Sunday, October 04, 2015

Catalog Features

You may have used the library catalog hundreds of times, but have you ever explored the features listed in the yellow box on the side?  These include a number of specialized searches as well as quick links to other resources you may find helpful.  Here is a brief description of three of these features that are definitely worth checking out. 

Featured Item Lists – Several libraries and departments use these lists to keep you up-to-date on what’s new in the collection.  For instance, the Fiction Department provides a list of new books, DVDs, and audiobooks that have been received during the previous month (or couple of months).  It’s a great way to learn about new titles at the library.

Category Searches – People often ask if we have a list of all the audiobooks or DVDs in the library's collection.  You can search the catalog, of course, for specific titles, authors, actors, etc., but using this feature allows you to browse the entire collection.  These categories (e.g. DVDs, Books on CD, Music CDs) include materials at all Jefferson County libraries, but the search can be limited by location.  Click on the Modify Search button, then choose a location from the drop-down menu.

Journal Title – If you are curious to know if a particular magazine is available at the library, you can use the Journal Title search.  Why not just type the title in using a regular title search?  Here’s a good example.  If you type in “time” as a title search, it returns 1581 results.  Time Magazine is actually one of the results you receive, but why wade through all those entries to find it.  Using Journal Title, a search for “time” returns 7 results which are only magazines or journals that begin with the word "time."

Friday, October 02, 2015

2015 Eat Drink Read Write Festival Kicks Off Tuesday, October 6, at Central Library  

What: 2015 Eat Drink Read Write Festival
When: Tuesday, October 6 – Friday, October 9, 2015
Where: Central Library, 2100 Park Place, downtown Birmingham (Tuesday-Wednesday, October 6-7, Friday, October 9), Vulcan Park & Museum, Thursday, October 8)
Details: Four-day schedule online at
Free Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Baked Event is $15, buy tickets at

Birmingham has built a national reputation as home of many incredible restaurants, from fine dining to barbecue. On Tuesday, October 6, the Birmingham Public Library will shine the spotlight on food by hosting its fourth annual Eat Drink Read Write festival.

“The festival combines food, culinary arts, and literature in an engaging format focused on cultural enrichment and entertaining the public,” said Brandon C. Smith, the Eastwood Branch Library manager who is serving as coordinator of the 2015 Eat Drink Read Write festival.

This year the Birmingham Public Library is bringing the biggest names to take part in the festival: Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, co-owners of Baked, two New York City bakeries, and authors of a series of popular cookbooks. Lewis and Poliafito were semifinalists of the prestigious James Beard Award in the best baker category. They will highlight an evening celebrating desserts and baked goods on Thursday, October 8, beginning at 7:00 p.m., at Vulcan Park & Museum.

This year’s Eat Drink Read Write festival is unique in that each of the four nights of events are structured around the concept of a four-course dinner, Smith said. The three events being held at the Central Library in downtown Birmingham—Tuesday, October 6, Wednesday, October 7, and Friday, October 9—are free. The Vulcan Museum event featuring Baked’s Lewis and Poliafito has a $15 fee.

Main sponsors who made the Eat Drink Read Write festival possible are Protective Life Foundation, InSinkErator, and the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals board.

The schedule will be as follows:

“Appetizer Course”- Human Library
Tuesday, October 6, 6:00 -7:45 p.m., Central Library, 2100 Park Place, free admission
Chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and culinary school staff will be on site at the Central Library to answer questions and provide brief mentorship sessions for attendees. This free program is modeled on the international concept known as the Human Library. The books available for checkout will include restaurateurs Chef Ryan Champion of Hotbox at Parkside, Marco Morosini of Silvertron Café, bartender William Batson, bloggers Jessie Merlin and Scott Doty of What to Eat in Birmingham, Chef Eryka Perry of Not Just Catering, Birmingham Food: A Magic City Menu author Emily Brown, and the staff from Lawson State Community College’s Culinary Arts Program.

“Main Course” – Food Stories
Wednesday, October 7, 6:00 -8:00 p.m., Central Library, 2100 Park Place, free admission
An evening of food stories told by people of varied backgrounds and different cultural traditions will take place at the Central Library. The stories will revolve around food memories such as making tamales with a Mexican mother, family dinners in northeast India, and a Jewish family’s love for celebrating the holidays with food. Samples of foods featured in the stories will be served. Local artist and stand-up comic Christopher Davis will host the free event.

