Sunday, March 01, 2015

National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day

Why did the fisherman take a jar of peanut butter with him to sea?
So he could have it with his jellyfish.

March 1 is a yummy stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of day—it’s National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day! Peanut butter is one of if not the most favorite sandwich spreads in America. In fact, Americans love it so much we consume more than a billion pounds of peanut butter per year. Personally, I celebrate National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day almost every day of the week. On my lunch break I can be found reading our newest arrivals while enjoying a peanut butter and apple jelly sandwich. But if a sandwich isn’t for you, try a spoon full of peanut butter on a cracker, a stalk of celery, or better yet lick it directly off the spoon.

Some of my favorite peanut butter reads are…
Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border
Peanut Butter Party: Including the History, Uses, and Future of Peanut Butter by Remy Charlip
Peanut Butter and Homework Sandwiches by Lisa Broadie Cook
Peanut Butter and Jellyfish by Jarrett Krosoczka
The Life and Times of the Peanut by Charles Micucci
Peeny Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison
From Peanut to Peanut Butter by Robin Nelson
PB&J Hooray by Janet Nolan
Fancy Nancy: Peanut Butter and Jellyfish by Jane O’Connor
Peanut Butter and Jelly by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

Friday, February 27, 2015

Senior Computing

While helping one of our senior patrons use a library computer, I was pleased to share the specialized resources that Birmingham Public Library provides about computers, the Internet, and social media sites.

My staff and I are always happy to assist the seniors in our community to use our computers and we encourage them to expand their learning experience by taking advantage of the variety of books and recordings available. These include: Computers for Seniors by Nancy Muir; Computing for Seniors in Easy Steps by Sue Price, and My Facebook for Seniors by Michael Miller. In large print we have: Basic Computers for Beginners and E-Mail for Beginners, both by Web Wise Seniors. Some of these books come with DVDs or CDs with sample forms and software.

I can also recommend DVDs that feature basic introductions to computers for seniors or anyone who is new to computers or the Internet. Some examples are: Help! For the Computer Shy : How to Use Internet Explorer 8 for Seniors by Michael Gorzka, or E-Mail & the Internet : Computers for Seniors by Walter Duke.

Birmingham Public Library also offers a variety of classes on basic computer skills; learning how to use data entry programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint; how to use Facebook and other social media websites; and how to download e-books.

No matter your age, Birmingham Public Library has what you need to help you enhance your computer skills.

William Darby
East Lake Library

The Shooting & Ride in the Whirlwind: Two Underground Westerns from the Sixties

In the mid sixties, a pair of westerns as unorthodox as The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind could only have emerged from the low-budget fringes of Hollywood.

The films were produced by Roger Corman and are a considered a pair since they were shot back-to-back in the deserts of Utah in 1965 by two of Corman's most promising protegees: filmmaker Monte Hellman and actor/writer Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson and Hellman had previously teamed up on a pair of low-budget war films shot in the Philippines for Corman.

Jack Nicholson is the biggest name to "graduate" from Roger Corman's low-budget, b-movie "film school" production company. (Other graduates include James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Fonda, and Ron Howard.)  Nicholson wrote and starred in Ride in the Whirlwind and had a supporting role in The Shooting which were made two years prior to his major breakthrough role in Easy Rider (1967).

Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)
Ride in the Whirlwind was not Nicholson's first screenplay, he had previously written Flight to Fury and his next screenplay would be for the Monkees' only film Head.  This western was far different than his other credits as a writer.

Ride in the Whirlwind follows a pair of cowboys (played by Jack Nicholson and Cameron Mitchell) who are returning from a cattle drive and are mistaken for outlaws by frontier vigilantes. They effectively must become outlaws in order to keep themselves alive while pursued by a posse of lawmen and citizens.  The film abandons the typical mythic genre posturings to offer a sincere -- and exceptionally harrowing -- portrayal of frontier life in the Old West.

Nicholson researched period novels and diaries in order to convincingly grasp the language of the 19th century Western frontier in his dialogue.  In fact, the dialogue is so convincing that Quentin Tarantino has described the film "one of the most authentic and brilliant westerns ever made."

The Shooting (1966)

On the other side of the coin, The Shooting is less concerned with authenticity than with establishing an unsettling atmosphere and an innovative -- even experimental -- style.

