Thursday, April 23, 2015

Helping a Patron With an Auto Repair Question

This question concerned an Oldsmobile 307 engine which was in a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne. My patron needed to know which way the horseshoe-shaped piston was supposed to be inserted—with the bottom of the horseshoe pointing up or pointing down. Of course, I immediately went to the ChiltonLibrary in the databases, but the diagram that came up showed a round piston. We went to Google Images and found a picture that showed him exactly what he needed to know.

I've found that when a schematic or diagram for any kind of engine (especially small engines that aren't covered in Chilton) is wanted, Google Images can be a great tool for finding it. Had this failed, I would have tried to do a search through one or more of the Oldsmobile online forums to see if this question had been addressed by someone previously.

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Library

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

“Everything Going On in This Library”: Thoughts after National Library Week

At the East Ensley branch, we recently had the pleasure of issuing a library card to a young woman who has only been in Birmingham for about a month. She moved here from Minnesota and has a job with the Birmingham Zoo. As we chatted while she filled out her application, she admitted that Alabama was different from what she had been expecting—think Deliverance—and that she was really enjoying herself here. But what struck me was that she thought getting a library card was one of the most important things to do after relocating and that she found time to do it so soon after her arrival. Anyone who has made a major relocation knows how a thousand errands clamor for your attention, yet she took the time to get her library card.

One gentleman came in to deal with some fines on his card, telling us, “I need my library card. I value my library card!”

But what made me smile the most was the teen who came in and saw our table with the lemonade and cookies last Wednesday. When she asked what it was for, I told her that it was National Library Week and the treats were to show our patrons that we appreciate their business. She gave me a big grin and said, “You’ve got EVERYTHING going on in this library!”

Visit your library. See some of the “everything” we have going on!

Mary Anne Ellis
East Ensley Library

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Solo: My Adventures in the Air

Solo: My Adventures in the Air
Clyde Edgerton

While going through a box of books donated to the library recently, this title caught my eye. I had read one of Clyde Edgerton’s other books, the novel Where Trouble Sleeps, and enjoyed it immensely. Edgerton is a North Carolina native who has a knack for presenting small towns in the South and the natives thereof in all their quirky majesty.

In Solo, Edgerton presents his lifelong love affair with flight, starting from his fascination with airplanes as a small boy, continuing through his days as a teenage cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, and progressing through his career as a Vietnam-era pilot to his recent “retiree” years. Although at first glance this might appear to be a war story, it is not that at all. Edgerton discusses his fears and foibles, faced by almost all young novice pilots and how he learned from experiences that could have proven fatal. He describes the difference between the single engine “tail-dragger” Cessna’s and Pipers and the increasingly faster and more powerful trainers and jets he learns to fly as his Air Force career progresses.

But then, after he has seemingly reached the apex of flying supersonic fighter aircraft, he has an almost spiritual experience and is channeled into once again flying a “low and slow” machine as a forward air control or FAC pilot. These men performed the extremely dangerous and crucial role of helping protect the troops on the ground by communicating with them to coordinate aerial bombing when needed. Sometimes this was the only thing that prevented numbers of soldiers from being overrun and killed or captured. As he flies mission after mission, and some of his comrades are killed or wounded or transfer to other roles such as flying for the CIA, Edgerton begins to simply hope to survive his tour and get back home. He explains that he did not take satisfaction or glory in the deaths of those he marked for rocket or bomb attacks and wishes he had not been a part of it. But it was a time when most young men answered their country’s call, for right or wrong.

After the end of the war, Edgerton gives up flying for a while as he concentrates on building a career in the civilian world. But as the years go by, he finds that he misses flying as both a hobby and a possible business venture and details his return to flying for pleasure and the simple joys of knowing how to land on a plowed field and take off again if necessary. His stories of various misadventures will be a guidebook for anyone who wishes to become a pilot, if not for business, then just for the sheer pleasure of soaring through the sky. If you enjoy reading about flying or airplanes, you will enjoy this book. And don’t throw away those gently used, recent books you have no further use for— consider donating them to your local library. This book is already in our collection but will be passed on to someone else to inspire them.

Jonathan Newman
Avondale Library

Monday, April 20, 2015

Free Skills and Drills Football Clinic For Birmingham's Youth

The Birmingham Public Library is excited to host "UNMASK!" with the Cotchery Foundation. Jerricho Cotchery, one of Birmingham’s native sons, has teamed up with the library to host yet another amazing series of events for the 2015 Teen Summer Reading Program, "UNMASK!"

Born in 1982, Cotchery grew up to be an incredible athlete. He excelled at Phillips High School in Birmingham and attended North Carolina State University. The New York Jets drafted him in 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers added him to their roster in 2010, and in 2014 he joined the Carolina Panthers.

