Monday, September 01, 2014

BPL Closed August 31 and September 1 for Labor Day

All Birmingham Public Library locations will be closed Sunday and Monday, August 31 and September 1, in observance of Labor Day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Take a Selfie and Share it on Social Media to Support World Literacy Day, September 8

WHO: The Birmingham Public Library, Instagram Birmingham, The Literacy Council, and REV Birmingham will celebrate World Literacy Day, September 8, by encouraging people to take selfies in cool places to read in Birmingham.

WHAT: World Literacy Day's aim is to highlight the importance of literacy. About 776 million adults lack minimum literacy skills, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Also, one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women. However, there are about 4 billion literate people in the world, according to UNESCO.

WHEN: Monday, September 8, 2014

WHERE TO POST PICS: People may take photos of themselves at the library, their favorite coffee shop, the park, etc. Then, they should share the images on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. People may also send images to so that the Literacy Council may share the images on social media.

HOW: When posting images, people should use the hashtags #coolplacestoreadbham and #literacyselfie. People are also encouraged to tag the following organizations:

  • Birmingham Public Library - Twitter: @bpl; Instagram: @bplpics; and Facebook: Birmingham Public Library
  • Instagram Birmingham - Instagram and Twitter: #instagrambham
  • REV Birmingham - Twitter: @revbirmingham Facebook: REV Birmingham
  • The Literacy Council – Facebook: literacycouncil; Twitter: @literacy_update; Instagram: theliteracycouncil

For more information contact: Missy Burchart, The Literacy Council, 205-326-1925,

Bards & Brews Open Mic Poetry Event at Ruffner Mountain, September 5

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

Enjoy the perfect blend of free beer samples and a night of poetry during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, September 5, at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. Live music by Susan Lawrence; beer provided by Blue Pants Brewery. Light snacks will also be served. Open Mic Night poet registration and music starts at 6:30 pm., and poetry performances start at 7:00 pm. Attendees must be 18 years or older to be admitted, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked. Bards & Brews has its own Facebook page which features a wealth of information about the event.

This program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Free Wills to be Prepared at Birmingham Public Libraries This Fall

Legal Services Alabama, a nonprofit law firm in Birmingham, will prepare wills at three Birmingham Public Libraries in the coming months.

To qualify for a free will, a person must be a Birmingham resident and must fall into one of the required income areas: under $34,200 for a single person; $39,050 or less for a family of two; $43,950 or less for a family of three; or $48,800 or less for a family of four. For those unable to meet the income requirements but are over 60 years old, the law firm may still be able to help.

Central Library/Arrington Auditorium
Thursday, August 28, 2014
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

North Birmingham Library
Thursday, September 25, 2014
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 2014
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

"Basically, we think everybody should have a will. If you have parents or kids, you should have a will,'' said Dru Clark, an attorney with Legal Services Alabama. Those also in need of a will should be anyone: owning a home, with a bank account, with elderly parents, with dependents with special needs, or without close relatives but interested in leaving items to a friend.

"The goal of the wills clinic is to raise awareness of how easy it is to get a will done. It's not a painful experience,'' Clark said. "There's a stigma associated with a will - that you will die tomorrow. But that's not the case. Having a will is just good planning.''

Those needing help with what to do with a loved one's estate may also seek help during the clinics. The service is part of “Preserving the Wealth of Our Communities Project (PWOCP),” which is made possible because of Birmingham Mayor William Bell's RISE initiative. The RISE initiative is an effort to strengthen neighborhoods, eliminate blight, and increase property values. The program is also for low-to-moderate income property owners and senior citizens of Birmingham.

For more information, call Dru Clark at 205-328-3540, ext. 3508.

Book Review: Winter's Tale

Winter’s Tale
Mark Helprin

Mark Helprin’s acclaimed 1983 novel, Winter’s Tale, has been called a fantasy novel, and, although it is brimming with the fantastic, it is a genre of its own. It has more in common with the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but is best described as a tall tale, an American tall tale, perhaps told around a fire over a snowbound winter by a visionary storyteller deeply in love with New York City. Helprin is entranced by color and light, and is more than willing to let narrative wait patiently while he, and his readers, are immersed in visual wonder. This brick of a book is chock full of descriptive scenes like the following:

“By the Battery itself the harbor took color with the new light, rocking in layers of green, silver and blue. At the end of this polar rainbow, on the horizon, was a mass of white – the foil into which the entire city had been set – that was beginning to turn gold with the rising sun. The pale cold agitated in ascending waves of heat and refraction until it seemed like the place of a thousand cities, or the border of heaven. The horse stopped to stare, his eyes filled with golden light. Steam issued from his nostrils as he stood in contemplation of the impossible and alluring distance. He stayed in the street as if he were a statue, while the gold strengthened and boiled before him in a bed of blue. It seemed to be a perfect place and he determined to go there.”