Whereas Ride in the Whirlwind  presents a straightforward story, The Shooting presents a rather elliptical story in which the underlying motives of the principal characters are never truly revealed.  All that the audience knows is that all of the characters in the film all seem to be hurtling towards their doom in pursuit of a wanted man through the high desert of Utah.

The Shooting stars the great character actor Warren Oates as a former bounty hunter that has been hired by a mysterious woman (played by Millie Perkins) to guide her across the Suplico desert. Nicholson appears here as a gunslinger who stalks the group from just over the horizon.  The unsettling atmosphere of the film can be credited to many stylistic techniques lifted wholesale from the horror genre including extreme close-ups, point-of-view shots, and a soundtrack that appears to have been licensed from a monster movie music library.

The Shooting  has proved highly influential over the years.  The most prominent example would include Sam Peckinpah's use of slow motion during the finale of  The Wild Bunch (Several years later, Peckinpah appeared in his only onscreen acting role in China 9, Liberty 7 another Monte Hellman western that starred Warren Oates.)   Many other subversive Westerns such as Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo, Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter, and Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man appear to been heavily influenced by The Shooting.

The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind were, in essence, lost for several years and only reached movie screens in the United States a decade after their production due to the bankruptcy of their initial theatrical distributor.

However, both films played for over a year in a single theater in Paris and were highly regarded by European critics.  Ride in the Whirlwind was even selected as one of the top ten films of 1966 by the noted French film journal Cahiers du CinĂ©ma.

These films have garnered quite a cult following over the past two decades thanks to a crucial piece of film criticism written by Quentin Tarantino on Ride in the Whirlwind for Sight and Sound magazine in 1993.  They were recently released as a double feature on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection and are now available for checkout through the library system.

They are worth a look to fans of the western genre, Jack Nicholson, or anyone with a strong interest in cinema.

For the record, Corman's only unprofitable film was an adaptation of Charles Willeford's Cockfighter which starred Warren Oates and was directed by Monte Hellman.

From Page to Stage: Robin Hood – A Reader’s Theater Workshop for Children

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL), in partnership with the Birmingham Children’s Theatre (BCT) and Junior League of Birmingham (JLB), would like to invite you to attend From Page to Stage: Robin Hood — A Readers’ Theater Workshop for Children.

In anticipation of the upcoming BCT performance of Robin Hood, BPL will be hosting free workshops at several of its area libraries. Children, aged 7 to 12, will learn how storybook characters come alive through the magic of theater. JLB members will coach the children and introduce them to similar literature located in their local library. Each child will receive two free tickets (one child and one adult ticket) to the BCT Robin Hood production in April 2015.

Things are not so great in Nottingham. The Sherriff, simply put, is nothing but a bully, taking advantage of the townspeople, leaving them with little money to survive. Enter Robin Hood, champion of the less fortunate, to help right the Sherriff’s wrongs. Join familiar characters like Maid Marion and Little John, in this new twist on the classic tale, full of adventure, music, and suspense.

Workshop space is limited, so contact your participating library location to register a child for the workshop. Libraries and dates are as follows:

Avondale: Sunday, March 15 at 2:30 p.m.
Central: Sunday, March 22 at 2:30 p.m.
East Lake: Saturday, March 14 at 2:30 p.m.
Five Points West: Sunday, March 15 at 2:30 p.m.
Pratt City: Saturday, March 14 at 2:30 p.m.
Southside: Saturday, March 21 at 2:30 p.m.
Springville Road: Sun, March 22 at 2:30 p.m.
West End: Saturday March 21 at 2:30 p.m.

How to Patent Your Invention

First patent granted in 1790
First patent granted in 1790
Do you have a great new invention? Are you unsure whether or not you’re the first one to think of it? If so, join us from 6-7 pm on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in the Regional Library Computer Center. We’ll be talking about patents and how to perform a basic search using databases from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There are actually three different types of patents: design, plant, and utility. Utility patents are what most people think of when they hear the word “patent” and according to the USPTO, 90% of all patents granted today are utility patents.

