Friday, June 29, 2012

North Birmingham Library Staff and Pets Relocate for Renovation

photo of staff and visiting animalVincent Solfronk, head of Central Library's Youth Department, gets introduced to a library pet by North Birmingham Library employee June Lacanski.

A construction crew will move into the North Birmingham Regional Library on Monday, July 2, to begin a 90-day renovation of the building’s roof and HVAC system. The project addresses roofing, heating, and AC concerns which have been lingering for several years. During the construction period, staff working at the region’s largest library will work at other locations throughout the system. If the project moves along as scheduled, the building will reopen in early October.

North Birmingham library patrons interested in visiting Nibbles the rabbit and the other pets featured during “Grub Down” at the library can see their furry friends in the Central Library’s Youth Department. The animals will remain at Central throughout the renovation period.

Summer Reading programs which had been planned for North Birmingham are now scheduled at other locations—children’s programs get underway at the North Birmingham Park and Recreation Center located at 3501 28th Street North and adult programs will be held at the Ensley Branch Library located at 1201 25th Street, Ensley.

Book Review: Paper Moon

book coverPaper Moon
Joe David Brown

A couple of years back, I wrote a blog entry on this site about my repeat viewings of True Grit (60s version) and how they led to reading the novel of the same name and thence to awaiting the Coen brothers movie remake. Recently I’ve had a parallel experience with the movie Paper Moon and the novel that birthed it, Addie Pray (later changed to Paper Moon when the picture came out). I’ve watched Paper Moon at least eight times over the last forty years, so reading the novel was an inevitability. I was pleased to discover that half of it takes place in Alabama and that the author, Joe David Brown, was from Birmingham. Couldn’t call him up; he died in the 70s. The Life magazine blurb on the paperback I bought at the BPL Friends Bookstore (different from the same library edition I had actually been reading for days) promised that “not since True Grit has there been a more disarming heroine” than the main character/narrator Addie Pray. Another happy coincidence locked into place.

Did it matter that I knew the plot? No, because I just knew the movie’s plot, which takes up only about the first half of the book. Here’s what it was: a rich expansion in every way on the film, with almost all of the movie’s eminently quotable lines, plus more to boot (I know the novel came first but I’m referring to my out of sync experience).

The story concerns an eleven-year-old orphan (Addie Pray) and a man who is possibly her dad, Moses “Long Boy” Pray. They traverse the Southeast during the Depression using the man’s steel-trap brain and the girl’s putative innocence to con people out of their money. It’s so much enormous fun to watch the two fleece folks that you don’t stop to think of the tragedies they leave on the receiving end. That’s largely because you never see them. Addie and Moses have skipped town by the time the marks have realized, if the ever do, that they’ve been had. There’s thrilling buoyancy here. Supporting characters, indelible in the movie, are of course more fully realized in the book. Trixie Delight, a floozy even Long Boy drops his guard for. Trixie’s African-American servant Imogene, who provides a counter-narrative of Trixie’s pratfalls. Floyd, the hotel desk clerk and “pea-patch Romeo.” And, as we move up the scale, Major Lee, who will give Addie and Moses doctoral training in what may be the ultimate grift.

Huck Finn, and the “lighting out for the territory” he stands for, didn’t end with Twain’s novel. He sired a long series of rebels, eccentrics, deviants, rogues, and opportunists that continue to juice up the American novel to this day. Addie Pray is as zingy as any of them, and ready to plunge into the United States of Possibility. If that means being largely amoral, she doesn’t give a hoot. Don’t spend any time thinking about her morality, because while you’re doing so she’s lifted your wallet.

PS—Other grifting movies that beckon repeat viewings are The Sting and The Grifters.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nora Ephron Dead at 71

Nora Ephron

Most people remember When Harry Met Sally, the quirky romantic-comedy that dealt with the ever-lingering question of whether those of the opposite sex could be “just friends.” We learned, in this case, that they could start off as friends and become more. And when Harry professed his love to Sally by telling her that he loves that she takes an hour to order a simple sandwich, it left many women saying “I’ll have what she’s having.”

This was one of the many works by writer, producer, director, and three-time Academy Award nominee Nora Ephron, who passed away Tuesday in New York from complications brought on by her struggle with leukemia. She was 71.

Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, in New York City to screenwriter parents, Henry and Phoebe Ephron. The oldest of four daughters, the Ephrons relocated to Beverly Hills, California in 1945. She attended and graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1958 and graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1962, majoring in political science.

Ephron was a respected screenwriter and filmmaker, generating hits like You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. She often created quirky yet strong female leads and storylines that became pop-culture hallmarks. Her first screenplay was Silkwood about a plutonium processing plant whistleblower who went missing, allegedly murdered to prevent her from exposing blatant working violations. Her latest work was Julie and Julia, which she wrote, directed and produced in 2009, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

Ephron also opened windows into her personal struggles with her novel Heartburn, which was also made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. The book was based on her tempestuous marriage to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, famous for his exposure of the Watergate scandal. In it, she wrote, “I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.”

Movies
Silkwood, 1983 (co-wrote)
When Harry Met Sally, 1989
Sleepless in Seattle, 1993 (co-wrote and directed)
You’ve Got Mail, 1998 film (co-wrote and directed)
Julie & Julia, 2009 (wrote and directed)

Books
Heartburn, 1983 (turned into the 1986 movie)
I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, 2006
I Remember Nothing: And other Reflections, 2010

Plays
Imaginary Friends, 2003
Love, Loss, and What I Wore, 2009 (co-written with sister Delia Ephron, based on the 1995 book by Ilene Beckerman)

Book Review: The River Witch

Kimberly Brock's novel, The River Witch, is a beautifully written, haunting tale about loss, love, self-discovery and healing. I invite you to read a book about a beautiful, magical and mystical place, Manny’s Island, Georgia where seeds sprout, sending tiny shoots upward, their tendrils spreading love, hope and wonder. Beauty can be seen all around, from the cascading moss, to the winding river and glorious shimmering moonlight. You can almost feel the warm island breeze touching your face. Wondrous landscape, mystery, music and just a touch of magic surrounds all who live on the island.

