Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dalai Lama Events at Birmingham Public Library Scheduled for October 14-23

To help the public learn more about the Dalai Lama prior to his Birmingham visit in late October, the Birmingham Public Library will offer several free programs and resources.

The following locations will feature free screenings of the documentary 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama:

Wednesday, October 15, 12:00  p.m., Central Library
Tuesday, October 21, 12:00 p.m., Avondale Library
Tuesday, October 21, 6:30 p.m., Springville Road Library
Wednesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m., East Lake Library
Thursday, October 23, 10:00 a.m., Smithfield Library
Thursday, October 23, 11:00 a.m., Titusville Library

A resource list about books and DVDs on His Holiness will be available at Birmingham library locations in October.

Part of Human Rights Week will include the city's A Celebration of the Human Spirit Film Festival, a two-day film festival with movies that celebrate the human spirit, the quest for freedom, and the power of individuals to change the world. Walden Media will host free screenings on Friday, October 24, at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and on Saturday, October 25, at the Alabama Theatre.

One of the movies is The Giver, a 2014 film based on Lois Lowry's young adult novel of the same name. The book was the winner of the 1994 Newberry Medal and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Lowry will attend the Friday, October 24 screening. The book is also one that the Birmingham Public Library gave free to patrons this fall as part of its Read It Forward campaign. Libraries in downtown Birmingham, Ensley, North Birmingham, Five Points West, Woodlawn, West End, Wylam, Avondale, and Titusville still have free copies of the book.

The four Walden Media films are free, but attendees must register in advance via EventBrite. Here's the schedule:

Friday, October 24, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art, 7:00 p.m.

Friday, October 24, The Giver, Birmingham Museum of Art, 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 25, I Am David, Alabama Theatre, 2:00  p.m.

Saturday, October 25, Amazing Grace, Alabama Theatre, 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Librarian's Guide to Interviewing

Ziggy interviewing cartoon

One of the remarkable things about being a librarian is that some people think we know everything.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people ask for my opinion or ask me a question about something in which I have no expertise.  For example, people walk up with all manner of cell phones and ask various questions about them.  I have a Windows phone, which definitely puts me in the minority, so when someone asks me how to do something on an iPhone or Android phone, I may be able to figure it out, but I have no first-hand experience.  The same is true for various laptops, tablets, etc.  

Since people ask for my opinion on various topics, I’ve decided to discuss a topic that I have experience with, but I’m in no way an expert.  I have interviewed and hired people to fill vacant positions, as needed, for many years.  I have also co-interviewed with others who were filling vacant positions.  I’m not a human resources professional, but based on my personal experience hiring people, I am going to give you, the reading public, some tips on interviewing.

Tip 1:  Read the job description.  If you are applying for a job that requires you to spend your shift shelving books, you do not have a desk job.

Tip 2:  Know something about the company you are applying with.  Question: How often do you use the library?  Answer: I haven't been in a library since high school.  Unless you just graduated, chances are that things have changed.

Tip 3:  Dress like you are going to a job interview.  Your outfit might look great at a nightclub, but since you aren't headed to one, you may want to change clothes.

Tip 4:  Arrive early for your interview or at the very least, be on time.  Keep in mind that the interviewer has scheduled it at a specific time for a reason.  Showing up late not only gives a bad impression, it throws the interviewer’s schedule into disarray.  Call if you're going to be late, don't wait to apologize once you get there.

Tip 5:  If you want the job, don’t make insulting comments about the interviewers, the questions they ask, or the company you are applying with.  I have been amazed over the years at some of the things applicants have said during the interview.  I’m thinking, “he or she didn’t just say that.”

Tip 6:  If you want an expert’s advice about interviewing, consult the resources we have at the library.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Renasant Offers Entrepreneurial Success Series

Renasant Bank is reaching out to help small businesses succeed with a free six-part entrepreneurial success series. Series topics include Financial Management, Networking and Relationship Building, Social Media, Tax Information, Business Plan Components, Human Resources and Access to Capital.

