Friday, August 12, 2016

Central's Temporary Hours

Due to air conditioning issues in the East Building of the Central Library, the Central Library will have temporary new hours until the air conditioning is repaired.

For the week of July 25-29, the Linn Henley Research Library and the first floor of the East Building (Fiction Department and Circulation Department) will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The second and third floors of the East Building will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Please check back for updates.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Money Matters – Your Spending, Your Savings, Your Future Workshop Scheduled for August 3, 2016

It’s never too late to start building a better understanding of your personal finances and begin developing a plan for the future. To assist you in this endeavor, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is partnering with the staff of the Regions Institute for Financial Education at UAB to offer a series of Money Matters workshops at the Central Library on the first Wednesday of each month from July 2016 to May 2017. Please join us on the dates below to take part in discussions about a variety of money management issues and learn ways to help you achieve your economic goals.

When: First Wednesday of the month
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Place: Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Building/Richard Arrington Auditorium

8/3/2016 – Your Spending, Your Savings, Your Future
9/7/2016 – Risk and Protection
10/5/2016 – Family Money Skills
11/2/2016 – What Every Woman Should Know About Money
12/7/2016 – Protecting Yourself Against Targeted Fraud
1/4/2017 – Dealing With Debt
2/1/2017 – Where to Invest Your College Money
3/1/2017 – Your Credit Report
4/5/2017 – Saving Through Tax Refunds
5/3/2017 – Five Keys to Investing Success

For more information about the workshop series and other financial literacy resources available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by e-mail at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New TV Shows Test Limits of Competitors

This has been a fun and exciting summer of television.  I have been a fan of American Ninja Warrior  for several years now, but this year, the networks have taken the competition shows up a notch.  I have added two new team competition shows, American Grit  and Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge, to my list of favorites and hope they will return next year.  American Grit  actually premiered in the spring, but ended in June.

American Grit

American Grit – Four teams of four, guided by military personnel (“The Cadre”), embark on challenges that mirror actual military training.  Some of the challenges included breaking down camp and setting it back up in another location;  building a shelter, purifying water, and making a fire using very basic supplies; and using a compass and map to navigate to a checkpoint out in the forest, then navigating back to the starting point.  The team who wins the challenge gets a reward and is also safe from having a team member eliminated.  The Cadre for the other teams must select one member of the team to participate in “The Circus.”  The Circus involves a brutal obstacle course followed by an endurance challenge.  Endurance challenges ranged from squatting in a small enclosure while balancing a cylinder on a block to performing sets of burpees followed by immersing your entire body in ice.  The first person to “fail” the endurance challenge is eliminated.  Remaining team members must carry out future missions and face The Circus despite their shrinking numbers.  The ultimate prize is $250,000 for each team member who survives the final Circus.

Dunk Wall - Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge
Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge
Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge – Spartan races have been around for quite a while, but the standard Spartan race is an individual competition.  The course for the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge  was modified to create challenges that required teamwork in order to complete.  For example, team members had to lift a 250-lb wall with a rope to allow members of the team to dunk themselves in 55-degree water and go under it.  Another challenge required all five team members (led by professional Spartan racers) to climb a rope over a body of water and once the last team member is physically out of the water, pass a flag up the rope so the person at the top can clip it to a hook.  Each episode features two heats.  The winner of Heat 1 advances to the final to face the winner of Heat 2 and the team with the next fastest time after both heats.  The team that wins each week’s final moves on to compete for $250,000 in the finale.  The Spartan course for the finale was modified to make it even more difficult.

It is so exciting to watch people push themselves to their physical limits to help their teams succeed.  It’s even better to be able to do that while sitting on the couch eating potato chips.  Although the shows have ended for the season, you can watch all the episodes of Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge  on or the NBC app.  Episodes of American Grit  can be viewed on or the FOXNOW app.  Start training now for next year’s competition!  Maybe I’ll be watching you from the couch (or the recliner).

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pratt City Library Hosting Workshops on Women's Self-Defense, Hospice, and Elderly Abuse

The Pratt City Branch Library is hosting the free workshop Damsel in Defense on Tuesday, July 26, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. The self-defense program is being offered as part of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s 2016 Summer Reading.

Exercise your right to protect yourself with Damsel in Defense. Instructor Bobbie Floyd will equip, empower, and educate women on self-defense with simple strategies, said Deborah Drake Blackmon, branch manager of the Pratt City Library.

The Pratt City Library also has two other summer reading workshops coming up designed to educate the public about two other issues: hospice care and elder abuse.

On Wednesday, July 27, from 11:00-11:45 a.m., Melanie Johnson of Gentiva Hospice will discuss caregiver stress and burnout in the workshop Learn About Hospice Care and How it Can Help You.

On Thursday, August 11, from 11:00-11:45 a.m., Johnson will return to lead a seminar on elder abuse and how many cases of elderly abuse are overlooked. In the workshop, Johnson will share tips on how to look for changes associated with aging or declining health.

