Friday, April 21, 2017

Sewn and Thrown: Traditional Quilts and Folk Pottery from Alabama’s Black Belt Exhibit, May 11-June 25, 2017

Quilts by Marlene Bennett Jones, Boykin, Alabama, 2015

What: Sewn and Thrown: Traditional Quilts and Folk Pottery from Alabama’s Black Belt exhibit
When: May 11-June 25, 2017
Where: First floor exhibit cases and Fourth Floor Gallery at the Central Library
Details: Exhibits will be available during library hours. Opening reception Saturday, May 13, 2017, 3:00-5:00 p.m., Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery

Featuring quilts by master artists from Gee’s Bend and works by Miller’s Pottery of Brent and Ham Pottery of Selma, the Sewn and Thrown: Traditional Quilts and Folk Pottery from Alabama’s Black Belt exhibit will present two living traditions of the region.

Allen Ham
Acclaimed nationally and internationally, the Gee’s Bend quilters are continuing the tradition through their families and community. Sixteen quilts by different women, some of whom will be exhibiting for the first time, will represent the amazing colors and innovative techniques often associated with the textiles produced by several generations over the years.

Folk potter Steve Miller and his cousin Allen Ham grew up working alongside Steve’s father, Eric Miller, in the workplace and shop on Highway 5 in Bibb County. Featured in documentary films, books, and articles, they represent a business dating to the 1850s that began on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. Today, they use local clay to make and produce glazed stoneware, utilitarian items, face jugs, and other works of art that are sought after by collectors.

For more information about regional quilting and pottery, visit the Alabama Folklife Association website.

Money Smart Week Programs at Central Library Begins April 24

Money Smart Week is an annual nationwide campaign aimed at increasing financial literacy and promoting better decision making on issues related to personal money management. This year, Money Smart Week will be held from April 22 to April 29. The Birmingham Public Library will be doing its part to celebrate the week by hosting three public programs at the Central Library location:

The A, B, C, and Ds of Medicare
Date: Monday, April 24, 2017
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Place: Linn-Henley Research Library/Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC)/4th Floor
Karen Haiflich, an independent health benefits advisor, will provide simple, straightforward answers to help participants better understand Medicare and the options available to beneficiaries.

Estate Planning: A Guide to Life Organization
Date: Tuesday April 25, 2017
Time: 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Place: Linn-Henley Research Library/RLCC/4th Floor
Participants will learn the basics of estate planning including how to examine their financial needs and assets, organize important papers, and more. The presenter is Nkenge Hyter of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Fact vs. Fiction - Busting the Social Security Myths
Date: Wednesday April 26, 2017
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Place: Linn-Henley Research Library/RLCC/4th Floor
Briana Collins, public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration in Alabama, will provide informed answers to common questions about Social Security and will discuss various aspects of the agency’s different benefit programs.

When considering your personal financial goals, the Birmingham Public Library is a good place to go for free and authoritative resources on budgeting, savings, investing, and much more. So, make plans to stop by and check out some of the amazing resources and services we have to offer! For more information, please contact the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department at 205-226-3690.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sow the Seeds of Victory: Birmingham's Victory Gardens

Sow the Seeds of VictorySpring has arrived, and people have started to plant flowers and gardens. One hundred years ago this month, the citizens of Birmingham were planting gardens for a very different reason as the world was engulfed in World War I. There were severe food shortages in Europe as farmers left to serve in the military, and fertile ground had been turned into battlefields.

To solve this problem, Charles Lathop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission for the purpose of encouraging Americans to plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables. Any idle land including school and company grounds, parks, backyards, or vacant lots could be converted for agricultural production, which would generate surplus food that in turn could then be exported to Europe. The National War Garden Commission formed in March 1917, and the United States entered the war in April 1917.

Birmingham citizens rushed to do their part by planting "victory gardens," and the Birmingham News led the effort with its Plant a Garden campaign as people signed a pledge to have their garden planted by May 15, 1917. There were long lines at McVay’s Seed Company when the company advertised free garden seed as a promotion to support the war effort and also to get people inside the store.

McVay's Seed Company

The Birmingham News, Jemison Real Estate and Insurance Company, and the Birmingham Ice and Cold Storage Company sponsored the 36 cash prizes totaling $600. The judges would visit the gardens by neighborhoods in mid-June to determine the winners. Depending on where you lived in the city determined which sponsor awarded the prize money. As you can see in this newspaper ad, this garden contest was segregated as there were both white and black winners.