Renasant staff and local experts are leading these valuable learning sessions throughout the Birmingham and Shelby County communities. The event is co-sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library System and Trudy Phillips Consulting. Complementary refreshments will be served.

Tracey Morant Adams, Senior Vice President Small Business and Community Development Director said of the series, ‘This free series is part of Renasant Bank’s continuing commitment to further the success of small business owners and entrepreneurs in our area. We are pleased to provide valuable tools and insight to help our local community businesses thrive and flourish.”

To register for any of the sessions, please visit:


Financing, Lending Sources and Credit
Pratt City Library
October 23, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Self-employed & Small Business Tax Workshop
Woodlawn Public Library
November 20, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

One-Page Business Plan with Financial Projections
Alabaster City Hall
January 15, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Contract Employees vs. Full Time Employees
Avondale Public Library
February 12, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Children's Book Reivew: Coraline

Neil Gaiman

This time of year kids and parents are always looking for a spooky story. One of my all-time favorites is Neil Gaiman’s novella, Coraline. I think it’s the perfect Halloween read for (almost) all ages.

Coraline is a little girl who is bored and lonely. Her parents’ eyes are always glued to their computers. They have just moved into a new building in a different neighborhood, an old mansion divided into flats. Without a sibling or a friend to play with Coraline explores the creaky old building and finds companionship with the wacky neighbors. Coraline becomes acquainted with Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two old ladies retired from show business, and Mr. Bobo, who is allegedly in the process of training a mouse circus. One rainy day when she is confined to the house, Coraline finds a peculiar door in her living room. Her curiosity is piqued when she opens the door to find the entrance bricked up. The neighbors all warn her to stay away from the mysterious door, but Coraline is a curious and stubborn soul, she has to investigate.

She opens through the door again and finds the brick barrier vanished. She follows the hallway into the Other World. She finds a flat much like her own with a family that is a lot like her family. Her Other Mother and Other Father bear a striking resemblance to her own parents, but there a few altered details. The most unsettling is that they have buttons sewn onto their faces where their eyes should be. For Coraline, it can almost be overlooked as the Other Parents are attentive and exciting. In fact, everything in the Other World is more interesting—her neighbors and toys are much more entertaining and she even meets a talking cat! However, all good things must come to an end and Coraline needs to go back into her real world. But the Other Mother offers Coraline a chance to stay forever. All she has to do is allow her to sew black buttons over her eyes. Obviously, this seems a very bad deal for Coraline, who flees in terror and makes it safely back to her side of the world.

There’s just one problem: her real parents. Coraline can’t find them anywhere in the apartment. She spends the next couple of days alone and afraid until she finds her family imprisoned behind the mirror. She correctly deduces that the Other Mother is behind this and she has no choice but to confront her to rescue her family. Coraline has to use her courage, wits, and help from a trio of ghost children (the Other Mother’s previous victims) to free her parents and the spirits of the children.

This book practically begs to be read aloud. Either by a parent or Neil Gaiman himself (the audiobook is fabulous!). It’s certainly horrific but in a way that will give kids a good dose of the creeps without keeping them up at night. The premise is certainly horrific. The thought of having buttons sewn over your eyes and your family spirited away is truly upsetting, but Gaiman’s clever writing keeps the tone lighthearted and it helps to take the edge off. I would recommend it for elementary school students at the youngest and it’s a great read for middle school, high school, and even adults. It is a creepy story for sure, so if you have a child in your family that scares easily you might want to try it first to see what it’s like.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

Popular Birmingham Noir Walking Tours Scheduled for October 26 and 30

Which of these buildings was home to Birmingham's most famous brothel?

Birmingham Noir: A Nighttime Walking Tour of Notorious Downtown Historic Sites

Fallen Women

October 26 and 30, 2014

Put on your walking shoes and join Birmingham Public Library Archivist Jim Baggett for a visit to some of Birmingham’s most infamous historic places. Learn about the Magic City’s most famous brothel, spectacular 19th century murders, political intrigues, and the scandal that nearly destroyed Bull Connor’s career.

