Thursday, May 31, 2012

Devastating Budget Cuts Proposed for the Library

funding graph
Our City Council will have many tough decisions to make very soon. At the top of the list for us are the distressing cuts proposed to the Birmingham Public Library System’s budget, nearly $125,000 less than last year’s budget and $800,000 less than previous years. The deepest cuts are concentrated in the library’s materials budget, used to buy traditional and electronic books, databases, music, movies, DVDs, and more. This reduction—coming on the heels of previous extreme cuts in this line item—is devastating. Additional cuts to supplies and janitorial services are also very serious and threaten the library’s ability to provide services in a safe and clean environment.

As the city’s oldest cultural institution, the Birmingham Public Library serves more than 2 million citizens every year. Contrary to popular belief, the use of the library has gone up over the last several years with an explosion of patrons using free downloadable books and electronic resources and more people taking advantage of the library’s free educational programming. Cutting the book budget is a serious loss to our patrons. “This is the library’s core business,” said Director Renee Blalock, “and without current materials we simply cannot serve a growing public and fulfill our mission.”

Since 1886, Birmingham citizens have depended on the library for educational support for all ages. Children depend on free learning materials to supplement schoolwork. Entrepreneurs depend on finding the most current resources for starting a business, improving the business they have, and finding new markets for their products. People looking for employment depend on access to computers and databases.

The proposed expenditure on learning materials will fall below $3 per capita. This first class institution that serves and represents the City of Birmingham is in grave danger of not meeting the most basic standards for libraries. Birmingham will lose access to books, DVDs, databases, magazines, newspapers, and much, much more if these cuts are approved.

On behalf of our Board, staff and patrons, please communicate to Birmingham’s City Council members the importance of restoring the library’s budget to the highest level possible. Write, call, or visit your councilor to spread the word that now is the time to come to the aid of the BPL to help the library continue to serve Birmingham according to its mission! Our city’s citizens deserve better.

Summer Math Enrichment Program at West End Library

math equationsThis summer, West End Library will host a Summer Math Enrichment Program that begins June 5 and ends July 31. The program will meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. There is only room for twenty students, so parents must come into the West End Library to register their child.

The Enrichment Program is for students grades K-8. Students will work on addition, subtraction, multiplication, word problems, fractions, and pre-algebra. Tutors are Willa McNeal, retired R.N.; and Tamara Wilson, who is currently a Nutrition Sciences M.S. student at UAB. Both McNeal and Wilson have tutored students at the West End Library for two years in the West End After School Reading Program which is held once a week during the school year to help students with their reading skills.

Maya Jones
West End Library

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Eudora Welty: Exposures and Reflections

Exposures and Reflections promotional poster
In 1936, Eudora Welty was catapulted into the popular American spotlight as one of the century’s great Southern literary voices. However, many Americans to this day do not recognize her body of work as a gifted photographer. The author/photographer claimed the two art forms were parallel activities, with the photography never affecting the product of her pen. Presented to accompany the exhibit Eudora Welty: Exposures and Reflections on display in the Birmingham Public Library gallery, Jacob Laurence, curator of exhibits at the History Museum of Mobile, will explore the unique relationship that exists between Welty’s written and photographic work. Wednesday, June 6, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan

book cover
Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan
Rick Bowers

This nonfiction work accounts the creation of the Superman character by two Jewish boys and how the character developed through comics, newspapers, and radio shows. Then the account changes to the rise and fall and rise again of the Ku Klux Klan until the Superman franchise hits on the scheme of pitting Superman against the Klan in 16 episodes of the radio show. Very interesting and educational without being boring.

Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West Library

Both Sides of the Lens: Photographs by the Shackelford Family, Fayette County, Alabama (1910-1935)

Members of the Shacklford family on their front porchMembers of the Shackelford family on their front porch steps, Covin, Alabama.

Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will present Both Sides of the Lens: Photographs by the Shackelford Family, Fayette County, Alabama (1910-1935) featuring 40 photographs from this collection of early 20th century glass plate negatives. The exhibition opens in the Fourth Floor Exhibition Gallery of the Central Library on Monday, July 23 and runs through Friday, September 14. An opening reception will be held in the Arrington Auditorium followed by a tour of the exhibition on Tuesday, July 24 at 6:30 p.m. The reception will feature a lecture by Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The photographs—rich for their visual record of everyday life in rural Alabama—are also remarkable because of the story behind them. Taken by a family of African-American photographers who lived in Covin, Alabama, the images reveal the lives of the photographers as well as those being photographed.

Featuring African Americans and whites who lived in or were traveling through the county, the images illustrate the significance of the photographic experience in the early 20th century and expose the places, events, and possessions valued by people in the community. The photographs are mostly outdoor portraits of families, children, couples, and individuals often posing with an object they held dear—a book, a car, a pocket watch, a gun, or a musical instrument.

The photographs were produced by one or more members of the family of Mitchell and Geneva Shackelford of Fayette County. As large landholders who also owned a general store, the Shackelfords were well known in the county and were prominent members of Covin’s African American community. The couple was instrumental in forming a school and Baptist church in the first two decades of the twentieth century. After Mitchell’s death in 1919, Geneva and her four adult sons continued to farm and accumulate land. “The Shackelford brothers,” as they were called, also owned and operated a saw mill and syrup mill.

Members of the Shackelford family were closely involved in developing the exhibition and will be present at the reception on July 24.