Can the Kaiser
By late April, over 300 people had pledged to plant a garden. It was expected that the number would top 500 by the May deadline. Because there were many first time gardeners, Birmingham held canning classes taught by Miss Beatrice Shipp. One of the slogans for the War Garden Campaign was “Eat All You Can, and Can All You Can’t.”

War gardens remained popular throughout World War I, and their popularity dwindled in the years following the war. To learn more about the victory garden movement in World War I, read the history of the National War Garden Commission that was written by its founder, Charles Lathop Pack, at the end of World War I. With the outbreak of World War II, the popularity of victory gardens surged again with new propaganda posters encouraging people to once again plant gardens.

Enjoyed this story? Follow the Southern History Department on Facebook as we explore 100 years ago in Birmingham during the year 1917 each Thursday as part of Throwback Thursday.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Birmingham Bound: Author Talk and Book Signing with Art Black

What: Author talk and book signing with Art Black, author of Showdown at Rickwood
When: Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Details: Free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase. Jim Reed, owner and proprietor of Reed Books, will offer introductory remarks.

Before major league baseball came south, the Dixie Series was the crowning event of the summer for Birmingham sports enthusiasts. Pitting the champions of the Southern Association and the Texas League, the series produced many memorable moments during its heyday from 1920 to 1958. For fans of the Birmingham Barons, however, the contest of 1931 was the most memorable of all.

The dramatic 1931 Dixie Series between the Birmingham Barons and the Houston Buffaloes serves as the backdrop of the newly published book Showdown at Rickwood. Written by local author Art Black, the book focuses not only baseball culture in the Magic City, but explores as well the social and economic climate of the Birmingham district as it was evolving into a major industrial center during the early decades of the 20th century. Through World War I, the Roaring Twenties, and the onset of the Great Depression, Birmingham and its citizens weathered the turbulence of national and international events. In the midst of this unrest, many found respite in the calming rhythms of the national pastime.

Please join us on Tuesday, May 2, at the Birmingham Public Library’s Central location to welcome the publication of Showdown at Rickwood and meet the book’s author, Art Black. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jim Murray at 205-226-3691 or

The Birmingham Bound author series recognizes authors who researched their books utilizing the resources available at the Birmingham Public Library. Historians, journalists, and other writers from around the world have produced hundreds of books using the Library’s collections and these books include five recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

Smart Shopping with Coupons Workshops Being Offered in May at West End Library

If you haven't joined the couponing craze but want to learn more about how to save money while shopping, make plans to take advantage of a series of free workshops being offered in May at the West End Branch Library.

Smart Shopping With Coupons will take place every Tuesday from May 2 through May 23 at 10:00 a.m., said West End Library Branch Manager Maya Jones. The goal of the workshops is to teach participants the basics of saving money using coupons. The classes will be taught by someone sharing couponing knowledge for beginners, as well as patrons interested in learning more about the topic.

For more information, call Denise Ford of West End Library at 205-226-4089 or email her at View details about the workshops at the BPL events calendar.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Registration Open For May 2017 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the May 2017 classes . During this month, we include classes on a variety of topics including computer skills and career guidance. 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 May 2017 class schedule to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the May 2017 class schedule (pdf file) can be sent to us as an email attachment.

West End Library Hosting Filmmaking Workshop for Teens on April 22

Hey young people, ever dreamed of becoming a filmmaker? Then make plans to be at the West End Branch Library the next four Saturdays for free filmmaking workshops for teens.

The workshop, Do You Want to Make a Movie? Film Making for Teens, will kick off at 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.  on Saturday, April 22, 2017. The teacher is Birmingham filmmaker Denzale Butler. There is only room for 10 students, so register in advance by calling the West End Library at 205-226-4089.

The workshop has four classes, all taught between 3:30 and 4:45 p.m.:
Week One (April 22) is "Introduction to Cinema"
Week Two (April 29) is "ABC’s of Film (Shot Sizes)"
Week Three (May 6) is "ABC’s of Film (Camera Movement)"
Week Four (May 13) is "ABC’s of Film (Composition)"

The teacher will bring a camera to class. However, students are asked to bring their camera phones since they will use them to create shots that create various moods. Teens will acquire a new skill and additional knowledge about an exciting topic. The class will fulfill the components of lifelong learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment by introducing teens to film making, according to the West End Library.

