Friday, August 01, 2014

BPL to Open at 10:00 A.M. on August 1

All Birmingham Public Libraries will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday August 1.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Artist Raises Linoleum to a Whole New Level

            "i learnt to sing a glad new song"
Take a good look at this image. What technique do you suppose was used to create this work of art? If you guessed woodblock printing, you’re getting close. Except rather than wood, a piece of linoleum is carved to achieve a similar effect. Yes, lowly linoleum…the same stuff that covered your grandmother’s kitchen floor. Artist Debra Riffe has taken the technique to a whole new level to create striking images that speak eloquently of themes such as social identity and sense of place. 

An exhibit of Riffe’s linoleum block prints will be on display in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the downtown Birmingham Public Library during regular library hours  until August 26. 

Titled "Every Line Tells a Story", the exhibit will also be featured at the August 7 Birmingham Art Crawl from 5 to 9 p.m., and Riffe will be on hand to greet visitors from 6 to 9 pm. The Art Crawl is a recently inaugurated monthly event which brings people to the Central City area and showcases Birmingham’s wide-ranging pool of creative talent. Art Crawl is held on the first Thursday of every month from 5-9 p.m.

“My linoleum block relief prints reflect my love for the south and all things southern. The majority of my compositions depict singular, figurative images of African Americans placed in rural settings of the American South.” Riffe states on her website.

Though born and raised in the American South, Riffe’s wide ranging world travels also inspire her art. A native of Tupelo, Mississippi, Riffe has called Birmingham, Alabama home since 1996. She completed her undergraduate degree (B.F.A.), at Howard University, College of Fine Arts, Washington, DC and worked as an art director with a Fortune 500 company. After a few years, she left the work force to travel around the Caribbean and live abroad with her family in Barranquilla, Colombia, South America. For two years, she lived on the La Guajira peninsula, located in the northernmost point of South America that borders Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea.

Creating these prints is a time-consuming process. Riffe begins with a detailed pencil drawing which is retraced onto the surface of the linoleum. She uses a variety of tools called gouges to carve away the linoleum which she does not want to show up on the print, and the surface of the linoleum that is uncut is in relief (raised). Oil-based ink is then applied to the linoleum block and a sheet of quality paper is placed upon the block and pressure is applied either manually or by using a tabletop printing press.

To learn more about Riffe and her art, visit her website:

And check out these titles on printmaking at the Birmingham Public Library:
Non-Toxic Printmaking
Printmaking at the Edge
The Printmaking Bible
Printmaking Revolution
Relief Printmaking

"Every Line Tells A Story"
Linoleum Block Relief Prints
July 24-August 26, 2014
4th Floor Gallery
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place

Rotaract Club of Birmingham to Give Away Free School Supplies at Four Birmingham Public Libraries on Saturday, August 9

The Rotaract Club of Birmingham will distribute free school supplies and clear backpacks to more than 800 children at four Birmingham Public Library branches on Saturday, August 9, starting at 9:00 a.m. Distribution will take place at Avondale, East Lake, Pratt City, and Wylam branches, while supplies last. The event is free and open to the public.

New this year, Rotaract will partner with Whole Foods Market, which will donate fresh fruit to be distributed during the event. The goal is to encourage students to make healthy school snack choices.

“Rotaract is excited to present this event, which has a tremendous positive impact on our community,” said Sarah Beth Combs, Rotaract service director. With great economic challenges still facing Birmingham neighborhoods, many students do not have the basic supplies they need to begin the new school year. This project equips students with what they need to learn from day one.

For more information, please contact Allison Westlake at 218-7187.

About the Rotaract Club of Birmingham
The Rotaract Club of Birmingham provides an opportunity for young professional leaders to promote responsible citizenship, develop professional skills and employ effective leadership. The Club’s membership is comprised of young professionals, deeply committed to playing a key role in serving communities locally, nationally, and globally. It was founded in 2004.

