1916: What happened if you wanted to take a book on your summer vacation in 1916? Back then, it was not easy to renew a book over the phone due to the outrageous long distance charges. Returning it through the mail was risky as it could arrive late, become overdue, or get lost in the mail. The library found the solution by granting summer vacation loans. Books could be checked out from June 1st through September 30th without worrying about renewals or overdue fines.
Today: You can request a book from any of the 40 public libraries in Jefferson County and have it sent to the library closest to you. The book can be checked out for 21 days and can be renewed online. Besides physical books, you can also download e-books to your device for both online and offline reading. This is great if you headed to the beach and forgot something to read. Plus, you can also download audio books for that long drive. We even have a curated collection of “beach reads”. Would you like to learn how to download and read e-book or listen to audio book for free on your device? We have classes to teach you how, and here's the schedule.
Device Training Downloadables
- June 21, 2 pm, Powderly Library
- June 24, 10 am, East Lake Library
- June 27, 11 am, North Birmingham Library
- June 28, 12 pm, West End Library
- July 12, 2:15 pm, Central Library
1916: The Birmingham Public Library circulated piano rolls. Having read in a magazine about libraries that loaned music scores, piano rolls, and one which even had a soundproof room so patrons could play the music before checking it out, the library director decided to circulate piano rolls and solicited donations from local music companies. The Starr Piano Company started the collection with a donation of 150 piano rolls. Each patron could check out three rolls and keep them for a week. Some of the popular songs included: "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away," "My Old Kentucky Home," and "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground." The collection became so popular they added more piano rolls to include songs like "Sewanee River" and, of course, "Dixie."
Today: The Birmingham Public Library still loans music, but instead of piano rolls, you can checkout CDs. With the rise of MP3s, Birmingham Public Library subscribes to Freegal, which allows patrons to download three songs a week for free and keep them for life. You must have an active library card and be resident of Birmingham to use the Freegal database. BPL continues to be an innovator. If you want to learn more about life in Birmingham 100 years ago, visit our “Birmingham in 1916” digital exhibit, and make plans to attend our “Life in 1916” program.
Life in 1916
What was life like in Birmingham 100 years ago in 1916? Get a glimpse into the past as the Southern History Department takes you on a journey through the news, stories, and advertisements gleaned from Birmingham newspapers for the year 1916.
- Monday, June 20, 2:00 pm, West End Library
- Monday, July 11, 2:15 pm, Southside Library
- Wednesday, July 13, 2:00 pm, Central Library, Arrington Auditorium
- Monday, July 18, 2:00 pm, North Avondale Library
Southern History Department