Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Registration Open for February RLCC Classes

 Registration is now open for staff and the public for the February 2015 Regional Library Computer Center 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. Please call to confirm.)
  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.

Book Review: Unruly Places

Unruly Places
Alastair Bonnett

The subtitle gives you an idea of the intriguing contents ahead: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies. Not only intriguing, but marvelous, pointed, surprising. I’ve read more in the nonfiction travel genre than in any other, so much so that I long ago found it hard to discover truly new areas of the globe. This book, which is more or less in the travel category, walloped me good. The most jaded geography-lover can find an abundance of very interesting material here. I don’t know how many of these 40-odd places Bonnett (an academic geographer) actually went to, but his library work has paid off in spades. If you think you know the world, this book is proof you don’t.

The section titles go further than the subtitle in organizing the stray threads, lone wolves and anomalies: “No Man’s Lands,” “Dead Cities,” “Enclosures and Breakaway Nations,” “Floating Islands,” and so on. It only took reading a few of these chapters, though, to realize that many subsections could easily be assigned to one or more alternate sections. These places are so unruly they can’t even abide Bonnett’s holding pens.

As for “Dead Cities,” who says you have to have an apocalypse to have a post-apocalyptic place? Wittenoom, an Australian desert ex-town, used to have one industry-asbestos mining. When they found out the real cost of the mineral, they cleared the town of people and made it forbidden property. Pripyat had the unfortunate distinction of sitting next to Chernobyl. It’s estimated it’ll be ready for humans again in about 900 years. The trees there are so badly mutated they don’t know how to grow toward the sun.

Familiar with the underground cities of Cappadocia, Turkey? The ones where the persecuted Christians lived centuries ago? People still live there now (and they did long before the Christians, too). They’ve always been good for those seeking safety. Now they’re just good, cheap housing. Over in Saudi Arabia, Old Mecca is about 95% gone. A tragedy, too, since that means that almost all of the Ottoman and Abbasid architecture is gone with it. The buildings raised too many questions about historical complexity that the current rulers of Mecca wanted to deal with. Manila treats its past differently. Overcrowding there has led to poor people living in a cemetery. This has been going on for years, in Manila and other crowded Third World cities. Some Filipinos object, some call it a sacrilege, but the families whose deceased relatives lie there generally like the arrangement, because the squatters take good care of the gravesites. It’s their way of “paying rent.” Not everybody rents, though. Foxes have moved into British cities in the last few decades. They’re so embedded now the Brits have given up trying to get rid of them. The humans have come around to the notion that it’s not that bad having foxes about. They’re in other cities around the world, too. Could they already be in Birmingham? It’s hard to know, as city foxes are nocturnal and spend almost all their time underground. If they are, can we learn from the Brits? Speaking of territory, according to international law, if your plane is registered in Norway (to take one country for example), even when you are in the air over the mid-Pacific, you’re still in Norway and you are bound by Norwegian law.

Through it all, Alastair Bonnett is almost always fair and dispassionate. I do, however, disagree with him when he objects to Mount Athos, the Greek peninsula made up of monasteries that are off limits to women, even to most female animals. He chastises it for its exclusionary policies, but fails to mention convented women who do the same and for that matter the whole point of religious seclusion, which is primarily about avoiding worldly distractions.

But I can complain little about a book with so many wonders, so many fun obscurities. There’s humor, too, such as an account of British doggers, who do more than just walk in secluded woods and “professional pirates” in Somalia who’ve gotten tired of the hassles of traditional piracy.

In a world that threatens to become homogenized, bland and orderly, it’s good to know that millions of people have decided to remain, or become, defiantly different, often in ways that do no harm to anyone. They might show us new ways of living, or even prospering. And the author’s provided Google Earth coordinates, where possible, so you can see a digital picture of the more fascinating reality it represents. That reality is engagingly described here, and I’m very grateful for it.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It’s the Year of the Sheep—Get Knitting!

Andrea Knitting from her Sheep by Barbara O'Brien
This year is the Year of the Sheep, according to the Chinese Zodiac. So what better time to take up knitting or to upgrade your knitting skills? Practicing crafts such as knitting, crocheting, and quilting not only produces unique items that can’t be found in  stores; it also enhances mental, emotional, and physical health. And these claims aren't just anecdotal—scientific research shows that crafting can lead to a sound body and mind.

