Monday, December 11, 2017

BPL Closed December 14 for Inventory Day

All Birmingham Public Library locations will be closed Thursday, December 14, for Inventory Day.

As part of our ongoing efforts to provide high-quality library services, it is important to devote a day to housekeeping projects. Some of the projects include shifting books to create more space on the shelves, discarding books that are too damaged to circulate, and reading the shelves to ensure that the books are in order. These projects are done to better serve our patrons for the coming year.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Sign Up for Text Message Notifications

Keep up-to-date with your library account on your mobile phone using the library's Shoutbomb text messaging service.

Sign up using your phone
  1. Text the word SIGNUP to 205-358-4149.
  2. Then reply to the messages from Shoutbomb with your library card number and PIN.
  3. Once your Shoutbomb registration has been completed, you will automatically get text notices about items available to pick up, items that are due soon, overdue items, and fines. A text will be sent only when activity on your account triggers a message.

Book Review: Leonardo da Vinci

by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library

Leonardo da Vinci
Walter Isaacson

Our enduring image of Leonardo is one he created for himself— the discerning sage with his long hair and beard. The pleasure of Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci is that we get glimpses of the beautiful, endearingly vain man who, through his insatiable curiosity and unmatched visual acuity, evolved into the authentically wise sage we see in his self-portraits. Biographers, including Sigmund Freud, have long been fussy about Leonardo’s homosexuality, but Isaacson’s Leonardo is an unselfconscious gay man, athletic, with long golden curls and widely remarked upon for his androgynous beauty, who drew like an angel even before he was apprenticed in Florence at the age of twelve. In his youth, unusually, he wore his robes, often pink or purple, above the knee. It is said we get a glimpse of the young Leonardo in his master Verrocchio’s statue of David, standing triumphant over the head of Goliath. Even then, as a very young man, Leonardo was respected for his painting, but he was most widely celebrated for staging wondrous ephemeral public spectacles on behalf the rulers of Renaissance Italian city-states. He was an artist and an impresario, the quintessential Renaissance man who often bought caged birds to set them free.

Andrea del Verrocchio's David
(with Leonardo as the model)
We do not know a lot about Leonardo’s life, or how he felt, but we know more about what he thought than nearly anyone who ever lived. He kept meticulous notebooks from the age thirty until he died. Over 7,000 pages of these notebooks have survived five centuries of hazards. The strength of Isaacson’s biography is his chapter-by-chapter discussion of Leonardo’s scientific and artistic discoveries as recorded in these notebooks. Leonardo’s autopsies revealed to him secrets of the inner eye and the human heart. Leonardo describes his discoveries in the science of perspective. He speculates about sneezing, the flight of birds, and the reason the sky is blue. The notebooks also tell us the color, cloth, and style of the clothes Leonardo gave his beautiful young boyfriend, who was the subject of many exquisite doodles that coexist with detailed three-dimensional drawings of gliders and bird wings. These notebooks with their priceless scientific lore were sadly unpublished. Leonardo, the perfectionist, was reluctant to declare anything finished, so that many of his scientific findings were only re-discovered centuries later.

Isaacson’s great subject is genius. He has given us biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs, men we call Renaissance men, whose insatiable curiosity ranged far beyond the confines of one single field of knowledge. We come to understand how Leonardo’s paintings are great because of the natural lore he brought to bear, the complex play of muscles behind a smile. Learned, accomplished, and beautiful, Leonardo was a jewel of princely courts and was, from time to time, sent from one ruler to another as a sign of respect. They indulged Leonardo, and he seems to have lived his life, from his beautiful youth to his learned old age, doing exactly what he wanted to do.

Leonardo lived most of his life in Florence, Milan, Rome, and, ultimately, in a Loire valley chateau outside of Paris where he died, beloved, in the arms of Francois, the King of France, under the mysterious gaze of his painting, the Mona Lisa, which he had been perfecting for many years.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Money Matters Workshop – Holiday Shopping on a Budget Scheduled for December 13 at Central Library

The Birmingham Public Library is partnering again this year with UAB’s Regions Institute for Financial Education to offer a series of Money Matters workshops to be held each month at our Central location. Each of the workshops covers a different topic, but all are designed to help you gain a better understanding of your personal finances and begin making a plan for the future.