Admission is free, but reservations are required and spaces are limited. These tours always fill early.

The tours begin at 5:45 p.m. in the atrium of the Central Library and last approximately 90 minutes. The tours end back at the library so visitors are welcome to park in the library’s lot.

To make a reservation contact Jim Baggett at

Back to Basics: Beginner Computer Classes offered for November

How do you turn this on? Why is this called a mouse? Why is it called "Windows," and where are the curtains? 

It seems that practically everything we do uses a computer. For many who have never dealt with a computer, these every-day operations can be daunting. Just the terminology alone can send someone screaming back to the pre-Y2K hills!

The Regional Library Computer Center offers basics courses to introduce people to computers. The courses and trainers help technology newbies become less intimidated with working on a PC. All it requires in taking the first step and then one-step at a time. It takes time and practice.

For those who have had a class or more under their belt, here are some web sites for practice. The more you become familiar with the basics, the sooner you can take the next step.

Mouse Exercises Tutorials:
  • The Palm Beach County Library offers tutorials to help beginners learn to use the mouse. The “Mousing Around” tutorial is a more detailed session. “Mousercise” helps you practice mousing skills learned from “Mousing Around” or other lessons. “Practice Games” are fun ways to practice your mousing skills.
Typing Tutorials:

  • TypingWeb is a free online typing tutor & keyboarding tutorial for typists of all skill levels. TypingWeb includes entertaining typing games, typing tests, and free official typing certification.
  • This website had typing tutorials and a typing speed test. There is also a kids section. You do need to enter an email address to register for this site. The only drawback is the advertising on the site, which gives it a cluttered appearance.
  • The virtual keyboard allows you to practice your touch typing skills. Go to the site, select your keyboard, and give it a try.
  • This website has typing lessons that also provide feedback when you make a mistake. You can see how fast and how accurate you are typing. Make sure you look for the QWERTY link for lessons on the QWERTY keyboard. Begin with lesson 1 and proceed as you wish.
November classes are also open for registration. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center, located on the fourth floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building. Registration is required for all classes. Please note that we will not offer classes in December.

Legal Services Alabama to Offer Will Preparation Services at East Lake Library, October 23

Legal Services Alabama, a nonprofit law firm in Birmingham, will offer will preparation services at the East Lake Library. They were on hand at Central and North Birmingham Libraries in August and September to offer assistance.

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.

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pratt City Community to Celebrate Red Ribbon Day, October 18

One of the entries in the Red Ribbon Day contest. 

Pratt City Library staff members Lenairria Creer, Fannie Jolly, Alexandria Mitchell, and Deborah Blackmon will serve on a panel of judges to decide the winners of the Red Ribbon Day poster contest. Students from South Hampton Elementary and Jackson Olin High School designed posters using the theme "Love Yourself. Be Drug Free."

Red Ribbon Day is an annual event observed in the Pratt City community and across the country that focuses on drug, alcohol, and violence prevention. The National Family Partnership organized the first Nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign to recognize two DEA agents murdered in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since its beginning in 1985, the Red Ribbon has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Angene Coleman, representative from Olivia's House, and residents will be on hand to help promote the program and enjoy the festivities.

Red Ribbon Day will be held Saturday, October 18, 2014, in the heart of Pratt City on Carline Avenue. Come sign the Red Ribbon Pledge and enjoy food, live music, health fairs, and more. First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded to the winners of the poster contest.

Deborah Drake
Pratt City Library

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ebola: Facts Not Fear

The New Yorker’s  The Borowitz Report headline from October 7, 2014, trumpets the alarming news: “Man Infected with Ebola Misinformation Through Casual Contact with Cable News!” Funny yes, but with a serious dig at the news media’s repeated attempts to make the disease even more alarming to the U.S. public than it naturally should be. This situation of course points to a basic truth long recognized by 21st century librarians: we are all awash in information, not all of it is reliable, and critical evaluation skills are vital in separating the wheat from the chaff.