Knitting has been enjoying a resurgence in recent years. Carrie Barron, a psychiatrist with the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and herself a knitter, believes the popularity of knitting may be a response to the rise of technology, much like the arts and craft movement followed the industrial revolution. And she thinks that knitting may well be the antidote to many of the stresses brought on by modern life.

So here are some good reasons to pick up the needles:

1) Elevates mood and alleviates depression. In a 2013 survey of 3,500 knitters published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, the participants were asked to describe their mood before knitting; 34 percent reported feeling “happy” and 23 percent reported being “a little sad” to “very sad.” When asked to report their mood after knitting, less than 1 percent remained sad and 81 percent described themselves as “a little happy” to “very happy.”

2) Relieves stress. The rhythmic nature of knitting keeps the mind absorbed in a healthy way, thus providing an escape from stressful thoughts but allowing for internal reflection. The therapeutic effects of knitting may be related to similar effects achieved through meditation.

3) Enhances dexterity. Knitting is a great workout for the fingers, hands and forearms. Moving the joints of the fingers forces fluid to move in and out of the surrounding cartilage thus keeping the joints well-hydrated and reducing the risk of arthritis.

4) Improves self-esteem. Crafting gives us a creative and productive outlet. The process of visioning, making, and completing a project boosts our sense of self-worth and encourages us to connect with others.

5) Boosts mental power. One study shows that practicing crafts reduces your chance of developing mild cognitive impairment by as much as 50 percent. Similarly, a French study found that elderly people involved in crafts, specifically knitting, are less likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The Birmingham Public Library has loads of resources to help you knit your way to better health. Here are some good ones to get you inspired:

Knitting Without Tears / by Elizabeth Zimmermann.
The feisty Zimmermann is the Julia Child of knitting. Starting in the late 1950’s, she revolutionized and modernized knitting through her books and instructional series on American public television. Several generations of knitters have honed their skills with the help of this classic handbook.

Knitting Yarns : Writers on Knitting / edited with an introduction by Ann Hood.
In this collection of essays, 27 contemporary authors talk about the transformative power of knitting. Barbara Kingsolver describes shearing a sheep for yarn on her farm in Virginia. Ann Patchett writes about the scarf that knits together the women she’s loved and lost. Sue Grafton shares her passion for knitting. By turns poignant and laugh out loud funny, this book will appeal to knitting enthusiasts and lovers of literature alike.

Mason-Dixon Knitting : The Curious Knitters' Guide Stories, Patterns, Advice, Opinions, Questions, Answers, Jokes, and Pictures / by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne.
Hands down, the most entertaining knitting book I've come across. The irreverant humor will have you in stitches (pun intended), but it's also filled with practical advice and intriguing patterns. Kay Gardiner lives in Manhattan and Ann Shayne in Nashville. They connected in the online knitting community Ravelry as they shared knitting news and the ups and downs of their lives. Together they launched the blog, Mason-Dixon Knitting.

Stitch n’ Bitch : The Knitter’s Handbook / by Debbie Stoller.
Stoller is credited with helping fuel the recent revival of knitting. She holds a PhD from Yale in the psychology of women and is the co-founder of the magazine BUST, which promoted "girlie feminism," a third wave feminist strategy in which traditional feminine activities and traits are re-evaluated and often embraced. Her witty, informative introduction to knitting will have beginners happily clicking away in record time.

Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Knitting : Go Beyond the Basics / by Debbie Stoller.
The fun, fashionable projects in this book will teach you new skills to take your knitting to the next level. The clear (and witty) instructions will have you tackling challenges such as cables, Fair-Isle, steeks--what're steeks, you ask? Check out the book and find out!

Health benefits for those who stick with their knitting
A Knit A Day Keeps the Doctor Away : 5 Health Benefits of Crafting
The Truth About Knitting and Crochet...They are Good for You!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

NFL Championship Weekend

Colts vs. Patriots

Here we go again.  The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are a game away from going back to the Super Bowl.  Seattle players, coaches, and the media have talked all season about how difficult it is to make it back to the Super Bowl the following year.  Earlier in the season, when Seattle was 3-3, I asked my coworker what was wrong with them.  I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t have a better start to the season with their key players returning.  My coworker said that Seattle is overrated and really not that great.  Now that they are in the NFC Championship game with a 12-4 regular-season record and home-field advantage, I say Ha!  Overrated!  Tell that to the Carolina Panthers who lost their divisional playoff game by 2 touchdowns.