Named for the famous Biblical city, Jerricho is deeply committed to his faith and to community outreach. He was moved to start the Cotchery Foundation in January 2007 as a result of his own personal memories and experiences growing up. He and his foundation have set out to "show that anyone can do extraordinary things if they have the desire and passion." Cotchery has made it his mission to show that any individual can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

For the past eight years, The Cotchery Foundation has hosted a FREE Skills and Drills Football Clinic with Jerricho Cotchery. In 2009, The Foundation asked the Birmingham Public Library to join them to enrich the experience. In order to register for the 2015 Skills and Drills Football Clinic, youth from 11-17 must be an active participant in the "Score Big with UNMASK!" component of the "UNMASK!" summer reading program. Seven points are necessary to qualify. Youth may score points by registering for the program (1 point), reading an entire magazine (3 points), and reading an entire book (6 points). "UNMASK!" registration and Skills and Drills Clinic forms are available at all Birmingham Public Library locations. The completed registration forms must be returned to the library by June 5. At least two hundred participants will be selected to attend the 2015 Skills and Drills Football Clinic on June 20, 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., at Legion Field. Those selected will be notified by June 12.

In addition to being eligible for the Skills and Drills Football Clinic, all those who "UNMASK!" are invited to a FREE Teen Tailgate Party at Birmingham Public Library on June 19, 2015. The celebration will take place on the first floor of the Central Library, located at 2100 Park Place, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. There will be music, dancing, photo-ops with Jerricho, food, and lots of fun. Tickets are required and are available at all BPL locations.

Registration for UNMASK! with the Cotchery Foundation opens May 1. Visit any Birmingham Public Library location for registration materials and additional information.

Extraordinary Performances by Teen Poets Amaze Audience

2015 WORD UP! winners are (from left to right) Trinity Packer, Third Place
Winner; Whitney McWilliams, Second Place Winner; and Miaya Webster,
First Place Winner

Sixteen young poets, representing high schools from throughout Jefferson County, gave heartfelt performances during the 2015 WORD UP! poetry competition. Over 100 people were in attendance. They clapped and gave “shout outs” to show their appreciation for the extraordinary performances.

WORD UP! is a poetry slam for high school students enrolled in schools—or home schooled—in Jefferson County. Sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) System and Real Life Poets (RLP), the event was held on Saturday, April 11, at 3:00 p.m. in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium of BPL’s Central Library. Students in grades 9 through 12 wrote and performed an original work of poetry inspired by a theme selected by the WORD UP! planning committee. The theme for this year’s WORD UP! was “Survive.” Each participating high school held a preliminary contest, and the winners from each school competed in the final WORD UP! competition. The contestants competed for cash prizes and were rated on content and performance by a panel of three judges.

Miaya Webster, a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA), took the first place trophy and a $300 cash prize; second place winner Whitney McWilliams, also of ASFA, received $200; and third place winner, Trinity Packer of Shades Valley High School, received $150. Miaya was the second place winner at last year’s WORD UP! and took third place in 2013. Jim Reed served as the emcee of WORD UP!. The judges were Will Gillette (first place winner of 2010 WORD UP!); Tomika Glenn (performance poet who has been the top winner at the BPL’s Bards and Brews slams); and Sharrif Simmons (local performance artist, songwriter, and activist who has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and has toured extensively in Europe).

In all, ten high schools were represented at this year’s slam. The schools included Birmingham’s Wenonah; Jefferson County’s Center Point, Clay-Chalkville, and Shades Valley; Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA); Bessemer; Hewitt-Trussville; Holy Family Cristo Rey; Homewood and Mountain Brook. For those students determined to go even further, BPL and RLP will help sponsor a spoken-word team to compete in this year’s Brave New Voices (BNV) International Youth Poetry Competition in Atlanta, Georgia. BNV is the worldwide standard in spoken word poetry competitions for teens since 1998. In 2013, BNV was held in Chicago and for the first time in the history of the festival, a small but dedicated group of Birmingham-area teens who called themselves Team #KnowDisclaimer competed. They did well enough to go on to the semi-finals—a feat almost unheard of by first time teams. The teens’ perseverance and talents, along with the help and encouragement of BPL and RLP, made this successful bid possible.

Word UP! 2015 is made possible in part by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For additional information, visit the WORD UP! webpage at

Friday, April 17, 2015

Programs on Investment Research Scheduled for April 20 and 21 at Central Library

Money Smart Week 2015 offers free events throughout Alabama focused on financial education for all ages and walks of life. The Birmingham Public Library will host two events: How to Use Mergent and Morningstar Databases for Business and Investing Research and How to Get Started with Investing.