The exhibition is curated by Andrew Nelson, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park, whose research on this Archives collection inspired the exhibition. Nelson will present a gallery talk on July 26th at noon. The exhibition’s co-curators are Jim Baggett and Kelsey Bates, Archivist and Assistant Archivist at the Birmingham Public Library. All three curators have been working closely with Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson of the University of Maryland, College Park, an expert on African American material culture who will be lecturing on the exhibition during the opening reception on July 24. BPL is also working with the premiere expert on Alabama photography, Frances Robb.

The exhibition is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Alexander McCall Smith


If you’ve never read an Alexander McCall Smith novel, this is a great time to start. You will love these delightful books if you enjoy humor with just a touch of mystery, charm, philosophy, as well as quirky characters and adventure. All of the books gently blend in ethics and moral obligation as characters deal with business in their day-to-day lives. McCall Smith is a prolific author who has written five series including the The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, Isabel Dalhousie, Corduroy Mansions, 44 Scotland Street and Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Perhaps the best known is The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency novels which are international bestsellers. If you are particularly fond of British humor, don’t miss the Corduroy Mansions or 44 Scotland Street Series. Each one is special in its own way.  He has also written 40 children’s books, 14 nonfiction titles and his books are published in 45 languages.

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series all began with Precious Ramotswe who started a detective agency to help people solve their problems. In fact, she is Botswana’s only female private detective. Precious is a strong female character who loves Africa with all of her heart. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, while also feeling compassion for others. She uses her powers of observation, patience, intelligence and caring to help her solve mysteries for friends and strangers in Botswana. Grace Makutsi is the agency’s secretary and Ramotswe’s assistant. Importantly, as the character often points out, she is a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College with a score of 97% on her secretarial exam. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is a mechanic and owner of Tlokweng Speedy Motors. He is a kind, gentle and quiet man and eventually becomes Precious’ husband. As you read through the novels, you learn of the beauty of Africa and its people, particularly Botswana. Many of the descriptions of the African land are just beautiful. You will also learn about the culture and traditions in Africa which I found especially interesting. These books progress at a slower pace, but are filled with charm, humor and optimism. Most of the mysteries are light, while some of the books also touch on topics such as depression, abducted children and domestic violence. Never fear though, Precious deals with problems in her own special way. The latest book in the series is The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (published April 2012).

I began reading Alexander McCall Smith novels about two years ago and have not stopped. Once you begin reading these series, you definitely miss the characters and their adventures. They are just fun, enchanting novels, filled with heart, and perfect for summer reading. Drop by your local library soon to get started on some of McCall Smith’s charming series. You will be glad you met Precious Ramotswe and the gang. What a treat! Thank you Alexander McCall Smith!

No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series Order:


Corduroy Mansions Series Order:

Corduroy Mansions
The Dog Who Came In From The Cold
A Conspiracy of Friends

Fans of Alexander McCall Smith will also enjoy:

Summer Reading Book Sale Starts TODAY!


To kick off 2012's summer reading, the Friends of BPL are hosting an in-house book sale. The Friends have received several recent donations (tons of children's books, as well as adult nonfiction and bestsellers).

All books and media in the store are 25% off (which normally sell for $2 or under)!

The Bookstore is located on the second floor of the Central Library (2100 Park Place-35203). Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. For additional information, please call (205) 226-3676.

Book Sale ends June 10th. Come on down!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Don't Go There! the Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World

Vacation season is coming and we all hope our vacations will be flawless excursions that help us relax and leave us with fond memories. We can hope, but our dream vacations can turn into nightmares because of filthy hotels, incompetent airlines, disease-ridden cruise ships, and destinations where you stand a better than average chance of being murdered for your shoes.  Peter Greenberg, who is the travel writer for the Today show, tries to help the reader escape some of these tourist traps by listing his picks on such topics as “Worst Hotels: Paging Norman Bates”; “Worst Cruises: Ships of Fools”; and “Highways of Death: God’s Not Your Copilot.” Everyone who has traveled extensively is bound to have war stories, but you could literally wind up in a war zone in “Dangerous Destinations: You’d Better Pack More Than Samsonite.” One of Greenberg’s most hair-raising accounts is of the person who discovered a dead body under the bed in a hotel room. Through most of this book I was torn between dismay and hilarity and while I resolved never to visit some of these locations and hotels, I thought a lot of his advice would have to be taken as a cautionary text and it would be up to me to do more research on my own if I were thinking of traveling to some of his “Dangerous Destinations”---one of which is Birmingham, Alabama. Still, Greenberg’s book could be an excellent starting point for where not to take a vacation. So read closely, plan carefully, and happy vacationing!




Ideas for Summer Fun

Handy Dad in the Great OutdoorsA few months ago, my dental hygienist told me that one day a week, she tells her children, “no video games and no television. Go outside and play or read a book.” I thought it was a very cool approach to keeping her kids active and interested in reading, especially considering all the news about childhood obesity and diabetes. She and her husband both enjoy the outdoors, so many of their family outings involve physical activity. Their kids are a lot more interested in being active because mom and dad enjoy it.

As summer approaches, you may be trying to figure out how to keep your kids occupied. If you need some tips and ideas, the library has a number of books to help you get started. Not only will you discover activities to keep them active, if you let them read through the titles to pick out what they find interesting, you’ve added some summer reading at the same time. The subject guide on Outdoor Recreation may also give you some ideas for activities. These websites provide information on state parks, nature preserves, and recreation areas for hiking, biking, fishing, camping, rock climbing, and water sports. Enjoy yourselves and have a great summer.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bards & Brews Returns to Central Library in June

Bards & Brews logo
The Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance and beer tasting series is scheduled for Friday, June 1, 2012 at the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. The program which will be an open mic begins at 6:30 p.m. with live music and poetry performances start at 7:00. Emcee Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins will deftly guide both novice and veteran poets through an evening of verse with topics that run the gamut from romantic relationships to the local political scene.

