Friday, August 12, 2016

Central's Temporary Hours

Due to air conditioning issues in the East Building of the Central Library, the Central Library will have temporary new hours until the air conditioning is repaired.

For the week of July 25-29, the Linn Henley Research Library and the first floor of the East Building (Fiction Department and Circulation Department) will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The second and third floors of the East Building will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Please check back for updates.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pratt City Library Hosting Workshops on Women's Self-Defense, Hospice, and Elderly Abuse

The Pratt City Branch Library is hosting the free workshop Damsel in Defense on Tuesday, July 26, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. The self-defense program is being offered as part of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s 2016 Summer Reading.

Exercise your right to protect yourself with Damsel in Defense. Instructor Bobbie Floyd will equip, empower, and educate women on self-defense with simple strategies, said Deborah Drake Blackmon, branch manager of the Pratt City Library.

The Pratt City Library also has two other summer reading workshops coming up designed to educate the public about two other issues: hospice care and elder abuse.

On Wednesday, July 27, from 11:00-11:45 a.m., Melanie Johnson of Gentiva Hospice will discuss caregiver stress and burnout in the workshop Learn About Hospice Care and How it Can Help You.

On Thursday, August 11, from 11:00-11:45 a.m., Johnson will return to lead a seminar on elder abuse and how many cases of elderly abuse are overlooked. In the workshop, Johnson will share tips on how to look for changes associated with aging or declining health.

Small Business Seminars “Double Header” to be Held at Central Library on Thursday, July 28

It’s not only baseball season, but also small business season at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)! BPL is partnering with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) to host a special “double header” of seminars on Thursday July 28, 2016, in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library beginning at 12:00 p.m. The seminars are free, but registration is required. To register, please visit the Birmingham SCORE website and click on the seminar title in the Upcoming Events section.

Doubleheader Details
Central Library, July 28
  • How to Use Legal Strategies to Protect Your Business
    12:00-1:00 p.m.
    Whether you are forming a new business or already running an established business, this seminar will help you develop a legal plan to protect your assets and investments. The presenter for the seminar is Josh Andrews, a local Birmingham attorney who specializes in legal issues that are of concern to small business owners and entrepreneurs.
  • Boost Your Sales
    1:00-2:00 p.m.
    Are you a small business owner or entrepreneur who is concerned about your sales performance? If so, please plan to attend Boost Your Sales, a program aimed at providing you with both a new slant to your sales approach and ideas for crafting a more effective sales plan. The program presenter is Octavia Kuransky, founder and principal trainer for the Go Sales Group.

For more information about the seminars and other resources for small business development available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by e-mail at

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Southern History Book of the Month: Alabama Biography: An Index to Biographical Sketches of Individual Alabamians, a W.P.A. Project

Alabama Biography: An Index to Biographical Sketches of Individual Alabamians in State, Local, and to Some Extent National Collections, a W.P.A. Project
Sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library

On the Ready Reference shelf in the Southern History Department, there is a thick book bound in black, with a spine title reading W.P.A. Index to Alabama Biography—which is why most people wouldn’t recognize the long jawbreaker of a title listed above. Generally known in the department as simply “the W.P.A. Index,” this is one of our most frequently used sources for Alabama research:
This index to biographical material about Alabamians was begun as a library sponsored W.P.A. Project during the 1930’s. The W.P.A. folded up before the work was completed. The manuscript or typescript was turned over to Southern Collection in this state. Southern staff has found it useful and a great time saver in thumbing through many individual books—books often without indexes or poor ones. (From the preface)
Though a valuable source of information, the Index can still be a bit cumbersome to use. Suppose you wanted to know about William Wyatt Bibb, the first governor of Alabama. You could turn to his name in the Index and see an entry like this: "Bibb, William W, Beverly, I: 39; N.C.B. , X: 425; Riley, I: 1; . . ."

And the entry continues for several more lines. To decipher it, you would have to turn to the front list of sources, in which you discover that “Beverly” means History of Alabama: For Use in Schools and for General Reading by John William Beverly and that the entry for Bibb is on page 39. You would have to follow the same procedure for the rest of the titles in the list. It’s slow going at first, but easier once you’ve learned the drill.