All workshops will be held in the Youth Department’s Story Castle, which is located on 2nd floor of the Central Library. Representatives from the Regions Institute for Financial Education in UAB’s Collat School of Business will serve as instructors for each of the workshops.

What: Money Matters workshop series
When: Third Wednesday of the Month, October 2017 thru May 2018
Time: 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.
Where: Birmingham Public Library – Central Library, Youth Department, 2nd floor, Story Castle

To learn more about the workshop series as well as other personal finance resources available at BPL, contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Below is a listing of the Money Matters workshop series by month through May 2018. The workshops are held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, with the exception of the one scheduled for December 2017, which will be held on the 2nd Wednesday.

12/13/2017 – Holiday Shopping on a Budget (held on 2nd Wednesday in December)
1/17/2018 – Empower Yourself Financially
2/21/2018 – Maximize Your Personal Wealth
3/21/2018 – Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
4/18/2018 – Understanding Taxes
5/16/2018 – Your Credit Report

Library STEM Programs Combine Fun and Creativity to Teach Critical Thinking and Tech Skills to Children and Teens

by Mark Skinner, East Ensley Branch Library

One of the great things about the Birmingham Public Library System is its commitment to children’s programs. Along with Summer Reading and other programs throughout the year, BPL has sought to provide STEM learning to its patrons. The library is working to fill in the gap between what the student is learning in school with activities they might not have access to at their school.

At the East Ensley Library and other library branches, we use STEM-oriented toys, puzzles, games, and programs to help bridge that gap. STEM learning allows the children who visit our library to think critically and creatively to solve problems, or to just simply have fun making something with a friend.

The best part about STEM is that is doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many resources that show you how to use everyday household items to learn something new about science or engineering. Here are a few websites to check out:

Science Buddies
STEM Laboratory

The library also has many books and other resources to help get you started!:

The Everything STEM Handbook: Help Your Child Learn and Succeed in the Fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

hoopla's New Read-Along Feature to Help Young, Reluctant, and Second Language Learners

On December 4 hoopla digital introduced a new line of Picture Books with Read-Alongs for young readers. These read-along titles are displayed in picture-book layout, and feature an audio player with narration as well as text that will highlight in red in sync with the narrative audio, making the read-along feature the perfect tool for new or reluctant readers and second-language learners.

"We developed this eReader with feedback from librarians, patrons, and publishers and created an experience that really celebrates the work of the authors and illustrators on our platform," said owner and founder of hoopla digital Jeff Jankowski.

Click here to view a selection of read-along titles including Disney-Pixar's Coco and HarperCollins' Pete the Cat.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Friends Bookstore Bag Sale Price Has Been Slashed!

Greetings, shoppers and book lovers! Recycling a gently loved book is so much better than regifting that ugly TJ Maxx picture frame from Aunt Ida. While there's still plenty of time for Christmas shopping, the Friends Bookstore is reducing it's fill-a-bag sale price from $20 to $10. So come in and take advantage of tremendous savings and dig around for a thoughtful gift for someone you like. (Excludes T-shirts, albums, and special priced books and items.)

The sale runs through December 22, when the library closes December 23-26 for the Christmas holiday.

The Friends Bookstore is located on the first floor of the Central Library and is open Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Call 205-226-3676 for more information.

Miss Iwate, Birmingham’s Japanese Friendship Doll, Is Going to Japan for 90th Birthday Tour

The Japanese delegation that will escort Miss Iwate to Japan for a four-month exhibition
tour and a 90th birthday celebration. Former Birmingham Public 
Library Arts, Literature and
Sports Department head Haruyo Miyawa (left) and 
her father. Dr. Ichiro Miyagawa,
sponsored a luncheon at the library for the guests

What: Miss Iwate's 90th birthday celebration and tour of Japan
When: Departs Birmingham on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, returns to BPL at end of March 2018
Details: Miss Iwate will be on an exhibition across Japan with other dolls as part of a traveling tour.