The Birmingham Public Library is the only public library in Alabama to be named a Patent and Trademark Resource Center. This means that the staff have been specially trained to help inventors and entrepreneurs begin their patent search. Because patents are only granted to, “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” a thorough search of all existing patents (also call a prior art search) is essential. By searching previously issued patents, you may find that you have a totally new and unique invention or that you need to head back to the drawing board.

Since patents are written using highly specialized legal and scientific language, performing a patent search can seem intimidating. Join us on March 3rd as we break down the USPTO’s Seven Step Strategy. This simple strategy is a great way to get started and to become familiar with the patent process. Space is limited, so call us at 205-226-3680 to register today!

M.B. Newbill
Southern History Department

Thursday, February 26, 2015

March 2 Marks Return of Spring/Summer Hours for Seven Birmingham Public Libraries

Seven libraries within the Birmingham Public Library system will return to spring/summer hours beginning Monday, March 2.

The neighborhood libraries are: East Ensley, Ensley, Inglenook, North Avondale, Powderly, Woodlawn, and Wylam. The new hours will be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., and 1:00-6:00 p.m. Wednesday hours will be 1:00-6:00 p.m. They are closed on the weekends.

Hours for all other libraries within the Birmingham system will not change. For a complete list of hours for all locations, please visit

View TEDxBirmingham at the Central Library

Photo: TEDxBirmingham

Mountains. Large, majestic, immovable. Or are they? At TEDxBirmingham 2015, we’ll hear ideas from a dozen speakers who refuse to surrender to the mountain in front of them. The day will challenge your mind and spirit. Afterwards, attendees will be encouraged to take ideas home with them to create transformation in their communities through action.

If you did not make a reservation to attend TEDxBirmingham 2015 at the Alys Stephens Center, there is still hope for you to view the program. On Saturday, February 28, 2015, the Birmingham Public Library will host a live-stream viewing party for TEDxBirmingham 2015. The general public is invited to see the broadcast, free of charge, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., on the second floor of the East Building at the Central Library. Watching TEDxBirmingham 2015 on a large TV monitor in the Youth Department’s Story Castle gives viewers an opportunity to discretely come and go as they please, in an area arranged to accommodate 50 people. The room is adjacent to the Friends Bookstore and free parking is available on the street or at meters around the library (Saturday on-street parking is free).

Not familiar with TEDxBirmingham 2015? In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our local event is called TEDxBirmingham, where “x”equals independently organized TED event. At our TEDxBirmingham event, TED Talks videos and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. Information on the organization’s website makes a compelling case for attending or viewing. More information, along with other viewing locations, can be found on the website at

Move Mountains. Overcome the impossible. It starts Saturday, and can be viewed live for free at the Central Library.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Library Board Meeting Delayed Until Thursday Morning at 10:30 a.m.

The Birmingham Public Library Board meeting that was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. tomorrow has been delayed until 10:30 a.m.  Board meetings are held in the Board Room located on the 4th floor of the Central Library.

All locations of BPL are still scheduled to open to the public at 11 a .m. tomorrow morning.

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries & Their Residents

Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries & Their Residents
Douglas Keister

One evening a few years ago, I was on the way to visit some friends. As I drove along the winding county road to their home, I caught sight of something I had never known was there before: a small cemetery. I braked to take a closer look and wondered why I had never noticed it, but I drew the line at getting out and walking over to examine the old grave markers; dusk was gathering and I remember thinking that this is how horror movies begin.

If you’re the sort of person who would have gotten out of the car and gone running to have a look at the tombstones, you’ll want to get your hands on Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries & Their Residents. This is a book to warm the hearts of genealogists, cemetery preservation societies, and anyone else who is just plain fascinated with the history and lore of cemeteries. Keister treats us to an in-depth look at several quintessentially Southern cemeteries, and for his definition of Southern he explains that “for the purpose of this book, we’ve placed the center of Dixie in northwestern Alabama and drawn a very wavy line around it. We’ve only included states where almost all of the state has a Southern feel.”

Not all of the cemeteries under discussion are for human interment. One of Keister’s picks is the famous Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard near Tuscumbia, Alabama, where “to qualify for burial, the dog’s owner must claim their dog is an authentic coon dog, a witness must verify that information, and a member of the Coon Hunters Association must be allowed to view the expired coonhound.” Talk about exclusive.