And, oh yes, a huge white horse with dreams of heavenly apotheosis is one of the major characters, but this is no animal fable. We come to know thieves and newspapermen, mayors and mechanics, beautiful maidens and consumptive waifs.

Winter’s Tale is still mentioned as one of the best novels of the past 30 years.

And, if you have grown weary of picky cynical reviews you may be interested in reading the three pages of effusive praise a New York Times reviewer showered upon it in 1983:

“A piercing sense of the beautiful arising from narrative and emotional fantasy is everywhere alive in the novel. And because the novelist commits himself throughout to the pursuit of nourishing truths - truths of justice, hope and cheer remote from the more fashionable truths of alienation and despair - Winter's Tale stands forth in its own right as a restorer and comforter…..The affirming voices that one is reminded of are those of Blake and Whitman.”

The patient reader will be rewarded with vivid scenes that will linger long in the mind’s eye. Winter’s Tale has been loosely translated into a recent film which is truer to the book’s imagery than to its plot and is worth viewing in that respect.

Winter’s Tale—nothing short of amazing.

Check it out.

[By the way, this is not to be confused with William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Both are worth pursuing.]

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Food for Fines Begins September 1 at All Jefferson County Public Libraries

Through the month of September, all public libraries in Jefferson County will be participating in a food drive that helps support local charities by replenishing food pantries in anticipation of the coming holidays.

How does it work?
$1.00 in fines will be waived for each food item donated in September for up to $10.00 per library card holder. The donations will go toward fines only, not lost/damaged materials. The drive is open to all who wish to participate.

When and where can donations be made?
Donations will be accepted at all 40 Jefferson County public libraries circulation desks during September 2014. Here is a list of acceptable/unacceptable canned and boxed food items.

Food for Fines is held in conjunction with the annual National Library Card Sign-up Month. In September, cardholders can also trade in their old card for a keychain card or receive a replacement for a worn out card without paying the usual $3.00 fee.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Final Road Trip of the Summer

It is getting close to the final summer road trip and sometimes it is hard to find audiobooks of interest to a carload of family members. Over the summer, I listened to two action adventure audiobooks that might keep your family awake and interested in “what comes next.” Fans of Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson books could enjoy Gregor the Overlander and The Paladin Prophecy.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins is the first volume in the Underland Chronicles. This is the same Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games fame. Gregor is a scrappy teen who has to forfeit summer camp to take care of his 2-year old sister, Boots, while his mother is at work. A few years earlier, their father disappeared causing the family to fall on hard times. Boots accidentally slips down a hole behind a loose grate in the laundry room. Gregor follows her into a strange world beneath New York City.

The Underland was founded centuries ago by a disillusioned Englishman who thought he could create a better world somewhere else. His descendants have the same problems as humans living above ground. As part of the fantasy world, the Underland is populated by oversized Rats, Roaches, Bats and other assorted creatures who all speak English and do not like humans very much. I would not like any group who descended into my realm and stole my land. Gregor and Boots discover that their father fell into the Underland and is being held hostage by the Rats. Gregor is told by the humans that he is a warrior who was sent to fulfill a series of prophecies. Members of the Underland plus two cockroach friends set off to solve a mystery and free Gregor’s father.

Despite the huge cockroaches who are devoted to Boots, the story is quite interesting. The author intersperses triumphs and trials in just the right intervals to keep the story moving. The first volume is family friendly and good for ages 11 to adult.

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost is an extremely fast-paced narrative with dueling fantasy beings and lots of gadgets. Mark Frost is a longtime television writer known for Hill Street Blues, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Twin Peaks. As I listened to the audio I could visualize all the action. This book was written like a movie.

