Monday, November 27, 2017

BPL Closed November 23-26 for Thanksgiving Holiday, Closing Early November 22

All Birmingham Public Library locations will close at noon on Wednesday, November 22, and will be closed Thursday, November 23, through Sunday, November 26, for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Birmingham Public Library would like to thank you for your support throughout the year and wishes you and yours a safe, happy holiday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Card-Making Holiday Program For Adults

Card-Making Holiday Program For Adults
Central Youth Department Storycastle
Monday, December 4, 2017
10:00-11:30 a.m.

Would you love to make a homemade greeting card for that special someone this holiday season? Are you looking for a way to explore design and express your creativity? Well, look no further. Join us for a festive, fun and creative class as we make seasonal homemade greeting cards.

What better way to get into the holiday spirit? We’ll have fun combining various papers, colors and designs to make unique creations. Supplies and refreshments will be provided. Just bring your creativity!

Registration required. Limit 12 participants.

To register for the class, contact Leslie Deason at (205) 226-3677 or email her at

Book Review: Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer

by Richard Grooms, Fiction Department, Central Library

Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer
Arthur Lubow

I’ve been fascinated by Diane Arbus for decades, but I’ve long been frustrated by the fact that a first-rate biography has never come out. When Arthur Lubow’s account surfaced in 2016, I had hopes that this might be it. It took some review reading and some attempts at immersing into it to realize that this was in fact the biography I’d been waiting for. I’d always wondered how a sheltered young New York woman from a rich family ended up taking portraits of those on society’s margins—street kids, homosexuals, transvestites, circus and sideshow performers, mental patients and so on-in the '50s and early '60s when such people were held at arms’ length by the mainstream, and were considered “freaks,” the consensus term of that time. Diane was the one that photographed freaks, they said. Some said she exploited them. But her pictures of these, and plenty of more conventional people, would propel her into the limelight and help transform photography from documentation and craft into art. That we talk of photography today matter-of-factly as an art form is due in no small measure to her.

Diane Arbus was always different. Despite the cosseting of her family, she dated mostly guys her parents disapproved of and married one of them at an early age, foregoing college and economic security. With her husband Allan Arbus, she got a solid grounding in picture taking, leaving him in the late '50s to become a single mother and freelancer. Curiously, she always had a fraught relationship with mechanical objects. Paradoxically, this somehow became a strength, freeing her to use cameras in ways her peers seldom did. Though very ambitious, she accepted her quirks and drawbacks and channeled them into her work. Instead of quitting when fear arose, she plowed ahead and realized that however weird her portrait subjects might seem, actually meeting and getting to know them was easier than the initial decision to pursue them. She had enormous charm, a little girl personality that was readily available and an ability to make anyone comfortable. She could make almost anyone drop their guard, their public mask.

It’s amazing now to read about anyone, especially a single woman, making it as an artist in New York City. Though Diane did get financial help from Allan after she left him (and would occasionally get handouts from her parents), she largely supported herself and two daughters. You could do that in New York in those days. Bohemia hadn’t been economically wiped out of Manhattan. But Lubow always reminds us of what a grind it was, how little photography paid then, how many editors nixed her pictures. And you want to see all of them, no matter how mediocre they might have been.

It’s nothing short of astonishing that Lubow has been able to uncover the wealth of data he has when you realize that, since Diane Arbus’ death in the early '70s, her daughter Doon has built a virtual blockade around her estate. It’s because of this that no Arbus photos are in the book (though there are photos of Arbus, family, friends, and lovers). A table of Photographs Discussed In The Text is in the start of the book. Unfortunately, the list only covers about 80% or so of the photos discussed in the book. This is the only significant problem with the book. The thing to do is get a copy of Revelations by Diane Arbus, a posthumous collection of her photos that surpasses all other collections. If you’re even moderately interested in Arbus, you’ll want to look up the photos as you read this book. Lubow is excellent at making you want to do so, and look again at the pictures you thought you knew. He helped me to see new aspects of familiar photos (even ones I thought I couldn’t see anew anymore) and ably introduced me to not-so-familiar ones. Arbus was a genius at capturing the right details, and Lubow gets us to notice these.