Just imagine summer on Georgia’s coastline, the warm breeze coming off the river, singing a familiar lullaby. Let’s take a walk along Manny’s Island where you will find cord grass gently swaying, low-hanging moss, groves of live oaks,growling alligators and the comforting sound of sweet music. In this book, you will learn about the healing power of nature as well as music.

This story begins with thirty-year-old Roslyn Byrne who has experienced a series of tragedies. She lost her career as a professional ballerina and had a miscarriage after a car accident. Her mother recommends a realtor so she can get away for the summer. She spends her time on Manny’s Island, Georgia where she can recover and discover herself again. There, she meets a ten-year-old girl, Damascus,who is intelligent, spirited, and exactly who Roslyn Byrne needs in her life right now. Roslyn rents a house from Damascus’ family,the Trezevants, who are an interesting bunch. Well, Roslyn becomes more involved in family secrets, mysterious occurrences and tales from the past. The island is full of voodoo magic, mystery and dark beauty. As a result of the people and magic of Manny's Island, Roslyn discovers a new passion for life.

Kimberly Brock uses beautifully descriptive language to blend loss and tragedy with love, magic and wonder. If you are a fan of Southern Fiction, you will want to spend some of your summer reading this memorable debut novel. Just find a place on the porch, relax and enjoy this splendid tale.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Researching Your Historic Home—BPL Has Answers for Curious Homeowners

A house from the BOE files
A photo from the Board of Equalization files in the BPL Digital Collections.

Did a famous Birmingham leader once live in your “new” house? Is your home the oldest structure on your block? If you have ever wondered about researching this information, a workshop at the Central Library will help you get started. In conjunction with the Jefferson County Historical Commission and the Birmingham Historical Society, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is hosting a workshop on historic house research on Saturday, July 7, from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. in the Richard Arrington Auditorium. The workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Attendees will learn how to conduct research on historic dwellings in Birmingham and Jefferson County including the resources available at BPL and requirements for historical designations and markers. Linda Nelson, Jefferson County Historical Commission Executive Secretary, will discuss requirements of the Historical Marker Program and other historical designations. Jason Kirby, BPL Bookmender and Birmingham Botanical Garden Archivist, will discuss his experiences with the application process for a historical marker.

For more information about the workshop, please contact the Library’s Southern History Department by phone at (205) 226-3665 or by e-mail at askgenlocal@bham.lib.al.us.

Event: Historic House Research Workshop
Presenter: Linda Nelson and Jason Kirby
Place: Central Library
Date: Saturday, July 7, 2012
Time: 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration: Not required

Monday, June 25, 2012

Of Great Price: Facts and Folklore of Pearls



According to the American Gem Trade Association, June is one of two months in the calendar to have three birthstones: pearl, moonstone, and alexandrite. Throughout history the pearl has been a much sought-after ornament, difficult to obtain and all the more prized for its rarity before cultured pearls became more readily available.

Pearls generally appear in lists of precious gemstones but they are not a stone; they are formed in the bodies of mollusks such as oysters and clams in response to irritants such as grains of sand. The largest pearl on record, known as the Pearl of Lao Tzu, came from a giant clam and weighed slightly over fourteen pounds.
Chinese mythology attributes the glow of pearls to the influence of the moon and claims that pearls fall to earth when dragons fight in the heavens.
Ground pearls were sometimes used in medicines for insanity---or “lunacy,” because of the pearl’s supposed connection with the moon.
In Greek legends, pearls were the tears of gods and goddesses or the drops of water shed by Aphrodite, goddess of love, when she emerged from the sea. They were a protective influence against grief and were an appropriate wedding gift that would promote a happy marriage. But some superstitions take the darker view that since pearls are symbolic of tears, every pearl worn by a bride will mean an occasion for weeping in her married life. L.M. Montgomery gives the nod to this belief when her heroine, Anne Shirley, chooses pearls for her engagement ring in the novel Anne’s House of Dreams:
"But pearls are for tears, the old legend says," Gilbert had objected.

"I'm not afraid of that. And tears can be happy as well as sad. My very happiest moments have been when I had tears in my eyes—when Marilla told me I might stay at Green Gables—when Matthew gave me the first pretty dress I ever had—when I heard that you were going to recover from the fever. So give me pearls for our troth ring, Gilbert, and I'll willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy."

The classic color most often associated with pearls is a soft creamy white, but pearls can appear in a rainbow of shades ranging from pale yellow and pink to gray and black. The practice of growing cultured pearls, in which a grain of sand or other irritant is deliberately seeded in an oyster, has made pearls of all colors more widely available at somewhat lower prices than natural pearls. Cultured pearls can also be dyed or bleached to achieve desirable colors.
In one of the parables from the Gospel of Matthew, Christ compares the kingdom of Heaven to “a pearl of great price.” Elsewhere in the Bible, Christ warns his listeners, “cast not thy pearls before swine,” and the Revelation of John describes the gates of Heaven as each being made from one large pearl.
Because pearls are made of organic substances and not stone, they can be damaged by perfume, cleansers, lotions, and perspiration, as well as by chlorinated water in swimming pools, ammonia, or even long exposure to bright sunlight.
So whether or not you are a June baby, whether your style leans more toward classic string or funky ring, enjoy your pearls and wear them in good health all through the year.

Pearls: A Natural History

American Gem Trade Association

World Record Gems

Mikimoto Pearls


Rachel Swarns Lecture and Book Signing Tonight at Central Library

book cover
Birmingham Bound presents author Rachel L. Swarns discussing her book American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama. The event will be held on Monday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium at the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. A remarkable history of First Lady Michelle Obama’s mixed ancestry, American Tapestry by Rachel L. Swarns is nothing less than a breathtaking and expansive portrait of America itself. In this extraordinary feat of genealogical research—in the tradition of The Hemingses of Monticello and Slaves in the Family—author Swarns, a respected Washington-based reporter for the The New York Times, tells the fascinating and hitherto untold story of Ms. Obama’s black, white, and multiracial ancestors; a history that the First Lady herself did not know. At once epic, provocative, and inspiring, American Tapestry is more than a true family saga; it is an illuminating mirror in which we may all see ourselves.

