Friday, June 26, 2015

Teen Book Review: The Swoop List: Give It Up

Give it Up
#1 Sanaa
The Swoop List Series
Stephanie Perry Moore

When Sanaa wakes up for another day of school, she just can’t seem to shake the feeling that the day is somehow…off. She makes it to school and she finds out exactly where here feelings of dread are coming from. She’s been added to the "swoop list" and everyone in school is pointing and staring at her. What is this list? Where did it come from? And why is Sanaa #1 on the list?

Stephanie Perry Moore is a popular African American writer who writes in the adult, teen, and juvenile fiction genres. She is well known for her captivating fiction series, and The Swoop List is no exception. Over the course of five fast-paced and engaging books, the author takes a look at the cruel side of high school, where rumors take flight and are taken as fact, whether they’re true or not. The series focuses on five girls from different backgrounds and social circles that suddenly have one very devastating thing in common: they are all on the "swoop list" that’s being circulated around school. Over the course of the books, we learn about each individual girl from the other girls' perspective, giving you a well-rounded view of their actions and feelings throughout the ordeal. Are all of the girls as innocent as they appear or are they hiding something?

The Swoop List series is a great read for any teenagers that are looking for a dose of reality in their fiction.

Pamela Jessie
Woodlawn Branch Library

Reading Program Aims to Bond Families Through Books

Five Points West Library employee Candace Hardy shares a  story
with kids and their parents at Prime Time Family Reading Time.

In April and May, the Five Points West Regional Branch Library ran a series of programs called Prime Time Family Reading Time. At 6:00 p.m. we started with a light dinner for 25 families. After dinner, the group divided into preschool and elementary school groups for storytime. A storyteller and a scholar presented the stories and discussed them with the parents and children. The purpose of this program was to engage parents and children by discussing the stories and encouraging the families to take the example of sharing the stories home with them. This is also a way for the families to bond by reading and learning together. Hopefully, this program has encouraged the families to become active library users for years to come by showing them the resources the library has to offer.

Our next Prime Time Family Reading Time programs will be held in the fall, September 22-October 27, at 6:00 p.m. Please call the Youth Department (205) 226-4017 at the Five Points West Library for more information.

Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West Regional Branch Library

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Reading Is Not Just for Children—Adults Get in on the Fun

Timothy Burkett finds a quiet place to read at the Central Library.
Timothy Burkett has been an avid reader all his life. Growing up in Birmingham, he attended George Washington Carver High School and won several city-wide awards for his science fair projects. When he participated in an Upward Bound program at Yale University, he found his niche as a playwright. When his life took a few unexpected turns, Burkett continued to feed his mind by reading. Today, at 65 years of age, he is participating in Summer Reading and making plans to Escape the Ordinary as a member of the adult reading club.

Since December 2014, Adult Summer Reading and BPL Eastern Region Coordinator, Sandi Lee, has been hard at work organizing outstanding programs for audiences. Along with her counterpart, Janine Langston, coordinator for youth services and the western region, the two have worked with other staff to provide more than 500 programs for summer reading participants. The goal of Summer Reading is to encourage individuals (especially children) to read for pleasure and to read often. Last year, participants collectively read more than 46,500 books. BPL is offering special programs and incentives through July to motivate patrons of all ages, from children to adults, to read what they enjoy. Once participants read the number of books in their set goal, they are eligible for rewards. Reading rewards range from admission tickets to the McWane Science Center and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame to scavenger hunt prizes from Red Mountain Park’s zip line.

Enjoying summer reading tailgate party is (left to right)
Janine Langston, Angela Fisher Hall, and Sandi Lee
“Summer Reading has something for everyone,” stated BPL Director Angela Fisher Hall. “With support from our summer reading sponsor, the Alabama Power Foundation, and other partner organizations, we are able to provide an experience for our citizens to encourage reading for enjoyment and enrichment. This is a time of year that we all look forward to and, most importantly, it is an opportunity to engage everyone in the joy of reading. We hope that more adults like Burkett will take advantage of the incentives we have in place to encourage participation.” Over the past five years, Burkett has read more than 100 books. His inspiration came from former Today Show host Dave Garroway who, according to some, read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica set.

The fun of reading is open to all and, by the way, Britannica is available online via the library’s website. Participants interested in Summer Reading can sign up at any BPL location or online at The online component is a new feature this summer where children, teens, and adults may record reading activities to their account and earn virtual badges, as well as other rewards for participating in library programs. Thousands of readers are expected to participate this summer. Magic shows, art classes, demonstrations with live animals, movies, talent shows, fitness fun, storytimes, and more will be offered at all BPL locations.

BPL Adult Statistics for Summer Reading 2014
Number of adults registered for summer reading: 1,135
Number of certificates awarded for 2014 to adults: 410
Number of books read in 2014 by adults: 5,845
Number of programs offered especially for adults in 2014: 100
Number of total attendees for all adult programs in 2014: 1,171

Make sure to follow BPL's Adult Summer Reading on Facebook!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Library's Historical Maps Highlighted Online

Herman Schoel’s 1888 Map of the City of Birmingham and Suburbs.