The Index has gone through several evolutions in its history with BPL. When the original and very well-thumbed copy was showing signs of heavy use, a bound photocopy was placed on the shelf, but the photocopy also reflected the evidence of wear and tear as well as the extensive annotations, such as the change from Dewey call numbers to Library of Congress. However, this source became much easier to search when it was converted into one of the library’s databases. Using this format, all a researcher has to do is search a name to generate a list of sources, complete with catalog links to help locate items on the shelf.

Even though the W.P.A. Index was never completed according to the original vision of the Works Progress Administration, it remains one of the most informative guides to biographical material about Alabamians. Take a look at one of our bound copies in the collection or try out the database, which is accessible from your home or office. With the approach of our Bicentennial, it’s a good time to learn more about the people who shaped the history of our state.

Who are your famous Alabamians?

The WPA Index Database
Alabama Bicentennial
Birmingham Public Library Databases

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Registration Open For August 2016 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the August 2016 Computer Class Schedule. During this month, we include a Basic PC class, Excel 2010, Hiring Process for Jefferson County, as well as our popular downloadables class. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) Library. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. You will receive an email confirming your registration for classes. You may also call to confirm your registration.

To register for any class, please email us at or call 205-226-3681. You may also download and print a pdf copy of the August 2016 Computer Class Schedule to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the August 2016 Computer Class Schedule pdf can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Copies for the 21st Century

bad copyEver made a bad copy on a copy machine? We have all been there as the copy may have smeared text, words cut off, thick black lines, and poor image quality. Because none of the books in the Southern History Department can be checked out, our patrons make a lot of copies as they conduct local history and genealogy research.

The Southern History Department applied for a major grant from the Alabama Public Library Service, which administers Alabama’s allocation of federal money received through the Library and Science and Technology Act. With the grant money, we purchased a KIC Click Mini overhead book scanner for the Southern History Department. Because of the overhead design, you can capture an image deeper within the folds of the book and the curvature of the spine of a tightly bound book. It also saves wear and tear on the binding of the books as you no longer have to flip the book over and flatten it to make a copy.

croppingYou will be able to scan in both color and black and white, print, save to a flash drive, or upload to cloud storage (Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, and Dropbox). It can save in the following file formats: PDF, JPEG, PNG, and Rich Text. Another great feature is that is has OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, which can made a PDF keyword searchable; you can also crop your images. Since saving to a flash drive is the most popular option, please bring a flash drive, or you can purchase one from the Friends Bookstore. Saving a digital copy of your scan is free, and prints are $.15 per page.

menu options
Several of our loyal patrons have already tried it out and love it! Wanda Looney, a member of Birmingham African American Genealogy Group, has been scanning pages out of several local cemetery books to help her identify abandoned and overgrown cemeteries. She exclaimed, “I can be in the middle of a deserted cemetery overgrown by weeds, and can pull up the information I need from a cemetery book on my phone. It’s amazing!” We are excited about the overhead book scanner, and cannot wait for you to try it out!

Laura M. Gentry
Southern History Department
Central Library

Central Library Hosting How to Use Legal Strategies to Protect Your Business Seminar on July 28

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host several small business seminars in 2016 beginning in April and ending in November that will take place at the Central Library. The small business seminars are being offered by BPL in partnership with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development.

Seminar presenters will be veteran mentors from the Birmingham chapter of SCORE, a national nonprofit comprised of volunteers willing to share their business knowledge and experience with prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners. For over 50 years, SCORE mentors have helped millions of business owners start or grow their business.

How to Use Legal Strategies to Protect Your Business is presented by Josh Andrews, a Birmingham lawyer specializing in legal issues of concern to small business owners. It is scheduled for Thursday, July 28, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., in the Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium, located on the fourth floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building. This same seminar will also be offered on Thursday, October 27.

The seminar is free but advance registration is required. To register, go to the Birmingham SCORE website at and click on the seminar title in the Upcoming Events section.