Five Points West Library Hosting Meet & Greet for Authors ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray

What: A Blessing & a Curse –a book launch/meet & greet for ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray
When: Tuesday, April 25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Five Points West Regional Branch Library

Five Points West Regional Branch Library will be hosting a book launch/meet & greet for popular authors ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray. The event will take place on April 25, 2017. The title comes from the new collaborative novel by Billingsley and Murray.

The book A Blessing & a Curse is about first ladies of the Baptist church and sworn “frenemies” Rachel Jackson Adams and Jasmine Cox Larson Bush, who are stunned to learn they may have more in common than they thought—like who’s their daddy. A Blessing & A Curse has it all: a heated American Baptist Coalition election, a murky murder cover-up, an outrageous reality TV show, and other drama.

Read more about the book by publisher Simon & Schuster at the link below:

For more information, call Five Points West Library at 205-226-4013.

Birmingham Public Library System Has New Branch Managers at Titusville and Wylam Libraries

Birmingham Public Library's Titusville and Wylam locations have new branch managers. Amanda Jenkins heads the Titusville Branch Library after spending time at the public library in Alabaster. She previously worked part time at several BPL locations, including Springville Road. Selina Johnson now heads the Wylam Branch Library after spending 18 years as a librarian in the Birmingham Public School system.

Amanda Jenkins

Amanda T. Jenkins began overseeing the Titusville Library in late January. Before joining the Birmingham Public Library (BPL), Jenkins served as the circulation department head at Albert L. Scott Library in Alabaster.

A Birmingham native, Jenkins has a bachelor’s in science degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a master of library and information studies from the University of Alabama. Jenkins has been busy meeting patrons and neighborhood leaders over the past two-and-half months, and is excited to be a part of the Titusville community.

“I've worked part-time for the Birmingham Public Library system in the past, and I loved it. I'm thrilled to begin working in Birmingham again, as promoting literacy and public service are my greatest passions,’ Jenkins said.

Jenkins worked part-time jobs at the Springville Road and Eastwood Libraries, and the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest while earning her master's degree. Upon earning her MLIS, she was employed at Virginia College before joining the Albert L. Scott Library in Alabaster.

Meet Amanda Jenkins:
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Favorite movie: Pulp Fiction
Favorite television show: Real Time with Bill Maher
Favorite quote that you use as a guide in life: "It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters." – Mother Teresa
How to reach her: Visit or call Jenkins at the Titusville Library, 205-322-1140, or email her at

Selina Johnson

Selina Johnson began overseeing the Wylam Branch Library on April 3, 2017. Prior to joining the Birmingham Public Library, Johnson served as a school librarian in the Birmingham Public School System for 18 years. A Birmingham native, Johnson received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She received her master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2001.

Upon graduation from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Johnson worked as school librarian in the Birmingham City School System at Glenn Middle School, Martha Gaskins Middle School, and Carver High School.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the Birmingham Public Library family. Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive. My hope is to be an integral part of building upon the services and programs that are offered at Wylam Library and to support the Wylam community. This community has such a big heart.” Johnson said.

Meet Selina Johnson:
Hometown: Hoover, AL
Favorite book: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Favorite movie: It’s a Wonderful Life (original 1946 version)
Favorite television show: Queen Sugar
Favorite quote that you use as a guide in life: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
How to reach her: Visit or call Johnson at the Wylam Library, 205-785-0349, or email her at

Steps to Starting Your Business Seminar Scheduled for May 1 at Central Library

What: Steps to Starting Your Business
When: Monday, May 1, 2017
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor

Upcoming Date:
Monday June 5, 2017

The Birmingham Public Library, in conjunction with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development, will once again be hosting the popular seminar Steps to Starting Your Business in 2017. The seminar is scheduled to be held on the first Monday of each month from February to June, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., in the Arrington Auditorium, which is located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library.

Each seminar will cover the same topics, but those who are interested are welcome to attend more than one day. Topics covered will include crafting a vision statement, identifying sources of funding, determining the legal structure of your business, devising a business plan, and investigating sources of business and economic information. Please register for the seminars by contacting Andy Mayo in the Economic Development Office at or 205-⁠⁠254-⁠⁠2774.