Bards & Brews Open Mic Night To Be Held at Avondale Library, August 1

North Birmingham Library hosted July's poetry SLAM
For more photos visit Bards & Brews Facebook page

Enjoy the perfect blend of poetry and free beer samples during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, August 1, at Avondale Library. Open Mic Night poet registration starts at 6:30 p.m. and poetry performances start at 7 p.m. Avondale Brewing Company will be providing the beer. Music by Patrick Summey. Call 205-226-3670 for more info. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and at least 21 to be served. Free.

Bards & Brews, which is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, is typically held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around Birmingham. Visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page for more information.

Three Promoted at Birmingham Public Library

Three librarians at the Birmingham Public Library have been promoted to coordinator positions.

K’aryn Davis-West, former manager of computer services for the public, is now coordinator of Central Library Public Services. She coordinates all public service departments at the downtown library location.

Jared Millet, former manager of the Acquisitions Department, is now the Collections Management coordinator. He is responsible for the Cataloging, Acquisitions, and Web Services departments.

Felita Hawkins, former manager of the East Lake Library, is now coordinator of all of the branches in the library system’s Southern region. She oversees Avondale, North Avondale, Eastwood, Southside, and Titusville libraries.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Society of Alabama Archives and Birmingham Public Library Call for Nominations for Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award

Dr. Marvin Whiting, BPL Archivist, 1975-1996

The Awards Committee of the Society of Alabama Archivists calls for nominations for the 2014 Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award. Named for Marvin Whiting, the Birmingham Public Library's first archivist and a pioneer in the professionalization of archives in Alabama, this award recognizes individuals, organizations or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the preservation and dissemination of local history in Alabama. The award recognizes the preservation of historic documents and oral history but not buildings, historic sites or artifacts. The Birmingham Public Library co-sponsors the award.

The award was created in 2012 and the past recipients are Ed Bridges, retired Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and Elizabeth Wells, former Head of Special Collections at Samford University.

The deadline for nominations is August 22, 2014 and the award will be presented at the Society of Alabama Archivists Annual Meeting at the University of Montevallo on November 14, 2014.

For more information and to access the nomination form, visit the SALA website

Questions may be directed to:

Jim Baggett, Head
Department of Archives and Manuscripts
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203
205-226-3631 (voice), 205-226-3633 (fax)

The Genealogists and the Feds: Using Government Documents in Genealogical Research

In June, I attended the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research sponsored by Samford University. I took a course titled “Advanced Library Research: Law Libraries and Government Documents.” It was an opportunity to learn a new use for government documents. How could genealogists use them? In surprising ways, I discovered.

Why would genealogists want to use law resources or government documents? Depending on what is used, genealogists can find out a variety of information to fill in blanks about their ancestors’ lives. For example, did Great-Great-Great Uncle William have a property dispute with Great-Great-Great Uncle Robert and take him to court? The case might be listed in the Alabama Digest: Table of Cases, and that could be the proof of why those relatives don’t speak to each other today.

Government documents can give a researcher similar information, primarily, what interaction did the ancestor have with the government? Government documents record the actions of federal, state, and local governments and agencies. BPL’s Government Documents Department collects documents from each of these. This article gives examples of some federal resources which a genealogist may use there.

The Congressional Information Service (CIS) indexes records produced by Congress beginning in 1970. The volumes are Abstracts, Indexes, and Legislative Histories. Government Documents has the print volumes and microfiche until 2012.

The United States Congressional Serial Set (“the Serial Set”), contains documents and records numbered in sequence by each session of Congress. It began in 1817, and The American State Papers (1789-1838) are included. An example of a document found there that would involve names of persons is “Titanic Disaster: Hearings on Titanic disaster, to investigate collision of White Star liner with iceberg and rescue of passengers, officers and crew by steamer Carpathia.” The Serial Set is available through BPL’s database Congressional Publications.

One resource on microfilm and paper is the Congressional Record, which began as the Congressional Globe (1834- current). Congress is required to keep a record of each session, word for word. An ancestor might be given recognition in the CR, such as “140 Cong Rec S Capt. Ronald Arthur Route, (Introduced by) Mr. Shelby” or “160 Cong Rec S3466 Nevada’s French Legion of Honor Recipients, (Introduced by) Mr. Heller.” The CR from 1994 is available through the Government Printing Office web page,

United States Statutes at Large contains every law enacted by Congress, public and private. It also includes treaties, conventions, executive proclamations, and concurrent resolutions. A genealogist’s interest would be in the private laws which pertain to individuals. For example, “An Act For the relief of the estate of the late Captain D.H. Tribou, Chaplain, United States Navy. February 9, 1925…page 1560.”

