Friday, April 03, 2015

BPL Closed for Good Friday and Easter Weekend

All Birmingham Public Library locations will be closed Friday-Sunday, April 3-5, for the Good Friday and Easter holidays.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter in 1915

What was Easter like 100 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama? The Southern History Department has created a digital exhibit featuring advertisements to give you an idea of what people were purchasing during the Easter shopping season. The advertisements range from fashion, flowers, candy, and of course, the fixings for Easter dinner.

Fleck's Easter Egg Dyes

In the upcoming months, we plan to highlight the major new stories, human interest stories, sports, advertisements, and other unique items found in Alabama newspapers. Perspective is everything, and we will feature content from defunct and almost forgotten newspapers, like The Ensley Enterprise, to the city’s most well-known newspaper, The Birmingham News. Take a look and tell us what you think.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Career Counselor Jack Norris To Conduct Job Searching Tips Program at Central Library, March 31

Local career counselor, Jack Norris, will be presenting a "Job Searching Tips" program on Tuesday, March, 31, 1:30 p.m., in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) at the Central Library:

This program covers a variety of topics related to the job search process, including resume building; interviewing skills; networking; and, most important, keeping a positive attitude! Following the presentation, Mr. Norris will entertain questions from the attendees and will be available to provide individual consultation to address particular concerns.

The program is free, but pre-registration is encouraged. To register, please contact the library’s Public Computer Services Department by phone at 226-3680 or by email at You may also go to to register.

Jim Murray
Business, Science and Technology Department

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama

If I had to compile a list of the most-consulted books in the Southern History Department,
The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama would be near the top of the list and might even take up two or three slots. This is one in the series of Heritage Books for the counties of Alabama and it is an invaluable source of information for genealogists and historians. The text includes local history from the formation of Jefferson County to the time of the book’s publication and contains historical sketches of many small communities, churches, cemeteries, schools, historic homes, and landmarks, along with a family name index that makes this source a gold mine for genealogists in search of their Jefferson County ancestors.

Here is a sample of subjects from the Table of Contents:

  • History of Jefferson County, Alabama
  • Military History
  • Transportation
  • Cities, Towns and communities
  • Heritage of Homes
  • Spiritual Heritage
  • Cemeteries
  • Educational Heritage
  • Industry
  • Businesses
  • Medical Heritage
  • Governmental, Public and Service Agencies
  • Clubs and Organizations
  • Landmarks, Historic Sites and Markers
  • Entertainment and Leisure
  • Lifestyles
  • Families
  • Tributes, Memorials, and Business Histories
  • Index

There are also many photos to accompany the text and for some researchers this may be the best opportunity to find out how an ancestor looked or what the old family church was like before its modern additions.

Since Jefferson County, Alabama, is one of the most heavily-researched areas of BPL’s Southern History collection, this book sees a lot of use. But don’t worry—because of its popularity we have more than one copy available. If Jefferson County research is on your list of things to do, taking a look at The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama deserves a place at the top of your list.

For more on the Heritage Books series:

For more Southern History resources on Alabama counties:

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department

It’s All in the Family

Euriah Simpkins, age 50

While I was preparing to participate in a Black History program at my church, the program director suggested that participants might want to talk about a noteworthy family member. It was during this search for a subject that I rediscovered the story of my great-great-great Uncle Euriah (E.W.) Simpkins.

From the 1930s to the 1960s in South Carolina, public libraries were not accessible to African-Americans because of segregation. In order to have access to library service, Willie Lee Buffington, a white Methodist Minister, and Euriah W. Simpkins, a black school teacher and principal, came up with the idea of Faith Cabin Libraries. Buffington asked people from all over the country to donate books for over 30 years to create a series of log cabin libraries for African-Americans to use. They became known collectively as “Faith Cabin Libraries.”

Willie Lee Buffington and Simpkins

Willie Lee Buffington was born in 1908 in Saluda, South Carolina. His parents were poor. When Willie Lee was nine he met Euriah Simpkins, a black school teacher and principal who would play an influential part in Buffington’s life. Simpkins was walking by while Buffington was making mud pies. When one of his pies broke, he started to cry. Simpkins spoke to him kindly and told him to “be a man.” This started a wonderful friendship that would last for many years. Simpkins gave Buffington books to read and encouraged him to go to college. Some accounts even say that Simpkins sent Buffington $1 a month while he was in high school and college.