The Birmingham Public Library will be one of the first stops on Rachel Swarns’ national book tour, which includes signings at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center, Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Rachel L. Swarns has been a reporter for The New York Times since 1995. She has written about domestic policy and national politics, reporting on immigration, the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008, and First Lady Michelle Obama and her role in the Obama White House. She has also worked overseas for The New York Times, reporting from Russia, Cuba, and southern Africa, where she served as the Johannesburg bureau chief. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two children.

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

The Birmingham Bound lecture series highlights authors who researched their books in the Birmingham Public Library Archives.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Get Puzzled

brain puzzle graphicBeing puzzled may not be a good thing, but in this instance it may be. I live with a self-described “puzzlephile,” who enjoys puzzles on the computer. Some research even believes that puzzles help strengthen your brain synapses and memory recall. All the scientific hypotheses aside, puzzles are just fun. It's summer and you may have some time on your hands, or you may just want to keep the children occupied. If so, try some of the following puzzle websites.

Websites

http://games.yahoo.com/puzzle/ — Yahoo has a lot of games and puzzles that it wants you to pay for, but you can usually have a free trial on a puzzle. Go to “Free Games” in the top left-hand corner.

http://games.aarp.org/ — AARP has its own free game/puzzle site. You can play Sudoku, do a crossword puzzle, play brain puzzle games, or work a jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw puzzles are divided into easy, medium or hard.

http://www.popcap.com/all-games/free-online-games — PopCap offers some puzzle games like Bejewled Twist for free.

http://www.bigfishgames.com/download-games/genres/4/puzzle.html — Big Fish Games will give you a free puzzles and will give one hour trial on puzzles and puzzle games they want to sell.

http://funschool.kaboose.com/
— This site has free puzzles for children.

Maya Jones
West End Library

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Public Libraries are Weathering the Storm But We Need Your Help

 
Strategic vision and careful management have helped U.S. public libraries weather the storm of the Great Recession, supporting their role as a lifeline to the technology resources and training essential to full participation in the nation’s economy. However, a new report underscores the competing concerns that face America’s libraries: cumulative budget cuts which threaten access to libraries and services, increasing demand for technology training, and the chronic presence of the digital divide. [MORE from Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study]

Birmingham's City Council will have many tough decisions to make very soon. At the top of the list 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.

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 it's mission! Our city’s citizens deserve better.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The NFL’s Jerricho Cotchery Is Coming to Town: Birmingham Public Library to Host “Score Big” with Pittsburgh Steelers’ Wide Receiver and Birmingham native Jerricho Cotchery


The Birmingham Public Library is excited to host “Score Big”with the Cotchery Foundation. Jerricho Cotchery, one of Birmingham’s native sons, has teamed up with the Library to host yet another amazing series ofevents for 2012’s Teen Summer Reading Program, “Own the Night.”

Born in 1982, Cotchery grew up to be an incredible athlete. He excelled at Phillips High School in Birmingham and attended North Carolina State University. The New York Jets drafted him in 2004 and the Pittsburgh Steelers added him to the roster beginning in 2010. For his career, he has compiled 374 receptions for 4,751 yards. In layman’s terms, he’s “the man” and the library is lucky to partner with him.

Named for the famous Biblical city, Jerricho is deeply committed to his faith and to community outreach. He was moved to start the Cotchery Foundation in January 2007 as a result of his own personal memories and experiences growing up. He and his foundation have set out to “show that anyone can do extraordinary things if they have the desire and passion.” Cotchery has made it his mission to show that any individual can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

He would like to encourage all students ages 11 to 18 to read by participating in the 2012 summer reading program. BPL has a record-breaking number of registrants for the Teen Tailgate party Friday night and the “Skills and Drills” football clinic Saturday. Registration for these two events is closed, but Birmingham teens can still meet Jerricho during two free “Jam Sessions” this week, to be held at the following times and locations:

10:00 a.m. Thursday, June 21, at BPL’s Smithfield Library Branch

10:00 a.m. Friday, June 22, at BPL’s Avondale Regional Library Branch

For more information, please contact your nearest BPL location. Jerricho and the Birmingham Public Library both look forward to seeing you this week.

You can also follow Jerricho on Twitter at @cotcheryfoundat and the library @BPL!!

Frazine Taylor to Conduct Workshop on Researching Your Family’s Roots

Frazine Taylor
Frazine Taylor returns to the Birmingham Public Library to present a workshop on using the Internet to find family history resources. Taylor is the retired Head of Reference for the Alabama Department of Archives and History with over twenty years of experience as a librarian, archivist, lecturer, and writer. She is the author of Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama: A Resource Guide. One among Taylor’s many honors is working on Tom Joyner’s and Linda Johnson Rice’s segments in the PBS series, African American Lives 2. The workshop is scheduled for Saturday, June 30, 2012 in the Central Library’s Richard Arrington Auditorium from 9:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.

This workshop focuses on the Internet as a tool or research technique that could save any researcher time, or prevent wasted efforts when searching the World Wide Web. It will cover the following areas:
  • Introduction to several search engines with uses for family history;
  • How to use search operators to fine tune search results;
  • How to use social media for family history; and
  • Other aspects of online sources for family research.
This workshop does not require registration. Contact the Library’s Southern History Department by phone at (205) 226-3665 or by e-mail at askgenlocal@bham.lib.al.us for more information.