Maps are another resource a genealogist might check. He/she might want to look at a battlefield map, for example, if a relative fought in a specific battle such as Gettysburg. The Department of the Interior, which supervises the national parks, produces excellent guides. The United States Geological Survey produces a variety of maps dealing with land and minerals. Such a map could give a genealogist an idea of what the area was like where an ancestor lived. Maps also may be found in the Serial Set, such as “Chart No. 1: Ice as Reported Near Titanic.”

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents Department
Central Library

Friday, July 25, 2014

Math & Science Day at Five Points West Library, July 26

The Annual Math & Science Day conducted by Kwanzaa Year Round, Science for Kids Ministry, and hosted by the Five Points West Library, 4812 Avenue W, Birmingham, AL, will be held Saturday, July 26, 2014, 1:00-4:00 p.m., in the Main Auditorium. The emphasis this year will be on “Slave Science – African Contributions to Science Before Enslavement.”

The topic is based on studies compiled by historian Dr. Joseph E. Holloway in an article titled “African Contributions to American Culture.” His research documents Africans who helped establish rice growing, cattle raising, variolation (early vaccination), musical and architectural styles that were incorporated into American culture. Other specialties include metal working, midwifery, ship building, and navigation.

“Before the enslavement, Africans were closely observed for their various skills,” said Elinor Burks, one of the event’s planners. “Many skills Africans brought were not appreciated until several generations after their arrival in America.”

In addition to the historical emphasis, the math table will challenge students to solve Einstein’s puzzle using movable objects. The creativity table will let kids use their hands to make recycled objects from toilet tissue rolls as an example of protecting nature’s resources. The nutrition table will show young people how to create fun foods included in Japanese packed lunches called Bento, while learning about that ancient culture.

This event is free and designed for students ages 5 to 105. Parents must accompany all participants.

Avondale Library To Host Bards & Brews Open Mic Poetry Event, August 1

North Birmingham Library hosted July's poetry SLAM
For more photos visit Bards & Brews Facebook page

Enjoy the perfect blend of poetry and free beer samples during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, August 1, at Avondale Library. Open Mic Night poet registration starts at 6:30 p.m. and poetry performances start at 7 p.m. Avondale Brewing Company will be providing the beer. Music by Patrick Summey. Call 205-226-3670 for more info. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and at least 21 to be served. Free.

Bards & Brews, which is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, is typically held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around Birmingham. Visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page for more information.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: The Silkworm

The Silkworm
Robert Galbraith

An obnoxious old writer has gone missing from his shabby London home just as he finished his scandalous masterpiece, Bombyx Mori. If that name sounds like a spell taught at Hogwarts, it won’t surprise you to learn that Robert Galbraith is the nom de plume of J. K. Rowling and that “bombyx mori” is the scientific name for silkworms, creatures boiled alive in their cocoons to preserve the valuable threads they have woven.

The Silkworm is the sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) which introduced Cormoran Strike, a down on his heel (he lost half a leg in Afghanistan) private investigator. Strike is built like a boxer with a nose that has been broken more than once. In pain, he limps through the winter mist and snow of a gritty contemporary London, negotiating slick pavements and steps down into the London Underground. He can’t afford taxis, but is nonetheless attractive to beautiful socialites he encounters on his search for the missing author, Owen Quine. Strike’s search leads him into the heart of the London publishing scene, familiar turf for Rowling. The publishing executives, editors, staffers, and agents he interviews present themselves to the reader like Hogwarts professors, or fine old British character actors at the least. Rowling’s portrait of the book publishing world is trenchant and frankly outrageous.

Cormoran and Harry do not physically resemble, and the adult detective novels substitute sex, often perverse, for magic, but the two series of novels share much, including a taste for the horrific. Characters inhabit a shadowy world of evil intentions and official indifference. Strike and Harry are both lonely knights, keeping their counsel, finding truth in details, as is befitting of noir fiction. Strike has but one sidekick. Her name is Robin.