How to Use Mergent and Morningstar Databases for Business and Investing Research is scheduled for April 20, 2015, at 2:30 p.m. in the Regional Library Computer Center/Central Library/Linn-Henley building/4th floor. This program will provide novice and experience investors information on how to select and monitor their investments using Mergent and Morningstar. It will also cover how to research a company before purchasing their stock.

How to Get Started with Investing is scheduled for April 21, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. in the Regional Library Computer Center/Central Library/Linn-Henley building/4th floor. Dr. Stephanie Yates, Director of UAB’s Institute of Financial Literacy, will describe the fundamental principle of investment and how a better understanding of these principles can lead to investment success.

In preparation for Money Smart Week, the Business, Science, and Technology Department has also put together a Subject Resource Page on personal finance for your convenience. The information provided is a sampling of books, databases, and websites covering a variety of money management topics including budgeting, credit repair, home buying and selling, insurance, investment, retirement, etc. This subject guide can be accessed from your home, on your mobile phone, or tablet at

When considering your personal financial goals, the Birmingham Public Library is a good place to go for free and authoritative resources on all aspects of personal finance. Stop by to check out some of the amazing resources we have to offer!

Are Libraries Still Relevant? A Case Study of the Southern History Department

Some people think libraries are no longer relevant and just a place to store old books that no one reads. We don't think so.  Other people agree and have cited the Southern History Department's Beyond the Basics of Genealogy program as an example of how libraries are a community asset.   We want to prove that libraries are relevant by giving you a “behind the scenes” glimpse of what happens in the Southern History Department. This department houses a non-circulating collection that covers each facet of Southern culture, genealogy, and local history. In this department alone, our patrons use over 1,500 books, make over 2,500 copies, and ask over 700 reference questions each month. Yet, most people do not know about the other things the Southern History Department does to serve the community.

Birmingham Cultural Alliance Partnership (BCAP): This award-winning, collaborative after-school program that has served more than 1,650 low-income middle school students and their families. With eight cultural partners, BCAP provides high-quality, hands-on cultural enrichment activities that enhance academic achievement by reinforcing classroom instruction and facilitating parental involvement and family learning. BCAP partners have included the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham City School system, as well as the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham Public Library, McWane Science Center, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, Southern Museum of Flight, and Vulcan Park & Museum. BPL has been a partner since the beginning in 2001 with the Southern History Department leading the library’s efforts for four weeks of after-school programming at two middle schools. We do a variety of programs focusing on family history, local history, African American history, poetry, and debate. Additionally, we bring in a few alumni of the Birmingham City Schools to speak about their experiences in school and life.
Mr. Jess Lanier at BCAP

Alabama Library Association (ALLA) - Mary Beth Newbill was part of a panel entitled "Your Tax Dollars at Work: Interesting, Helpful, and Essential Websites from the Federal Government" at the annual convention in Point Clear, Alabama. She presented on useful genealogy websites, such as the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database. By presenting to other librarians on resources they can use at their home library, this indirectly helps library patrons all across the state.
Alabama Library Association 2015

Digitorium: Mary Beth Newbill and Laura Gentry presented at The University of Alabama's Digitorium, This conference is for digital humanities, and they were part of a panel on "Strategies for Creating Digital Exhibits and Analyzing Archival Materials". Their presentation was entitled, "Digital Exhibits: Finding a Platform that Fits for the Birmingham Public Library".
Digitorium 2015

Digitorium 2015

Other things we have done this month and some of our ongoing activities:
  • Applied for a grant for new microfilm equipment and an overhead book scanner 
  • Taught our Introduction to Genealogy class 
  • Created a digital exhibit on Easter in 1915 
  • Mended books 
  • Conservation and mending of maps 
  • Ordered new books 
  • Answered reference questions in-person, by phone, and by e-mail 
  • Indexed books, newspapers, and periodicals 
  • Created blog posts and social media 
  • Booked upcoming speaking engagements and workshops
What’s ahead on our calendar for the rest of April

Southern History Department
Central Branch
Birmingham Public Library

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Teen Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

Hazel Grace Lancaster is a smart, snarky young woman who disdains convention, yet loves binge-watching popular TV shows. She’s also permanently attached to an oxygen tank, thanks to the Stage IV thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs when she was 14. In most instances, she’d probably be dead by now, but a recently developed miracle-drug has managed to slow down the tumor-growth in her lungs, thus extending her life for a couple of years. Now just 16, she’s already out of school with her GED, and her social circle is limited to a handful of people, including her parents, a friend from junior high, and regulars from a tedious support group that her parents force her to attend. Fortunately for Hazel, though, the support group is where she meets Augustus Waters, a one-legged survivor of osteosarcoma who, like Hazel, refuses to let cancer define him. The two quickly become close friends, and—over time—something more. John Green’s novel is not only a great, tragicomic love story, but also a monumental salute to the spirit of the terminally ill teenager. Recommended for Ages 14-Up.