Event: Researching Your Family's Roots: Family History Resources on the Internet
Presenter: Frazine Taylor
Place: Central Library, Richard Arrington Auditorium
Date: Saturday, June 30
Time: 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Cost: Free
Registration: Not required

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bards & Brews Travels to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in July

B&B logo
The Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance/beer tasting series is hitting the road in July. Held the first Friday of each month, the next edition of Bards & Brews will travel to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens located at 2612 Lane Park Road. The program, which will be an OPEN MIC, begins at 6:30 p.m. on July 6, 2012 in the Ireland Room with live music and poetry performances starting 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 at various locations around town. Look for us on August 3, 2012 at the Avondale Regional Library located at 509 40th Street South. 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.

Details
Bards & Brews Poetry Performance Series
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 2612 Lane Park Road, Ireland Room
Friday, July 6, 2012
6:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
Live Music and Sign Up at 6:30 p.m.
Call Time at 7:00 p.m.

Abraham Lincoln—Emancipator, Terminator


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hits theaters on June 22. The movie was directed by Timur Bekmambetov with a screenplay written by Seth Grahame-Smith.

If it's your tendency to roll your eyes at literary mashups such as Jane Slayre and Android Karenina, then I bet they rolled back into your head when what seems to be an affront to the greatest president in American history was published: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Mine certainly did, and I'm a fan of Lincoln and vampires. However, Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, did extensive research into Lincoln and the politics and culture of Lincoln's time and he entertainingly meshes everything we know about Honest Abe, his family and peers, his road to the presidency, and the Civil War with the rise and fall of vampires in America. If you want to know why "CRO" was carved into a tree at the Roanoke settlement, how the Confederacy really won the First Battle of Bull Run, or simply why Lincoln favored that long, black coat, read the book and get educated in American history.

Popular Software Tutorials -- LearningExpress Library


Adobe Software
Microsoft SoftwareWould you like to learn Adobe Photoshop or Dreamweaver?  Maybe you need to enhance your skills with Microsoft Excel 2010.  Don’t remember seeing these courses listed on the schedule of computer classes?  That’s because you can learn these at your own pace using LearningExpress Library.  This database offers a variety of popular software tutorials at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels.  Among the available software tutorials are Adobe Dreamweaver, Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop; Microsoft Access, Excel, Powerpoint, Word, and Publisher; as well as Windows 7, Vista, and XP.  If you registered for your library card at a Birmingham Public Library location, the software tutorials can be accessed from home using your library card.  Choose LearningExpress Library, then type in your name and library card number.  Once you enter the database, you will create a username, password, and enter your e-mail address.  Select "Popular Software Tutorials" from the list of Learning Centers in the left column and you are ready to get started.  You can also access the tutorials from home if you set up your account at a BPL location.

Taking courses on these software programs can be very expensive. A local search for a Word 2010 course revealed a cost of $129 at a community college.  Library patrons can access these software courses at no cost through LearningExpress Library.  See how much your library card is worth!  Due to popularity, books and DVDs on these topics are often checked out.  The checkout period is limited in order to make the material available to as many patrons as possible.  With LearningExpress Library, there is no need to meet a specific class schedule or reserve material that is checked out.  You access the database at your convenience and decide how quickly to move through the material.  

In addition to software tutorials, LearningExpress Library provides a wealth of other resources.  These include test preparation for civil service exams, ACT, SAT, and ASVAB preparation, resume assistance, GED preparation, and many other wonderful resources that you have to see to believe.  LearningExpress Library saves you time and money while allowing you to learn at your own pace.  Please take advantage of this excellent database and all the information it has to offer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Both Sides of the Lens: Photographs by the Shackelford Family, Fayette County, Alabama (1900-1935)

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 (1900-1935) featuring 40 photographs from this rare 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, and will be followed by a heritage food tasting.

This collection of photographs is, to say the least, uncommon. Rich for their visual record of everyday life in rural Alabama, they are 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.

According to photography historian Frances Robb, the collection of photographs by the Shackelfords “is a unique treasure trove. It’s the largest collection of this type in the state. Only three or four collections of these are known today in Alabama.”

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. Following its exhibit in Birmingham, it will travel to the Fayette Art Museum in Fayette, Alabama; Troy University, Dothan; the History Museum of Mobile; and the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery.

Exhibition: Both Sides of the Lens: Photographs by the Shackelford Family, Fayette County, Alabama (1900-1935)
Place: Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
Date: July 23, 2012-September 14, 2012
Time: During Central Library's scheduled hours
Cost: Free

Opening Reception and Heritage Food Tasting
Speaker: Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson
Place: Central Library, Arrington Auditorium
Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Time: 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: Wisdom of Our Fathers

Wisdom of Our Fathers Book Cover
Before you read this book, make sure you have a handkerchief or a box of tissues ready. You will need it. Plenty of it.

This book isn't just for Father's Day. It is for fathers, for sons, for daughters, and for those who have that man in their lives who may have been the disciplinarian, the weekend coach, the tea party guest, or clown. It is about those men who often do those little things that mean an awful lot. This is a fitting celebration of fathers and the impact they have on their children.

Many know Timothy John “Tim” Russert as the moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. He was a regular political correspondent on The Today Show and Hardball. But who could have thought that this hard-nosed journalist would have such a tender heart as he shared the many testimonies of people and their relationships with their fathers in response to his book Big Russ and Me? As he collected letters and e-mails from strangers, he compiled their stories into Wisdom of Our Fathers. In it, he included personal accounts of his relationship as a son to Timothy Joseph Russert and as father to his son Luke.

“But when Luke was born, I suddenly understood the meaning of unconditional love,” Russert wrote. “My love for Luke was natural, complete, and instinctive. Suddenly there were no more spontaneous happy hours after work, no more late-night movies … My career became secondary to the blessing of being a father.”

He tells of the moment he discovered his son had gotten a tattoo, the initials “TJR” (his and Big Russ’s initials) on the side of his son’s torso. Initially livid, Russert’s anger subsided when his son explained that after reading Big Russ and Me, he “wanted you and Grandpa to always be by my side.”