“Dessert Course” – Featuring Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, co-owners of BAKED in New York City
Thursday, October 8, presentation at 7:00 p.m., after party at 8:00 p.m., Vulcan Park & Museum, 1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham, Tickets, $15, available online at
Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, co-owners of two New York City bakeries in Manhattan and Brooklyn called BAKED, are the authors of three popular cookbooks: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, Baked: Elements, and Baked: Explorations. They have been featured in magazines and newspapers around the globe, and write a popular food blog.

During the “Dessert Course,” Lewis and Poliafito will deliver a presentation they call “How Not to Build a Bakery,” discussing mistakes they made along their journey to success and the lucky breaks that have come their way. Semifinalists for the 2015 James Beard Foundation’s award for Outstanding Baker, Lewis and Poliafito have been featured on Oprah, Martha Stewart, and the Today Show.

The Birmingham Public Library’s Young Professionals board is hosting a reception including wine and dessert samples following the presentation. There is a $15 admission fee to attend this event. Here is a link to a GQ article about Lewis and Poliafito’s third book, Baked: Elements:

“After Dinner Drinks” – Bards & Brews Poetry Slam
Friday, October 9, 6:30-9:00 p.m., Central Library, 2100 Park Place, free admission
The library’s popular Bards & Brews spoken word poetry and craft beer tasting event will close the four-day Eat Drink Read Write festival at the Central Library. Beer will be donated from a number of local breweries, including Cahaba Brewing, Good People Brewing, and Avondale Brewing. Voice Porter, a performance artist and experienced poetry slam emcee, will host the free evening event.

Poets will compete in a slam for $500 in cash prizes while attendees sample beer, coffee, tea, and snacks.

Smith said the Birmingham Public Library would like to thank the main sponsors who made the event possible through their contributions—InSinkErator, Protective Life Foundation, and the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals—as well as other sponsors: Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, Avondale Brewing Co., Friends of the Birmingham Public Library, Good People Brewing Co., Hotbox at Parkside, Lawson State Community College, Vizzini Farms Winery, What to Eat in Birmingham, and Alabama State Council on the Arts.

“This event will be a great way to celebrate our food and culture in Birmingham,” Smith said. “I am pleased that we will be able to close out Eat Drink Read Write with our popular Bards & Brews poetry slam. This will be a great way for people to come together, visit the library, and learn more about the great restaurants and breweries we have here in Birmingham.”

Thursday, October 01, 2015

September's Most Popular Titles at Birmingham Public Library

Top Books for Adults

1. Undercover by Danielle Steel
2. Devoted In Death by J.D. Robb
3. Grand Opening by Carl Weber
4. X by Sue Grafton
5. The End Game by Catherine Coulter
6. One Night by Eric Jerome Dickey
7. Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins by Reed Farrel Coleman
8. 14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson
9. The Scam by Janet Evanovich
10. Hood Misfits Vol. 3 by Brick & Storm
11. The Murder House by James Patterson
12. Hold U Down by Keisha Ervin
13. Stone Cold Liar by Noire
14. Best Kept Secrets by Shelly Ellis
15. Fatal Obsession by Christina Ow
16. Memory Man by David Baldacci
17. Dance of the Bones by Judith A. Jance
18. Rich Woman's Fetish by Naleighna Kai
19. The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards
20. Solitude Creek by Jeffery Deaver

Top DVDs

1. Chappie
2. The Boy Next Door
3. Comeback Dad
4. With This Ring
5. No Good Deed
6. Taken 3
7. The Gunman
8. Seventh Son
9. Addicted
10. The Wedding Ringer
11. Car Lot Comedy
12. Whitney
13. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
14. Lucy
15. Black or White
16. Blackhat
17. The Lazarus Effect
18. Think Like a Man Too
19. Dracula Untold
20. Jupiter Ascending

Top Books for Youth

1. Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot by Dav Pilkey
2. Big Nate's Greatest Hits by Lincoln Peirce
3. Bug In a Vacuum by Melanie Watt
4. The Amazing World of Gumball by Frank Gibson
5. The Last Chocolate Chip Cookie by Jamie Rix
6. Lego Awesome Ideas by Daniel Lipkowitz
7. Frog On a Log? by Kes Gray
8. Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney
9. Big Nate Goes For Broke by Lincoln Peirce
10. Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce
11. Wild Feelings by David Milgrim
12. Little Robot by Ben Hatke
13. Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate by David Soman
14. Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando
15. Rescue Rebellion by Geronimo Stilton
16. Prince Fly Guy  by Tedd Arnold
17. Daniel Visits the Library by Maggie Testa
18. Disney's Mickey & Minnie Storybook Collection
19. Big Nate: Genius Mode by Lincoln Peirce
20. Teen Titans Go! Vol. 1 by Sholly Fisch

