Sunday, July 05, 2015

A Sensitive Portrait of the April 27th Storms

What Stands in the Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley
Kim Cross 

During a three-day period in late April 2011, a string of tornadoes tore across the Southeast and killed over 300 people. In this chilling chronicle of the disaster, the author pours her heart into describing the devastation wrought by the storms, and in the process, shows how so many lives were changed, some beyond all recognition. While there are some descriptions of death here that are rather graphic, the author refuses to cross the line into sensationalism, and instead focuses on the overall emotional effect these tornadoes had on the region. The work ends on a note that is sobering, but cautiously optimistic, making it a suitable read for those looking to commemorate victims of the April 27th storms.

Liz Winn
Central Library

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Beat the Heat and Learn Something at the Same Time!

Beat the Heat

Everyone who has spent summers in the South knows that July can be a scorcher when it comes to temperatures. The Southern History Department invites you to enjoy the cool air conditioning on the 1st floor of the Linn Henley building for our Introduction to Genealogy classes. We will teach this class on Tuesday, July 7th at 11:30 am and again on Sunday, July 19th at 2:30 pm. In this class, the staff from Southern History Department covers such topics as vital records, courthouse and church records, the Federal Census, and much more. Emerge from this class refreshed after spending an hour in air conditioning as well as having learned how to get started with genealogy.
Family Tree
We will also be teaching Introduction to Genealogy at Trussville Public Library on Thursday, July 9th at noon. Come in from the heat, bring your lunch, and enjoy the provided drinks and dessert while learning at the same time. For more information and to register, call the Trussville Public Library at 655-2022 ext 3. Is your calendar already full for these dates? We offer Introduction to Genealogy throughout the year, and you can check the schedule to see if there is a date that works for you.

Just a warning some people find the library rather chilly, so it is perfectly okay to bring a sweater, even though it is July and you could probably fry an egg on the sidewalk. Make the library your destination to beat the heat, and enjoy all the Summer Reading programs that we have for kids, teens, and adults.

Southern History Department
Central Branch
Birmingham Public Library 

Matthew Mayes' Exhibition a Kaleidoscopic Vision

Alabama native uses bold color, texture, and depth to give layers of meaning.

True Blue by Matthew Mayes

To Create. To Desire. To Grow. To Nurture. To Dream. To Inspire. These words are not a slogan; they are the titles of paintings . . . paintings that fluidly progress in color, brushstroke by brushstroke. From July 9, 2015 through September 4, 2015, the Birmingham Public Library will showcase the work of local artist Matthew Mayes in the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery. Arresting acrylic paintings bold in color, texture, and depth make up the exhibition Layers of Meaning: Paintings by Matthew Mayes.

The public is invited to meet the artist at the opening reception on Sunday, July 19, 2015, from 2:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. in the Central Library's Boardroom adjacent to the gallery. Visitors will see why Mayes considers his work to be "studies in color perception, definition, and composition."  


Born in Florence, Alabama, Matthew Mayes is self-taught with over 12 years of experience as a professional artist. He currently resides in Birmingham with his partner Brian and their son Noah. Mayes began painting as a child after watching the television program "Joy of Painting" with Bob Ross. Mayes experienced a number of stints with hospitalization and home schooling due to illness and needed an outlet for his creativity—art was his answer and it gave his life meaning

"Once, I believed that love, food, and music were the core passions that transcended all race, creed, and color. Now, I know that art encompasses all," he states. Regarding his creative process, Mayes observes, "I allow natural ability combined with a trained eye to create. Without both, my art could not exist."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Sneaky Summer Reading Strategies

My kids love books and reading (which isn’t surprising since they have a librarian for a mom), but they have so many thing competing for their attention in summer that reading can slip to the back burner. Here are some kid-tested tricks to sneak reading into your summer:

