Monday, August 22, 2016

Registration Open For September 2016 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the September 2016 class schedule. During this month, we include a variety of topics including computer skills, career search, genealogy, and finance. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central 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 e-mail 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 September 2016 class schedule to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the September 2016 class schedule can be sent to us as an email attachment.

  September 2016 Class Schedule

Southern History Book of the Month: Forgotten Tales of Alabama

Forgotten Tales of Alabama 
Kelly Kazek
Illustrations by Kyle McQueen

It’s back to school season, and that made me think of how I used to feel when it was time to go back after a summer neatly bookended by Vacation Bible School in early June and a two-week trip to Magnolia Springs every August. I remember that Alabama history was part of the curriculum in fourth and ninth grades, and I can also remember not especially liking it. But if I’d had Kelly Kazek’s Forgotten Tales of Alabama to read, I might have felt differently. This little book is a wonderful compendium of the humorous, the memorable, and the just plain weird sites, people, and incidents in the history of Alabama. It lends itself very well to browsing and here are some samples of the Alabama lore you’ll find in it:

The Wolf Woman of Mobile
When Fish Fell on Chilatchee
World’s Largest Cake Baked in Fort Payne
Nation’s Last River Postal Route
The Mystery Graves of North Alabama

Here’s an excerpt about one colorful character I remember from my childhood—Birmingham’s “Batman,” Willie J. Perry:
Why is a 1971 Thunderbird important to Birmingham’s history? The car was once driven by Willie J. Perry, the man known as the Birmingham Batman. Perry became a local icon when he drove the car around the city displaying a sign that read: “Will help anyone in distress.” When he came across stranded motorists, he would supply gas or offer use of his jumper cables or a ride home . . . His mission, based on the Golden Rule, became so well known that he was featured on the television show That’s Incredible! in 1982.
Not all of the incidents are lighthearted. There is an especially sad segment about an infant death that was most likely caused by a patent medicine called Godfrey’s Cordial. The account of the Birmingham Axe Murders isn’t exactly cheerful, either. But if you’re drawn to unusual folklore, this may be exactly the book for you. And pass it on to your children. It could show them a whole new way of looking at history.

Kelly Kazek at
That’s Incredible! – “Batman of Birmingham”
Map of the Birmingham Axe Murders
Patent Medicines
The River Postal Route

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Birmingham Public Library

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 Olympic Games

Rio 2016

I was surprised to learn that my sports-loving coworker has not been watching the Olympics.  I have been bingeing on Olympic events since the opening ceremony.  I love having the freedom to watch on the different NBC networks, the NBC Sports app, as well as  I know NBC has received some criticism for including athlete profiles and commentary with their network coverage, but with all the viewing options, it is possible to watch just about every event you want to see.  Not to mention the great scheduling information, highlights, and full event replays available on the website and app. Considering the amount of coverage the Olympics is receiving, you are probably up-to-date on the results. For those of you who didn't follow the games or actively avoided the coverage, here are a few highlights: 

Michael Phelps won his 23rd gold medal (five in Rio) and tied for a silver medal in the 100m Butterfly, bringing his Olympic medal total to 28.  He is unquestionably the most decorated Olympic athlete in history.  History was also made in the pool when Simone Manuel became the first African-American female to win an Olympic medal in an individual swimming event.  Simone tied for gold in the 100m Freestyle, won silver in the 50m Freestyle, and picked up another gold medal anchoring the women's 4x100m Medley Relay.  

Usain Bolt completed his track and field three-peat in Rio by winning the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay.  He won gold medals in these three events in Beijing (2008) and London (2012) bringing his gold medal count to 9.  He has tied the record for most gold medals by a track and field athlete.  Jamaica also dominated the women’s sprints with Elaine Thompson winning gold in both the 100m and 200m races.  Not to be outdone, the U.S. women’s team easily won gold in the 4x100m relay. 

One of the top names in tennis emerged without a medal at the 2016 Olympics.  Serena Williams did not medal in either singles or doubles, but Venus Williams and her partner Rajeev Ram won the silver medal in mixed doubles.  Rafa Nadal competed in the bronze medal match and despite a comeback to force a third set, he was unable to win the bronze medal.  However, he and his partner Marc Lopez claimed the gold medal in men’s doubles.  Finally, Andy Murray secured back-to-back Olympic gold medals by defeating Juan Martin del Potro in a four-set match.