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

BPL Lending Mobile Wi-Fi HotSpots

Mobile Wi-Fi HotSpot devices that allow you to connect a mobile-enabled device—such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet—to the Internet are now available for checkout at the following Birmingham Public Library branches: Avondale, Central, Five Points West, North Birmingham, and Springville Road. The HotSpots are portable, so you can connect your device almost wherever you are, like at home, in the park, or on vacation.

The National League of Cities explains the importance of this service. "These lending programs perform a critical role: in addition to providing basic broadband access to low-income residents, they allow patrons to access free e-books and other digital library resources, and they enable users to complete online job applications and perform other critical web-based processes at home. Outreach efforts are also aimed at the elderly and disabled, who often need access to healthcare information."

For more information about checking out a Mobile HotSpot, visit or call one of the participating libraries. You may also reserve a Wi-Fi HotSpot devise online.

Guidelines for Borrowing and Use Outside of the Library                                                         

  • Patron must be 21 years of age or older to checkout a Mobile HotSpot.
  • A valid Jefferson County Library account and a current driver’s license, passport, or military photo ID must be presented at the time of checkout.
  • Patron must be a Birmingham resident.
  • Patron must be in good standing with the library, with a current address on file and no fines above $5.
  • Mobile HotSpots may be checked out for one week with no renewals. They must be returned to the owning library.
  • Overdue Mobile HotSpots will be deactivated within 24 hours of due date.
  • The Mobile HotSpot can provide Wi‐Fi Internet access for up to 10 devices.
  • Internet content filtering is not provided through the BPL Wireless HotSpot. Parents/guardians are responsible for monitoring what their children access via the BPL Wireless HotSpot.

 Fines and Liability

  • The overdue fine is $1 per day until returned.
  • Patrons will be charged $25 for Mobile HotSpots returned to a book drop (indoor or outdoor) or to another library.
  • The Mobile HotSpot should be kept in a temperature controlled environment; do not leave it in your car.
  • The patron is responsible for costs associated with loss or damage of the Mobile HotSpot and/or peripherals.

Book Review: Goya

Robert Hughes

If you’ve only read, or watched, one art critic, there’s a good chance it’s Robert Hughes. Hughes is hugely entertaining. His Shock of the New, a grand sweeping historical commentary about modern art, was a best seller and became a PBS mini-series. He wrote similarly grand histories of Australia (The Fatal Shore) and Barcelona (Barcelona). With Goya Hughes focuses his wide ranging vision on a single artist, Jose de Goya y Lucientes, a regular guy we come to love and admire as we read, but whom we also come to recognize as a titan of western art.

Goya was a working artist in a hard scrabble Spain of the late 1700s and early 1800s. His father was a gilder, who applied gold leaf, and as such Goya had some connection to professional artists. He apprenticed himself to a painter and worked his way up, taking commissions from the church and the wealthy just to get himself known, starting as a regular guy. What is striking is that his painting technique and style emerge fully mature in his earliest works. There were no museums and all the good art was out of sight in the palaces of the wealthy. Right away his glorious ceiling paintings in churches and his paintings of elaborately dressed youths frolicking in the woods go toe to toe with the work of Tiepolo and Watteau. And, as a worthy working artist of his time and place, he ultimately comes under the employ of the King, and designs tapestries and paints portraits of the wealthy and the powerful. And then, he becomes ill and goes deaf and his art becomes dark.

As Goya recovered from illness he created his dark Caprichos, a series of prints exploring human depravity and madness. Out Hunting for Teeth, depicts a woman struggling to pull the teeth out of a corpse hanging from a noose. How They Pluck Her shows priests despoiling, nearly consuming, a maiden. And thus, arguably, modern art was born. Whereas nearly all art at had explored the themes of human beauty and wisdom, Goya, isolated in his deafness, began to depict the horrors at hand in a place where the inquisition remained frightening and powerful, and where the average life expectancy was just thirty years.