For more information about seminars and other resources about small business development available at BPL, contact Jim Murray of Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
Robert A. Heinlein
Illuminated by D. F. Vassallo

The character Lazarus Long is the star of two Heinlein novels, Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough for Love. He also appears in The Cat That Walks Through Walls, The Number of the Beastand To Sail Beyond the Sunset, the story of Lazarus’ mother. Lazarus is rich, wise, and extremely long-lived. He attributes his wealth to the fact he knew to never draw to a pair of deuces, and his long life to never giving anyone the chance to shoot him in the back. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long are a collection of Long’s aphorisms for wealth, happiness, long life, and love. They are also funny.

“Rub her feet” is among the best of Heinlein’s aphorisms. It appears many times in Long’s Notebooks and in the novels. “Don’t try to have the last word. You might get it” is clearly key to a long life. Wealth and love are well-served by “Money is a powerful aphrodisiac, but flowers work almost as well,” as is human happiness by “Always yield to temptation. It may never pass your way again.”

Reading Heinlein one comes to believe that his protagonists are different versions of Heinlein himself. Jubal Harshaw from Stranger in a Strange Land, and Johan Sebastian Bach Smith of I Will Fear No Evil are essentially the same character, cranky, very rich and very old men with hearts of gold down deep. One reads these books for the pleasure of their company, their quips, and useful wit. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long is a collection of Heinlein’s wit distilled, and as his character, Lazarus Long, once said, “A motion to adjourn is always in order.”

Before I adjourn this blog entry, let me assert that this brief title should not be missed for its entertainment sake, if not for any other reason. While the illuminations may not compete with those of The Book of Kells and other ancient illuminated manuscripts, they are compelling as well.

Check it out and enjoy.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Central Library Hosts Computer Coding Camp for Middle and High School Students

More than a dozen Birmingham area teens now have insight on how computer coding is used to create movies and video games, thanks to the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and community partners.

On July 11-15, the Central Library hosted the Steel City Hackers Coding Camp for middle and high school students. Generously funded by a UAB Benevolent Fund Local Agency Grant, the coding camp offered local teens a week-long opportunity to learn how to code and create their own movies and video games.

Teens used ALICE, a computer programming environment designed to teach code and offered free to the public by Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to gaining a better understanding of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, teens learned the importance of algorithms and the building blocks for learning and applying other computer programming languages.

“This program fit well with our mission to provide 21st century informal education programs at the library,” said Lance Simpson, teen librarian for the Central Library. “Our teens had a blast learning to code in ALICE. They had wonderful instructors in Ms. Keiah Shauku and Ms. Kelly Creel.” Simpson said many of the teens started out with no knowledge of computer programming, and by the end of the week had all created a complex video game or interactive video that demonstrated their newly advanced programming skills.

“We are so grateful to the UAB Benevolent Fund for the support of such an innovative program, and look forward to offering more programs like this in the future,” Simpson said.

In early June, the Central Library partnered with the UAB School of Engineering to host another free week-long computer camp as part of BPL Teens Engineer Birmingham, an afterschool program funded by a $50,000 grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund Grant Program. Simpson and Carrie Campbell, grants and special projects librarian, submitted the grant application on behalf of BPL. The money will be used to expand BPL’s teen engineering afterschool program from Central Library to other Birmingham public libraries beginning this fall.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Central Library Hosting Pokémon Go Workshop Saturday, July 23

The Central Library is hosting a free Intro to Pokémon Go workshop Saturday, July 23. The workshop, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. in the Story Castle on the 2nd floor, is an effort by the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) to educate people about the popular mobile game sweeping the country—and to promote safety at the same time.

The workshop is being organized by Jennifer Hancock, a library assistant in the Central Library Youth Department who is an avid player of the game. Since its introduction less than two weeks ago, Pokémon Go has become the most popular app of all time, surpassing the Candy Crush Saga that hit its height of popularity in 2013.

“Starting off with a basic overview of the app itself, we are then going to take a Poke-walk in Linn Park, pick up some Poke-stops, check out a Poke-gym, and hopefully catch some Pokémon in their natural environments,” Hancock said. “We will learn tips and tricks to catching, transferring, training, and evolving our Pokémon in a hands-on approach while also learning how to be a safe trainer.”