  • Bath-time books – We did this a lot when my boys were small. Both of my sons went through phases when they had a hard time sitting still for stories. It occurred to me that bath time could be a great opportunity since the kids weren’t going anywhere while they were happily playing in the tub. Bath, beach and water themed books make it even more fun.
  • Backseat buddies – I keep books in the backseat of the car for the kids. This gives them a way to entertain themselves while being chauffeured around. Sometimes my oldest reads me a story while I’m driving.
  • If you can’t beat them, join them – If your kids would rather watch TV or a video, roll with it. Turn on the closed captions so they can read along. Hearing the words spoken while they’re reading helps to reinforce learning. And if they enjoy playing on the computer or a mobile device, try interactive e-books and reading apps like Tumble Books, Reading Rainbow and Disney Story Central. And don’t stop there – Find library books about the movies and characters they love to enhance the experience.
  • Campfire stories – Sometimes we camp out, and sometimes we just pretend to camp out in the living room. The boys like eating marshmallows whether we’re actually roasting them or just sticking them on drinking straws and holding them next to the camp lantern. This is another great opportunity – no electronic distractions, and reading spooky stories by flashlight is just so much more exciting.
  • Have fun with it! -- The important thing to remember is that reading should be a treat not a chore.

Ellen Griffin Shade
Avondale Regional Branch Library

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Birmingham Public Library Closed July 3 & 4

All Birmingham Public Library locations will be closed Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4, for the Fourth of July holiday. The Birmingham Public Library wishes everyone a safe and fun Independence Day!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Teen Book Review: The Swoop List: Give It Up

Give it Up
#1 Sanaa
The Swoop List Series
Stephanie Perry Moore

When Sanaa wakes up for another day of school, she just can’t seem to shake the feeling that the day is somehow…off. She makes it to school and she finds out exactly where here feelings of dread are coming from. She’s been added to the "swoop list" and everyone in school is pointing and staring at her. What is this list? Where did it come from? And why is Sanaa #1 on the list?

Stephanie Perry Moore is a popular African American writer who writes in the adult, teen, and juvenile fiction genres. She is well known for her captivating fiction series, and The Swoop List is no exception. Over the course of five fast-paced and engaging books, the author takes a look at the cruel side of high school, where rumors take flight and are taken as fact, whether they’re true or not. The series focuses on five girls from different backgrounds and social circles that suddenly have one very devastating thing in common: they are all on the "swoop list" that’s being circulated around school. Over the course of the books, we learn about each individual girl from the other girls' perspective, giving you a well-rounded view of their actions and feelings throughout the ordeal. Are all of the girls as innocent as they appear or are they hiding something?

The Swoop List series is a great read for any teenagers that are looking for a dose of reality in their fiction.

Pamela Jessie
Woodlawn Branch Library

Reading Program Aims to Bond Families Through Books

Five Points West Library employee Candace Hardy shares a  story
with kids and their parents at Prime Time Family Reading Time.

In April and May, the Five Points West Regional Branch Library ran a series of programs called Prime Time Family Reading Time. At 6:00 p.m. we started with a light dinner for 25 families. After dinner, the group divided into preschool and elementary school groups for storytime. A storyteller and a scholar presented the stories and discussed them with the parents and children. The purpose of this program was to engage parents and children by discussing the stories and encouraging the families to take the example of sharing the stories home with them. This is also a way for the families to bond by reading and learning together. Hopefully, this program has encouraged the families to become active library users for years to come by showing them the resources the library has to offer.

Our next Prime Time Family Reading Time programs will be held in the fall, September 22-October 27, at 6:00 p.m. Please call the Youth Department (205) 226-4017 at the Five Points West Library for more information.

Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West Regional Branch Library

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Reading Is Not Just for Children—Adults Get in on the Fun

Timothy Burkett finds a quiet place to read at the Central Library.
Timothy Burkett has been an avid reader all his life. Growing up in Birmingham, he attended George Washington Carver High School and won several city-wide awards for his science fair projects. When he participated in an Upward Bound program at Yale University, he found his niche as a playwright. When his life took a few unexpected turns, Burkett continued to feed his mind by reading. Today, at 65 years of age, he is participating in Summer Reading and making plans to Escape the Ordinary as a member of the adult reading club.

Since December 2014, Adult Summer Reading and BPL Eastern Region Coordinator, Sandi Lee, has been hard at work organizing outstanding programs for audiences. Along with her counterpart, Janine Langston, coordinator for youth services and the western region, the two have worked with other staff to provide more than 500 programs for summer reading participants. The goal of Summer Reading is to encourage individuals (especially children) to read for pleasure and to read often. Last year, participants collectively read more than 46,500 books. BPL is offering special programs and incentives through July to motivate patrons of all ages, from children to adults, to read what they enjoy. Once participants read the number of books in their set goal, they are eligible for rewards. Reading rewards range from admission tickets to the McWane Science Center and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame to scavenger hunt prizes from Red Mountain Park’s zip line.