When Euriah Simpkins dedicated a new black school in 1931 in Edgefield, South Carolina, Buffington was astonished that there were no books for the students. After thinking about the situation, Buffington wrote five ministers whose names were listed in a Sunday school publication and asked them each for a book. Only one minister answered, Reverend L. H. King of St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Harlem, New York. Reverend King sent 1,000 books that were taken up by his congregation.

Simpkins on site of construction of the first Faith Cabin Library

Faith Cabin Library, Saluda, South Carolina

The new school in Edgefield now had more books than it needed, so Buffington and Simpkins called a community meeting to ask if the local black community wanted to build a library. Of course they wanted a library. Donors of both races provided materials and the African-American community provided the labor. They built the new library near Saluda, South Carolina. The library received attention in magazine articles and people began to send more books and another library was started in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, approximately 10 miles away from Saluda.

Dedication of the Ridge Spring Faith Cabin Library

Buffington continued to create libraries for blacks until the 1960s. His friend and mentor Euriah W. Simpkins died on July 7, 1944. Euriah helped plant the seed for the Faith Cabin Libraries in South Carolina. My mother, Anita Jones, and cousin, Reverend Joseph Walker, remember the reverence with which their grandmother, Florence Bates Clark, and great uncle, Michael Bates, spoke about their uncle “Eury.”

While I was doing research on Uncle Eury, some of the resources I used were available through the Birmingham Public Library and others were available through the Internet:

Ancestry Library Edition – This database can only be used in Birmingham Public Library. I found the death certificate for Euriah (E.W. Simpkins) and his brother-in-law and my great-great grandfather, Moses Bates.

Genealogy Resources – A great page that has various genealogy resources that are available at Birmingham Public Library as well as information on how to start doing genealogical research.

Introduction to Genealogy Classes – Take a look at these classes offered by the Southern History Department at the Central Library.

South Carolina Archive and History Foundation – I used this website to look for Rosenwald Schools in Saluda County. I found E.W. Simpkins mentioned as teacher at the Plum Branch School.

Willie Lee Buffington Digital Library – Go to “Titles” and have a look at the primary source documents in the University of South Carolina South Caroliniana library's Willie Lee Buffington manuscript collection.

Maya Jones
West End Library

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

BPL Young Professional Board is Accepting Applications

How can you expand your professional network, enjoy special social events, and support a worthy organization at the same time? Join the Birmingham Public Library's Young Professionals group!

The BPL YPs support the literary culture of the Birmingham region and are committed to making the library the center of lifelong learning for the city. The group hosts lectures, special collection tours, and other social events; volunteer time and skills; and work to increase public awareness and access to the Library’s resources.

Young Professional groups are a popular way to broaden your skill and experience in the business world while supporting a worthy organization. The BPL invites you to become member of its YP team. Take advantage of its leadership, volunteer, and networking opportunities while helping to sustain the largest cultural organization in Birmingham and Jefferson County.

The BPL YPs are committed to making the library and its 19 locations the center of lifelong learning for the city.  The group hosts special library tours, dinners, fundraisers, and other fun social events.Your obligation will include a modest annual financial contribution of $250 as well as a commitment of attending six board meetings and volunteering ten hours per year.

While City of Birmingham provides the Library's basic operating expenses, 96% of its programming for children and adults is supported by the fundraising efforts of the BPL Foundation. The BPL YP's are a vitial part of this support organization, and the funds raised by them will provide direct aid to essential programs and materials—youth and adult summer reading, early literacy programming, and book purchasing for example—that serve two million visitors in the Birmingham area each year.

For information on how to nominate someone or apply, please visit the Library’s website at or call Brandon Smith at 205-591-4944. There will be a tour of the library's special collections on May 19th for those interested in joining the board.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wylam's DVD Guru

Wylam Branch Library is very fortunate to have Ms. Patricia on our staff. Her job is to keep our library materials in order, but we have discovered she has a gift for helping patrons pick out DVDs. In fact, she is so good, we now display her selections. Here are her current picks. If you would like recommendations tailored just for you, come by Wylam Library after 3:00 p.m. and Ms. Patricia will be happy to assist you.

Fruitvale Station 
The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008, and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: Being a better son to his mother, being a better partner to his girlfriend, and being a better father to T, their beautiful four-year-old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy.

Into the Storm 
This sequel to the award-winning film The Gathering Storm offers an intimate look at the making of a nation's hero, when Churchill was at his most commanding and effective. It shows how his prowess as a great wartime leader ultimately undermined his political career and threatened his marriage.

