Monday, May 30, 2016

Central Library Hosting Steps to Starting Your Business Seminar on June 6

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host several small business seminars over the next several months beginning Monday, April 4, 2016. The seminars will take place at the Central Library.

The small business seminars are being offered by BPL in partnership with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development.  The final Steps to Starting Your Business seminar will be held from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. on Monday, June 6, in the Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium, located on the fourth floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building.

Seminar presenters will be veteran mentors from the Birmingham chapter of SCORE, a national nonprofit comprised of volunteers willing to share their business knowledge and experience with prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners. For over 50 years, SCORE mentors have helped millions of business owners start or grow their business.

The seminars are free but registration in advance is required. To register, contact Valencia S. Fisher of the City of Birmingham’s Economic Development Office by email at or by phone at 205-254-2799.

The other small business seminars are as follows:

How to Use Legal Strategies to Protect Your Business, presented by Josh Andrews, a Birmingham lawyer specializing in legal issues of concern to small business owners. The seminar will be offered in the Arrington Auditorium from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. on July 28 and October 27. The seminar is free but advance registration is required. To register, go to the Birmingham SCORE website at and click on the seminar title in the Upcoming Events section.

7 Ways to Secure Your Business Data, presented by Sawyer Solutions, a Pelham-based information technology company. The seminar will be offered in the Arrington Auditorium from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. on August 8 and November 14. The seminar is free but advance registration is required. To register, go to the Birmingham SCORE website at and click on the seminar title in the Upcoming Events section.

For more information about seminars and other resources about small business development available at BPL, contact Jim Murray of Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

BPL Closed May 30 for Memorial Day

All Birmingham Public Library locations will be closed Monday, May 30, for Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Summer Beach Reads

I know it's not unusual for Alabama, but it feels like we went from winter directly into summer.  Our 70-degree days have been replaced by 80s and 90s.  We may as well head down to the beach, lie around in swimsuits, and listen to the waves.  Grab a cool glass of your favorite beverage, put on some sunscreen, relax, and enjoy these new summer titles.  Descriptions are from the publisher.

Forever Beach  by Shelley Noble
Sarah Hargreave is anxious to finalize the adoption of her foster daughter, Leila. Once a foster child herself, Sarah longs to become Leila’s “forever” family and give her all the love and stability she was denied in her own childhood. When Leila’s biological mother suddenly reappears and petitions the court for the return of her daughter, Sarah is terrified she’ll lose the little girl she loves to the drug- addicted mother who abandoned her.  Mistrustful of each other, the two women form a tenuous alliance to ensure Leila’s future, but when Leila’s very survival is on the line, they’ll have to come to terms with their own feelings of hurt and rejection to save the child they both have come to love.

The Island House  by Nancy Thayer
Courtney Hendricks will never forget the magical summers she spent on Nantucket with her college roommate, Robin Vickerey, and Robin’s charismatic, turbulent, larger-than-life family, in their gorgeous island house. Now a college English professor in Kansas City, Courtney is determined to experience one more summer in this sun-swept paradise. Her reason for going is personal: Courtney needs to know whether Robin’s brother James shares the feelings she’s secretly had for him.  As the summer unfolds, a crisis escalates, surprising truths are revealed, and Courtney will at last find out where her heart and her future lie.

A Lowcountry Wedding  by Mary Alice Monroe
Half-sisters Dora, Harper, and Carson may have had wildly different upbringings and lead vastly different lives, but they've always felt at home together at Sea Breeze, a sprawling plantation on a barrier island off the South Carolina coast. Sea Breeze has hosted its fair share of Muir family parties, and now that Harper and Carson's weddings are only two months away, the sisters are thrilled to be spending more time together there in preparation for their big days. But big events tend to bring out big problems in families, and the stress of guest lists and table decorations is nothing compared to the shock Dora, Harper, and Carson are about to face. (Booklist review)

The Weekenders  by Mary Kay Andrews
Some people stay all summer long on the idyllic island of Belle Isle, North Carolina. Others come only for the weekends-and the mix between the regulars and “the weekenders” can sometimes make the sparks fly. Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is confronted by a process server who thrusts papers into her hand. And her husband is nowhere to be found.  So she turns to her island friends for help and support, but it turns out that each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery a murderous way.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome 
Mary Beard

I’ve always looked askance at "revisionist history." I mean, if a history is good enough for Livy, Suetonius, and Gibbon, it should be good enough for the rest of us, right? To be more honest, I don’t want to be confronted with the possibility that what I learned in school was actually closer to myth, or worse, propaganda. So I stick with the traditional interpretations, but if anyone could change my taste in history, it’s Mary Beard.