The scenes of horror become much worse during the resistance to Napoleon’s occupation of Spain. His Nothing (he will say) depicts a rotting corpse and his Let the Rope Break depicts a vain priest performing on a tightrope above a ravenous crowd. A glowing resistance fighter in white, arms flung wide, like a Christ, welcomes the bullets of a firing squad in The Third of May. Tragically the horrors continue after the restoration of Spanish rule and Goya cannot turn his eyes away. As an old man, he exiles himself from his country and dies in France. Hughes asks, where are the artists today who create art of such power in opposition to our own horrors?

Goya is enjoyable because of Hughes’ enjoyment and wonder at Goya’s art. He finds myriad telling details and connects the art to the personalities of the age. We can enjoy Hughes’ wonder in a different medium as well. His video documentary Goya, Crazy Like a Genius is also available at the Birmingham Public Library. The library has other books on Goya’s work which contain more and larger reproductions of his work, including The World of Goya by D. B. Wyndham Lewis.


David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Monday, September 28, 2015

Southern History Book of the Month: Understanding Colonial Handwriting

Understanding Colonial Handwriting
Harriet Stryker-Rodda

Does anyone remember penmanship lessons in elementary school? I can recall having to sit in a certain position, holding the pen just so, shaping the Palmer Method letters . . . then thankfully abandoning the whole process the minute class was over and going back to my usual chicken scratch. Deciphering another person’s handwriting can be a challenge even in this century, but genealogical researchers can encounter real difficulties when they examine documents from centuries past. The letters of the alphabet, no matter how carefully shaped, can often be completely different from the current versions. This is when researchers can be grateful for a brief but helpful guide like Understanding Colonial Handwriting when consulting original documents. As Stryker-Rodda points out, more and more material is available online but as transcription errors creep in over time, it becomes necessary to check the original source for accurate information:

Recourse to original records, in whatever form, assures the researcher that no one has tampered with the content or the physical construction of the record. The changing styles of letter formation and the condition of the paper may present problems to the uninitiated. To analyze such a document we must understand its history, its purpose, its tools, even its scribe and his manner of writing.

The mention of tools caught my attention—how often do we even now refer to a sort of small knife as a “pen knife” without remember that its original purpose was for trimming a quill pen?
For all its brevity (less than 30 pages), this pamphlet covers a lot of research territory related to the transcription of colonel documents: how the use of a quill pen affected the formation of lettering, idiosyncrasies of punctuation, comparisons of American and English handwriting styles, the lack of standardized spelling, interchangeable letters such as I and J or U and V, and the long s that looks more like an f. There is also the reminder that “when we consult a colonial document we see a miracle of survival . . . it has survived the vicissitudes of war, vermin, weather, and human neglect.” The family historian can be grateful for every centuries-old document that still exists, and equally thankful for every guide that can help in figuring out what it says. Understanding Colonial Handwriting is a handy portable guide for the researcher and is readily available through vendors such as Genealogical Publishing. For more on this topic, there are some lengthier guides in the Southern History Department:

How to Read the Handwriting and Records of Early America

Reading Early American Handwriting

Good luck in your research, and happy deciphering!

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Lines of Scrimmage Author Scott Pleasant to Visit Central Library on September 29

Scott Pleasant
Author Scott Pleasant will discuss his book Lines of Scrimmage: A Story of Football, Race, and Redemption in the Story Castle at the Central Library on Tuesday, September 29, at 6:00 p.m.

Lines of Scrimmage tells the story of football in Conway, South Carolina, where fans fill the stands on fall Fridays to cheer on their local high school team. In 1989, with returning starter Carlos Hunt at quarterback, hopes were high that the beloved Tigers would win their first state championship. But during spring practice, Coach Chuck Jordan (who is white) benched Hunt (who is black) in favor of Mickey Wilson, an inexperienced white player. Seeing this demotion of the black quarterback as an example of the racism prevalent in football generally and in Conway specifically, 31 of the team's 37 black players—under the guidance of H. H. Singleton, pastor of Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church and president of the local NAACP—boycotted the team in protest.

The season-long strike severed the town along racial lines as it became clear that the incident was about much more than football. It was about the legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and other points of tension and oppression that many people in Conway—and the South—had wrongly assumed were settled.