Small Business Seminars “Double Header” to be Held at Central Library on Thursday, July 28

It’s not only baseball season, but also small business season at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)! BPL is partnering with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) to host a special “double header” of seminars on Thursday July 28, 2016, in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library beginning at 12:00 p.m. The seminars are free, but registration is required. To register, please visit the Birmingham SCORE website and click on the seminar title in the Upcoming Events section.

Doubleheader Details
Central Library, July 28
  • How to Use Legal Strategies to Protect Your Business
    12:00-1:00 p.m.
    Whether you are forming a new business or already running an established business, this seminar will help you develop a legal plan to protect your assets and investments. The presenter for the seminar is Josh Andrews, a local Birmingham attorney who specializes in legal issues that are of concern to small business owners and entrepreneurs.
  • Boost Your Sales
    1:00-2:00 p.m.
    Are you a small business owner or entrepreneur who is concerned about your sales performance? If so, please plan to attend Boost Your Sales, a program aimed at providing you with both a new slant to your sales approach and ideas for crafting a more effective sales plan. The program presenter is Octavia Kuransky, founder and principal trainer for the Go Sales Group.

For more information about the seminars and other resources for small business development available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by e-mail at

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Southern History Book of the Month: Alabama Biography: An Index to Biographical Sketches of Individual Alabamians, a W.P.A. Project

Alabama Biography: An Index to Biographical Sketches of Individual Alabamians in State, Local, and to Some Extent National Collections, a W.P.A. Project
Sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library

On the Ready Reference shelf in the Southern History Department, there is a thick book bound in black, with a spine title reading W.P.A. Index to Alabama Biography—which is why most people wouldn’t recognize the long jawbreaker of a title listed above. Generally known in the department as simply “the W.P.A. Index,” this is one of our most frequently used sources for Alabama research:
This index to biographical material about Alabamians was begun as a library sponsored W.P.A. Project during the 1930’s. The W.P.A. folded up before the work was completed. The manuscript or typescript was turned over to Southern Collection in this state. Southern staff has found it useful and a great time saver in thumbing through many individual books—books often without indexes or poor ones. (From the preface)
Though a valuable source of information, the Index can still be a bit cumbersome to use. Suppose you wanted to know about William Wyatt Bibb, the first governor of Alabama. You could turn to his name in the Index and see an entry like this: "Bibb, William W, Beverly, I: 39; N.C.B. , X: 425; Riley, I: 1; . . ."

And the entry continues for several more lines. To decipher it, you would have to turn to the front list of sources, in which you discover that “Beverly” means History of Alabama: For Use in Schools and for General Reading by John William Beverly and that the entry for Bibb is on page 39. You would have to follow the same procedure for the rest of the titles in the list. It’s slow going at first, but easier once you’ve learned the drill.

The Index has gone through several evolutions in its history with BPL. When the original and very well-thumbed copy was showing signs of heavy use, a bound photocopy was placed on the shelf, but the photocopy also reflected the evidence of wear and tear as well as the extensive annotations, such as the change from Dewey call numbers to Library of Congress. However, this source became much easier to search when it was converted into one of the library’s databases. Using this format, all a researcher has to do is search a name to generate a list of sources, complete with catalog links to help locate items on the shelf.

Even though the W.P.A. Index was never completed according to the original vision of the Works Progress Administration, it remains one of the most informative guides to biographical material about Alabamians. Take a look at one of our bound copies in the collection or try out the database, which is accessible from your home or office. With the approach of our Bicentennial, it’s a good time to learn more about the people who shaped the history of our state.

Who are your famous Alabamians?

The WPA Index Database
Alabama Bicentennial
Birmingham Public Library Databases

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Registration Open For August 2016 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the August 2016 Computer Class Schedule. During this month, we include a Basic PC class, Excel 2010, Hiring Process for Jefferson County, as well as our popular downloadables class. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) Library. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. You will receive an email confirming your registration for classes. You may also call to confirm your registration.

To register for any class, please email us at or call 205-226-3681. You may also download and print a pdf copy of the August 2016 Computer Class Schedule to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the August 2016 Computer Class Schedule pdf can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Copies for the 21st Century

bad copyEver made a bad copy on a copy machine? We have all been there as the copy may have smeared text, words cut off, thick black lines, and poor image quality. Because none of the books in the Southern History Department can be checked out, our patrons make a lot of copies as they conduct local history and genealogy research.

The Southern History Department applied for a major grant from the Alabama Public Library Service, which administers Alabama’s allocation of federal money received through the Library and Science and Technology Act. With the grant money, we purchased a KIC Click Mini overhead book scanner for the Southern History Department. Because of the overhead design, you can capture an image deeper within the folds of the book and the curvature of the spine of a tightly bound book. It also saves wear and tear on the binding of the books as you no longer have to flip the book over and flatten it to make a copy.

croppingYou will be able to scan in both color and black and white, print, save to a flash drive, or upload to cloud storage (Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, and Dropbox). It can save in the following file formats: PDF, JPEG, PNG, and Rich Text. Another great feature is that is has OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, which can made a PDF keyword searchable; you can also crop your images. Since saving to a flash drive is the most popular option, please bring a flash drive, or you can purchase one from the Friends Bookstore. Saving a digital copy of your scan is free, and prints are $.15 per page.