Mary Beard is a professor of classics at Cambridge. You may know her for her popular blog, A Don's Life, which is available through the Times Literary Supplement webpage. SPQR is a revisionist history, but a revisionist history without any particularly slant or bias. She covers the era of 63 BCE to 212 CE. (And yes that’s a lot of years to cover in a mere 536 pages, but her entertaining tales make the pages fly by.)

Beard begins her work not with the mythical beginnings of Romulus, Remus, and the mama wolf, but in 63 BCE with the legendary Catiline Conspiracy. On one side of the conspiracy was its architect, Catiline. He was a bankrupt aristocrat turned demagogue who promised the Roman poor that the only possible way to erase their unpayable debts was revolution. On the other side was Cicero, a young, ambitious senator. Catiline’s method of debt forgiveness was definitive—he planned to murder all Roman senators and burn the city itself to the ground. In the process, of course, his debts would also go up in smoke.

Cicero saved the republic by uncovering the secret plot, foiling an assassination attempt, revealing incriminating letters, and turning the girlfriend of one plotter into a double agent. He even discovered a house “stuffed with weapons” for Catiline’s revolutionaries to use on innocent senators. The justifiable highlight of this heroic tale is Cicero standing on the floor of the Senate denouncing Catiline in a series of historic speeches. After the final speech, Catiline made a futile attempt to prove his innocence. The Senate was not swayed by his words. Under cover of darkness, he ran to the outskirts of Rome to take refuge with his ragtag army of dissolute aristocrats and rebellious paupers. In a few weeks the Legions arrived on the scene, Catiline was killed in battle, the mob was dispersed, and peace restored.

Cicero basked in the glory of having saved the Roman Republic. His fame lives on today. For centuries the educated have considered Cicero’s works to be a model teaching tool, and his denunciations of Catiline to be the gold standard for persuasive public speaking. One of his speeches, the first Catilina speech, begins with the words “Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?” (How long Catiline, will you go on abusing our patience?) This Roman question has become a question for all ages and all nations. Beard includes a photograph of a Hungarian crowd protesting a politician’s attempt to rewrite their constitution. A man in the crowd is defiantly holding a sign proclaiming "Quo usque tandem." The photograph was taken in 2012. And there’s one of Beard’s many lessons. While our senators may not literally stab each other, politicians really haven’t changed that much. Can’t you hear today’s Democrats and Republicans asking each other “How long (fill in the blank), will you go on abusing our patience?”

But Beard doesn’t simply carry the story to the present. She digs deeper into the past to reveal different shades and colors to the story. These colors in turn create different pictures of the incident. She allows the reader to determine for themselves which picture is vivid and which is shadowy.
Cicero and Catiline were, in fact, fierce political rivals. Cicero won a seat in the Senate the same year Catiline lost his seat. Cicero was by no means impoverished, but he came from the country. He made his money by using his golden tongue in the Law Courts, and as a slum lord. (Beard explains that he once joked “more out of superiority than embarrassment that even the rats had packed up and left one of his crumbling rental blocks.”)

Catiline, on the other hand, came from nobility. He could trace his family line back to the great war against Rome’s arch enemy Hannibal. Indeed, his forbear “was the first man known to have entered combat with a prosthetic hand—probably just a metal hook that replaced his right hand, lost in an earlier battle.” Catiline had been the personification of Roman nobility.

In the parlance of the day, Cicero was definitely a “new man.” Was Cicero playing the part of a revolutionary by reaching above his station in Roman society? Was Catiline simply trying to maintain the status quo and save his vision of Roman society? If so, did Cicero respond by denouncing the former senator in order to secure his newly won seat?

Then, like today, politics was an expensive business. Moreover, if a candidate for the Senate lost his bid for a seat, he was not reimbursed. Family fortunes were lost and made in the senate races. Catiline himself had fallen on hard times. Perhaps, Beard asked, his revolution was simply an attempt to win back his family fortune.

Most disturbingly, she asked if Catiline was ever truly guilty of any crime. Was denouncing a former senator as a revolutionary simply a way for Cicero to secure political capital as the savior of the Republic? Sallust, a later Roman historian said, the orator had “turned the troubles of the state to his own glory.” Can armed mobs, attempted assassinations, and weapons caches really be described as mere "troubles"? Is Sallust hinting at fabrication on Cicero’s part?