The “Final Five” exerted their dominance in women’s gymnastics.  The U.S. won the women’s team competition, gold and silver in the individual all-around, gold in the women’s vault, silver in the women’s uneven bars, silver and bronze in balance beam, and gold and silver in floor exercise.  Simone Biles will leave Rio with four gold medals (team, all-around, vault, floor exercise) and one bronze due to a slip on the balance beam.  Teammate Aly Raisman earned two individual silver medals (all-around, floor exercise), Madison Kocian won silver for uneven bars, and Laurie Hernandez won silver for balance beam.  That is a total of eight individual medals to go along with their win in the team competition.

I couldn't possibly cover all the events I've watched, but I hope this gives you a feel for the great competition that took place in Rio. Even though the 2016 Olympics is drawing to a close, remember that you can watch replays of events on the website and app mentioned above. Enjoy the closing ceremonies and GO TEAM USA!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

DNA and Genealogy

Kyle Merker's commerical

“So I traded in my lederhosen for a kilt” is the classic line uttered by Kyle Merker while wearing a kilt in the commercial advertising their DNA family history service. Almost every night, there is a TV commercial for DNA and genetic genealogy, and everyone wants their DNA tested to help unravel the mysteries of their family tree. Many people have questions about the terminology, the types of tests, and what you can learn about your ancestors from DNA testing.

The Southern History Department has the answer with our two Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshops this fall. This month, we will be offering Jump Into the Gene Pool: Genetics and Your Family History on Saturday, August 27, at 10:00 a.m., at the North Birmingham Regional Branch Library. In this workshop, discover how genetic research can help you explore your family history. Find out what a gene sample can tell you about what parts of the world your ancestors came from and more. You can call us at 205-226-3665 or e-mail us at Workshops are free of charge, but registration is requested.

Southern History’s librarian, Mary Anne Ellis, said, "DNA research is one of the hottest trends in genealogy as science has made it possible to learn what parts of the world your people come from. You might learn that you could be part Native American or your ancestors hailed from Asia."

We will be going even deeper with our next Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop, Genetic Genealogy Strategies for African American and Native American Research, on Saturday, October 1 at 10:00 a.m. at the Central Library. We highly encourage you to attend Jump Into the Gene Pool: Genetics and Your Family History if you do not have immediate knowledge of genetic genealogy in order to get the most out of the workshop on African American and Native American DNA. For more information, contact the Southern History Department at 205-226-3665 or e-mail us at

Southern History Department
Central Library
Birmingham Public Library

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Contrast in Philosophy

You may have read or seen Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man book and movie. But did you know that there is a book about the subject from a woman’s perspective? Why Do I Have to Think Like A Man? by Shanae Hall takes on the same issues as Harvey’s book but with completely opposite thoughts and advice. Hall, a former NFL wife even throws in a bonus chapter to counter Harvey’s new book, Straight Talk, No Chaser.

Both books allow for some out-of-the-box thinking and ideas and both give a lot of insight as to how to handle the “war of the sexes” on an intellectual level.

Hugh Hardy
Powderly Branch Library

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Book Review: Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres

Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
Henry Adams

Henry Adams was the grandson of President John Quincy Adams. He became the preeminent American historian of his day and was friends with some of America’s most distinguished men: Henry James and Theodore Roosevelt’s great Secretary of State John Hay. Adams and Hay shared a home across the park from the White House, designed by the great Henry Richardson. Adams had been personal secretary to his father, the US Ambassador to Great Britain, at the same time that Hay had been Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary during the Civil War. On retirement Adams wrote his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, which posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize in 1919. Many have named it the best American book of the twentieth century. During the later years of his retirement, Adams also wrote and self-published one hundred copies of Mont-Saint- Michel and Chartres, intended as a gift to his friends. The American Institute of Architecture prevailed upon him to be allowed to publish it for the public. In print ever since, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres has become an American classic.

In Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres Henry Adams is visiting the sites of High Medieval France with an imaginary niece, giving her the benefit of his learning and his love for that culture and its remaining artifacts: cathedrals, statues, stained glass, and poetry. Fair warning: He leaves much French poetry for his niece (readers) to translate as they will, but Adams himself translates more than enough so that his readers do not become discouraged. We start at the island fastness of the abbey of Saint Michel, built during the eleventh century by Normans on the command of the Archangel Michael himself, just before the bloody Norman Conquest of England. The Normans were among the most ruthless, masculine, and militaristic societies known to us and Mont-St-Michel was their shrine. By Adams’ art we attend a dinner at Mont-St-Michel in the year 1058, attended by Duke William the Bastard and his retinue, which included the hostage Harold, future king of England, who was to be slaughtered along with his army at Hasting only eight years later. At the dinner "The Song of Roland" is sung by a famous minstrel, bringing the hard men to tears as he sings of Roland’s righteous death in battle, a fate that came to nearly all in attendance.