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Several of our loyal patrons have already tried it out and love it! Wanda Looney, a member of Birmingham African American Genealogy Group, has been scanning pages out of several local cemetery books to help her identify abandoned and overgrown cemeteries. She exclaimed, “I can be in the middle of a deserted cemetery overgrown by weeds, and can pull up the information I need from a cemetery book on my phone. It’s amazing!” We are excited about the overhead book scanner, and cannot wait for you to try it out!

Laura M. Gentry
Southern History Department
Central Library

Central Library Hosting How to Use Legal Strategies to Protect Your Business Seminar on July 28

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host several small business seminars in 2016 beginning in April and ending in November that will take place at the Central Library. The small business seminars are being offered by BPL in partnership with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development.

Seminar presenters will be veteran mentors from the Birmingham chapter of SCORE, a national nonprofit comprised of volunteers willing to share their business knowledge and experience with prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners. For over 50 years, SCORE mentors have helped millions of business owners start or grow their business.

How to Use Legal Strategies to Protect Your Business is presented by Josh Andrews, a Birmingham lawyer specializing in legal issues of concern to small business owners. It is scheduled for Thursday, July 28, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., in the Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium, located on the fourth floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building. This same seminar will also be offered on Thursday, October 27.

The seminar is free but advance registration is required. To register, go to the Birmingham SCORE website at and click on the seminar title in the Upcoming Events section.

For more information about seminars and other resources about small business development available at BPL, contact Jim Murray of Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
Robert A. Heinlein
Illuminated by D. F. Vassallo

The character Lazarus Long is the star of two Heinlein novels, Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough for Love. He also appears in The Cat That Walks Through Walls, The Number of the Beastand To Sail Beyond the Sunset, the story of Lazarus’ mother. Lazarus is rich, wise, and extremely long-lived. He attributes his wealth to the fact he knew to never draw to a pair of deuces, and his long life to never giving anyone the chance to shoot him in the back. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long are a collection of Long’s aphorisms for wealth, happiness, long life, and love. They are also funny.

“Rub her feet” is among the best of Heinlein’s aphorisms. It appears many times in Long’s Notebooks and in the novels. “Don’t try to have the last word. You might get it” is clearly key to a long life. Wealth and love are well-served by “Money is a powerful aphrodisiac, but flowers work almost as well,” as is human happiness by “Always yield to temptation. It may never pass your way again.”

Reading Heinlein one comes to believe that his protagonists are different versions of Heinlein himself. Jubal Harshaw from Stranger in a Strange Land, and Johan Sebastian Bach Smith of I Will Fear No Evil are essentially the same character, cranky, very rich and very old men with hearts of gold down deep. One reads these books for the pleasure of their company, their quips, and useful wit. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long is a collection of Heinlein’s wit distilled, and as his character, Lazarus Long, once said, “A motion to adjourn is always in order.”

Before I adjourn this blog entry, let me assert that this brief title should not be missed for its entertainment sake, if not for any other reason. While the illuminations may not compete with those of The Book of Kells and other ancient illuminated manuscripts, they are compelling as well.

Check it out and enjoy.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Central Library Hosts Computer Coding Camp for Middle and High School Students

More than a dozen Birmingham area teens now have insight on how computer coding is used to create movies and video games, thanks to the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and community partners.

On July 11-15, the Central Library hosted the Steel City Hackers Coding Camp for middle and high school students. Generously funded by a UAB Benevolent Fund Local Agency Grant, the coding camp offered local teens a week-long opportunity to learn how to code and create their own movies and video games.

Teens used ALICE, a computer programming environment designed to teach code and offered free to the public by Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to gaining a better understanding of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, teens learned the importance of algorithms and the building blocks for learning and applying other computer programming languages.

“This program fit well with our mission to provide 21st century informal education programs at the library,” said Lance Simpson, teen librarian for the Central Library. “Our teens had a blast learning to code in ALICE. They had wonderful instructors in Ms. Keiah Shauku and Ms. Kelly Creel.” Simpson said many of the teens started out with no knowledge of computer programming, and by the end of the week had all created a complex video game or interactive video that demonstrated their newly advanced programming skills.

“We are so grateful to the UAB Benevolent Fund for the support of such an innovative program, and look forward to offering more programs like this in the future,” Simpson said.

In early June, the Central Library partnered with the UAB School of Engineering to host another free week-long computer camp as part of BPL Teens Engineer Birmingham, an afterschool program funded by a $50,000 grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund Grant Program. Simpson and Carrie Campbell, grants and special projects librarian, submitted the grant application on behalf of BPL. The money will be used to expand BPL’s teen engineering afterschool program from Central Library to other Birmingham public libraries beginning this fall.