Lovers of crime fiction and devotees of Rowling’s Harry Potter series will likely find enjoyment in The Silkworm. The author retains her gift for plot and narrative. Her many characters have lives one can imagine extending beyond the written page. Dark quotes from London writers of the Jacobean era, like John Webster and Thomas Dekker, set the tone for each chapter. The Silkworm is yet another page turner from Rowling.

Don’t miss it!

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

The End of Summer Reading—Now What?

Poster created by Sarah McIntyre
As a fairly new librarian serving an underserved community where making ends meet supersedes the Library’s stance, the nearing of the end of Summer Reading has stimulated several questions such as: “How do I keep the momentum going and continue to motivate children and adults to read? How do I intertwine the Library’s resources with the needs of the community? How do I attempt to close the new digital divide where Internet access is no longer an issue, but how the Internet is being used poses the problem?”

I know that understanding the needs of the community where the Library resides is paramount and there are several resources available both in print and online that will provide insight on how to put community knowledge to use. One resource in particular that I recently found and plan on putting to use is the American Library Association’s Outreach to Underserved Populations Resource. This site targets many underserved groups and provides several resources that specifically address the issues within these groups. The site also provides a wide range of resources from blogs to organizations that focus on issues that plague underserved groups.

For more information on how you can serve an underserved group in your Library’s Community, visit

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Library

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ongoing Programming at BPL Helps Students, Parents, and Teachers Stay Sharp Throughout the Year

"i learnt to sing a glad new song," 2010, Debra Riffe
Fourth Floor Gallery exhibit, Central Library,  July 24 - August 26

With the start of school just around the corner, the Birmingham Public Library has free programs that will help keep young and young-at-heart minds sharp before and well after the school bell rings. Some library programs set for July, August, and September include:

Learn the different styles and techniques of wire and bead jewelry making on Tuesday, July 22 at 4 p.m. at Woodlawn Library, 5709 First Ave. North.

Enter the Lego Building Challenge on Tuesday, July 22 at 10 a.m. at Smithfield Library, #1 Eighth Ave. West, and on Thursday, July 24 at 1:30 p.m. at the Powderly Library, 3301 Jefferson Ave. SW.

Exercise the brain on Saturday, July 26 during the annual Math and Science Day at Five Points West Library, 4812 Ave. W, 1 to 4 p.m. For all ages. Adolescent attendees must have parent or caregiver present. Free.

Learn the marvels of magnets at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23 at Ensley Library, 1201 25th St.,Ensley. McWane Science Center to present.

Connect with your inner artist and visit "Every Line Tells a Story," an exhibit of linoleum block relief prints by Debra Eubanks Riffe, July 24 - Aug. 26 in the fourth floor gallery of the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Free.

Check out Debra Riffe's "Every Line Tells a Story'' exhibit during the Birmingham Art Crawl on Thursday, Aug. 7, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Birmingham Public Library. Riffe will be one of several artists to display works at downtown Birmingham businesses on Aug. 7. Free.

Get ready to laugh as storyteller and author Bil Lepp tells tall tales and funny stories on Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. at the downtown Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. On Aug. 7, he'll be at Springville Road Library, 1224 Springville Road, at 6:30 p.m. Free. (Note: There’s only one L in Bil.)

Release your inner poet and attend a haiku workshop on Saturday, Aug. 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Birmingham Public Library's first floor conference room, 2100 Park Place. Terri French, the Southeast region coordinator for the Haiku Society of America, will lead the session. Ideal for teens and adults. For more information, call 226-3670. Free.

Brush up on your computer skills with free August classes at the downtown Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Pre-registration is required. Classes will be from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. No one will be admitted after 9:45 a.m. Advanced Word Mail Merge/Labels will be on Aug. 25 and MS Word 2010 Advanced will be on Aug. 26. Visit for a complete schedule and to register. Questions? Call 226-3680.

See reading programs brought to life through dance during Sanspointe Dance Co.’s “Creative Catalog’’ performance on Wednesday, September 24. A Master Class for ages 12 to 17 will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Story Castle of the downtown Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Sanspointe Dance Co. will perform at 5 p.m. in the atrium. Free.