All of this is in preparation for the true purpose of the Mont-St-Michel. Adams takes us to Notre Dame de Chartres, Our Lady of Chartres, built by the Lady’s command and to her tastes. In less than one hundred years France, Norman France, and Norman England have been transformed by their devotion to Mary, resulting in one of the most splendid outpouring of art, architecture, and literature in human history, known then as the “new” but to us by its later name, “gothic.” Adams wants his reader to see Chartres with our hearts as its builders felt about the great shrine. We become peasants and nobles, singing together their love of Mary as they drag huge stones weary miles from the quarries to the cathedral. We experience the victorious struggles of the great queens who dominated the French High Middle Ages: Eleanor of Aquitaine, her daughter Mary of Champaign, and Eleanor’s granddaughter, Blanche of Castile. We feel the courtly love of the era and wonder at the bitter scholastic conflicts of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard about the nature of the Holy Trinity. Most importantly, through stories from the French Marian literature of the era, we come to understand Mary, their Mary, the Queen Mother who ruled and who appeared to them and loved the sinner, but jealously, brooking no worldly rivals.

Mont-St-Michel and Chartres is a gift to the serious reader and a travelogue of sorts for the serious tourist. But, with the Internet, we do not need to have visited the primary tourist destinations of Gothic France to enjoy Adams’ writing. Images of the many sites he mentioned are readily available online, as are the biographies of historical personages he occasionally neglects to introduce. Adams is good company, who engages the reader with a wry wit and a ready hope that we readers will come to love his subject, the French High Middle Ages.

Reading Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres we can’t help but love them as we have visited them in our imaginations with one of the grand old men of American letters.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Birmingham Public Library and Local Daughters of the American Revolution to Offer Family Bible Records Preservation Workshop on August 21

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s Southern History Department has partnered with Lily of the Cahaba Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to offer a Family Bible Records Preservation workshop on Sunday, August 21, 2:30-4:30 p.m. The event will be held on the first floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library/Southern History Department/Central Library.

The goal of the event is to preserve the genealogical or family history records that are recorded in family Bibles. Digital images of the appropriate pages will be made without damage or pressure applied to the Bibles using new digital technology to protect the books. The images will be submitted to the genealogical library of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and BPL so that these records are not lost.

The Bible remains with the owner and digital images will be provided at no charge to those who bring Bible records for preservation. The goal is to preserve these valuable records for future generations in the event that the Bible deteriorates or is lost in the future.

The workshop and the digital images are free. Registration is encouraged but not required via e-mail to

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote patriotism, preserve American history, and support better education for our nation's children. With more than 177,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world's largest and most active service organizations. To learn more about the work of today's DAR, visit For information about the Lily of the Cahaba Chapter, visit

Job Readiness Resume Clinic Will Be Held at Central Library on September 9

Your resume may be the most important single document you have in determining success in your professional life. Although your resume does not insure that you will be hired for a job, the quality of the resume will have a major effect on whether or not you land an interview for a job. A strong resume leads to more interviews, and more interviews will eventually take you to the job that best suits your interests and needs. Conversely, a flawed resume can lead to you being ignored, rejected, and ultimately kept from getting the job of your dreams.

But knowing the importance of a good resume is one thing, actually developing and creating one is quite another. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, a resume does not write itself. If you think you could benefit from having some assistance in getting your resume together, then plan on attending the Job Readiness Resume Clinic being held at the Central Library on Friday, September 9, 2016. This free event is brought to you by the New Rising Star Community Support Corporation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the community by providing programs aimed at promoting education, workforce development, housing opportunities, senior citizen care, and healthy lifestyles.

Representatives from New Rising Star will be on hand at the clinic to provide one-on-one advice on crafting both the content and format of your resume. The goal will be for all attendees to walk away from the clinic with an actual completed resume in hand.

Event: Job Readiness Resume Clinic
Date: Friday, September 9, 2016
Time: 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Location: Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Library/Regional Library Computer Center/4th floor

For more information about the clinic and other career resources available at the Birmingham Public Library, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by e-mail at or by calling 205-226-3690.

The Job Readiness Resume Clinic will be the first of a series of Connect4 Careers workforce development events sponsored by New Rising Star in September that include a Career Coaching Clinic on Saturday, September 17 and a Job Fair on Saturday, September 24. For further information about these events, please check the New Rising Star website at