Liz Winn
Central Library

Get To Know the BPL Young Professional Board Members: Leah Bigbee

What is your full name, age, and occupation? 

Leah Bigbee, 26, Employer Relations & Marketing Coordinator at UAB.

Why did you get involved with the BPL YP board?

I believe in free and open access to knowledge and learning for all and I believe in the power and necessity of libraries.

As young professionals, I believe we have a civic responsibility to our city and that means supporting the library's efforts to best serve the Birmingham community.

Which is your favorite (or most frequented) library branch of the Birmingham Public Library system? 


Would you rather read on an e-reader or a book?

I prefer traditional books; it’s a welcome reprieve from the digital overload of daily life.

What is your favorite website or form of social media.

Twitter, Medium, and NPR are my must-haves.

What is your favorite place to eat in Birmingham?

Golden Temple in Five Points.

What book would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?

I would love to go hiking and adventuring in Iceland.

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

Donna Tartt, Louise Erdrich, and James Joyce are among my very favorites.

What is your wish for the city of Birmingham?

A collaborative focus and action oriented effort from citizens on equal access for all residents to essential services like education, transit, sidewalks, and libraries.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Registration Open For May Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the May 2015 Computer Classes. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.
To register for a class: ((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)
  1. Complete name, address and phone information. PLEASE PRINT.
  2. Place a check mark in the check box next to the class(es) you would like to attend.
  3. Return the entire form to a staff person in the Public Computer Services department.
  4. You may also send an email to or use the online form to register.
May 2015 Classes

New System Teen Librarian Promotes Blending Technology and Art

BPL welcomes new System Teen Librarian, Lance Simpson, to its staff. Lance’s areas of interest and expertise are informal learning environments that focus on the blending of technology and art programming for teens. He's an advocate for the connected learning movement, which focuses on providing experiential learning opportunities for teens that are based in 21st century models for education.

Since starting with BPL in December 2014, Lance has worked with a team of BPL staff members to apply for grants that will fund new learning tools and programming that include 3D printing, sound and video editing, the learning of computer coding languages, and more.

Currently, Lance provides a weekly technology program at the Central Library where, on Mondays, teens have disassembled and rebuilt computers, installed new operating systems, and will soon be working as inventors to design new and exciting input devices for computers using anything that will conduct electricity including bananas, aluminum foil, speaker wire, and even each other.

With the need for more Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering (STEM) educational opportunities for teens continuing to rise, Lance hopes to make the library a place where those needs can be met through citywide partnerships with STEM and Maker focused organizations, and by providing unique programs that allow teens to create and explore.

Lance is very excited to be working with the awesome staff and teens at BPL, and is looking forward to an exciting first year!

Young Writers in Birmingham Final Celebration at Inglenook Library

On April 8, 2015, the Inglenook Library hosted a Writing Celebration as the culmination of the writing project that took place at Inglenook K8 School with the 4th grade class. Over 75 people, including Birmingham City Schools interim superintendent, Dr. Spencer Horn, attended.

(left to right) Dr. Spencer Horn (Birmingham City Schools interim
superintendent), Dr. Jayln Wells (UAB professor and director of UAB
Writing Center), Mario Lumzy (Inglenook K8 School principal), and
Karnecia Williams (Inglenook Library branch manager)

The writing project, termed Young Writers in Birmingham, consist of a partnership between Inglenook K8 School, UAB Writing Center, and Inglenook Library. Dr. Jacyln Wells, UAB professor and director of UAB Writing Center, and her students conducted four weeks of writing workshops by providing students with a list of topics to write on including things that they like most about Inglenook K8 School. Mario Lumzy, principal of Inglenook School, and 4th grade teachers facilitated the workshops and provided needed assistance. Writings were refined as the weeks proceeded and five of the students’ writings were chosen to be published in a beautiful and organized newsletter that was designed by Dr. Wells and her students. The newsletter, titled Take a Look at Inglenook, highlights the activities at Inglenook School as well as the events and resources at the Inglenook Library.

Students whose writings were published - (front, left to right) Jamarion
Carter, Rahkena Nall, Keyairuh Bennett, Marquis Kennan 
(back, left to right) Jalen Henley, Mario Lumzy (Inglenook K8 School principal),
and Dr. Spencer Horn (Birmingham City Schools interim superintendent)

Stop by the Inglenook Library to take a look at the Inglenook K8 School newsletter and check out the other resources that are available.

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Library