One reason Arbus is key is because she broadened our view of American people. She brought into her fold individuals who’d previously been considered unfit to see or acknowledge. She made them her friends. Not her inner circle of friends, but friends nonetheless. She let them look at us through her pictures, and this helped at least some to realize that these were people of worth. She portrayed them not as noble, without sentimentality or condescension. They were what they were. That was enough. That was a very brave thing to do. She nearly always got them right. There’s something very admirable and courageous about this, but Arbus was very far from saintly. She had many flaws, and Lubow catalogs them, shows how they compromised her, dragged her down. It wasn’t all marginals, though. She often photographed well-known politicians, celebrities, and scene makers too. She could uncover hidden truths in most all of her subjects, and it sometimes (perhaps regularly) happened that her subjects regretted letting her take their picture. She didn’t recognized boundaries or taboos. She moved the hidden into the light, even with the well-known. Lubow sympathetically (but not uncritically) shows us how she did it all this. America is always a lot larger and more diverse than we think it is, or that we’re willing to admit, and Arbus is one of those pathbreakers that helped us see this.

Dolores Hydock to Perform "A Christmas Memory" December 3 at Central Library

Dolores Hydock

Dolores Hydock Performs "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote
When: Sunday, December 3, 2017
Time: 3:00-4:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Details: Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The Christmas season doesn’t really begin until you have experienced Birmingham storyteller Dolores Hydock’s incredible one-woman performance of "A Christmas Memory," Truman Capote's poignant reminiscence of his boyhood in rural Alabama. Dolores will perform this holiday classic on Sunday, December 3, 2017, at 3:00 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium at the Central Library.

There is always a full house for this performance, so come early and enjoy refreshments.

For more information contact Jim Baggett at 205-226-3631 or

Friday, November 17, 2017

Free Computer Classes in December at Central Library

The December computer class schedule is available. All classes are free but registration is required. For class descriptions and to register online, visit the Birmingham Public Library events calendar or call the Computer Commons Department at 205-226-3681.

Exploring the Library. . .Without Leaving Your Home

by Pat Rumore

These days you can explore the library without leaving your home. Over the last couple of years I have downloaded several apps to my iPad and my Android phone to take advantage of downloadables from the library.

This way I can use library services day and night, even from my bed. One I've been exploring lately is Kanopy, which is a video streaming service for libraries with a collection that is described as being five times larger than Netflix—over 30,000 films.

When you enter Kanopy, you quickly get an idea of what's available. It is a little more highbrow than Netflix because it includes a wide variety of independent films, world cinema, short films, classic films that are not necessarily what you see on Netflix or TCM, art house films, true crime, horror, as well as The Great Courses.

There are lots of documentaries—food for thought on such subjects as human rights of all kinds, pop culture, guns in America, women leading social causes across the world, and more. There is a whole list of Ken Burns films as well as New York Times critics picks. You can pick from movies, documentaries, the arts, business, education, global studies and languages, health, media and communications, science, social sciences, and instructional films and lessons. And it's all free.

Right now I am mostly into entertainment, so my "watch list" includes several independent and foreign films that I haven't come across at local theaters or on television. Last night I watched Ken Burns' two-part insightful portrait of the life of Thomas Jefferson.

So far I've enjoyed everything I've watched. Of course you can opt out at any time if you start something you find you don't like or can't finish.

Add Kanopy, hoopla, Freegal, Flipster, MangoOverdrive and Libby (Overdrive app) you have a whole world at your fingertips. Your favorite librarian can help you access this world if you have any problems.

P.S. Support BPL on #Giving Tuesday so we can keep downloading in the middle of the night. 

#Giving Tuesday is a global giving movement that inspires people to take collective action in their communities to give back to the causes they believe in, and help create a better world. #Giving Tuesday demonstrates how every act of generosity counts, and that they mean more when we give together. Show your support for Birmingham Public Library and our community on Tuesday November 28.

A Teen Read Week Celebration

by Saundra Ross, North Avondale Branch Library

Creative young writers and winners at North Avondale Library

Teen Read Week was celebrated in a big way at the North Avondale Library. Although it was Teen Read Week, we had younger kids eager to participate. All participants were encouraged to create their own story in handmade books.

There were stories created about bubble gum floors in a pink castle, "The Girl without a Cell Phone," "My First School Fight," and a variety of others. Elaborate book covers were designed to bind these delightful and creative stories. The covers were decorated with handmade drawings, construction paper cutouts, yarn, glue, and markers.

For added fun the kids were given an opportunity to present their stories and their names were entered into a drawing for prizes. The library staff was thanked by the kids and expressions of enjoyment were given.

“The greatest football game ever played in Birmingham. . .”

First Alabama-Auburn football game, February 22, 1893
Photo: Auburn University Digital Library

by Ellen Griffin Shade, Avondale Regional Branch Library

When Alabama and Auburn face off November 25 in the 2017 Iron Bowl, they will be continuing a tradition considered one of the most important football rivalries in the annals of American sports. That tradition began nearly 125 years ago in a field not far from the Avondale Library.