Enjoying summer reading tailgate party is (left to right)
Janine Langston, Angela Fisher Hall, and Sandi Lee
“Summer Reading has something for everyone,” stated BPL Director Angela Fisher Hall. “With support from our summer reading sponsor, the Alabama Power Foundation, and other partner organizations, we are able to provide an experience for our citizens to encourage reading for enjoyment and enrichment. This is a time of year that we all look forward to and, most importantly, it is an opportunity to engage everyone in the joy of reading. We hope that more adults like Burkett will take advantage of the incentives we have in place to encourage participation.” Over the past five years, Burkett has read more than 100 books. His inspiration came from former Today Show host Dave Garroway who, according to some, read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica set.

The fun of reading is open to all and, by the way, Britannica is available online via the library’s website. Participants interested in Summer Reading can sign up at any BPL location or online at The online component is a new feature this summer where children, teens, and adults may record reading activities to their account and earn virtual badges, as well as other rewards for participating in library programs. Thousands of readers are expected to participate this summer. Magic shows, art classes, demonstrations with live animals, movies, talent shows, fitness fun, storytimes, and more will be offered at all BPL locations.

BPL Adult Statistics for Summer Reading 2014
Number of adults registered for summer reading: 1,135
Number of certificates awarded for 2014 to adults: 410
Number of books read in 2014 by adults: 5,845
Number of programs offered especially for adults in 2014: 100
Number of total attendees for all adult programs in 2014: 1,171

Make sure to follow BPL's Adult Summer Reading on Facebook!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Library's Historical Maps Highlighted Online

Herman Schoel’s 1888 Map of the City of Birmingham and Suburbs.

Birmingham Public Library's (BPL) historical maps were recently highlighted in Cartographic Perspectives: Journal of the North American Cartographic Information Society. The article, written by former BPL Director George Stewart, discusses the history of the library's map collection as well as current efforts underway to catalog, conserve, digitize, and make all the map images accessible to the public.

The entire article is available online.  Many of the maps are available for viewing in BPL's Digital Collections Database

Benedetto Bordon’s 1528 [Oval Map of the World].

Southern History Book of the Month: Their Blood Runs Cold: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians

Their Blood Runs Cold: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians
Whit Gibbons

Two recent close encounters with snakes at my home (though luckily not in my home) gave me the idea that it was time for some natural history in the Southern History Book of the Month selections. Now available in a new 30th Anniversary edition, Their Blood Runs Cold is a lively look at the world of reptiles and amphibians: frogs and toads, lizards, turtles, salamanders, alligators, and—of course—snakes, which tend to evoke stronger emotions in us than any other member of the reptile family. Gibbons is obviously fascinated with them and though he certainly encourages a healthy respect for snakes, he tries to discourage the response of dread and horror by recounting the way his own feelings about them developed:
The first snake I can remember was a green snake that lay outstretched on the largest limb of a redbud tree in Alabama. We smashed it many times. To death. Making sure. Taking no chances.

I don’t really think I cried that night, but I do remember that I didn’t feel right afterward. I distinctly remember that at five years old I did not feel good about killing my first snake.
Gibbons’ engaging chapter titles kept me turning page after page to learn about “How to Catch an Alligator in One Uneasy Lesson” or how “Turtles May Be Slow but They’re 200 Million Years Ahead of Us.” Of course, even readers who have no qualms about snakes may find themselves swallowing hard when Gibbons faces down a size extra-large bushmaster, one of the most dangerous venomous snakes on the planet. And when it comes to crawling around in blackberry thickets or along swampy river banks in search of mud turtles, frogs, toads, and cottonmouth moccasins, I am decidedly deaf to the call of the wild. But it’s fun to read about from the comfort of an armchair and may cause you to rethink some of your attitudes about all things not so warm and fuzzy.

For more on Whit Gibbons and the world of reptiles and amphibians:

Creepy Crawlers to Voracious Beasts: Their Blood Runs Cold
Amphibian vs. Reptile
Crazy Colored Reptiles and Amphibians on Pinterest

Don’t forget that it’s summer reading time at your library! Check the events calendar for programs like Backyard Heroes and Zoo to You—great ways to get a closer look at the animal world!

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library