Craft beer will be available for sampling, along with light refreshments. Attendees must be 18 years or older to be admitted, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked.

Bards & Brews is usually held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around town. Look for us on July 6, 2012, at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Check out the Bards & Brews page on Facebook for more information. This program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Recycled Book Art Classes for Adults Offered This Summer at BPL

Examples of recycled book art from The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti.

Who says summertime fun is just for kids? The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) wants to make sure grown-ups have a good time as well over the next few months, and we’re offering numerous FREE activities throughout the BPL system. One such program is the Recycled Book Art Class series which will be held at seven libraries. The first class will take place at the East Lake Library on Tuesday, June 12, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Take a look below for the complete schedule of this series. Each class is limited to 12 participants, and prior registration is recommended.

Don’t just check out books at the library. Give an old book new life by turning it into a beautiful work of art! Artist Allison Rhea will hold a series of classes to show you how to use an old book as a starting point to explore a medley of techniques so you can create a poignant, meaningful work of art, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist.

Four units are offered which cover different techniques used to alter books; each unit stands as a complete lesson on its own and can be taken independently as well as in a series. When you register, we’ll give you a short list of supplies to bring. You provide the imagination and enthusiasm, and we’ll provide almost everything else, including old books. So decide which technique, location, and time work best for you, and call the library where the class is being held to reserve your spot.

Basic Book Deconstruction and Reconstruction
Participants will be introduced to altered-books by looking at examples of different types of book art as well as brainstorming ideas for their own book. We will focus on preparing the book as a surface for creating artwork. Each student will receive one-on-one attention about what process is best suited to his or her idea.

Southside Branch (tel: 933-7776)
Tuesday July 10th 2-4pm

Collage and Image Transfers
Using appropriated images is one of the most instantly gratifying ways to add depth and richness to an altered book. In this class students will be given the freedom to explore how fun collage and image transfer can be!

East Lake Branch (tel: 836-3341)
Tuesday June 12th 1-3pm

Avondale Branch (tel: 226-4000)
Monday July 23 6:30-8:30pm

Stamps and Stitches
In this class we will be using various forms of printmaking to add impact to our altered books. We will also see what a needle and some thread can do to make a piece of art look complete.

Central Branch (tel: 226-3670)
Saturday June 16th 10am-12pm

North Avondale Branch (tel: 592-2082)
Wednesday July 11th 11am-1pm

Powderly Branch (tel: 925-6178)
Friday July 20th 10am–12pm

The Book as Sculpture
In this class, book pages go from 2D to 3D in a matter of hours. Students will be introduced to several simple techniques to turn a book into a free-standing sculpture.

Springville Road Branch (tel: 226-4081)
Friday June 15th 10am-12pm

To fire your imagination and to explore the many possibilities of altered book art, here are some library books worth a look:

Altered Book Collage
Alter This! Radical Ideas for Transforming Books Into Art
The Art of Fabric Books : Innovative Ways to Use Fabric in Scrapbooks, Altered Books & More
Masters: Book Arts : Major Works by Leading Artists
The Repurposed Library : 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life

Eudora Welty—Exposures and Reflections

exhibition image
Birmingham Public Library presents a very special exhibition created by the Museum of Mobile, Eudora Welty—Exposures and Reflections.

Eudora Welty has long been recognized as one of the great Southern literary voices of the twentieth century. However, many Americans do not know of her amazing work as a photographer. During her time as a junior publicist for the Works Progress Administration, Welty photographed the effects of the Great Depression on her native South. The exhibit opens in the Fourth Floor Exhibition Gallery at the Central Branch on Tuesday, June 5, and runs through Friday, July 20.

Welty insisted that her writing and her photography were separate art forms, and that neither influenced the other. But Eudora Welty—Exposures and Reflections explores a unique relationship between her written words and photographic images, a relationship that exists despite Welty's assertion to the contrary. Using 40 photographs and excerpts from various Welty short stories and novels, the exhibit is a first effort to create a stronger tie between the two art forms so as to more fully explore these photographic images in reference to her complex written works. It is Welty, in her own words, describing the images put before the visitor to this exhibit.

To accompany the exhibit, Museum of Mobile curator of exhibits Jacob Laurence will present a Brown Bag Lunch talk on the exhibition at the Central Branch on Wednesday, June 6, at 12:00 noon in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium.

Developed in partnership with The Southern Literary Trail and funded by Alabama Humanities Foundation, the exhibit is the first traveling exhibit designed by the Museum of Mobile.

Book review: A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

book coverA Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter
William Deresiewicz

As a young graduate student, William Deresiewicz believed he knew it all. He certainly didn’t think that a 19th century female novelist writing primarily about relationships, family, and community had anything to teach him. However, as Deresiewicz immerses himself in the world of Austen he realizes that he does, in fact, have a lot to learn.

Deresiweicz is unflinchingly honest about his shortcomings and bravely turns the spotlight on himself as an arrogant and generally unpleasant young man. He takes the reader along as he begins his graduate studies, gets his first real apartment, learns to navigate friendships, and finally finds true love. Each chapter is devoted to a different Jane Austen novel and how that particular novel helped him through a challenging time of life.

Even though Deresiweicz holds a Ph.D. in literature and devoted a portion of his dissertation to Jane Austen, A Jane Austen Education is not a scholarly or a difficult read. The writing is friendly, funny at times, and always highly accessible; even for readers who have not committed all six Austen novels to memory. Beware that the plots of all the novels are discussed in detail and the endings revealed. If you haven’t read all of the novels and if spoilers bother you, you might want to save this until you’ve finished Austen’s works.