Ah, the Patriots.  You can’t beat them with a stick.  Let’s recap their divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.  Ravens 14, Patriots 0.  Ravens 14, Patriots 14.  Ravens 28, Patriots 14.  Ravens 28, Patriots 28.  Ravens 31, Patriots 28.  Ravens 31, Patriots 35.  Oops, did Joe Flacco just throw an interception?  Well, there’s not enough time left for them to get the ball back.  Patriots win.  Again!  The Patriots started the season 2-2 before going on a long winning streak resulting in their 12-4 regular-season record.  They also have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  It has been three years since the New England Patriots played in a Super Bowl, but they go so often, that’s why I said “…going back to the Super Bowl.”  New England is also the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls, so they know what it takes to get there.

Seattle vs. Green Bay

Personally, I hope the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts win this weekend.  I really like Green Bay and since Indianapolis got past the Denver Broncos, I’d love to see them have an opportunity to play for the championship.  I think the home teams really do have an advantage, but this is the NFL.  No one expected Indianapolis to go into Denver and win that game.  No matter what happens, it will be exciting to watch.  The battle to get to Super Bowl XLIX begins tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Arts and Crafts for Senior Adults at the Library

Do you ever wonder how effective your senior adult arts and crafts programs are? Do you ever wonder if you are fulfilling the library’s mission or is this just another program that’s filling a gap for this age group?

Well, there is more to arts and crafts for seniors than just the arts and crafts that are being made. According to recent findings, exercising the brain is as important to keeping the brain alert and strong as physical exercise is important to keeping the body strong and able.

Here are ten benefits of arts and crafts programming for senior adults:

  • Provides a form of nonverbal communication and expression
  • Helps to reduce stress, fear, and anxiety
  • Enriches relationships and encourages socialization
  • Encourages playfulness and a sense of humor
  • Reduces boredom
  • Improves emotional and physical health
  • Nurtures a sense of self and renewed self-esteem
  • Restores and motivates muscle memory
  • Evokes new opportunities for connecting with others
  • Improves cognition and focuses attention

Ideal arts and crafts for senior adults:

  • Needlework (sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, and quilting)
  • Braided crafts (using plastic bags, small strips of material, etc.)
  • Jewelry making
  • Stained glass
  • Painting
  • Wreaths and floral arrangements
  • Ceramics
  • Scrapbooking

Yes, you are fulfilling the library’s mission through arts and crafts. Studies show that arts and crafts participation makes contributions to the well-being of communities, social inclusion, lifelong learning, active citizenship, and volunteering. Arts and crafts activities unlock potential, eradicate apathy and build strong, happy, independent, and fulfilled communities.

Loretta Bitten
Powderly Library

The Battle of New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815, was the last significant battle of the War of 1812. Other events during the war include the Battle of Horseshoe Bend; the burning of Washington, D.C.; and the Battle of Fort McHenry (the inspiration for "The Star Spangled Banner"). Besides the smashing of the British army in only one-half hour, the Battle of New Orleans is probably most notable because the commanders did not know that the war was already over.

The British and their Native American allies had been moving south toward the Gulf of Mexico. The expectation was that they would head for New Orleans to capture it. General Andrew Jackson, assisted by the pirate Jean Lafitte, moved to the city and waited for the British army, led by General Edward Pakenham. The British suffered more than 2,000 casualties; the Americans had 71.

Unknown to Jackson due to slow communications, a peace treaty between Britain and the United States had been signed on December 24, 1814, in Belgium. This was the Treaty of Ghent, which finally ended the fighting between the British and the Americans.

Thus, the Battle of New Orleans became known as “the needless battle.”