What about those “critical evaluation skills?” In “crisis” news situations like Ebola especially, they involve staying calm and taking a minute to ask yourself some basic questions about the source of information:
  • Who/what organization is it that’s producing the information? Are they a known and generally reliable source? What expertise in the subject can they claim or reference to back up statements in their news items?
  • Is there a potential for bias in the presentation of the information? In terms of the Ebola reporting, remember that news media have a potential conflict of interest in hyping the seriousness of the outbreak in order to attract more viewers. This is not to say that all of the news outlets are overplaying the story, but just a caution that there is a possible ulterior motive for doing so.
  • How current is the information? Not only do news reports themselves have a short lifespan in this day and age, but developments in medicine can evolve rapidly. If you’re looking at a report on Ebola from even a few days ago, be aware the facts on the ground – good and bad – may have changed since then.
As partners in the Health InfoNet of Alabama health information service for residents, the state’s public and medical librarians take seriously our role in steering users to reliable sources of health information as well as educating users on how to be savvy health information consumers.

What are some of those more reliable (than cable news) resources for Ebola information? They include:
Also, it may be useful to check out some of the health news review sites such as and PubMed Health’s “Behind Headlines” section on for analysis of health news stories regarding Ebola or any health topic.

In summary – don’t panic, regardless of what the media or anyone tells you! Keep calm, inform yourself thoroughly and with an eye to the reliability, potential for bias and currency of the information, and carry on. And remember to ask your local librarian for help or call the Health InfoNet of Alabama toll-free number at 1-855-463-6638!

Kay Hogan Smith
Librarian and Project Director, Health InfoNet of Alabama

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Martie Duncan, Birmingham's Best Bites, Instagrammys, and a New Cookbook

Orange and Blue Oyster Poppers from Dixie Fish & Co.
Photograph by Arden Ward Upton
Food Network Star finalist Martie Duncan and other local food experts joined forces this summer to create Birmingham’s Best Bites: Favorite Recipes from Restaurants, Bars, & Food Trucks Around the Magic City. The book will be revealed at a launch party on Friday, Oct. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the downtown Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. The book will cost $20. Proceeds will benefit the library.

The book launch party is part of the library's Eat Drink Read Write Festival, Oct. 3 - 10. During the Oct. 10 party, 17 area restaurants will provide some of their "best bites.'' Advance tickets to the launch party are $10.

“We’ve got a really good book. It’s a beautiful book,’’ says Duncan.

Nearly 90 recipes from Birmingham-area restaurants and bars will be featured in the new cookbook that highlights the area’s culinary community. There are recipes from well-known and award winning chefs such as Frank Stitt, Chris Hastings and James Boyce; newcomers such as Melt, Hotbox and El Barrio; landmarks such as Bright Star and Fife’s; favorite barbecue restaurants; and meat-and-two locations such as Eagles Restaurant, which Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern featured in 2013. Recipe entries range from appetizers and entrees to desserts and cocktails. Several of the restaurants in the book have gained national attention for their food and history.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell says he’s excited about the library’s efforts in putting together such a recipe book so that it may be shared with individuals to show that “Birmingham is moving forward in a quality way as it relates to our restaurants.’’ “I want to thank all of the chefs who make it possible to have such great food here in Birmingham, Ala. And we look forward to continuing to grow that arena because it helps attract people to come here for conferences and conventions,’’ Bell says. “And also when people come here and they see the fine quality of life with the fine food that we have, it makes them want to live here as well.’’ Says Angela Fisher Hall, the library's interim director: "There are so many great restaurants in Birmingham - each has its own style and flavor.''

Duncan worked with a team to complete the book. Some of them include Connie Blalock, a Birmingham Originals board member; Chef Chris Vizzina; Anne Cain, a former Time Inc. editor; and Arden Ward Upton of Arden Photography. “The photography is incredible. The recipes are brilliant,’’ Duncan says. “For the home cook or the experienced chef, I think people will find something they will want to make. Some of your favorite recipes are in here like Hot and Hot’s Tomato Salad, Ashley Mac’s Mac and Cheese and Dreamcakes’ Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Bourbon Caramel Glaze.’’