Keister also provides GPS coordinates for each cemetery so readers can go directly to markers of special interest and includes some fascinating information and photographs of funerary architecture and symbols. Have you ever seen a mort safe? How about a table tomb? Or a treestone? What does it signify if a gravestone is carved with daisies? Wheat? Ivy?

Forever Dixie was an unexpectedly entertaining read for me, and for anyone who already has a fascination with cemeteries, it is a must. I think now I’d have more interest in going back to examine that little cemetery along the lonely county road—but I’ll still confine my investigation to daylight hours.

Can’t get enough of cemetery research? For further information:

Find A Grave 

Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance

Association for Gravestone Studies Facebook Page

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All BPL Locations Closed Due to Threat of Inclement Weather

Due to the threat of inclement weather, all locations of the Birmingham Public Library will close tonight at 5 p.m. and will be closed Wednesday, February 25. All locations will reopen Thursday, February 26 at 11 a.m. Stay safe, enjoy the snow, and visit us online for ebooks, music, magazines, and more.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Role Reversal - Caregiving for Aging Parents

More Americans are living well beyond their 70s, and adult children are left in a position where they have to be caregivers for their aging parents. Experts agree that the dynamic of age in America has shifted dramatically over the last 60 to 80 years and its impact on the family can often create an uncommon situation. Dealing with this situation can be a challenge. An enormous amount of strength and energy is needed to adequately support aging parents because caregiving can be challenging.

It's easy to get burned out with the responsibility, especially when only one sibling steps up to the plate to help care for parents: doctor’s appointments, taking care of finances, healthcare,
not to mention the trips to the grocery store take a toll both mentally and physically. Becoming a caregiver can easily become a full-time job and is often overwhelming, stressful, and frustrating. Trying to reduce your stress level will make you a better caregiver.

Here are some tips to help you remain productive, organized, and loving: (1) take time for YOU, even if it's just a few minutes, (2) know your limits—learn how to say no, (3) stick to a routine—a daily routine can be a life saver, (4) ask for help—even a few hours "off-duty" can help you recharge, (5) get enough sleep, and by all means, join a support group so that you won’t feel alone.

Helpful resources:

The Caregiving Wife's Handbook: Caring for Your Seriously Ill Husband, Caring for Yourself by Diana Denholm
The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey by Nancy L. Kriseman
Should Mom Be Left Alone? Should Dad Be Driving?: Your Q&A Companion for Caregiving by Linda Rhodes
The Caregiver's Companion: Caring for Your Loved One Medically, Financially, and Emotionally While Caring for Yourself  by Carolyn A. Brent

Caring for Your Parents
When Your Parent Needs You: A Guide to Positive Growth When Caring for Aging Parents

Caregiving Resource Center
National Alliance for Caregiving
Today's Caregiver

Yolanda Hardy
Smithfield Library

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Free Online Learning

Computer Clip Art There's no better time than now to learn a new skill or take an educational course of personal interest to you.  Well, I would like to introduce several free online learning websites.  Yes, that's right.  You can choose courses and learn skills all for free.  Also, learn at your own pace and connect with fellow learners and instructors.  What an opportunity!

Coursera: Free Online Courses
This educational website offers courses online to anyone for free.  You may choose from hundreds (currently 955) of courses created by the top educational institutions.  The courses cover a broad range of subjects including biology, computer sciences, physics, health, math, education, social sciences and teacher professional development. You may learn for fun or earn a verified certificate.

This educational site teaches you to code interactively for free.  You may choose to learn HTML & CSS, Python, Ruby or Javascript, as well as other programming languages.  You can learn to create a website, as well as style the site using CSS.  This is an interactive website which makes learning fun.  I recommend this resource for adults and teens who are interested in learning to code.

Khan Academy
"You can learning anything."  This is a learning resource for all ages.  This site offers free outstanding educational resources for everyone.  Courses include math, science, art, music, computer programming, economics and more.  There are even free tools for parents and teachers.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get started on those goals today.  Lifelong learning is important.  You will definitely improve your skills and expand your horizons.

Computer Commons
Central Library

Registration Open For March RLCC Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the March 2015 Regional Library Computer Center 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.