A Jane Austen Education is part memoir and part literary criticism. I enjoyed reading about Deresiewicz’s life and gradual maturation. I also enjoyed his perspective on Austen and how he was able, albeit reluctantly at first, to glean simple yet relevant lessons from her novels.

M.B. Newbill
Southern History Department
Central Branch

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jeh Jeh Live: Reading Wednesday

Click the link below to see a video from today's visit from Good Day Alabama with Jeh Jeh Pruitt.
Jeh Jeh Live: Reading Wednesday

Book Review: The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion

book coverThe Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin
Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley has released a new book which consists of two short novels in one volume. The two novels are The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin. The novels are a departure from his more popular detective series. They are science fiction titles which deal with the expansion of human consciousness , somewhat similar to his 1998 title Blue Light. They place the protagonists into contact with beings, dimensions, and possibilities to which humans are unaware.

The Gift of Fire is a modern retelling of the Crosstown to Oblivion series of novellas, presented in a single flip-over volume. Unless you are versed in Greek mythology, you may not pick up on all the references in the novel, but don’t worry, the story becomes clearer once Prometheus lands on Earth, becoming a seven-foot-tall black man named Foreman Prospect. He is promptly jailed, where he gives the gift of the Second Fire to a man, who becomes his friend.

On the Head of a Pin—Joshua Winterland and Ana Fried are working at Jennings-Tremont Enterprises. JTE is developing advanced animatronics editing techniques to create movies that will rival live-action. Long-dead stars can now share the screen with today’s A-list. However, things are not as they seem.

If this sounds like something that you would like, reserve your copy today. If you are interested in other titles in the Crosstown to Oblivion series, the next volume, Merge/Disciple, will be released on October 2, 2012.

Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Branch

May Is National Inventors Month—What Better Time to Learn About Alabama Inventors

An illustration of Mary Anderson's hand-operated windshield wiper. Another woman, Charlotte Bridgwood, would invent the first automated windshield wiper in 1917; her daughter, Florence Lawrence, invented the first turn and brake signals.

Several Alabamians have been granted patents for inventions of “useful” devices. (The requirements for a patent include the invention’s being “useful.”) The most well-known local inventor is Mary Anderson from Birmingham. She invented the windshield wiper or “Window Cleaning Device” in 1903. Its number is #743,801.

George Washington Carver is probably the most famous inventor associated with Alabama. Credited with hundreds of agricultural products, the Tuskegee professor only had three patents, none of which is for peanut butter. One is “Paint and Stain and Process of Producing the Same,” #1,541,478, patented in 1925.

A surprising patent holder is Erskine Ramsay, one of the founders of Birmingham’s steel industry. He was granted several patents dealing with steel production and mining, such as “Revoluble Car Dumping Structure” (1902) and “Means for Checking and Sampling Miners’ Coal” (1916). These numbers are #701,764 and #1,191,227, respectively.

Another extremely significant Alabama “import” inventor was Wernher von Braun, developer of the American space program. Among his many achievements is a patent for a “Rocket-Propelled Missile,” #2,967,393, granted in 1961.

Inventors come from a variety of backgrounds, from the “real” scientists, like Thomas Edison, to performers, such as Michael Jackson, to children, like Alexia Abernathy (she invented a “spill-resistant bowl” when she was 11 years old). Take a look at some of the dozens of books in BPL’s collection on inventions and inventors; you might be inspired to invent something yourself.

You can view the patents named above on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website if you have certain viewing software on your PC. The specific page is US Patent Full-Page Images. You will find the instructions there.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”—Thomas Edison

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents Department
Central Branch

Today's Brown Bag Lunch Program: Can I Get a Grant for That? Strategically Researching, Writing, and Administering Grants

Power of grant writing image
Strategic grant writing should begin long before you consult with any foundations, agencies or individual donors and before you actually do any writing at all. Whether you are trying to build capacity, fund a program, or restore a building, there are several steps you should take to make certain your project gets funding and delivers the results you are looking for. Join Kelsey Bates, Assistant Archivist at BPL and former Director of Development at the Chinati Foundation, to find out how to effectively plan, research, and fund your grant projects. Wednesday, May 23, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Local Produce Abounds at Birmingham Area Farmers Markets

Buy Fresh Buy Local image
The month of May is the beginning of one of my favorite seasons: the arrival of locally grown fruits and vegetables at the farmers markets and produce stands around town.

My absolute favorite farmers market is the Jefferson County Truck Growers Association Market—also known as the Alabama Farmers Market. This 49 acre market is located on Finley Ave (just down the street from one of the Alabama’s best meat and three restaurant: Niki’s West).

Although the Alabama Farmers Market is primarily a wholesale distribution center for commercial farming operations, many vendors in this market sell to the general public. They also have some of the best produce prices in town.

The Alabama Farmers Market is open to the public seven days a week from 5:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. during this time of year. The secret for finding the best selection at this market is getting up early on a Friday and Saturday and visiting the market between 5:00 a.m. till 7:00 a.m.—these are the hours that chefs and grocery produce buyers haggle with local farmers and make deals on the tailgates of pick-up trucks.

Although the best (peak season) local produce available in the coming weeks consists of strawberries, cauliflower, cabbage, as well as spinach and other greens (collards, turnip, et al), we are now only a few weeks away from the beginning of the peak season for my own personal holy trinity of fresh Alabama produce: tomatoes, corn, and peppers.

The Alabama Farmers Market has you covered on some of the best corn available (look for Silver Queen sweet corn in late June and July); however, the weekly market at Pepper Place is definitely the destination for those searching for the best varieties of tomatoes and peppers.