Duncan sees the book as a way to shine an even brighter light on the city’s food scene. “The diversity of recipes and places in the book, I think, will make people want to come to Birmingham to eat the food,’’ she said. “I think it will encourage people who live here to go and try new places.’’ Duncan says she’s loved the library since she was a child growing up in east Birmingham. “The library has a big place in my heart. From the time I was a kid, I would ride my bike to the East Lake Library to get books,’’ she says. “I would try to fill up my summer reading card to show how many books I’d read.’’


Birmingham's Best Bites and the Instagrammys
Buy Tickets/$10.00
Friday, October 10
Time: 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Central Library

End EDRW on a savory note with Food Network Star finalist Martie Duncan and some of her food expert friends during Birmingham’s Best Bites finale party. Enjoy delicious bites and watch for the unveiling of the new Birmingham’s Best Bites cookbook, which is full of recipes and history from some of your favorite local restaurants and bars. The local culinary community continues to climb, and this book celebrates that trend. The book is a library fundraiser.

Also, some of the best EDRW photos taken during the festival and posted to Instagram with the #EDRW hashtag will receive an Instagrammy award as part of the InstagramBham contest.

Bank on Birmingham Financial Program Scheduled for Avondale Library, October 14

A sound understanding of banks and banking plays an important part in assuring one’s personal financial health. Acquiring such an understanding, however, takes some time and effort. In the world of banking, there exist different kinds of institutions offering a variety of accounts, products, and investment opportunities. But it is not a matter of one size fits all; which banking services are suitable for you depends upon your particular circumstances, needs, and goals. Therefore, in order to make good decisions about banks, you should try to get good, solid information about what is available so that you can compare their offerings with your priorities.

Bank on Birmingham (BoB) is a local non-profit organization that was created to provide information to the public about banking products and services. The membership of Bank on Birmingham, which consists of both local financial institutions and community organizations, is particularly interested in reaching low and moderate income consumers who have been underserved by the banking industry. Through advocacy, education, and outreach, BoB strives to make better banking awareness a catalyst for increasing the financial self-sufficiency of individuals and families in the Birmingham area.

As part of its educational initiative, Bank on Birmingham is holding a series of Snack and Learn events at several locations of the Birmingham Public Library during September and October of 2014. Two similar events will be held at Community Education South. These events are scheduled to last about an hour and BoB representatives will be available to share their knowledge on a variety of topics including banking, credit, budgeting, identity theft, home ownership, and small business finance. Light refreshments will be served. Both adults and older youth are encouraged to attend.

The Snack and Learn events are free but registration is required. You can register online on the Events Calendar page on Bank on Birmingham’s website or at the library location where the event is being held:

Avondale Library
Tuesday October 14, 2014
5:30-6:30 p.m.

Community Education South
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
5:30-6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Central Library to Close Friday, October 10, at 3:00 p.m.

Food Network Star finalist Marti Duncan. Photo by Food Network.
The Central Library will close to the public at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 10, in order to prepare for the final Eat Drink Read Write Festival event, Birmingham's Best Bites and the Instagrammys. There's still time to purchase tickets for the event and to enter the InstagramBham contest.

Birmingham's Best Bites and the Instagrammys
Buy Tickets/$10.00
Friday, October 10
Time: 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Central Library, 2100 Park Place

End EDRW on a savory note with Food Network Star finalist Martie Duncan and some of her food expert friends during Birmingham’s Best Bites finale party. Enjoy delicious bites and watch for the unveiling of the new Birmingham’s Best Bites cookbook, which is full of recipes and history from some of your favorite local restaurants and bars. The local culinary community continues to climb, and this book celebrates that trend. The book is a library fundraiser.

Also, some of the best EDRW photos taken during the festival and posted to Instagram with the #EDRW hashtag will receive an Instagrammy award as part of the InstagramBham contest.