Eleven-year-old Woody dreams of a better life, as well as his absent mother. He looks to his uncle, Vincent, as the father he never had. A street hustler and former drug dealer, Vincent's fresh off an eight-year stint in prison and wants a new direction. When Vincent passes his nephew's school one day, he offers to show the boy how a man handles his business. Woody jumps at the chance, but soon his uncle's past life comes back to the forefront.

Malcolm X 
Born Malcolm Little, his minister father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. He became a gangster, and while in jail discovered the Nation of Islam writings of Elijah Muhammad. After getting out of jail, he preaches the teachings, but later on goes on a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca. There he converts to the original Islamic religion and becomes a Sunni Muslim. He changes his name to El-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz and stops his anti-white teachings, having discovered the error of his mistakes. He is later assassinated and dies a Muslim martyr.

During a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the government to transfer $150 million into an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every twenty minutes.

Tyler Perry’s Temptation
An explosive romance about forbidden desires. The provocative story of Judith, an ambitious married woman whose temptation by a handsome billionaire leads to betrayal, recklessness and forever alters the course of her life.

Curl Up with a Book Anywhere You Happen to Be

While I was having my car serviced, the technician took pains to show me that there was a television in the waiting room to alleviate my boredom, but I said, “No thanks, I have a book on my phone.” Of course, I wound up having to explain that, and it went something like this:

Not only are there free apps like OverDrive and Kindle that can turn your smart phone into an e-reader, but you can check out downloadable books for free from the library. That’s right—the apps and the books are free! All you need is a library card.

The library’s OverDrive website is easy to navigate and has plenty of help and support to get you started, including how-to videos. You just need your library card number to sign in, and then you can check out and download up to 10 e-books or audiobooks at a time. And when your loan period is over, the books just go away, so you don’t even have to worry about late fees.

Then whenever you’re stuck with unexpected downtime, like waiting in a doctor’s office or having your car repaired, you have everything you need to curl up with a good book wherever you are.

I never thought I’d enjoy reading a book on my phone, but now I love it. I hate to be stuck without something to read, and now I never am. I have access to a whole library right in my pocket.

Ellen Griffin Shade
Avondale Library

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cowboy Culture: Exploring the Wild West in ALS

The straight line of this guy’s nose ain’t really straight; he’s been fightin’ real trouble a long time. He hooks that nice stitched boot against the round corral’s bottom rail, leaning into its sunned glare. Those heels have nudged many a horse through rushing water. Kicked sometimes, too, if that’s what it took to get listened to.

He’d always be listened to. You know that by the way he looks out at that Quarter Horse churning in the pen, its head swinging side and back, fast as a fist. Can’t see the man’s eyes—the shade of his hat keeps throwin’ angles down over them. But that’s not the way to tell about a person. Nah. It’s more the way a man’s held up. Even if he been beaten down all his life, some won’t admit they’re losing. It’s them you like to be around. It’s ‘cause you can pretend maybe you’re winnin’ too.

This one’s got his neck stretched tall from the shoulders. Them shoulders are spaced out wide, one from the other. Means he’s got something to say to the ground. It’s him saying, “I ain’t going yet” to his grave. He climbs the rail and stands in the pen, saying nothing but saying everything to the horse. It twists an ear his way. It listens to his body speak.

It’s no mystery who this man is: a cowboy, suede chaps and all. The iconic image of the cowboy is both historical and romantic. It’s as much a part of America’s history as it is a part of Americans’ wistful dreams. The cowboy is raw-hide tough and respected for it; he won’t take any bull—sometimes literally. Who hasn't wanted to be the one riding off into the sunset, gun holstered at the hip?

Celebrating the cowboy (or cowgirl) in all of us, here is a compilation of various Wild West materials in the Arts/Literature/Sports (ALS) department that will get you yee-hawing before you know it.

The Top Shooter’s Guide to Cowboy Action Shooting
Taking Up Riding as an Adult
Line Dancing (Instructional DVD)
Will Rodgers Rope Tricks

The West of Buffalo Bill: Frontier Art, Indian Crafts, Memorabilia, from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center
The West of the Imagination
Indians: The Great Photographs That Reveal North American Indian Life, 1847-1929, From the Unique Collection of the Smithsonian Institution
Singing in the Saddle : The History of the Singing Cowboy
For a Cowboy Has to Sing : A Collection of Sixty Romantic Cowboy and Western Songs, Covering the Fifty-year Golden Era of Popular Standards Between 1905 and 1957 (Score)