There are dozens of farmers markets and produce stands in the Birmingham area—one of which should be convenient to your home, work, or commute. There are currently seventeen farmers markets listed by the Farmers Market Authority—a state agency whose purpose is to "assure the consumer a better quality product at a reasonable price and a fair return to the producer by providing a convenient, dependable place through which producers and buyers may carry on the process of marketing."

And while you are out and about this summer touring the farmers markets and produce stands in the Birmingham area, you might also like stop by the Birmingham Public Library to find dozens of books that should prove interesting to anyone with a penchant for farmers markets and fresh, local produce.

For tomato lovers, Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook explores the history the fruit, explains how modern industrial scale agriculture has led to the tasteless tomatoes that can be found in grocery stores year-round, and examines the renaissance of heirloom varieties in farmers markets and backyard gardens.

Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It: and Other Kitchen Projects by Karen Solomon gives recipes and step-by-step instructions for making everything from plum ketchup to pepper jellies and chipotles. This is an excellent resource for transforming budget friendly bulk purchases from farmers markets into mouthwatering preserved foods to stock your pantry. This is Solomon's follow up to her previous book on food preservation called Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It.

Also, the recent Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese has proven very popular with readers across the country and points out the benefits (or lack thereof) in making over 120 different staple foods ranging from ketchup and butter (buy them) to bread and Canadian bacon (make them). Reese also includes several sections that focus on the benefits of raising your own goats, chickens, and bees. This is a must read for anyone that enjoys cooking and is interested in developing a spending strategy prior to their next visit to the market at Pepper Place.

Finally, the map below displays the seventeen FMA approved markets in Jefferson County and also provides information on their hours and days of operation.



View Farmers Markets in the Birmingham District in a larger map

Brandon Smith
Springville Road Library

Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival

festival posterFrom April 11, 2012 to April 13, 2012, I served as a Graduate Student Ambassador for the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, held annually at the University of Southern Mississippi. Every year, graduate students can apply to become volunteer ambassadors for the festival. This year, five students from across the United States attended the festival as ambassadors, and I had the honor of being one of the students chosen.

As an ambassador, I had the privilege of being allowed to visit the depths of the De Grummond Collection, a special collection of children’s artwork and manuscripts. One unique part is their collection of Ezra Jack Keats material, including not only original illustrations but also personal memorabilia. But being an ambassador was about more than privileges. I assisted throughout the course of the festival by aiding the presenters and staff during the sessions and ceremonies.

When I sent in my application, I could only imagine what it would be like, but I knew it was something I wanted to do. It definitely lived up to my imagination. Now that I’ve graduated (Roll Tide!), I can add it to the list of memorable experiences I’ve had pursuing a career in librarianship.

Claire Stanton
Southern History Department
Central Library

Friday, May 18, 2012

Last Week To Visit the Exhibition Four Decades: Photography From the University of Montevallo

image of eggs in a nestResponsibility by Mary Dillard

Four Decades: Photography from the University of Montevallo, a special exhibition created by faculty students from the University of Montevallo's College of Fine Arts, will be on display through Friday, May 25, in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Central Library.

Faculty featured in the exhibition includes Associate Professor of Art, Karen Graffeo, and Scott Stephens, Professor of Art and Chair of the Department of Art. In addition to Graffeo and Stephens, the exhibition will include works by artists Margaret Blevins, Andrea Bliss, Gena Gann Childers, John DeMotte, Mary Deering Dillard, Lee Dunnie, Amanda Rowland Erwin, Philip Griffith, Sky Johnson, Ben Rigsby, Jesse Robitaille, Ted Tucker, and Joel Whitaker.

Exhibition Details
Four Decades: Photography From the University of Montevallo
Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
April 17, 2012-May 25, 2012
Gallery open during library hours:
Monday-Tuesday, 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Sunday, 2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Civil Rights Movement Reads

Rosa Parks on a bus (undated)

The civil rights movement was a world-changing crusade for equality under law for African-Americans in the United States. In Alabama, the struggle was sparked by a single act of civil disobedience by Rosa Parks in Montgomery in 1955. It awakened the conscience of many to the plight of African-Americans, especially those residing in the South. And the world took notice. Alabama was the site for many defining events of that era, with major campaigns characterized by protests and civil resistance. Boycotts, sit-ins, marches, and other nonviolent activities pushed for the equal treatment of African-Americans and desegregation.

Patrons can read and learn about the civil rights movement with materials and resources provided in our libraries. Some recommended readings are:

Devil in the Grove” Undoubtedly the most impressive and compelling attorney in U.S. history, Thurgood Marshall was preparing to argue the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when he became enmeshed in a volatile case that not only endangered his life, but also threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott” The author provides an in-depth look at the people and events surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the role it played in the Civil Rights Movement. Conducting interviews with those involved, and citing news articles, police reports and legal documents, both sides of the issue are explored and presented in a factual and un-biased manner.

Dreams and Nightmares” One man dreamed of a country united in true racial equality; the other saw the issue as a nightmarish struggle against the wishes of the wealthy white. Both men were sons of Baptist ministers. Both fought for their race, their people. Both were icons of the civil rights movement. Both gave their lives for the cause.

Carry Me Home” Diane McWhorter, journalist and daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI documents, interviews with black activists and former Klansmen, and personal memories into an extraordinary narrative of the city, the personalities, and the events that brought about America's second emancipation.