While the 1989 season is long over, the story reverberates today. Chuck Jordan is still coaching at Conway High, and he's still without that state championship. Meanwhile, Mickey Wilson is now coaching Conway's fiercest rival, the Myrtle Beach Seahawks. In the annual Victory Bell Game between Conway and Myrtle Beach, the biggest contest of the year for both teams, a veteran coach and his young protégé compete against each other—against the backdrop of a racial conflict that bitterly divided a small southern town.

Scott Pleasant, co-author (with Joe Oestreich) of Lines of Scrimmage, has served as the Coordinator of the Coastal Carolina University Writing Center since 2010 and taught as a lecturer in the CCU English Department for six years. Scott earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in English at East Tennessee State University, and studied in the English Ph.D. program at Auburn University. Over a 25-year career, Scott has taught writing, literature, songwriting, research methods, English as a Second Language, and other courses at ETSU, Auburn, Coastal Carolina, and other schools.

Copies of Lines of Scrimmage will be available for purchase and signing. Refreshments will be served.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Children's Graphic Novel Review: Awkward (Ages 10 and Up)

Svetlana Chmakova

Peppi just moved to town and she’s starting at a new middle school. She knows that she can survive as long as she follows two cardinal rules: don’t get noticed by the mean kids and join a group of kids with similar interests. It seems pretty simple, but as you can imagine, it’s anything but. On her first day, Peppi trips on her own feet and falls in front of everyone in the hall. Now she’s on the mean kids’ radar! She reacts fast and does something that she will be ashamed of for weeks to come. She shoves the only kid who stops to help her, Jamie, a member of the Science Club.

Peppi finds friends when she joins the Art Club and the mean kids leave her alone, but she is haunted by the way she treated Jamie. She is so ashamed that she doesn’t know how to apologize! It doesn’t help matters that the Art Club and Science Club are bitter rivals. To make matters more awkward, Peppi bombs her science homework and her teacher makes Jamie tutor her. Still, she is too shy to apologize and he’s too polite to bring it up. Through club rivalries and field trips, the two are constantly thrown together. When she wrecks her bike in front of Jamie’s house, she is finally able to work up the nerve to write an apology letter (She still can’t tell him in real life!) They establish a tentative friendship, but it’s hard to keep it going when their clubs are at war with each other. When the principal threatens to dissolve both clubs, it is up to Peppi and Jamie to find a solution.

This is such a great graphic novel! Middle schoolers will especially identify with Peppi’s shyness, and uncertainty. The situations in the book feel like they happened in real life. Heck, they remind me of something that happened to me in middle school. This book shows great character development without seeming forced and it touches on issues like divorce, bullying, and emotional abuse without seeming heavy-handed or preachy. There is even a section in the back where the author talks about her experience writing the book and growing up as an artsy kid. She also shows off her design gallery for all of the characters. This book was a lot of fun. It’s a great way for kids to learn that everyone goes through sticky social situations.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Teen Book Review: Erebos

Ursula Poznanski

While at school, Nick is approached by a classmate offering the latest fantasy role-playing game. It’s called Erebos, and it allows you to design your own character, join in group quests, and fight in battles in a lush fantasy setting. At first, he thinks it’s your average, run of the mill game—but soon, he’s hooked, obsessively gaming late into the night, plotting ways to gain new experience levels. When his character, Sarius, is mortally wounded in battle, all seems lost—until a sinister authority figure, the Messenger, offers his help. The Messenger promises to heal Sarius, on the condition that Nick performs a series of menial tasks—not within the game, but outside in the real world. At first, Nick thinks it’s harmless stuff. One day he’s instructed to leave an unmarked package under a bridge, the next day he’s told to take pictures of two strangers in their car. When one of his delivered packages turns out to contain something highly illegal, Nick gets scared. What is the purpose of Erebos, exactly? And more importantly—can it be stopped?

As a reader, all I can say is that this international import is truly awesome. The sinisterness of the game is truly creepy, and the mystery of Erebos is intriguing enough to drive the story at a fast pace towards its thrilling conclusion. While this novel has the potential to be enjoyed by teens of any age and gender, it’s not completely fun and games. There are some dark moments in the story, including a scene where one character is accused of assault, and another where characters discuss a suicide that happened several years previous. There’s also some swearing and fantasy violence, but nothing graphic enough to mention. Overall, a thrilling novel, recommended for Ages 15-Up.

Liz Winn
Microforms/Government Documents Department
Central Library