There is the story of the father who received a Mother’s Day card in the mail every year from his daughter, his only child, thanking him for raising her alone. “But my dad took over mom duty when my mother died in 1974, well before the movie Mr. Mom made grocery-shopping, bread-baking, laundry-doing dads cool. And he took his mom role seriously.”

There is another story of a father who worked as a milkman, who needed to be up at 3 o’clock in the morning for his job. However, he would always sit up to listen to his child talk about problems, often about being teased by other children. Despite his exhaustion, he felt that being there for his child was more important than his rest.

There are fathers who give advice. “First, never go into the bar business, even though it may look glamorous. It’s not. Second, take dance lessons when you’re young, because if you’re a good dancer, you can walk into a party and have the best-looking girl in your arms within the five minutes.”

A dye-house worker would often tell his children, “Choose good friends. If you walk past garbage, you will smell like garbage.”

Then there is the father who obviously has daughters: “The title of boyfriend means nothing in this house.”

One daughter about sums up how many see their fathers when she wrote: “I look at my father’s rough, worn, and cracked hands, and I am reminded of the life he has lived. He worked hard, sacrificed for his family, and struggled for everything he has ever had. But underneath that rough exterior are gentle hands that picked us up when we cried, carried us through the rough spots, pulled us up when we fell down, patted us on the back when we achieved success, and hugged us each night before we went to bed as he told us how much he loved us.”

Tim Russert passed away on June 13, 2008 from coronary artery disease, leading to a fatal heart attack. After his father’s passing, Luke Russert visited the Meet the Press set, touching his father’s empty chair. “I’m going to keep that chair forever,” he said. “That’s my chair now.”

Farah A. Ferguson
Social Sciences Department
Central Branch

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Pursuit of Dreams

Dreams Image

T.E. Lawrence, also known as “the real Lawrence of Arabia” and author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph, wrote: “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

Dreams are often described as series of images, sensations, and emotions involuntarily occurring during certain stages of sleep, mainly during rapid-eye movement (REM). Though their purposes and substance are not readily understood or known. They are often subjects of speculation as well as psychological and philosophical curiosity. Dreams span for a few seconds to 20 minutes. The average person has about three to five dreams per night, but some could have more. Though most people do not remember their dreams, those who do are left contemplating their meaning or significance.

So before or after you get between the covers and float along the surreal stream to slumber, here are some materials that could assist in deciphering the meaning of your dreams:

How to Interpret Dreams and Visions by Perry Stone
Every person will have a dream at some point. Some will have visions. However, for many, those dreams and visions leave them wanting for some kind of interpretation and explanation. What did it mean? What does it mean when I dream about a departed loved one? What does it mean when I have the same dream more than once? What are the significance of nightmares? Is it a dream or is it a warning or advice? Check this book and see.

The Key to Your Dreams by Tamara Trusseau
Dreams, whether pleasant or vague or frightening, usually don’t make much sense, if any. This book attempts to explain different types of dreams as well as an extensive dictionary of symbols that may help you unlock meanings and expel the obscurity of possible hidden meanings.

The Watkins Dictionary of Dreams by Mario Reading
This is the ultimate dictionary for dream interpretation. It attempts to illuminate the reader on hidden meanings of dreams and helps in the journey of self-discovery. The author draws on research in folklore, art, superstition, science, psychology, and philosophy in generating his interpretations on symbols.

The History of Last Night’s Dream: Discovering the Hidden Path to the Soul by Rodger Kamenetz
The author explores the meaning of dreams in terms of his Jewish heritage. Using Jacob and his dreams as a leitmotif, the author offers a psychological and mystical approach to understanding messages we receive during our slumber.

Take part of the Adult Summer Reading programs at the Birmingham Public Library. You can sign up online by clicking this link. For more information and keep up on events, “Like” the Adult Summer Reading Program on Facebook by clicking here.

Farah A. Ferguson
Social Sciences Department
Central Branch

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Real Life Poets Holds Workshop for Adults

RLP logo
This workshop, led by Real Life Poets, will inspire you to use words effectively. Unlock your potential and walk within the power of your own words. Both writing and performing poetry will be covered. Class size is limited, so registration is recommended.

Workshops
Tuesday, June 26
6:00-8:00 p.m.
Central Library
Youth Department Story Castle, 2nd floor
226-3670

Wednesday, July 11
11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Titusville Library
322-1140

Real Life Poets is a non-profit community service and mentoring organization focusing on mentoring young adults, encouraging good communication and oratorical skills using spoken word poetry and the arts.

What's New at ReferenceUSA

Reference USA logo
The Birmingham Public Library has recently acquired two new online modules from ReferenceUSA, your go-to source for information about businesses. The first new module is U.S. Healthcare; this module provides profiles for more than 855,000 physicians and dentists. Your search may offer information about the doctor’s office, address information, personal information such as specialty, age, medical school attended, year of graduation, board certification, and hospital affiliation.

The second new module is U.S. Consumers/Lifestyles. This module is useful to organizations who wish to do targeted mailings and marketing, to assist them in possibly reaching new potential clients/customers. Through the custom search feature, you can run queries based on consumer interests such as purchase behavior, political leanings, entertainment interest, hobbies, etc.

If you have questions regarding our two new modules, please call your local Birmingham Public Library.

Business, Science, & Technology Department
Central Library

Birmingham Public Library Explores Michelle Obama’s Inspiring Family History

book cover
Birmingham Bound presents author Rachel L. Swarns discussing her book American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama. The event will be held on Monday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium at the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. A remarkable history of First Lady Michelle Obama’s mixed ancestry, American Tapestry by Rachel L. Swarns is nothing less than a breathtaking and expansive portrait of America itself. In this extraordinary feat of genealogical research—in the tradition of The Hemingses of Monticello and Slaves in the Family—author Swarns, a respected Washington-based reporter for the The New York Times, tells the fascinating and hitherto untold story of Ms. Obama’s black, white, and multiracial ancestors; a history that the First Lady herself did not know. At once epic, provocative, and inspiring, American Tapestry is more than a true family saga; it is an illuminating mirror in which we may all see ourselves.