Seminar presenters will be veteran mentors from the local chapter of SCORE. SCORE is a national nonprofit association consisting of volunteers with business skills and experience who want to share their knowledge with prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners. For over 50 years, SCORE mentors have helped millions of Americans start and grow their own businesses.

For further information about the seminars or about resources available at the Birmingham Public Library relating to small business development, please contact Jim Murray in the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department at or by phoning 205-226-3691.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book Review: In Search of Lost Time: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library

In Search of Lost Time: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
Marcel Proust

For decades the title of the second volume of In Search of Lost Time was translated as Within a Budding Grove, because the actual title was deemed too suggestive for English speaking ears. The narrator, not named, is describing his early adolescence and his intoxication as he is immersed in the company of girls entering adolescence themselves. Most readers, like the narrator, will be years past the age when flirtation was new to us and youths were our peers, but Proust, the author and presumably the narrator, powerfully evokes those emotions for us as he shares passages from his youth.

As the first volume, Swann’s Way, closed, the narrator, a nervous, sickly boy, is drawn out of his cloistered world every afternoon to the promenade of elegant Parisian courtesans in the Bois de Boulogne, in particular Mrs. Swann, mother of Gilberte, the beautiful girl with whom he is infatuated. Like the first volume, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower has little plot. The young narrator courts Gilberte at her parents' home in Paris. He spends the summer at a seaside resort in Normandy and gains the company of a group of young girls to whom he is attracted. He makes a close friend. But, as we all know, negotiating love for the first time involves volumes of calculation and strong emotion. Proust’s unsparing observation of his own feelings and behavior, and the people and places he encounters, makes his constricted plot and settings seem infinite.

Fin de Siecle Paris was before the day when one would self-identify as gay, but we know, most knew, Proust’s primary loves were men. As we read In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, the reader may remain open to an interpretation that Proust is describing the narrator’s feelings for other boys, not girls. After all, he gives them names which are nearly boys names—Gilberte, Albertine, Andree—and the theme of homosexuality has already been introduced in both volumes.

In the end, as Proust probably intended, it matters little. The novel is about discovering the exhausting pain and exultation of discovering love. And even more so, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower is about the writing itself. Just as one can admire a painting, a van Gogh, for example, for the brush strokes, one admires Proust for his metaphors, which pile one upon another into a glittering portrait.

Check it out.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

TV Series Review: The Feud: Bette and Joan

by Sam Rumore, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

The Feud: Bette and Joan on FX is now up to its sixth episode. I have been watching religiously because it involves the making of one of my favorite movies and two of my favorite actresses. So, I figured it would be a great opportunity to include some resources that the library has that could give some greater context to the show and Hollywood and the movie industry, in general. But first, here’s a little history and context on the show.

Whenever I start something, I like to start with the source material. With that being said, I recommend seeing the movie, Whatever happened to Baby Jane? It stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and is directed by Robert Aldrich. It’s a psychological-thriller-horror film about an aging vaudeville actress who holds her disabled Hollywood actress sister captive in an old Hollywood mansion.

This movie officially started the subgenre of thriller-horror films known as the psycho-biddy films or hagsploitation, which proliferated in the 1960s and on into the 1970s. Psycho-biddy films involved once glamorous older women who have now become psychotic and start terrorizing the people around them.

Examples of Psycho-biddy Films:

Strait-Jacket (1964) – Directed by William Castle. Starring Joan Crawford.
Released from a mental hospital 20 years after having committed the axe murders of her husband and his lover, a woman moves in with her brother, his wife, and her own daughter, who is now 23. When axe murders start occurring, police think she has reverted to her old ways. (Description from DVD case.)

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) – Directed by Robert Aldrich. Starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton, and Agnes Moorehead.
Charlotte was a Southern belle preparing to elope with her married lover—until he was murdered. Now, 37 years later, she lives alone in her mansion, slowly going mad as she is haunted by the memory of the unsolved crime and tormented by the local townspeople who believe she killed him. But when her cousin comes to visit, the skeletons begin to tumble out of the closet—and that's when the terror really begins. (Description from DVD case.)