Perhaps Catiline was not trying to violently erase his own debt, but instead attempting to introduce radical economic reform to ease the burden of the average Roman. “There was the enormous disparity of wealth between rich and poor…and probably for much of the time, even if not starvation, then persistent hunger.” Did Catiline see himself as the savior of Rome?

I found SPQR mesmerizing. The book spans the time of the Roman kings to Emperor Caracalla, and presents a clear synopsis of the rise and fall of the Republic. Throughout Mary Beard turns her gimlet eye to every major event of Roman history to reveal not just vivid facts, but a gallery of hazy possibilities hiding behind those facts. SPQR doesn’t read like revisionism, it reads like thought-provoking history.

David Ryan
Social Sciences/Business, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

Award-Winning Children's Entertainer Anna Moo to Hold Free Concert at Central Library on June 8

Award-winning children's singer/songwriter Anna Moo will perform at the Central Library on Wednesday, June 8, 10:00 a.m.

Anna Moo grew up on a sheep ranch outside of Sacramento, California. In the early '70s, she moved with her family to Chile and later Venezuela. In Chile Moo learned to play the guitar at the age of 11.

Upon returning to the United States, Anna began singing and performing professionally while in high school. She sang original songs in coffee houses and clubs in Florida, California, and New York City. After almost a half a decade living in New York City, she returned to the quiet countryside near Gainesville Florida. She married entertainer Terry Moo, and they currently live on four acres of farmland in Newberry, Florida.

Anna Moo was inspired to write music for children after having two children of her own. Moo's first release; Making Moosic, was picked up by Warner Brothers Records and Music for Little People.

After the success of Making Moosic—a Parents Choice Gold Award, Best Recording of the Year by Parents magazine, and an American Library Association Award—Moo went on to create her own record label and produced and distributed her future recordings as Good Moos Productions.

Moo is dedicated to using music as a FUNdamental teaching tool in preschools and elementary schools. Her presentations are dynamic, multiculturally oriented, and always top notch educational entertainment.

Source: Official website for Anna Moo

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Free Tailgate Party with NFL Football Player Jerricho Cotchery

The Birmingham Public Library is excited to host Score Big with the Cotchery Foundation. Jerricho Cotchery, one of Birmingham’s native sons, has teamed up with BPL to host yet another amazing series of events for the 2016 teen summer reading program.

Qualified Get In The Game, READ participants will have the opportunity to attend a free teen tailgate party at the Central Library on June 24, 2016. Visit any BPL location for more details and to register.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Southern History Book of the Month: Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division

Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division
Nimrod T. Frazer

One hundred years ago, America was on the brink of its entry into World War I. Though our country’s involvement was not official until the declaration of war against the German Empire in 1917, there was already a feeling that our participation could not be delayed much longer. In Send the Alabamians, Nimrod Frazer traces the role of the 167th Infantry Alabama Regiment in the 42nd “Rainbow” Division and their exploits during WWI, starting with the Mobilization of the Alabama National Guard in 1916 in case troops were needed for fighting in Mexico. As Frazer points out, many young men saw enlistment as a valuable opportunity:
The Guard . . . suddenly offered young men to walk away from the simple lives that many had never been able to escape. Now they might travel to unknown places, eat healthy food, wear good clothes, and earn income for doing work that upright citizens respected and valued. Many young men without money, education, or training relished this new kind of work. It promised a better was to make a living than jobs that usually required long hours, often combined with sweaty, dirty, sometimes dangerous labor for little pay. Few Alabama men could rise above that kind of work, but some were intelligent enough and adventurous enough to take advantage of the opportunity to do so.
And take advantage of it they did, though it would lead to work more dirty and dangerous than any labor they had previously faced. Frazer follows the development of the regiment from its early days as the 4th Alabama until the War Department’s order in 1917 that changed it into the 167th United States Infantry:
On the day after the name-changing order, the Montgomery Advertiser announced that the 167th United States Infantry Regiment would become part of a new full-strength US Army Division, the 42nd, to be called the Rainbow Division . . . Major Douglas McArthur, who worked as the War Department’s press censor . . . described the unnumbered division as stretching like a rainbow across the United States. Building on this comment, a reporter called it the Rainbow Division, and the name stuck.
By early 1918, the Rainbow Division was in the trenches in France. Conditions were beyond hideous—as one recruit noted, “There is no mud like that of Lorraine”—but mud was the least of the horrors when compared to bad rations, lice, disease, and poison gas attacks. With little prior exposure to such adverse conditions, the Alabamians of the Division still performed with courage:
Most of the men in the 167th had been together for a long time, and they had been tested—and unified—by the epic march a month after their arrival in France. A bond of mutual confidence and understanding existed between officers and the men and from the men to each other. The 167th also exhibited a substantial amount of satisfaction in its identity as a volunteer unit belonging to the first National Guard division to see combat in the war.
Of course, all was not always peace and harmony—at one point, frustrated by the belligerent energy and brawling of some of the new recruits, General Edward H. Plummer was said to have exclaimed, “In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord’s sake, send them to somebody else!”