The Birmingham Public Library will be one of the first stops on Rachel Swarns’ national book tour, which includes signings at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center, Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Rachel L. Swarns has been a reporter for The New York Times since 1995. She has written about domestic policy and national politics, reporting on immigration, the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008, and First Lady Michelle Obama and her role in the Obama White House. She has also worked overseas for The New York Times, reporting from Russia, Cuba, and southern Africa, where she served as the Johannesburg bureau chief. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two children.

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

The Birmingham Bound lecture series highlights authors who researched their books in the Birmingham Public Library Archives.

Today's Brown Bag Lunch Program: Between the Covers: Fools for Love with Storyteller Dolores Hydock

Dolores Hydock
Between the covers of a history book, between the covers of an artist's portfolio, and under the covers of a secret marriage—there are amazing true stories about some famous and not-so-famous people who were fools for love in the early 1800s. Dolores Hydock shares these stories that are part royal scandal, part true romance, part fun facts from history, part R-rated (in a Fine Art kind of way), and part art appreciation for amateurs, with a shout-out to Queen Elizabeth, Jane Austen, and Columbo.

This program brings to life through true stories the world surrounding the time of the Regency Period in England, a time when it was all the rage for the fashionable set to exchange “Lover's Eyes”—hand-painted miniatures depicting a single eye set in jewelry and meant to be shared with the one person who would recognize whose eye it was. Take a look at these Lover's Eyes in person at the Birmingham Museum of Art through June 10, or visit www.artsbma.org for a virtual look. Wednesday, June 13, 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, June 12, 2012

Book Review: The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments

book coverThe Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments
David Lebovitz

Ah, summertime. If you’re considering delving into the art and craft of homemade ice cream, I heartily recommend David Lebovitz’s book The Perfect Scoop. Packed with recipes both familiar and exotic, this book is a treat for anyone who loves making or eating ice cream.

Chocolate and vanilla are up first. There are two recipes for each flavor. One is a Philadelphia or American style recipe and the other is a French style. The difference is that Philadelphia style ice-cream does not contain any eggs, only milk, cream, sugar, and various flavorings. French style ice cream uses a cooked custard as its base which contains egg yolks, cream, sugar, and flavorings. Having experimented with both methods, I do prefer the French style. The resulting ice cream has a rich creamy texture and a flavor unequaled by any store bought ice cream. The main drawback to making a custard-based ice cream is, well, having to make a custard base. This involves gently warming the egg yolks with a mixture of milk, cream, and sugar and heating it to the point where the eggs have been sufficiently cooked to ward off bacteria, but not to the point where they have been scrambled. An inexpensive kitchen thermometer is helpful for knowing how long to cook the custard.

Once you have mastered your custard-making skills, the sky’s the limit. Of course, not all of the recipes are custard-based. Orange popsicle and several other fruit flavored ice creams are done Philadelphia style and are very good. Other interesting flavors are cinnamon (excellent with apple pie or any cobbler/crisp type dessert), tiramisu, and fresh mint. Also included are recipes for frozen yogurt, sorbets, and other ice cream-related items like fudge ripple and waffle cones.

This is a fun book and if you don’t already own an ice cream maker, it will definitely have you searching for one. I can honestly say that the chocolate and vanilla recipes make the best ice cream I have ever had. Since the vanilla recipe calls for an actual vanilla bean, I recommend buying them in bulk as they are very expensive when purchased from the grocery store. Lebovitz infuses the book with his own wit and personality, making it an ideal read for anyone who loves good food and good writing.

M.B. Newbill
Southern History Department
Central Library

Monday, June 11, 2012

Men's Health Month Raises Awareness of Importance of Preventive Care

Men's Health Month graphicHealth is an important issue for everyone, as the nation is experiencing a startling rise in cases of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Studies have shown that men are less likely to seek medical attention, less likely to have insurance, and die earlier than women. June is National Men’s Health Month, set apart to encourage men of all ages to examine and improve their health habits.

This national focus on men’s health began when Senator Bob Dole sponsored a joint resolution for a National Men’s Health Week. The resolution was signed into law by President Clinton on May 31, 1994, for the week of June 12-19. The specific calendar week is the week before Father’s Day, but now the whole month of June is promoted as National Men’s Health Month.

The five leading causes of death among men are heart disease, cancer, accidents, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. A top ten list and links to information about these illnesses are located on the Alabama Department of Public Health website.

You can find much more information on the websites below:

Men’s Health Month

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Office of Minority Health

And don't forget the books
!

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents
Central Library

Birmingham Public Library's Summer Reading Programs...Not Just for Kids Anymore

photo of the adult summer reading display window
For several years the Birmingham Public Library has offered Adult Summer Reading programs in addition to the long-standing programs aimed at younger people. Each year the participation increases and many previous members return as well to join in the fun.

This year’s theme is “Between the Covers.” The program is available to adults ages 18 and older. Come join the fun which includes programs, prizes, book discussions, special events and, of course, great reads.

To sign up and learn more, visit any Birmingham Public Library location or visit us online at http:www.bplonline.org/programs/summerreading/2012.aspx. And be sure to stop by BPL's Adult Summer Reading page on Facebook to list your books, join discussions, and enter to win even more prizes.

Perhaps the biggest prize for your participation in the Adult Summer Reading program is the opportunity to model a love of reading to the children and others in your household and to your friends.

The library offers summer library programs for adults, teens and children . . . something fun for everyone.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Database Feature: CQ Researcher

CQ Researcher Web site

Maybe you’re doing a research project, or maybe you just like to read in-depth reports on various topics. Here’s one resource you might consider. CQ Researcher is an award-winning publication, which offers comprehensive, unbiased reporting and analysis on current issues. It is also known for its extensive coverage of health, social topics and trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, environmental issues, technology, and economic trends. The reports are published in print weekly and online 44 times a year by CQ Press. Access to the publication is offered by the Birmingham Public Library and Jefferson County Library Cooperative.