The following resources are located in the Government Documents/Microforms Department:

  • Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files
  • War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815-1858, and Index
  • Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who Served during the War of 1812
  • Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who Served during the War of 1812

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents
Central Branch

Thursday, January 15, 2015

12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture to Feature Author Randall Jimerson, January 22

On Thursday, January 22, the Birmingham Public Library will host the 12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library. The speaker is author Randall Jimerson, whose white northern family moved to Birmingham in 1961 and fought for civil rights. The day of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, Jimerson's father saved several pieces of twisted metal and melted glass from the blast. His family donated some of the pieces to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Jimerson details his time in Birmingham in the book Shattered Glass in Birmingham: My Family's Fight for Civil Rights, 1961-1964, which offers a ground-level view of prejudice, discrimination, violence, and courage. He will also sign and sell copies of his book. For more information on the book, please visit:

Melted stained glass from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
Photo credit: Mark D. Jimerson

For more information on the Randall Jimerson program, contact Jim Baggett at 226-3630.

Historic documents relating to King will be on display during the January 22 program.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In January 1965, Crimson Tide’s Namath Began Transformation into “Broadway Joe”

On January 2, 1965, Joe Namath, star quarterback of the Alabama Crimson Tide, signed a contract to play professional football with the AFL’s New York Jets. Certainly, numerous other college players from around the country were signing contracts with AFL and NFL teams as that new year began, but Namath’s was indeed unique. The terms of the deal were astonishing for the time—a three year, no-cut, no-trade agreement that was valued at $427,000, and which included a brand new Lincoln Continental convertible that was custom painted New York Jets green. The 400K figure was not only the largest in the history of professional football; it was, by far, the most money ever paid to an individual in a team sport. By comparison, the average salary that year in the AFL was somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. Even Major League Baseball legend Mickey Mantle, the New York Yankee’s 3-time MVP award winner, made only $100,000 in 1964.

The reason for Namath’s big contract could only be partially traced back to his prowess on the football field. True, Namath had quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to a record of 29-4 during his three seasons, including a 1964 National Championship, but he was never a Heisman Trophy winner or even an All-American. Plus, he had a badly damaged right knee that had limited his playing time throughout much of his senior year. Whatever Namath was lacking in terms of formal accolades and awards, however, he more than made up for with his personality. Handsome and charismatic, he possessed a smooth self-confidence that belied his age and small town upbringing. Those attributes, along with an amazingly quick release on his passes, a superb ability to throw an accurate deep ball, and an uncanny propensity in finding the open receiver, made Namath a hot commodity in the winter of ’64-’65.

Among the many people he met who admired the aforementioned qualities was David Abraham “Sonny” Werblin, President and part owner of the New York Jets. Although Werblin had headed up a group that bought the Jets in 1963, his background was not in professional football. Instead, Werblin had made his name, as well as a lot of money, as the premier talent agent for the Music Corporation of America (MCA). In that capacity, he was influential in managing the careers of some of the most recognized entertainers of the 20th century, including Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Benny, Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Gene Kelly, and Ed Sullivan. So, Werblin not only had the rare gift of being able to identify a budding star, he also had the knowledge and skills necessary to make that star into a celebrity. Having maneuvered his way successfully through Hollywood, Werblin wanted to make a similar mark on football. With the New York Jets providing the proper stage, all Werblin needed to complete the production was someone to fill the role of leading man.

As it turned out, Werblin got his man, the Jets got their star, and professional football would soon have its celebrity. In the early summer of 1965, in an attempt to garner further publicity for his prized signee, Werblin arranged for Namath to be photographed for Sports Illustrated. One of the resulting images graced the magazine’s cover on the issue dated July 19. Standing at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Broadway in the middle of Manhattan, Namath is wearing his Jets uniform and flashing an easy going smile. Although nowhere on the cover, nor in the accompanying article, is the phrase “Broadway Joe” used, his Jet’s teammates thought it an appropriate moniker and so the nickname stuck. As the '60s progressed, Namath would gladly grow into the superstar role that was implied by the nickname, becoming first a fixture on New York City’s late night social scene, and later appearing in numerous magazine ads, TV commercials and shows, stage productions, and motion pictures. Oh, and along the way, he quarterbacked the Jets to an historic victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III after boldly predicting the outcome to the news media a week before the contest. Due in large part to these exploits, professional football would, as the decades went by, become not only a multi-billion dollar global industry, but also a cultural phenomenon whose influence stretches well beyond the playing field. All told, then, I guess Werblin and the Jets made a pretty good deal.