After this beginning that might tactfully be termed “inauspicious,” the Alabamians in World War I left behind a record of distinguished wartime service. The upcoming Memorial Day weekend would be a good time to read Frazer’s excellent history of the Alabamians of the Rainbow Division and pause a moment to pay our respects to those who gave their lives in war.

Do you have an Alabama ancestor in World War I?

For more information:
Nimrod Frazer: author interview
History and Bibliography of the “Rainbow”
The Rainbow in World War I
“The Legendary Fourth Alabama”
167th Alabama Infantry Regiment
Researching your Military Ancestor

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Library Board Awards First “Innovative” Award to Pratt City Library

(l-r) Antonio Sullivan, Jordan Washington, Deborah Drake Blackmon,
and Khaleb McDonald (Omari Stephens is absent from photo)

A new program at the Pratt City Branch Library that provides career survival tips for teenagers is the first recipient of the Birmingham Public Library Board of Directors’ new "Innovative” grant.

The Pratt City Branch Library Career Survival Kit program was the first recipient, and presented four teenagers from the surrounding community a gift pack during an event held on May 18.

During the program, speakers shared tips on such topics as:

  • Proper preparation for the job search
  • Proper introductions and tips on “The Importance of the Handshake”
  • Tips on first impressions and how attitude and body language can impact a job interview (both good and bad)
  • Appropriate conversations to have on the job
  • Appropriate dress in the workplace
  • The importance of showing integrity at all times and going the extra mile
  • How to lead by being a team player
  • How to give a good interview

The four participants who attended the initial program were all South Hampton School eighth-graders: Khaleb McDonald, Omari Stephens, Antonio Sullivan, and Jordan Washington. The teen boys said they very impressed with the program, adding that it provided knowledge that will pay off as they begin seeking summer jobs.

Each of the boys received a Career Survival Kit that included the following: a bow tie, wallet, belt, personal e-mail address, a resume, business card, a 4 by 6 inch card with questions they can ask interviewers, and a see-through folder.

Deborah Drake Blackmon, branch manager at the Pratt City Library, said she was honored to be the first recipient of the Innovative grant. She said Pratt City Library also plans to present a Career Survival Kit program for teen girls from the community.

At its March 2016 board meeting, the group adopted a recommendation from the Advocacy, Fundraising, and Development Committee to establish an award program for staff designed to encourage them to develop “innovative and cool” public programs to better serve the communities that surround its 19 locations. The award will provide up to two $50 stipends to the 18 branches and the Central Library. The board anticipates the award will help staff improve an existing program or develop a new program for library visitors.

In order to qualify, staff should must submit a brief paragraph or two explaining to the board how they will use the funds. The funds should assist staff in bringing new ideas to the library or provide extra support to existing programs. Submissions are due by the 15th of each month.

The idea for the award was brought to the Advocacy Committee by committee member Gwendolyn Amamoo. A committee reviews the selections and forward their recommendations to the full board for approval. The board anticipates awarding up to $1,900 in new programs between now and December 31, 2016.

Book Review: The Sound of All Things

The Sound of All Things
Myron Uhlberg; illustrated by Ted Pamoulas

A young teen is frustrated because his father is always asking him what things sound like. He doesn’t have the words and when he tries it isn’t good enough. His dad is deaf and so is his mom. He sometimes wishes he had normal parents. Myron Uhlberg and Ted Pamoulas’s The Sound of All Things takes place in the vibrant Brooklyn of the nineteen-thirties, mostly on Coney Island on a sunny day when the beach and the amusement park are swarming with people. The illustrations are like a colorized movie from that era, lush and full of detail. Every corner of the illustrations has its own sound. We know the sounds, but, just like the deaf father, we can’t hear the sounds. The illustrations are as silent for us as Brooklyn is for the deaf parents. How to describe the sounds?