For more programs, visit

Birmingham Public Library Director Renee Blalock to Retire August 1, 2014

Renee Blalock, director of the Birmingham Public Library System, will retire on Friday, August 1, after 33 years of service with the library system.

A retirement program will be held on August 1 at 8 a.m. in the Central Library's fourth floor Arrington Auditorium. Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell Sr. and Alabama Public Library Service Interim Director Kelyn Ralya will be among those slated to speak. A reception will follow in the library’s board room.

During her career, Blalock managed branches, worked as a library business manager, and served as a regional branch coordinator. She became an associate director in 1994 and was appointed director in 2009.

“I am a very lucky woman to have been able to earn my living doing something I love and that I believe is vital to our community,’’ said Blalock, who was also a member of the Leadership Birmingham Class of 2000 and was named as one of the NAACP Metro Birmingham’s 2008 Outstanding Women for Community Service, Multiculturalism and Political Action. In October 2012, Blalock was honored at the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham “SMART Party’’ for her innovative leadership.

Blalock has overseen numerous enhancements to the branch libraries, their collections, and furnishings. She served as the project manager for the construction of the Five Points West and West End branches. Major upgrades to the East Lake, Inglenook, and Powderly branches were completed under her watch. In January 2014, a rebuilt, safer and more beautiful Pratt City Library reopened after being destroyed in an April 2011 tornado. In May 2014, Inglenook Library reopened after undergoing renovations.

As her retirement approaches, Blalock remains committed to even more changes. “We are in the midst of planning a fantastic renovation of the Central Library that will not only move the Archives up from the basement but will transform the East Building into the world-class facility for learning that Birmingham and its citizens deserve,’’ Blalock said.

She has been actively involved in the American Library Association, the Alabama Library Association, and the University of Alabama Library School Association Board. She served on the ALA’s Public Library Association board as well as many committees and task forces. She received the Alabama Library Association’s Eminent Librarian Award in April 2013 for her advocacy, community service, and service to the profession. She's also supported the Jefferson County Public Library Association and the Jefferson County Library Cooperative Board.

“The expansion of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative and its services and resources has enabled citizens across Jefferson County to access books and information in numbers that would have been incomprehensible when I started here in 1981. We take enormous pride in being the most cooperative and collaborative organization in Jefferson County,” said Blalock.

Blalock supported her staff’s efforts to launch a 2013 worldwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” For its efforts, the library, in June 2014, received the John Cotton Dana Award, which honors outstanding and effective strategic communication campaigns that produce results. The Library Leadership and Management Association presents the award each year. This is the fourth time that BPL has won the award.

Blalock added that she’s seen wonderful changes, big and small, happen in the library world during her years of service. A memorable one is how the Internet has made each branch a gateway to superior information for all patrons.

“The equity of access to information today is astounding,’’ she said, adding that the library has downloadable eBooks, music and audiobooks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week through its Internet services.

Associate Director Angela Fisher Hall will serve as interim director when Blalock retires.

Monday, July 21, 2014

From Growing Orchids to Beer Tasting, Fun Adult Programs Are On Tap

Photo by Alabama Orchid Society

Adults looking for something fun and different to do on a weeknight, should check out what's brewing at the Birmingham Public Library.

  • Enjoy the perfect blend of poetry and free beer samples during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, Aug. 1 at Avondale Library, 509 40th St. South. It's from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Open Mic Night poet registration starts at 6:30 p.m. Avondale Brewery will be providing the beer. Call 226-3670 for more info. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and at least 21 to be served. Free.
  • Check out artist Debra Riffe's "Every Line Tells a Story'' exhibit during the Birmingham Art Crawl on Thursday, Aug. 7, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Riffe will be one of several artists slated to display works at downtown Birmingham businesses on this night.
  • Learn how easy it is to care for orchids on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 6:30 - 8 p.m., at the Springville Road Library, 1224 Old Springville Road. Master gardener Richard Healy, who's a member of Alabama Orchid Society, will provide tips on which orchids do well in the Alabama environment and in your home. Free.