Each report has one theme that is researched and written by an experienced journalist. The site also provides an overview, background and chronology, assessment and analysis of the current situation, as well as views on both sides of the topic. Additionally, CQ Researcher also presents contact information for the topic and bibliographies of main sources.

Editorial Research Reports, predecessor of CQ Researcher, was co-founded in1923 by Richard M. Boeckel and Bertram Benedict. As a correspondent for the New York Tribune, Boeckel believed he and his fellow journalists needed a source which provided in-depth background information on topics they were covering. In 1956 Congressional Quarterly purchased Editorial Research Reports. Price also reports that flavored drinks may be a contribution to the rising numbers of female drinkers.

CQ Researcher’s current topic is on alcoholism, written by Tom Price, a longtime contributer to CQ Researcher and a Washington-based freelancer. According to Price, less Americans are reportedly abusing alcohol than in past years. However, there is one exception: college students. Drinkers ages 18 to 20 have the highest proportion to binge drinking, as stated by a January 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic.

The previous topic was on traumatic brain injury (TBI) was written by Marcia Clemmitt, a veteran social-policy reporter and former editor of Medicine & Health. Approximately 1.7 million people in the United States are reported to suffer traumatic brain injuries every year. The report states that about 20 percent of veterans who served in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned with a TBI. Researchers have also discovered that even mild TBIs could contribute to dementia, depression, and other mental disorders or mental illnesses.

A JCLC library card and residence in the City of Birmingham is required to access this database. Remote access is available.

Farah A. Ferguson
Business, Science, & Technology
Central Branch

Alabama Is the Home of 14 Newly Designated National Recreation Trails

national recreation trail logoWith school letting out, and oppressive summer weather still a few weeks away, many people’s thoughts are turning towards outdoor activities as a way of relaxing and keeping physically fit. If you happen to be one of these people, and are looking for new opportunities to commune with nature, then you will be interested to learn that the U. S. Department of the Interior has recently designated 54 new National Recreation Trails situated throughout the United States. Running through both densely populated urban centers (the Los Angeles River Trail in California) and sparsely inhabited rural landscapes (the Kanatak Trail on the Alaska Peninsula), these trails range in distance from less than a mile (Bailey’s Woods Trail in Oxford, MS) to nearly 190 miles (the Georgia Coast Saltwater Paddle Trail). Interestingly, the state that received the most designations this year was—you guessed it—Alabama with fourteen. The Oak Mountain Red Trail is the only one of these fourteen located in the Birmingham metro area. Nestled in Oak Mountain State Park near Pelham, the trail consists of approximately 25 miles of varied terrain, much of which has been set aside for mountain biking. The trail is maintained by both park staff and the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers.

National Recreation Trails are but one part of our country’s National Trails System. The other two parts, the National Scenic Trails (NSTs) and the National Historic Trails (NHTs), have greater notoriety but lack the diversity and breadth exhibited by the National Recreation Trails. Currently, there are eleven designated National Scenic Trails. To be included in the system, a trail must be at least 100 miles long and demonstrate outstanding qualities of scenic beauty and recreational opportunity. The Appalachian Trail and the Natchez Trace Trail are prominent examples of NSTs that are, at least partially, located in the Southeast. National Historic Trails are designated to commemorate travel routes that are crucial to the social and cultural development of the United States. Of the nineteen current NHTs, two run through Alabama: the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and the Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail.

Whereas the National Scenic Trails and the National Historic Trails are all managed by the federal government, National Recreation Trails (NRTs) may fall under the auspices of the federal, state, or local authorities. Visitors to NRTs can enjoy a variety of recreational activities depending upon the terrain and geographical location of the trail. A quick review of Alabama’s 50 designated NRTs reveals a wide assortment of permissible activities: hiking, swimming, biking, roller skating, motorcycling, horseback riding, dog walking, fishing, boating, camping, canoeing, and kayaking. This year’s designations increase the total number of NRTs nationwide to over 1,200.

For more information about the National Trails Systems, please check the Birmingham Public Library’s catalog, or contact the library’s Government Documents Department.

Jim Murray
Government Documents Department
Central Library

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Book Review: Material World: A Global Family Portrait

book coverMaterial World: A Global Family Portrait
Peter Menzel and Charles C. Mann

When this book came out eighteen years ago I latched onto it quickly. Almost twenty years later, I read through it again, mostly because there’s still nothing like it. About 250 pages, most of them color pictures, accompany brief texts that show you how a typical family lives in thirty countries. Each family has their own section, and each section has what the author calls a “big picture” where the family’s possessions are displayed in front of their home. Or at least the things I guess they’re not embarrassed to place out front of their home.

You see an extreme range of wealth here, from a Malian family, whose possessions could all fit neatly into an average American den, to, well, an American family, whose lot takes up their driveway, front yard and part of the street they live on. The Natomas’ (the Malian family) goods-blankets, cooking equipment, clothes-almost all fall into the survival category. It probably doesn’t differ greatly from what a Malian family would’ve had in the middle ages. The Texan Skeen family stuff is standard 20th century Western convenience and comfortable life array, but they don’t live luxuriously. Seeing the large, well-chosen color pictures conveys information no newspaper ever possibly could. Additional photos and text blocks further reveal the life of these families, their hopes, fears, aspirations, where they get their food, where they work, go to school, money troubles, religious life. Though the stats in the book have of course dated, there’s substantial material that hasn’t.

Also included are 2-page sections that show, at a glance, common articles throughout the world. Here you can compare and contrast even more directly than in the other portions of the book. Pics of families watching TV stacked four high and four columns across, from Kuwait, Brazil, Bosnia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Great Britain and so on. There are similar grid spreads on “Meals of the World” and Toilets (spic-and-span tile bathrooms to squat holes in stone floors).