Social Sciences Department
Central Branch

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sanspointe Dance Company Presents The Golden Record in a Library Tour

Sanspointe dancers
Sanspointe Dance Company will present The Golden Record at three Birmingham Public Libraries between May 21 and May 29. The locations include the Five Points West Regional Library, Central Library, and the Avondale Regional Library. All performances last approximately 20 minutes. The programs are free and open to the public.

In August 1977, NASA sent into outer space the phonographic recording The Golden Record. The recording contained sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth with hopes of someday communicating with other intelligent life. Sanspointe dance artists Lynn Andrews and Rhea Speights choreographed a dance response to this cultural capsule—a dance which ranges from satirical to earnest—and makes physical humanity's attempt to project ourselves beyond our own time span.

Birmingham Public Library Tour

May 21 @ 6pm
Five Points West Branch
4812 Avenue W
Birmingham, AL 35208

May 22 @ 6pm
Central Branch
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35203

May 29 @6pm
Avondale Branch
509 40th St. S
Birmingham, Alabama 35222

Sanspointe is a Birmingham-based professional modern dance company founded in 2003. To learn more about Sanspointe visit www.sanspointe.org or call 205-344-0598.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Can I Get a Grant for That? Strategically Researching, Writing, and Administering Grants

Power of grant writing image
Strategic grant writing should begin long before you consult with any foundations, agencies or individual donors and before you actually do any writing at all. Whether you are trying to build capacity, fund a program, or restore a building, there are several steps you should take to make certain your project gets funding and delivers the results you are looking for. Join Kelsey Bates, Assistant Archivist at BPL and former Director of Development at the Chinati Foundation, to find out how to effectively plan, research, and fund your grant projects. Copies of Guide to Alabama Foundations on CD will be available for purchase. Wednesday, May 23, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

Wylam Library and Community Join Together to Provide Snacks to Afterschool Kids

children eating snacks at the library
Since February 2012, the Wylam Branch Library has been providing afterschool snacks for kids in the Wylam community. Collaboratively, the staff did some brainstorming and came up with an afterschool snack project called Vittles for Vitality. This project is a new initiative that came about as a result of school-aged children visiting our library in the afternoons and stating that they were hungry. We did some research and found that many of our children have lunch as early as 11:00 a.m., and by school’s end they could use some additional nourishment. Vittles for Vitality was inspired by one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotes, “The first wealth is health.” This quote illustrates the basic needs for our children to eat right and stay fit so that they possess exuberant physical strength and mental vigor to succeed in life. We then immediately thought of ways in which we could branch out and make this a concerted effort in the Wylam Community.

We decided that we would inform our patrons of what we were doing and leave the option to help out there. Their responses have been great. We have received an abundance of assistance from individuals as well as businesses and their efforts have been overwhelming. We have taken in an assortment of individual snacks that include oranges and apples, pineapple juices, Chex Mix and trail mixes, fruit cups and fruit juices, and other food items. Our children and their bellies seem to really enjoy these snacks. Vittles for Vitality was created to take place only during the academic school year during afterschool hours. We are proud of our children and we hope that these snacks will not only continue to bring them into the library but provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.

Wylam fully believes in the Birmingham Public Library’s mission which is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for lifelong learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment. We think that this program has great potential and that in addition to supplemental instruction we will be able to provide our kids with literacy, nourishment, and encouragement.

Alisha Johnson
Wylam Branch Library

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Stephen Greenblatt

The Swerve is the story of Renaissance scholar, Poggio Bracciolini, and the monumental ancient poem he rescued from oblivion in 1417. Monks are burned at the stake for heresy, a librarian is flayed alive by Christian zealots and a piratical Pope is deposed for murder, simony and sodomy. Maidens floating in healing waters catch garlands in their open robes. Modern science is born and a nation is dedicated to happiness . . . all in an extensively footnoted 263 page literary history.

Poggio, from humble beginnings, rose to the powerful position of apostolic secretary under several Popes and ultimately became the titular head of state for the Florentine republic under Lorenzo the Magnificent. But it was his quests for ancient Roman manuscripts that lifted him to a level of historical significance among his near-contemporaries Brunelleschi, Petrarch, Ghiberti, Alberti and Donatello.

“We accept Aesculapus as belonging among the gods because he called back Hippolytus, as well as others, from the underworld,” Francesco Barbaro wrote to Poggio upon hearing of his discoveries.

“You have revived so many illustrious men and such wise men, who were dead for eternity, through whose minds and teachings not only we, but our descendants, will be able to live well and honorably.”

Fortunately for us Poggio was also an avid letter writer. The Swerve tells the story of his life and the history of his greatest discovery, Lucretius’s “De Rerum Natura,” “On the Nature of Things,” one of the foundational documents of modern science.

“Totaling more than 7,400 lines . . . the poem yokes together moments of intense lyrical beauty, philosophical meditations on religions, pleasure and death, and complex theories of the physical world, the evolution of human societies, the perils and joys of sex, and the nature of disease . . . the overall intellectual ambition astoundingly high.”

The basis of the poem Poggio brought back from obscurity was a philosophic/scientific theory, “the ceaseless mutation of forms composed of indestructible substances” that was called by George Santayana “the greatest thought that mankind has ever hit upon.” “De Rerum Natura” went on to have a profound influence on Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Thomas More, Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson who owned seven copies.

Now we understand the universe is made of atoms and voids, but in the fifteenth century, the severe religious orthodoxy which held the earth to be flat, suppressed Lucretius’s “atomism” and biological evolution. The brave humanist, Giordano Bruno, was burned at the stake for espousing an infinite universe—theories based on Lucretius.