Hancock hopes the workshop helps Pokémon Go players in metro Birmingham avoid accidents that have occurred across the country.

“As our world gets caught up in the Poke-craze, we are noticing more and more people walking out into traffic, invading private property, and even driving while hunting Pokémon,” she said. “The worst of it is that none of those things are even effective means to playing the game. As a service to our community, we hope to teach the way the game was meant to be played and support the positive aspects of the game.”

Hancock said the media reports about Pokémon Go players getting hurt or stepping into dangerous situations are detracting from the fun of the game.

“We are out, getting exercise, socializing together, laughing and sharing,” Hancock said. “In the toxic environment our society is becoming, it is refreshing and encouraging to see the community developing around a simple game. We hope to see everybody there at our workshop this Saturday.”

See link below to an article on how libraries are capitalizing on the Pokémon Go craze to introduce themselves to a new generation of patrons, especially young adults and teens, and introducing visitors to Pokémon books, videos, and other items available for the public:

Birmingham Barons to Hold Birmingham Public Library Night on Wednesday, July 20

The Birmingham Barons baseball team will be holding Birmingham Public Library (BPL) Night on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Library staff will have a table promoting programs and services available at 19 city libraries, said Sandi Lee, interim director of the Birmingham Public Library.

The Barons will be hosting the Montgomery Biscuits at Regions Field, 1401 1st Avenue South in Birmingham. The game is slated to begin at 7:05 p.m. You can purchase tickets online at or at the gate. For more information, call the Barons office between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 205-988-3200.

Libraries in Birmingham, Nationwide, Opening Their Venues to Pokemon Go Players

While some venues across the country are shooing away participants of Pokémon Go, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) system is welcoming patron players of the popular virtual game that is sweeping the country.

Several of Birmingham’s 19 libraries have seen patrons come in trying to catch Pokémon while playing the game on their smart phones. Among them is the Eastwood Branch Library, which has found itself to be a PokeStop (location where Pokémon Go players can pick up much needed supplies and collect Pokémon), according to branch manager Brandon Crawford Smith.

Smith said the Eastwood Library, located in a shopping center just off Montevallo Road, has seen both new and regular patrons coming in to play Pokémon Go.

“We had a table full of Pokémon Go players at Eastwood (earlier this week) and an excited gym goer from Planet Fitness popped her head into the branch to ask us whether we knew we were a PokeStop,” Smith said. “I expect a lot of people who frequent our neighboring businesses to pop into the library in order to utilize our location in the virtual world of Pokémon Go and to utilize our power outlets and WiFi in order to keep their phones charged and minimize their data usage.”

Articles in library publications have said that public libraries across the country are taking advantage of the Pokémon Go craze to introduce themselves to a new generation of library patrons, especially young adults and teens. See the following link on how libraries are partnering with Pokémon Go:

For those unfamiliar, Pokémon (short for “pocket monsters”) was originally a video game released in 1995 from Shatoshi Tajiri. Players are “human trainers” who travel a virtual world capturing adorable “Pokémons” using capsules called Pokeballs.

In the Pokémon video games, players catch and train Pokémon and compete in Pokémon gyms, places where they compete for prestige, earn badges, and make their Pokémon bigger, badder, and better.

In Pokémon Go, gyms are attached to free, safe, public places where all players can get access to. But across the country, some venues—such as some national museums and the Arlington National Cemetery, are banning Pokémon Go players.

Libraries, in contrast, are welcoming Pokémon Go players and using the game’s popularity to introduce patrons to their Pokémon books, videos, and other items available to the public. Some libraries have set up Pokémon displays.

The following article shares details on everything you need to know about Pokémon Go:

Friday, July 15, 2016

End-of-Summer-Reading Celebration at Inglenook Library

Mad Skillz Dance Co. at BPL

On Friday, July 22, 3:30 p.m., the Inglenook Branch Library will bring its summer reading program to a close. Mad Skillz Dance Company will lead the program with dance moves that everybody will be able to move to. A ceremony honoring and rewarding the summer reading participants who completed the program will follow. Door prizes and light refreshments will be provided as well. So stop by the Inglenook Library and get your dance on!

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Branch Library