Birmingham Public Library's (BPL) historical maps were recently highlighted in Cartographic Perspectives: Journal of the North American Cartographic Information Society. The article, written by former BPL Director George Stewart, discusses the history of the library's map collection as well as current efforts underway to catalog, conserve, digitize, and make all the map images accessible to the public.

The entire article is available online.  Many of the maps are available for viewing in BPL's Digital Collections Database

Benedetto Bordon’s 1528 [Oval Map of the World].

Southern History Book of the Month: Their Blood Runs Cold: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians

Their Blood Runs Cold: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians
Whit Gibbons

Two recent close encounters with snakes at my home (though luckily not in my home) gave me the idea that it was time for some natural history in the Southern History Book of the Month selections. Now available in a new 30th Anniversary edition, Their Blood Runs Cold is a lively look at the world of reptiles and amphibians: frogs and toads, lizards, turtles, salamanders, alligators, and—of course—snakes, which tend to evoke stronger emotions in us than any other member of the reptile family. Gibbons is obviously fascinated with them and though he certainly encourages a healthy respect for snakes, he tries to discourage the response of dread and horror by recounting the way his own feelings about them developed:
The first snake I can remember was a green snake that lay outstretched on the largest limb of a redbud tree in Alabama. We smashed it many times. To death. Making sure. Taking no chances.

I don’t really think I cried that night, but I do remember that I didn’t feel right afterward. I distinctly remember that at five years old I did not feel good about killing my first snake.
Gibbons’ engaging chapter titles kept me turning page after page to learn about “How to Catch an Alligator in One Uneasy Lesson” or how “Turtles May Be Slow but They’re 200 Million Years Ahead of Us.” Of course, even readers who have no qualms about snakes may find themselves swallowing hard when Gibbons faces down a size extra-large bushmaster, one of the most dangerous venomous snakes on the planet. And when it comes to crawling around in blackberry thickets or along swampy river banks in search of mud turtles, frogs, toads, and cottonmouth moccasins, I am decidedly deaf to the call of the wild. But it’s fun to read about from the comfort of an armchair and may cause you to rethink some of your attitudes about all things not so warm and fuzzy.

For more on Whit Gibbons and the world of reptiles and amphibians:

Creepy Crawlers to Voracious Beasts: Their Blood Runs Cold
Amphibian vs. Reptile
Crazy Colored Reptiles and Amphibians on Pinterest

Don’t forget that it’s summer reading time at your library! Check the events calendar for programs like Backyard Heroes and Zoo to You—great ways to get a closer look at the animal world!

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What’s Knitting Got to Do with the Library?

Coffee, Crafts and Conversation at Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Why do libraries offer programs? What do craft, computer, exercise, gardening, magic shows, and cooking classes have to do with books? The short answer can be found in the BPL Mission Statement: The mission of the Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for life-long learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment.

In other words, libraries provide information to improve people’s lives. Sometimes we do this by offering programs that reflect local interests, current events, or national trends. These programs can be on anything that provides new experiences, entertains, enriches, and/or educates.

Storytime at Eastwood Branch Library
A broader answer might be that libraries build and strengthen the community. Libraries have become more about people, specifically bringing people of different backgrounds, races, ages, genders, socio-economic levels, and nationalities together in a neutral space to explore common interests. This leads to discussion and sharing between these diverse groups, which leads to understanding and friendship. Where else in the community can people who have nothing in common except shared interests meet to learn about them—at absolutely no cost to themselves? Everyone is welcome at the library as long as they follow the rules.

All of the information is free, true, and current. Libraries provide free Internet access (including Wi-Fi), as well as assistance with computer use. They are great places to meet your neighbors, find the answers to your questions, see what’s going on in your neighborhood, and learn about anything that interests you. Of course, we still offer books, DVDs, audiobooks, and magazines, most of which can be enjoyed in the library and/or borrowed at no cost. BPL’s website offers digital collections, free downloadable e-books and audiobooks, as well as access to subscription databases—all free with your library card. Libraries promote literacy, too, with summer reading incentive programs for all ages!

Cooking class with Tamar Adler, Eat Drink Read Write 2014
So check our event calendar or website, Facebook pages, or simply look around on your next visit to your local library. You will probably be surprised by all that is available—FREE. If you are a reader of any age, sign up to win prizes for something you already enjoy doing. If you’ve been thinking about growing a few backyard vegetables, pick up some books and find out when the next gardening group is meeting. If you have always wanted to learn how to tat, crochet, quilt, build birdhouses, or pour stepping stones, plan to come to one of the many crafting programs offered. If you want to meet new people, practice your computer skills, apply for a job, shop online, trace your family history, find out more about a medical diagnosis, read the latest magazines, or do research for your own book, the library has all you need to do all of that. Pick up a bestseller or newly released movie, join a discussion group on local topics, or even learn to knit. There’s something for everyone!