Several books available at the Birmingham Public Library are helpful in detailing Joe Namath’s life and his impact on professional sports. Although it was written without its subject’s cooperation, Mark Kriegel’s Namath: A Biography is still the most complete account of the quarterback’s journey from childhood all the way to his post-AFL/NFL career. An autobiography published in 2006, Namath, is especially noteworthy because of the copious photographs and a NFL Network produced documentary DVD. Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, and Dixie's Last Quarter provides the most comprehensive look at Namath’s years at the University of Alabama.

Jim Murray
Business, Science and Technology DepartmentCentral Library

Book Review: The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man
W. Bruce Cameron

This fiction title by Bruce Cameron—author of 8 Simples Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter (which was made into a series for ABC television), A Dog's Purpose, and other novels featuring dogs, either incidentally or centrally—is a fun and enjoyable read. Cameron does a new take on the plot of The Lovely Bones, with a murder victim providing part of the narrative from beyond the grave. But in this tale, the ghostly presence and observations of the murder victim can be heard by ex-con and former college football standout Ruddy McCann.

McCann, trying to rebuild his life after a tragic car accident sent him to prison, is an ordinary guy just trying to get along. By day (and night) he works as a repo man in the small town of Kalkaska, Michigan. But one day he hears a voice, seemingly recalled from a dream, that helps him in a tough spot. A couple of coincidences (or perhaps a touch of karma) allow him to attempt to right a wrong and perhaps, to win the love of a young lady.

If you enjoy a good murder mystery and a nicely underplayed romance to boot, or if you like a dash of the paranormal, this is a good way to spend a weekend. The current dreary mid-winter weather makes the setting of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in early spring seem right outside your door. A second storyline that alternates between the slightly off-kilter Kermit (who is assigned to “assist” Ruddy at the behest of his boss), and Ruddy's sister and co-owner of a struggling bar in the small town, provides a good deal of humor and elevates the suspense factor as well.

Cameron writes from personal experience, having worked several years as a repossession man himself in this part of the country. This book might hint at a possible sequel. If so, I would highly recommend it. With the likable cast of characters employed here and a storyline that moves along nicely, it would be a good idea to place Cameron’s future (and probably past) work on your “to read” list.

Jonathan Newman
Avondale Library

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Words to Live by for 2015

The year 2015 is already upon us. Many of us have made New Year resolutions that will only last the first week in January. I thought that it would be fun to list some interesting “Words of Wisdom” to live by for the new year instead of trying to maintain certain New Year's resolutions that most of us probably won’t keep. I have always enjoyed reading thought-provoking quotes. With that in mind, I have put together a list of ten of my favorite quotes about love, life, faith, philosophy, and wisdom as powerful words to live by for 2015.

10. “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” (Mark Twain)

9. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (Socrates)

8. “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” (Colin Powell)

7. “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” (Billy Sunday)

6. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” (Martin Luther King)

5. God has given us two hands—one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.” (Billy Graham)

4. “The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

3. “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” (William Shakespeare)

2. “The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.” (Billy Graham)

1. Faith is not the denial of facts but the recognition of a greater truth. (Unknown)

If you enjoy reading quotes as much as I do, check out this interesting website and Happy New Year!

Andrei Jones
Five Points West Library

Tablet Computers: This Year’s Must-Have

Did you find a tablet under your Christmas tree? If you did, you know there’s more to them than meets the eye. There are so many functions that you are performing on a laptop or desk computer that can be done just as easily from a tablet. You can read books, watch TV and movies, listen to music, surf the web, and create documents.

Proper training will help you get the most out of your tablet. Whether it was a Kindle, Samsung, HP or Ipad, we can show you how to get the most from your device.

The library has several very good resources in our collection to help you:

Android Tablets for Dummies by Dan Gookin
Android Tablets in Easy Steps by Nick Vandome
Galaxy Tab: The Missing Manual by Preston Gralla
iPad & iPad Mini: Absolute Beginners Guide by James F. Kelly
Kindle Fire HDX for Dummies by Steve Weber
Kindle Fire Owners’ Manual by Steve Weber
My Samsung Galaxy Note 3 by Craig Johnston
Tablet PCs in Easy Steps by Michael Price
Teach Yourself Visually Android Phones & Tablets by Guy Hart-Davis

Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Library