Will West appears to be a regular teenager, but he has a secret. Will constantly has to keep his physical and mental abilities hidden. He cannot afford to be the star of the track team or a whiz kid at school. Will and his parents move around a lot making Will a loner. One day Will is almost kidnapped but rescued by a monster angelic creature driving the ultimate sports car. Will’s parents are kidnapped in his place and he is sent to a high school for teens with untapped super powers. At the school there are weird happenings and a mystery Will and his new friends must solve.

If you like a fast moving reads, you will enjoy this audio. The plot zips by with enough mystery and science fiction elements to keep older teen through adults entertained.

Teresa Ceravolo
Southside Library

Sunday, August 24, 2014

College Football is Back

College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy
College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy

It’s so hot outside that it's hard to believe fall is right around the corner.  You know what that means.  FOOTBALL!!!  Yay!!!!!  Last season, Auburn represented the SEC in the BCS National Championship Game, but they were unable to knock off the Florida State Seminoles.  A championship trophy outside the SEC is like a day without sunshine.  It happens from time to time, but we really don’t like it.  It’s time to return the trophy to its rightful conference.  

2006 Florida (41) Ohio State (14)
2007 LSU (38) Ohio State (24)
2008 Florida (24) Oklahoma (14)
2009 Alabama (37) Texas (21)
2010 Auburn (22) Oregon (19)
2011 Alabama (21) LSU (0)           
2012 Alabama (42) Notre Dame (14)
2013 Florida State (34) Auburn (31)
2014 SEC (win) Someone else (lose)

This season, for the first time in history, there will be a playoff to determine the national champion.  Four teams enter, one team leaves. The semifinal games will be played on January 1, 2015 in two different locations.  One semifinal will take place at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA.  The other semifinal will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.  The winners will meet at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX on January 12th.  After the game, the winning SEC team will hoist the first College Football Playoff National Championship TrophyHopefully, the playoff system will curtail some of the whining from undefeated teams in weaker conferences who have been unable to participate in past championship games.  If your team is that good, prove it in the playoffs!

The college football season kicks off with nearly a full week of games from Wednesday, August 27 through Monday, September 1st.  I’m excited about the season and can’t wait to see who competes in the first College Football Playoff.  Grab your snacks, text your friends, and get the grill ready because college football is back.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rise and Shine!

Getting up early in the morning can be an intense challenge. By the time you get settled and snugged, it seems like it’s time to get up again. However, after assessing the worth of getting up early, the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices. Just picture the things that can be accomplished while the world is still. You can start working on the blog you’ve always wanted to start; finish reading the book you’ve wanted to finish since forever; start an exercise regimen; meditate; and the list goes on. While many of us have good intentions to maximize the time in our days, we must make a conscious commitment and turn those good intentions into a reality even if it causes a temporary discomfort. 

The beginning of change in anything can be a challenge, but can be well worth it in the long-term. It is often stated that breaking an old habit and developing a new one for this matter takes an average of 30 days. Are you willing to commit 30 days to make a lifetime change? To find out how to wake up early, read "The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early," by Leo Babauta, which can be accessed at He addresses everything from how to get up early to solutions to common complaints we tend to have for not getting up early. Happy Rising!

Subjects of interest:

Karnecia Williams

Inglenook Library

Kaiju Explosion

Books by Jeremy Robinson
Do you know what a kaiju is? I didn’t until recently but the literary market for them is exploding. kaiju are the next big science fiction/fantasy trend. We’ve had superheroes, space adventurers, and werewolves. Also, for the past few years, we’ve been up to our armpits in vampires. Now come the days of “kaiju.” Whether you know it or not, everyone knows, at least, one kaiju. If you’re familiar with Godzilla, then you know a kaiju. However, these are not your father’s kaiju.

Kaiju is defined as a Japanese word that literally translates to "strange beast." The word has been translated and defined in English as "monster" and is used to refer to a genre. Kaiju films usually showcase monsters of any form, usually attacking a major Japanese city or engaging another (or multiple) monsters in battle.

With the success of the movie Pacific Rim, we are being put on notice that they are here to stay. Pacific Rim already has a sequel, or rather a prequel in the works. There is some excellent kaiju fiction coming on the market. There are also more movies in the pipeline. So if you’re ready to move on from the Twilight crowd, check out some of these books and join us as we usher in the next big trend: kaiju.

Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Library