The Swerve is told by Stephen Greenblatt, an imminent Shakespearian scholar, in a series of gripping, cascading digressions that take us from a garden on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, where the highest pleasure is found in philosophical discourse, to self-flagellation by Medieval monks, to petty infighting among scribes in the Papal Curia. As many and as varied the stories in this beautifully written book are, what struck this reader is that invaluable ancient knowledge lay hidden on a monastery shelf, preserved and recopied by monk-librarians for a thousand years. Lucretius’s radical poem was preserved without immediate purpose and without understanding, for if it had been understood it would have been destroyed almost surely. Yet, because a book without current value was saved, and because that book was brought back to life, we live in a far better world.

Poggio Bacciolini was a superb scribe. The handwriting he and his fellow humanist Nicolo Nicoli devised became known as “the humanist script,” which is the basis of the typefaces we use today. Their clean and elegant copies of ancient manuscripts became an invaluable collection. Bacciolini’s and Nicoli’s transcription of “De Natura Rerum” is part of a bequest made by Nicoli to create the very first modern public libraries—libraries based on the design of ancient Roman public libraries with reading rooms and stacks as described by Vitruvius in manuscripts recovered by Poggio.

Their exquisite copy of Lucretius’s great poem is held in Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy.

Suggested reading:

Lucretius: On the Nature of Things

Filippo Brunelleschi 1377-1446 by Peter J. Gärtner

The Sculpture of Donatello by H.W. Janson

The Architecture of Michelangelo by James S. Ackerman

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Take Me Out to the Ball Game



The first known baseball song, "The Baseball Polka," was written in 1858, but it was never as famous as the Jack Norworth 1908 classic "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." On a train bound for Manhattan, Norworth spent all of fifteen minutes writing the lyrics on scrap paper which he then gave to Albert Von Tilzer who composed the music. The New York Music Company published the song and, within a year, it became a hit. A second version appeared in 1927 when Norworth changed some of the lyrics. In the Arts, Literature & Sports (ALS) Department, we have the score for voice, piano, and guitar in the All American Patriotic Songbook, on the CD Baseball Hits in the Folk section under American Baseb and in the Youth Department in Children’s Favorite Songs.

There are a lot of people who love spring and summer because it ushers in the baseball season. Since baseball season has already begun and summer means Father’s Day will be here soon, we invite you to check out the newest acquisitions in baseball books in the ALS Department. Major League Dads: Baseball’s Best Players Reflect on Fathers Who Inspired Them to Love the Game by Kevin Neary would be a great read for any father who is also a baseball fan. The author, an avid fan of the game, researched and compiled the stories of players such as Moises Alou, Jeff Brantley, Frank Catalanotto, Mark DeRosa, Matt Diaz, and Jeff Francoeur. As the title indicates, it is a book about baseball, but even more about the relationships between fathers and sons. To be interviewed, each major league ballplayer had to have a father who had served in a coaching capacity for him which in turn influenced his career, approach to life and/or relationships with his family.

Baseball fans will also enjoy The Captain: the Journey of Derek Jeter by Ian O’Connor. This book is about a bi-racial kid from Michigan who is one of New York’s favorite sports figures and a poster child for the steroid-free athlete. The author drew on research from 200 interviews to write the biography.

Some fans enjoy visiting different baseball stadiums. Check out Fenway Park, the Centennial: 100 Years of Red Sox Baseball by Saul Wisnia. This book includes commentary by three generations of Red Sox players and fans. Take a nostalgic trip into the past to America’s #1 baseball shrine and home to more than 600 sellouts. The reader will discover visually stunning photography and essays on Red Sox legends Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and David Ortiz. It’s an armchair trip to remember. If you’d like to learn about other stadiums, we have The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan’s Guide to Major League Stadiums by Josh Pahigian. This 2nd edition of the book is the tourist’s guide to everything from stadium and team history, to the seats, the beer, the food, parking, and even restaurants and attractions in the area.

These are but a few of the baseball books the ALS Department has to offer. We’ve added 50+ baseball titles to the collection in the past couple of years. Come see us and check out your personal favorite. Most are in the 796.357 section or in the biographies under the name of the player who is the subject of the book.

Mary Branch
Arts, Literature and Sports Department
Central Library

Friends Host Summer Reading Book Sale, May 28-June 10

Friends Bookstore
With several recent donations, the Friends Bookstore is overflowing with inventory. Beginning May 29, the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host an “in store” summer reading book sale. What better time to show off the recent renovation of the Friends Bookstore and to connect to the successful summer reading initiatives undertaken by the library system? The sale begins the day after Memorial Day and continues through June 10. Shoppers can expect to find 25% off all books and books-on-tape which are regularly all priced at $2 and below.

The sale will feature the following:
  • hundreds of children, teen and young adult books, already as much as 90% off the original price, now an additional 25% off the low, low prices—including picture books, readers, chapter books, teen novels, and lots of non-fiction titles;

  • hundreds of adult fiction titles—both hardback and paperback—covering all genres. These books include best-sellers novels by such popular authors as Stuart Woods, John Grisham, Sandra Brown, J.D. Robb, David Baldacci, Fern Michaels, and others; and

  • the stock of adult non-fiction will be 25% off as well.
Come by and support the Friends as they prepare for the best summer reading season yet. The Friends Bookstore is located on the second floor of the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. For additional information, please call (205) 226-3761.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hollywood Discovers the Birmingham Public Library's Books for All Seasons Publication


The publication formerly known as Season’s Readings was a great success for more than twenty years. With that in mind, the BPL staff decided to tweak it and create a book that will serve our community all the livelong year. Therefore, Books forAll Seasons was born. Created by BPL staff and overflowing withgreat reviews of great books, Books forAll Seasons includes recommendations for adults, teens, and children in both fiction and nonfiction. It is free to the public as our gift to you.