The very first Alabama-Auburn football game was played February 22, 1893, in what was then Lakeview Park. The game was played before an estimated crowd of 5,000 and was won 32-22 by Auburn (then named the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama). The victory cup presented that day by a Birmingham Belle is on display at Auburn University.

Historic marker located at Clairmont Ave. and 32nd St. South

On Thursdays I like to share tidbits of local history like this on Avondale Library’s Facebook page. If you’d like to find out more, check out Avondale Library’s Throwback Thursday posts and BPL’s Digital Collections.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Southern History Book of the Month: Magic City Cravings: The Most Requested Recipes from Birmingham Restaurants Then & Now

by Mary Anne Ellis, Southern History Department, Central Library

Magic City Cravings: The Most Requested Recipes from Birmingham Restaurants Then & Now
Martie Duncan with Chanda Temple
Foreword by Taylor Hicks

For people who enjoy good eating, this time of year is worthy of celebration in song: “Food, glorious food!” Perhaps you like a home-cooked holiday dinner, or maybe your family prefers going out to a restaurant to celebrate. Magic City Cravings will appeal to both preferences as it serves up a smorgasbord of recipes from Birmingham restaurants—the best of yesterday and today.

If you’re nostalgic for some of those Birmingham dishes you thought you’d never taste again, head straight for the chapter “Gone But Not Forgotten Favorites,” in which you’ll find treats like the Ensley Grill Cinnamon Rolls, Joy Young’s Egg Foo Young (remember when Joy Young was the only Chinese restaurant in town?), Marsh Bakery’s Coconut Cake, and the She-Crab Soup from Cobb Lane—supposedly lauded by Julia Child as the best she’d ever eaten. Quite a recommendation.

In addition to the recipes, there’s a culinary history of Birmingham that includes “Greek Restaurant Roots”—if you’ve lived in the Birmingham area for very long, you’ve probably eaten at a restaurant owned by one of the Greek families that have left their mark on Birmingham cuisine, ranging from Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs, originally run by Gus Koutroulakis, to George Sarris’ Fish Market. Other ethnic influences on the Birmingham food scene include numerous Italian, Chinese, Jewish, Indian, and African American families. And Birmingham’s love affair with food continues to this day, as evidenced by the excitement over the recent opening of the Food Hall in the former Pizitz Building downtown.

People who are new to the Birmingham area would probably find the “Where to Eat What” chapter very useful with its suggestions on how to locate a good meal, whether it’s breakfast or brunch or happy hour, or even “Late Night Bites.” What type of food do you crave? Check the listings for “Meat-And-Three”: A Birmingham tradition: meat and 3 vegetables for the uninitiated—and by vegetable, we mean mac ‘n cheese.

Maybe you’re hunting for “A Great Burger” or “Decadent Desserts.” And great food doesn’t have to have one fixed location; be on the lookout for fantastic offerings via Food Truck from Big Spoon Creamery or Snapper Grabber’s Coastal Kitchen. There’s also a handy map of Birmingham area neighborhoods to help you locate your choices more easily.

So whether you prefer fine dining out or home cooking for your holiday meals, reserve some time to take a look at Magic City Cravings; if it doesn’t make you lick your lips and go “mmmm,” you should have your doctor check to make sure your taste buds haven’t shriveled up and died. Enjoy a delicious holiday season!

For further information:
Martie Duncan on Food Network
Chanda Temple
Pizitz Food Hall
“50 Essential Birmingham Restaurants”
“20 Alabama Restaurants We Wish We Had Back”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Birmingham Public Library Book Feast Reading Challenge

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday for fun activities such as eating, shopping, watching football, and spending quality moments with friends and family. For the second straight year, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is hosting the Book Feast Reading Challenge, a program designed to make sure Birmingham area school children don’t leave out another important, fun activity: reading.

BPL is encouraging students in grades K-12 to participate in its online Book Feast Reading Challenge between now and November 30, 2017, by registering at this link:

The more books you read by November 30, the more virtual badges and awards you can win. All student participants who register online will be entered into a drawing for a special prize gift pack to be presented at each of the 19 BPL locations to those who read the most books.

A 2016 reading challenge winner at the Ensley
Branch Library
Janine Langston, coordinator for BPL youth programs, said, “If you are a teacher, this is a great way for your students to earn extra credit during the Thanksgiving holiday. If you are a parent, it is a great way to slow down for some one-on-one time with your child. Enjoy reading a book together. Pass along the love of reading with friends and family.”