That's Black Entertainment: Celebrating Legendary Black Westerns (DVD)
The 100 Greatest Western Movies of All Time: Including Five You've Never Heard Of
I Was That Masked Man (Memoir of Clayton Moore, the actor who portrayed the Lone Ranger)
John Wayne: Bigger Than Life (DVD)

Cowboy Poetry Matters
The Next Rodeo: New and Selected Essays
Horses That Buck: The Story of Champion Bronc Rider Bill Smith
How to Write Western Novels

Cowboy High Style: Thomas Molesworth to the New West
Beading in the Native American Tradition
Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures

Bethany Mitchell

Explorations of Our Galactic Home

Carl Sagan, 1934-1996

“Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.”
- Carl Sagan

Most people are passingly familiar with Star Trek or, at the very least, with Mr. Spock—the pointy-eared, green-blooded Vulcan whose catchphrase is “Live long and prosper.” Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought Spock to life, passed away February 27 and with him, a legacy of kindness and humanity like few others. His fights for equal pay for fellow Star Trek castmates as well as lending his voice to the cause of diversity within the cast made for an impressive life, both behind and on the screen.

With his passing, I felt inspired to learn more about our galaxy. In the words of Carl Sagan, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” Studying the stars is a way to study where we came from and what makes us all up, the things that sew together the universe as we know it. Whether you’re a novice backyard astronomer or an advanced stargazer, the Birmingham Public Library has the resources you need when it comes to the cosmos.

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Journey, is a 1980 thirteen-part miniseries wherein Sagan himself walks us through the story of the universe, from the smallest atoms to the biggest celestial bodies. His book by the simple title of Cosmos, published in 1985, reiterates much and expounds on topics of the miniseries.

Or you may be familiar with the sequel to Sagan’s series: the 2014 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and recently aired on Fox. Building on the foundation of Sagan’s, it comes with the added bonus of corrected and newly-discovered information about our universal home.

Maybe you’re interested in seeing what NASA (or other countries’) astronauts are up to for another astounding glimpse of life outside of Earth. One of the more fascinating aspects of the modern age is the ability for astronauts to tweet from outer space itself, something I certainly never imagined as a possibility when I was a child on the heels of the Challenger disaster.

From the black-and-white depictions of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon to astronauts tweeting pictures of the Earth from miles and miles away (in color!, and often with the hashtag #earthart), space knowledge and travel has come light-years since we first began our search thousands of years ago. Come and see us. BPL has everything you need to get started on your own personal cosmic journey (found mostly in the 520s).

The New Astronomy Guide: Stargazing in the Digital Age 
The Handy Astronomy Answer Book
Celestial Geometry: Understanding the Astronomical Meanings of Ancient Sites 
Hubble: The Mirror on the Universe 
Cosmos [by Carl Sagan, with reflections by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and foreword by Ann Druyan]

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey 
How the Universe Works, season 1(2011)
How the Universe Works, season 2 (2014)

Social Media
NASA’s APOD - website
NASA’s APOD (Astronomy Pic of the Day) - Twitter
Sky & Telescope - Twitter
NASA Astronauts - Twitter
Terry W. Virts (American astronaut aboard the ISS) - Twitter
Sam Cristoforetti (Italian astronaut aboard the ISS) - Twitter
Reid Wiseman (American astronaut, recently returned from ISS) - Twitter

“If I finish a book a week, I will read only a few thousand books in my lifetime, about a tenth of a percent of the contents of the greatest libraries of our time. The trick is to know which books to read.”
- Carl Sagan

Lynda Tidmore
Business, Science & Technology/Social Sciences
Central Library

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Break Activities at Five Points West Library

Spring break is coming, and if you are not going out of town, the Five Points West Regional Library has some special activities to make your break special.

For middle school girls on Tuesday, March 31, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., we will have a program called "Girl Code" on writing computer code. A catered lunch will be provided. This same program will be offered to high school girls on Wednesday, April 1, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.  To attend, please call 226-4017 to register.

On Monday, March 30, to Thursday, April 2, at noon, we will have a series of spring break programs. Monday will be “Be Crafty"; Tuesday will be “Dance with Candice”; Wednesday will be “Magic with Larry Moore”; and Thursday will be “Movie and Popcorn” with a newly released movie about an orphan who gets adopted by a millionaire. The library will be closed Friday, April 3 through Sunday, April 5, for Easter weekend.

So come join our spring break fun at the Five Points West Regional Library!

Lynn Piper
Five Points West Library