The underlying story of The Sound of All Things is the boy’s everyday struggle for empathy with his parents. He gains a whole new way to communicate with his parents when he goes to the library and the librarian introduces him to poetry. Poetic words describe how things sound and so much more.

This picture book is good for all ages. Check it out. Ponder the themes and enjoy.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Inglenook Library’s Summer Reading Kickoff Party

Fun and games at Inglenook Library's 2015 summer reading finale

On Tuesday, May 31, at 3:30 p.m., the Inglenook Branch Library will have its summer reading kickoff party! There will be light refreshments, games, summer reading registration, an opportunity for folks to sign up for library cards, and a live performance by the Springville Road’s Children’s Department. Carolyn Cauthen, president of the Inglenook Neighborhood Association, will also assist us in getting the community excited about reading and participating in the summer reading program.

If you need some motivation and would like to know what the Inglenook Library has in store this summer, come out on May 31 and party with us!

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Branch Library

Registration for 2016 Birmingham Public Library Summer Reading Programs Under Way

The 2016 summer reading schedule has over 500 programs and activities for youth, teens and adults at 19 library locations across Birmingham.

Last summer, 18,418 BPL patrons attended 558 programs at 19 library locations and read more than 52,000 books.

Registration is under way now, with forms available in any of the 19 BPL locations. If you don’t have time to visit a BPL location, click on the link below to register online, log your books, and view the event calendar:

Have a teenager who loves to play video games? Ever wondered what goes into designing them? Then register your teen for Get in the Game with Virtual Reality, a workshop in which UAB’s ETLab (Enabling Technologies Laboratory) will provide an awesome interactive presentation and discussion for teens regarding virtual reality complete with giant screens

Want to have fun exploring chemical reactions, such as mixing diet Coke with Mentos candy? Then your teen would love Get in the Chemistry Game, a workshop where they explore activities that show  how chemistry can be cool.

Does your child like animals? They would love Scales, Tails, and More!, a workshop in which Alabama 4-H will introduce them to kid-friendly critters. Other activities will allow library patrons to see sports artifacts from Birmingham’s new Negro Southern League Baseball museum, and to attend exercise classes.

Even adults can get into the fun with a summer full of activities including Coloring for Adults, poetry workshops, knitting lessons, learning the basics of Japanese paper folding, and tips from an artist on how to paint your own masterpiece.

Read the full listing of Summer Reading programs and activities broken down by children, teens and adults at the blog links below:

BPL Children Summer Reading programs 

BPL Teen Summer Reading programs 

BPL Adult Summer reading programs 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Miss Iwate, BPL's Japanese Friendship Doll, Gets Visit from the Japan External Trade Organization

(l-r): Motoi Hotta, director of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO);
Angela Fisher Hall, director of the Birmingham Public Library;
Mary Beth Newbill, head of the Southern History Department/Central Library;
and Norikazu Mori, chief executive director of JETRO

Miss Iwate, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)'s Japanese Friendship Doll, received a visit on May 19, 2016, from representatives of her home country. Motoi Hotta, director of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), and Norikazu Mori, chief executive director of JETRO, got an up close and personal view of Miss Iwate inside the Linn-Henley Building at the Central Library.

Miss Iwate, who originally came to BPL in July 1928 as part of a Japan-United States goodwill doll exchange, returned to Japan in September 2015 for a “makeover” carried out by the Yoshitoku Doll Company. When her restoration was completed, Miss Iwate was on display from December 24, 2015, to March 6, 2016, at the Iwate Prefectural Museum in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. She returned to Birmingham in mid-March 2016 ready to continue her role as ambassador of peace and friendship with renewed enthusiasm. A “welcome home” celebration was held for her at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival sponsored by the Japan American Society of Alabama at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

The Birmingham Public Library is very proud of its role as the caretaker of Miss Iwate, said Angela Fisher Hall, director of the 19-branch system.

“We often share the story of Miss Iwate with visitors to the library who have an interest in our special collections, and many visitors ask for her by name,” Hall said. “Before our city had its wonderful Birmingham Museum of Art, our library was the hub for culture and learning. It’s good to have Miss Iwate here at the library to serve as a goodwill ambassador.”