The Nanny (1965) – Directed by Seth Holt. Starring Bette Davis.
Blamed for the drowning death of his little sister, ten-year-old Joey Fane has finally returned home after being institutionalized for two years. Placed once again under the care of his devoted nanny, Joey is soon accused of trying to poison his own mother. But when he swears it was the nanny who committed the crimes, his tormented pleas lead some to wonder: is Joey the disturbed killer everyone thinks he is, or is this dear old nanny hiding some murderous secrets? (Description from DVD case.)
Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969) – Directed by Lee H Katzin. Starring Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon.
A widow, who was left nothing but a stamp collection by her late husband, begins hiring elderly housekeepers and killing them in order to steal their money. A friend of one of these victims grows suspicious and begins working for the widow to catch her. But will she become the next victim herself?

What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971) – Directed by Curtis Harrington. Starring Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds.
Two Midwestern mothers flee to restart their lives in Hollywood after their sons’ high-profile murder trial a la the Leopold and Loeb murder trial. The ladies open a dance studio for young girls. While their business flourishes, their personal lives begin to suffer. One of the ladies becomes dangerously obsessed and jealous of the other with dire consequences for them both.

Bette Davis

One of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history, Bette Davis was nominated for ten Academy Awards (the first person to do so), winning two for Best Actress (Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938)). Davis was known for her versatility and willingness to play unsympathetic characters. Her career lasted from 1929 to 1989.

Selected Filmography
Of Human Bondage (1934)
Jezebel (1938)
Dark Victory (1939)
The Letter (1940)
The Little Foxes (1941)
Now, Voyager (1942)
Mr. Skeffington (1944)
All about Eve (1950)

Selected Books
Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine
Bette Davis Speaks by Boze Hadleight
This ‘n That by Bette Davis with Michael Herskowitz

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford was an actress during the Golden era of Hollywood. She seamlessly bridged and survived the transition from silent films to sound films. Her popularity rivaled and outlasted her contemporaries, like Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. She was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award three times, winning for Mildred Pierce in 1945. Her career lasted from 1925 to 1972.

Selected Filmography
Possessed (1931)
This Modern Age (1931)
Grand Hotel (1932)
Dancing Lady (1933)
Forsaking All Others (1934)
The Bride Wore Red (1937)
The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939)
The Women (1939)
Mildred Pierce (1945)

Selected Books
Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist; introduction by John Springer
Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell
Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

How I Finally Came to Appreciate Digital E-Books and Audiobooks

by Lynn Carpenter, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

Nathan Pyle/BuzzFeed

My favorite thing to do is read. Now this may not seem unusual for a librarian, but I read in many different ways. I love to cuddle up at night right before going to bed and read for a while. Sometimes it is for 15 minutes, sometimes for five to six hours. I will look at the time and suddenly realize I have to get up in an hour to get ready for work. I find that I am not tired—I am awake an hour later and refreshed as if I’ve had a full night’s sleep.

My favorite way to read is with a good old-fashioned book in my hands. I love the feel, the weight, the smell of a good book, even if it is a little musty from age.

Lately, I have been reading the epic Outlander series by Diane Gabaldon. These eight books range in size from 650 to 900 pages. I began reading these books in 1992 when the first book was released. I was delighted when it became a series and continued reading them as they were published. When I heard they were being made into a series, I was ecstatic. I had missed the last three books, so I started with them, but while watching the series, I realized I had forgotten a few things. I started the series from the beginning, but the third library book copy had been read so many times, it was falling apart in my hands.

My husband had given me a Kindle when they first came out in 2007. Being a librarian, I felt like a traitor using this new technology. I downloaded a free book of children’s stories (I am a children’s librarian), and read the stories between other books. When the third Outlander book started falling apart in my hands, I found the Kindle to be the answer to my problem. It was light to carry around and in one piece. I read the rest of the series on the Kindle. When USA released the second book on TV, I began the series again because there was so much information in each book I had to refresh my memory. I am about to finish the fifth book, Drums of Autumn. These eight books are the only books I’ve read since 2014 (in the traditional format).

As a member of the American Library Association, I have served on seven audiobook committees. This past year as chair of the 2017 Odyssey Committee*, we received 445 audio books to evaluate. The first audiobook I had ever listened to was John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, as I was going to Destin. It made the drive seem shorter and as I was going through some small towns, the KKK was coming down one street, the NAACP was coming down another street, and the National Guard down a third street—I had to stop and remember: this is a book.