Besides the Book Feast Reading Challenge, here are some other ways to celebrate Thanksgiving at BPL:

Smithfield Library Thanksgiving Basket GiveawayCheck out five books at Smithfield Library to enter into the drawing. The winner will be drawn at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 16.

Tot Time with Mrs. Eve: It's Turkey Time, Avondale Regional Branch Library, November 20, 11:00 a.m. – Gobble gobble! Mrs. Eve is thankful for great libraries, library families, and the opportunity to share these wonderful holiday stories with you! Tot Time is designed for 2 to 4 year olds, with a parent or caregiver; no groups, please. Registration required.

Active Living – Harvest Crafts, Five Points West Regional Branch Library, November 22, 10:30 a.m. – Participants will have a fun time making holiday crafts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Staying Healthy During the Winter Season

by Karnecia Williams, Inglenook Branch Library

As beautiful and romantic as this time of the year is, it carries with it a few challenges that we must all be aware of and be equipped to face. It is tempting to place most, if not all, the blame on the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays, but there are other and more important challenges that we face, which is staying healthy. Alabama’s weather is volatile and strays off script during any season, but more people tend to get physically sick during the fall. Some people even experience seasonal depression termed Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD during this time of the year as well.

Fortunately, there are several resources available at the Birmingham Public Library that will help us all take a more proactive approach in combating both physical and emotional challenges that accompany winter seasons. Check them out below!

Mindful Beauty: How to Look and Feel Great in Every Season by Estelle Lefebure
The Immune System: Your Body's Disease-Fighting Army by Mark P. Friedlander, Jr. & Terry M. Phillips
Stay Healthy at Every Age: What Your Doctor Wants You to Know by Shantanu Nundy
Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder by Norman E. Rosenthal
Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods by James F. Balch
Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Our Body's Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Understanding Depression by Rudy Nydegger

North Birmingham Zoobrary Reporting: November’s Pet of the Month is Spike Pricklepants

by June Lacanski, North Birmingham Regional Branch Library

Spike laughs at his own jokes

Interviewer: Today we are visiting with Spike Pricklepants, North Birmingham Library’s resident Hedgehog. Mr. Pricklepants, wake up please. I need to ask you some questions. Spike!
Spike: Why must you interview me during the day? You know I sleep during the day. Come back when it is darktime.

Interviewer: You seem to be awake now. So let’s get started. I have to ask you first how you got your cute and very appropriate name?
Spike: The children at North Birmingham Library named me that. Ask me why?

Interviewer: Umm, why? Because you have a prickly personality?
Spike: I do not!

Interviewer: Yes you do. But what other reason then?
Spike: Hell-o! Because I am spikey. But I’m not covered with quills. Nor am I related to a porcupine. I have hard sharp hollow hairs covering my top and sides. When I sleep or feel threatened, I roll into a ball to protect my soft belly. The End. (yawn) Now back to my nap…

Interviewer: How long have you lived at the North Birmingham Library?
Spike: (yawn) 2 years, 2 months, and 4 days as of this Thanksgiving, 2017.

Interviewer: I’ve heard of the “Terrible Two’s” when a toddler begins to be a bit more troublesome. I’m not calling you terrible, but why do you insist on relieving yourself next to your litter box the day your cage is cleaned?
Spike: I don’t do that!

Interviewer: Yes you do!
Spike: One time I didn’t!

Interviewer: Good grief, you are so argumentative! Let’s see… I am supposed to ask you something. At the end of last month’s Interview with Charlotte, I promised readers that I would ask this question: “When did you realize that your dad ate your brother?”
Spike: That is a dumb question! Hedgehogs are not cannibals! Ask Sabastian; his kind does eat their young!

Interviewer: Oh. Never mind. Ok, so what is the coolest thing that has ever happened to you at the library?
Spike: Well, once when I was young and foolish, I found my way out of my big new cage! The Silly Folks put my cage onto the floor in the Zoobrary; wasn’t that thoughtful? During the day I slept on the bookshelf where the 900 number books live. But at night, I went into my cage to eat, drink, play and relieve myself. I am the smartest animal in the library; I knew that pooping anywhere else would give me away. Besides, I am very tidy!

Interviewer: I happen to know that you are anything but tidy! Anyway, how did you end up back on a shelf in the Zoobrary?
Spike: It’s all very simple. One Monday night I went into the cage before the library closed at 8:00. The Silly Folk walked over and closed my door! Just like that, I became a caged animal again. But I really did it on purpose. I’m too smart to get caught if I didn’t want to be.