Remarkably, thought there was the usual official meddling, only one country-Saddam’s Iraq-insisted on a model home for the project, rather than a real one. Things leap out at you and stay with you. Western Samoans, intensely Protestant, live in a purely communistic way as anyone perhaps ever does in the modern world, sharing everything somewhat like the way the early Christians did. An Albanian family struggles to get by after decades of brutal state communism courtesy of the dictator Enver Hoxha. A more radically different approach to communism from the easy-going Samoans is hard to imagine. An Iraqi mother does most everything close to the floor, ignoring her furniture. She follows the old Iraqi tradition here. Did the Iraqi officials, when they saw the book, feel embarrassed by her? An Argentine family recounts how they moved to Bolivia for new prospects years ago only to return home because they badly missed their relatives.

I especially like the photos of people cooking and eating. Meat, potatoes, bread and peppers are revealed as near-universal. Several shots had me salivating. But when I read about the sanitary conditions surrounding the shots I felt a confusion of emotions. Leaving in these and other contradictions is part of the book’s fascination and strength.

Material World is a fine book for wrecking stereotypes and maybe even for dissolving boundaries.

P.S. This book is cataloged Juvenile. Don’t let that stop you. For most intents and purposes, it’s an adult book. But kids will like the involving, ever-present photos.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Between the Covers: Fools for Love with Storyteller Dolores Hydock

Dolores Hydock
Between the covers of a history book, between the covers of an artist's portfolio, and under the covers of a secret marriage—there are amazing true stories about some famous and not-so-famous people who were fools for love in the early 1800s. Dolores Hydock shares these stories that are part royal scandal, part true romance, part fun facts from history, part R-rated (in a Fine Art kind of way), and part art appreciation for amateurs, with a shout-out to Queen Elizabeth, Jane Austen, and Columbo.

This program brings to life through true stories the world surrounding the time of the Regency Period in England, a time when it was all the rage for the fashionable set to exchange “Lover's Eyes”—hand-painted miniatures depicting a single eye set in jewelry and meant to be shared with the one person who would recognize whose eye it was. Take a look at these Lover's Eyes in person at the Birmingham Museum of Art through June 10, or visit www.artsbma.org for a virtual look. Wednesday, June 13, 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, June 06, 2012

Birmingham Public Library Board President Gwendolyn B. Guster Welch Receives National Citation Award for Distinguished Service

Gwendolyn WelchThe Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), a division of the American Library Association, has selected Gwendolyn B. Guster Welch to receive the ALA Trustee Citation, which recognizes public library Trustees for distinguished service to library development, outstanding contributions, and efforts that library board members make in their community. The award, given since 1941, is the highest honor that ALTAFF bestows on its members.

"Words can't express how honored I am to have been selected for this award. I share it with all of the citizens of Birmingham,'' Welch said. "Libraries mean the world to me and I look forward to continuing to serve our city's system.''

Welch has served as library board president for four of the 10 years she's served on the board. She has also served as vice president, parliamentarian and chaired every library board committee at some point during her tenure. Prior to becoming a board member, Welch served as a school media specialist from 1975 to 1996 and volunteered at several Birmingham library branches. Nationally, she serves as trustee-at-large on the ALTAFF board.

Welch said she works to improve the way the library system serves the public. One way of doing that is through developing strong leadership on the board. She created the library system's “Board Buddies” program, where new trustees are paired with experienced library board members to "learn the ropes'' and understand the process of serving on the board. She's worked to build relationships between the board and library staff by inviting employees to meetings and recognizing them for their good work.

Only one other person has been selected to receive the 2012 ALTAFF Trustee Citation award, and that was a library trustee from Illinois. Welch and the other trustee will be honored later this month during the Opening General Session of the 2012 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

For more information, contact Angela Fisher Hall at (205) 226-3610 or ahall@bham.lib.al.us. Also, go to www.ala.org/altaff, or contact Jillian Kalonick at (312) 280-2161 or jkalonick@ala.org.

Science fiction legend Ray Bradbury dead at 91


Bradbury obituary at CNN

A giant of the science fiction and fantasy genre has left us. Rest in peace, Mr. Bradbury.


Book Review: The Beginner's Goodbye

"Anne could write about any city. She could never leave the house and write great fiction. She beautifully captures regular people who are not trying to be noticed. She writes about real life." —John Waters on his friend and fellow Baltimorean, Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler's new book, The Beginner's Goodbye, has all the ingredients of a successful Tyler book: quirky characters, family dysfunction, an introspective protagonist, a tragedy, a coping, and a rebirth. While I don't feel like this slim volume measures up to some of Tyler's greater works—The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage, and my personal favorite, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant—it is well worth a read, as is any Tyler book.

Aaron Woolcott is 34 years old and runs his family's small publishing company. He is married to Dorothy, a practical, frumpy doctor eight years his senior whom he met when he sought a radiologist's expertise for his company's Beginner's Guide series on cancer. Aaron, who has been fussed over all his life by a doting mother and younger sister due to a crippled leg and arm resulting from a childhood disease, is smitten with Dorothy's unfussy nature, and he knows that this is the type of woman he could share a life with. But, as in any Tyler book, life does not go according to plan.

Aaron and Dorothy are married twelve years when a tree falls onto the roof of their sun porch and knocks over a big screen TV, crushing Dorothy to death. Aaron moves in with his sister while his house is being repaired. Aaron is in no hurry to return to his empty house, and because the repairs to the house are major, he stays on at his sister's and reflects on the kind of marriage he and Dorothy had. Like any memories after a loss, the good ones rise to the top, at first, but eventually Aaron is reminded of all the ways their marriage didn't work. Aaron, tall and thin, and Dorothy, stumpy and wide, never quite fit together when they hugged, just as they didn't fit as a couple.

Uncharacteristic of a Tyler book, Dorothy starts appearing unannounced to Aaron a year after her death, popping up at his elbow as he's walking down the sidewalk, or staring at the house from across the street. Their talks are brief, but much is imparted. And unlike some apparitions with the charitable goal of coming back to comfort the living, the no-nonsense Dorothy simply needs some things clarified before saying goodbye forever.