(The Hollywood sign is in the distance. Photo taken from Mulholland Drive)

One of our staff members headed to Hollywood recently to seehow our handsome publication compared to some other famous institutions, such as the signs in Hollywood and Beverly Hills (swimming pools and movie stars). We feel ours did just fine. Vacation time is upon us, so if you're looking for something to read at the beach or in a plane, train or automobile, visitone of our 18 branches to pick up your copy. We have one waiting for you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India

book coverIn Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India
Edward Luce

When it came out in 2007, this picture of India received almost uniformly positive reviews, but when I saw a favorable blurb on its cover from William Dalrymple, that’s all the recommendation I needed. Every Dalrymple book is a gem, and he’s written several notable ones on India. Like Dalrymple, Luce is a Brit transplant to India. He covered the nation for the Financial Times newspaper in the years running up to the publication of this book. In Spite of the Gods is very assured and is a pleasure to read. It’s by turns fun, scary, hilarious, shocking. Well-informed, it very seldom puts a foot wrong. It’s problematic for a European-derived Brit to write about India, given the complex and tragic history between the two nations, but Luce does a very good job of being fair.

For instance, when you think of India, do your thoughts turn to religious violence? It’s true that this is a painful reality for the country, but as Luce reminds us “…there is nothing in India’s history that could approximate to the mass killing Europe has suffered.” Luce doesn’t shy from the negatives of India, and they are plenty: corrupt politicians and civil servants, bribery seemingly everywhere, hideous poverty and a common obliviousness to the poor, the failures of socialism, the failures of capitalism, a grindingly slow judiciary—on and on to the point where the reader wants to throw up his hands at the sheer hopelessness of it all. And yet. And yet. India, more than any other large third world country, has shown that democracy can work. More than a billion people, divided by caste (In India, the saying goes, you don’t cast your vote, you vote your caste), religion, class, language, wealth, history—yet democracy binds them together. With one brief exception, India has not stooped to dictatorship since independence in 1947. Despite its division, it is remarkable for its tolerance, for balancing overwhelming diversity, for transitioning from medievalism to modernity. These are not small achievements. Think China is a miracle success? It’s clearly second to India. This book shows why.

Though Luce can be kind—even proud—of India, he seems on a couple of occasions to be almost an apologist for colonialism: “For more than two hundred years Britain’s cadre of district collectors saw themselves as ‘Platonic Guardians’, an elite which remained deliberately aloof from the masses but which governed in their interests.” Translation from the Lofty: white supremacy is good stuff. Though Luce shows the shortcomings of this attitude, he isn’t hard enough on the colonialists. They weren’t only “detached” but typically contemptuous and condescending toward Indians. They didn’t just leave India with “ineptitude,” as Luce correctly puts it. They often ruled with it.

Complaints aside, there is much here that fascinates-and much that’s unsettling, from the Untouchable caste movement that left Hinduism and converted to Buddhism by the millions, to the RSS Hindu fundamentalists who, at times, are uncannily similar to their Christian Right counterparts in the U.S. From the fact that what Americans and Brits call the Mutiny of 1857 is called by Indians the First War of Independence to the reality that many Indians consider that having nukes means that India is a first-rate power. From the leaps in education, literacy and productivity that have come from the liberalization of the economy to the many instances where, as the result of this liberalization, India seems to have, in the words of Gandhi, imported the unhappiness of the West.

In Spite of the Gods puts you right into the flux and chaos that is India. It’s a very wild ride indeed.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Book Review: Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement (Ages 12 and Up)

Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement
Rick Bowers

First, I couldn't put the book down. Then I couldn't believe that this occurred in America. And lastly, I couldn't believe I had never heard of this "Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission" before. This book delivers a crisp, clear story of another side of the Civil Rights movement, a story that typically never goes further than marches, cross burning, and KKK uniforms. These are stories of average citizens who were ultimately jailed for applying to college or whose businesses were burned, or who were shot in cold blood, all for trying gain equality.

Teenagers will love this book too— it ties into their growing awareness of social justice and why you have to push back when things are unfair. I looked up the MDAH website and read the original spy reports, now digitized. Chilling. A must read for inquiring minds who know there is always another side to history. The photos are compelling too. Give it to your child's history teacher, today.

Lynn Piper Carpenter
Five Points West Regional Library

Book Review: Chomp (Ages 10 and Up)

book coverChomp
Carl Hiassen

Wahoo Cray is a boy who lives on an animal ranch with his dad, an animal wrangler. They have everything from gators to bobcats. Wahoo’s Dad has been out of work due to an iguana incident and the family is behind on bills, so Wahoo (yes even the names are funny) signs his father up for a wrangler job on a reality, survivalist television show. Sounds great except for the star of the show is an imposter who fakes everything, thinks he knows everything, and complains about everything. Wahoo has to keep everything in check which is difficult to do with all the mishaps and misadventures that happen along the way.

Cleverly written, this character driven book contains funny and ridiculous characters that remain interesting and sympathetic. It’s not difficult to find something to love about each and every one, but it’s so easy to dislike the villain.

With never a dull moment, this strange and crazy storyline may not be realistic, but it's still somehow believable. And if you can't find it believable, it doesn't matter, because you will be smiling and laughing any way.

Suggested reading:
Wildlife Refuges - Juvenile Fiction, Reality Shows - Juvenile Fiction, Television Production And Direction - Juvenile Fiction, Everglades Fla. - Juvenile Fiction, Missing Persons - Juvenile Fiction, and Florida - Juvenile Fiction