Interviewer: Yeah, right. How long were you out?
Spike: I was out for 10 days, 3 hours, 42 minutes and 16 seconds. But, you know, freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t think the Silly Folks knew there was a mouse running around loose too. He was kind of nasty and scary. I avoided him like the plague! Huh, get it? The plague.

Interviewer: Did the mouse mess with you or your cage?
Spike: No way, Jose! I flared up my spikes one time, and he vacated the whole children's area!

Interviewer: I happen to know that you are a very popular part of North Birmingham Library’s grubdown program every Tuesday afternoon at 4:00. Do you enjoy grubdown?
Spike: Heck yeah! grubdown stands for grub worms! I love grub worms!

Interviewer: Grubdown does not stand for grub worms. The program is called grubdown because as well as petting, holding, and brushing the pets, patrons get to feed them.
Spike: Well, whatever. Did you notice that I root around the ground like a pig does, sniffing for grub worms or other bugs? My nose is actually a lot like a small version of a hog. Thus, the “hog” part of my description. Then, the “hedge” part is obvious, too. Aren’t I an interesting fellow?

Interviewer: Why yes you are! Of course I have to ask your favorite book.
Spike: What do you want to ask my favorite book?

Interviewer: No, no. What is the name of your favorite book?
Spike: Well, I kind of like books about Sonic the Hedgehog.

Interviewer: Those are fiction books. Do you ever read nonfiction books?
Spike: Yes, I love nonfiction! When I was loose, I read a lot of books in the 900 area. I am pretty smart, you know. I know where I came from!

Interviewer: Really? Where did you come from? Asia?
Spike: No.

Interviewer: Well since you’re an African Pygmy Hedgehog, I’d say you came from Africa.
Spike: Nope!

Interviewer: OK, I give up. Where did you come from then?
Spike: Ha! I came from Ed’s Pets.

Interviewer: Alrighty then. You like books that teach you things.
Spike: I read all the books in the Zoobrary about my fellow pets. They are all weird!

Interviewer: They are not weird; each one is just different.
Spike: You know what’s not fair? Jabberwocki never gets waked up!

Interviewer: We don’t have to. Jabberwocki likes daylight and sleeps at night. He is diurnal.
Spike: No wonder I am grouchy! You Silly Folks wake me up all the time…you argue with me…and never put a book in my cage for me to read…before I…go…to…sleep.

Interviewer: Well I suppose that’s all the answers I’m going to get, since you have rolled up into a ball. Would you like a grub worm?
Spike: At least 7 pleassssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Interviewer: Well, thank you Spike Pricklepants. I hope the readers learned something about you today.

Please join us next month when our interviewer asks, “Do you think there is a heaven for dead rodents?”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Vocational Readiness Workshop Scheduled November 20 at Central Library

What: Vocational Readiness workshop
When: Monday, November 20, 2017
Time: 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Regional Library Computer Center, 4th floor
Details: Free and open to the public

Choosing a career is not any easy undertaking. Likewise, once you’ve chosen a career, finding a job can be a pretty difficult task as well. When you consider that throughout your lifetime you spend more hours at your job than you do anywhere else, you really need to put the time and effort into making good decisions in regards to career selection and job searching. This is not only true for young people who are entering the job market for the first time, but also for adults who are either reentering the job market after an absence, looking for a new job, or are contemplating a career change. If you fall into any of these categories, then you should plan to attend the Birmingham Public Library’s Vocational Readiness workshop.

Monday, November 20, 2017, 5:00-6:30 p.m.
New Age Online Application Process/Interview Bootcamp 
  • New Age Online Application Process offers tips and suggestions to guide all job seekers in successfully completing online employment applications.
  • Interview Bootcamp teaches techniques to help you emphasize your skills, overcome objections, and build rapport with your job interviewer.
The workshop presenter is Tina Thornton. Tina is a professional counselor and founder of Gem Kreations, a nonprofit organization committed to assisting those who have experienced adverse circumstances realize their full personal and professional potential.

For more information about the workshops, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Card-Making Holiday Program For Adults

Card-Making Holiday Program For Adults
Central Youth Department Storycastle
Monday, December 4, 2017
10:00-11:30 a.m.
Would you love to make a homemade greeting card for that special someone this holiday season? Are you looking for a way to explore design and express your creativity? Well, look no further. Join us for a festive, fun and creative class as we make seasonal homemade greeting cards.

What better way to get into the holiday spirit? We’ll have fun combining various papers, colors and designs to make unique creations. Supplies and refreshments will be provided. Just bring your creativity!

Registration required. Limit 12 participants. Register online through the events calendar or call Leslie
 Deason at 205-226-3677.

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