daunting. Just the terminology alone can send someone screaming back to the pre-Y2K hills!

The Regional Library Computer Center offers basics courses to introduce people to computers. The courses and trainers help technology newbies become less intimidated with working on a PC. All it requires in taking the first step and then one-step at a time. It takes time and practice.

For those who have had a class or more under their belt, here are some web sites for practice. The more you become familiar with the basics, the sooner you can take the next step.

Mouse Exercises Tutorials:
  • The Palm Beach County Library offers tutorials to help beginners learn to use the mouse. The “Mousing Around” tutorial is a more detailed session. “Mousercise” helps you practice mousing skills learned from “Mousing Around” or other lessons. “Practice Games” are fun ways to practice your mousing skills.
Typing Tutorials:

  • TypingWeb is a free online typing tutor & keyboarding tutorial for typists of all skill levels. TypingWeb includes entertaining typing games, typing tests, and free official typing certification.
  • This website had typing tutorials and a typing speed test. There is also a kids section. You do need to enter an email address to register for this site. The only drawback is the advertising on the site, which gives it a cluttered appearance.
  • The virtual keyboard allows you to practice your touch typing skills. Go to the site, select your keyboard, and give it a try.
  • This website has typing lessons that also provide feedback when you make a mistake. You can see how fast and how accurate you are typing. Make sure you look for the QWERTY link for lessons on the QWERTY keyboard. Begin with lesson 1 and proceed as you wish.
November classes are also open for registration. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center, located on the fourth floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building. Registration is required for all classes. Please note that we will not offer classes in December.

Legal Services Alabama to Offer Will Preparation Services at East Lake Library, October 23

Legal Services Alabama, a nonprofit law firm in Birmingham, will offer will preparation services at the East Lake Library. They were on hand at Central and North Birmingham Libraries in August and September to offer assistance.

To qualify for a free will, a person must be a Birmingham resident and must fall into one of the required income areas: under $34,200 for a single person; $39,050 or less for a family of two; $43,950 or less for a family of three; or $48,800 or less for a family of four. For those unable to meet the income requirements but are over 60 years old, the law firm may still be able to help.

East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 2014
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

"Basically, we think everybody should have a will. If you have parents or kids, you should have a will,'' said Dru Clark, an attorney with Legal Services Alabama. Those also in need of a will should be anyone: owning a home, with a bank account, with elderly parents, with dependents with special needs, or without close relatives but interested in leaving items to a friend.

"The goal of the wills clinic is to raise awareness of how easy it is to get a will done. It's not a painful experience,'' Clark said. "There's a stigma associated with a will - that you will die tomorrow. But that's not the case. Having a will is just good planning.''

Those needing help with what to do with a loved one's estate may also seek help during the clinics. The service is part of “Preserving the Wealth of Our Communities Project (PWOCP),” which is made possible because of Birmingham Mayor William Bell's RISE initiative. The RISE initiative is an effort to strengthen neighborhoods, eliminate blight, and increase property values. The program is also for low-to-moderate income property owners and senior citizens of Birmingham.

For more information, call Dru Clark at 205-328-3540, ext. 3508.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pratt City Community to Celebrate Red Ribbon Day, October 18

One of the entries in the Red Ribbon Day contest. 

Pratt City Library staff members Lenairria Creer, Fannie Jolly, Alexandria Mitchell, and Deborah Blackmon will serve on a panel of judges to decide the winners of the Red Ribbon Day poster contest. Students from South Hampton Elementary and Jackson Olin High School designed posters using the theme "Love Yourself. Be Drug Free."

Red Ribbon Day is an annual event observed in the Pratt City community and across the country that focuses on drug, alcohol, and violence prevention. The National Family Partnership organized the first Nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign to recognize two DEA agents murdered in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since its beginning in 1985, the Red Ribbon has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Angene Coleman, representative from Olivia's House, and residents will be on hand to help promote the program and enjoy the festivities.

Red Ribbon Day will be held Saturday, October 18, 2014, in the heart of Pratt City on Carline Avenue. Come sign the Red Ribbon Pledge and enjoy food, live music, health fairs, and more. First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded to the winners of the poster contest.

Deborah Drake
Pratt City Library