As a member of the committee, I was assigned around 52,000 minutes of listening. That came out to 104 eight hour days. With the audiobooks I could listen while driving in the car, cleaning house, Christmas shopping, during lunch, or crocheting. I listened to 147 books.

At the conference, we picked our winner, Anna and the Swallow Man, the announcements were made, and I got in my car to drive home. I picked up an audiobook I had received at the conference, Put the CD in the player, and listened to a new adventure on my way home to Birmingham.

*The Odyssey Award audiobook is honored as the Best Audiobook production of a book for children or teens produced in the previous year.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Celebrate Central Library During National Library Week

by Pat B. Rumore, board member of the Friends Foundation of the Birmingham Public Library

Pat Rumore
Say you’re interested in Abraham Lincoln, and you want to read the new historical novel by George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo. You stop by your Birmingham neighborhood library, but the book is not there. But there’s no problem. You can go online and request it and ask that it be delivered to your library. And usually, in a matter of days, you’ll have it.

The above example is just one way in which the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) system works. The system has 18 branches throughout the city, all of which serve many purposes in their particular communities, but the BPL system’s beating heart is the Central Library complex downtown.

Central acquires, catalogs, and circulates the books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs that you’re accustomed to finding in the branches. But it also acquires a vast array of electronic media offerings such as downloadable films, e-books, magazines, audiobooks, and music, and it maintains databases available 24-7, at no charge to library patrons. Go to and you can find Hoopla, a streaming service for films, magazines, and audiobooks; Flipster, a digital magazine service; the learning tool Mango Languages; back issues of the Birmingham News, burial records from Red Mountain Cemetery, and so on.

The JCLC vans run three delivery routes five days per week to provide a
county-wide delivery service to patrons. Each year the vans travel 1,413
miles per week or 73,476 miles annually delivering materials.

These and all of the BPL system’s data sources are available to Birmingham residents, and most of them are available to Jefferson County residents. All you need is a card with the Jefferson County Library Cooperative. The cooperative serves 40 libraries throughout the county—including municipal libraries such as those in Bessemer, Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook, and Trussville—and it is based at the Central Library. So are the vans that deliver books and other materials that you request from your local library.

But these services are not all that you can find at Central. In Central's Linn-Henley Research Library, check out the Southern History Department, which is renowned for its book collection, maps, and genealogy resources and instruction. There’s also the Archives and Manuscripts Department, which holds more than 30 million documents and 500,000 photographs of local, state, national, and international significance, including the archives of the City of Birmingham.

At a 2012 Eat Drink Read Write festival, Brooklyn-based chef and author
Tamar Adler leads a bring-your-own cooking class, where attendees brought
anything from their fridge or pantry to see what Adler could make with it.
BPL Flickr

Like its branches, Central is a lending library, and it also hosts a variety of activities for all ages. However, its large two buildings and resources enable it to do some things on a grander scale than most of the libraries in the county. For example, Central annually sponsors a teen poetry initiative, WORD UP!, which draws teens from a five-county area, and a Local Authors Expo and Book Fair. There’s also its monthly Bards and Brews poetry slam competition and local craft beer tasting, and its annual week-long Eat Drink Read Write festival. New this year is the program Teens Engineer BHM, run in conjunction with the UAB School of Engineering, to encourage teens to consider engineering careers.

A volunteer from UAB School of Engineering shows Teens Engineer BHM 
participants at the Woodlawn Branch Library how to design houses.
BPL Flickr

This month’s events calendar illustrates the scope of classes held at Central. Included are “Money Matters” programming on personal finances; “Steps to Starting Your Business,” plus classes on employment with Jefferson County and using Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center, which details more than 2,000 in-demand jobs at nearly 100 industries. Each month also offers computer classes and instruction on how to use the library system's databases.

This week is National Library Week. It is a time to acknowledge the important role that libraries and librarians continue to serve in our society. Both citizens and governmental leaders in Jefferson County often seem to forget the critical role played by the Central Library in our large and successful county-wide system since most people experience their libraries at the branch or municipal level. It is time to celebrate Central and remind everyone that it needs our continued support to maintain its special services and programs which enhance the other libraries in the county.

(You can support the Central Library by joining the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library at or by sending a donation to the Friends Foundation of BPL at under Support the Library, Library Foundation.)

Pat Rumore received a 2016 Library Champions award from the Jefferson County Public Library Association and is a board member of the Friends Foundation of the Birmingham Public Library.