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

The Benefits of Exercising—More Than Just Losing Weight

A Crunk Fitness class at Railroad Park.
Photo credit: Lynsey Weatherspoon

There is more to exercise than just losing weight. Do you often feel tired, lack energy, stressed, having sleepless nights? Well, if so, I have the perfect solution for all of these symptoms: exercise!

The benefits of regular exercise are enormous and hard to ignore. It doesn’t matter the age or sex, we all can benefit from exercise and physical activities. The only drawback is getting permission from your doctor if you have chronic health issues or haven’t exercised for a long time.

Here are some quick and long lasting benefits of regular exercise:
  • As you start burning calories for fuel, you get an almost immediate mood boost.
  • Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. 
  • Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. Just don't exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to fall asleep.
  • Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life.
  • One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress.
  • Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things.

The city is equipped with various ventures to exercise:
  • Railroad Park offers free daily fitness classes
  • Various recreation centers offer free exercise classes
  • Birmingham is known for its various walking trails
  • YMCA
  • Personal trainers
  • Various work out facilities and programs

This list too, can go on and on. It doesn’t matter where you go; the benefits are just too good to pass up.

The Public Libraries in Jefferson County offer a wide range of exercise books, audiobooks, and DVDs for check out to help jump start or maintain a healthier lifestyle. 

Loretta Bitten
Powderly Branch Library

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Books That Celebrate the Dads in Our Lives

Father's Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th century as a complement to Mother’s Day. The first observance of a Father’s Day was held on July 5, 1908, in Grafton, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father who had died in December 1907 due to a mining disaster. The Monongah Mining Disaster killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving almost a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested to her pastor that he preach a sermon to honor all those fathers. Although heartfelt and moving as the idea was, the event was ultimately unsuccessful.

History credits Sonora Dodd as the driving force behind the creation of what we know as Father’s Day. At the time Dodd’s own father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran and a single parent raising six children. After hearing a Mother’s Day sermon, she told her pastor that fathers should have a holiday and suggested June 5, her father’s birthday. Unfortunately the local pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons and the celebration was moved to the third Sunday of June.

Thanks to Sonora Dodd’s love and devotion, the first Father’s Day celebration was held in the Spokane, Washington, YMCA June 19, 1910.

Believe it or not, Americans resisted the idea of a Father’s Day holiday for a few decades. It was thought by many to be an attempt by merchants to replicate the success of Mother’s Day and was frequently attacked by newspapers. However, the merchants and Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, remained strong and even incorporated the attacks into their advertisements. In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed a law declaring Father’s Day as an official and permanent U.S. holiday.

A father is someone who cares and provides for you. It is the man who helps to set the standards, the family values, and lives by example. Whether biological, adopted, or informally, if someone is a father figure to you, give him the recognition he deserves. Take today as an opportunity to say, "I love you."

Good read-alouds with Dad:
Because Your Daddy Loves You by Andrew Clements
Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney
By the Side of the Road by Jules Feiffer
How To Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
Froggy’s Day with Dad by Jonathan London
Me and My Dad by Alison Ritchie
Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Tarpley
What Dads Can’t Do by Douglas Wood
When a Dad Says “I Love You” by Douglas Wood
Bigger Than Daddy by Harriet Ziefert

Carla Perkins
Avondale Regional Branch Library

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Free Sumi-e (Japanese Brush Painting) Workshop This Saturday

Artist-Dedham Open Studio:
Sumi-e Workshop (open to teens and adults)
Saturday, June 20, 10 a.m.
Birmingham Public Library
Story Castle, 2nd floor
Registration requested; call 226-3670 or e-mail

Toby Richards, Artist-in-Residence at the Birmingham Museum of Art, will lead a sumi-e workshop this Saturday, June 20 at 10 a.m. at the downtown Birmingham Public Library. Toby studied intensively with a master sumi-e artist in Japan. An experienced teacher in a wide variety of art techniques, Toby has a gift for bringing out the inner artist in others.

The traditional art of sumi-e requires only a few simple materials: black ink, paper, a brush and water. A few quick strokes of the brush, and evocative, arresting works of art materialize in a brief moment of time.

Sumi-e is deeply rooted in Zen Buddhism. The early practitioners of sumi-e were Zen monks who trained in concentration, clarity, and simplicity. The practice of sumi-e was a part of spiritual discipline.

Check out these library resources to learn more about sumi-e:

The art and technique of sumi-e : Japanese ink-painting as taught by Ukai Uchiyama

Japanese ink-painting : lessons in Suiboku technique

Japanese ink painting: Shubun to Sesshu

Japanese ink painting : the art of suḿı-e

Japanese ink paintings from American collections : the Muromachi period

Song of the brush : Japanese paintings from the Sansō Collection

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Registration Open For July 2015 Computer Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the July 2015 Classes.  All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

To register for a class: (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).
  1. Complete name, address and phone information. PLEASE PRINT.
  2. Place a check mark in the check box next to the class(es) you would like to attend.
  3. Return the entire form to a staff person in the Public Computer Services department.
  4. You may also send an email to or use the online form to register.
July 2015 Classes