Miss Iwate, the Birmingham Public Library’s Japanese Friendship Doll since 1927, is returning to her homeland for a tour of Japan as part of a 90th birthday celebration. A group from Japan that visited Miss Iwate at the Central Library last week is taking the doll back to Japan for a four-month tour on Tuesday, December 5. The delegation includes Masaru Aoki of Yoshitoku Dolls Tokyo, which restored the doll before she returned to BPL in 2016; Hideo Akanuma, curator of Iwate Prefectural Museum, one of the venues Miss Iwate will visit while in Japan; and Katsushi Tsunokake, program director of Iwate Broadcasting Co., which is doing a documentary on Miss Iwate’s trip to Japan.

History of Miss Iwate and Japanese Friendship Dolls
An exhibit poster featuring Miss Iwate and her fel-
low Friendship Dolls
In 1927 the children of Iwate Prefecture, Japan, and the children of Birmingham, Alabama, participated in a friendship project. The Committee on World Friendship Among Children sponsored this project. The children of Birmingham sent several dolls to the children in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The children in Japan sent 58 dolls to the United States. These dolls toured all over America and were later distributed among museums and libraries all over the country.

Miss Iwate was the doll that was sent to Birmingham and placed in the Birmingham Public Library. The Japanese children sent thousands of letters with Miss Iwate. The letters explained that in Japan there is a festival each year called the Feast of Dolls which is held in honor of their favorite toy. Dolls were precious in Japan, with some being centuries old and handed down from mother to daughter.

Miss Iwate, which is life sized, arrived in a black trunk with an extra trunk for her furniture. She has a chest of drawers, a sewing table, a complete tea service, two lanterns, and two small dolls to keep her company. Over the years Miss Iwate has been on display at the library for various functions. She was on exhibit during the Festival of Arts salute to Japan in 1967.

BPL’s Southern History Department cares for Miss Iwate, while BPL’s Archives Department holds 28 letters from the Japanese children that were sent to the US with Miss Iwate. Several of these letters will also be on loan and exhibited with Miss Iwate.

 Miss Iwate is visited by Ashley Hudson
Miss Iwate is available by appointment only through BPL’s Southern History Department. She cannot be held or touched. Read more about Miss Iwate at

“Miss Iwate is beloved by the Japanese people. She delights all those who see her,” said Mary Beth Newbill, department head of the Southern History and Government Documents Departments. “The Birmingham Public Library is honored to continue to encourage goodwill between the US and Japan by sending Miss Iwate back to her native land to tell the story of the Japanese Friendship Dolls.”

Miss Iwate will leave Birmingham with a Japanese delegation on December 5 and return at the end of March 2018. She will be on display at the following places in Japan:

Rikuzentakata: Rikuzentakata Community Hall, December 8-10, 2017
Rikuzentakata, on the coast of Iwate, was one of the areas hard hit by the 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake. Among the items that were rescued and restored after the great earthquake was Sumadaniel Hendrene, a “blue-eyed doll” which was given as a gift from the US in 1927. She is one of the dolls that was given to the children of Japan as part of the project led by American missionary Sidney L. Gulick in an effort to ease the growing tensions between Japan and the United States in the 1920s. After arriving in Japan, she was taken in by the Kesen Elementary School in the city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture where she has been carefully kept and has played a role in numerous events.

After the start of the Pacific War of WWII, she was set on fire, but thanks to the courageous intervention of a woman teacher at Kesen Elementary, the doll was spared a horrible fate. The doll was a victim of the tsunami which hit with sudden force, and she went missing for some time. However, thanks to determined search efforts by people in the community, she was found inside a safe which had been washed away by the tsunami. Afterwards, she was taken to the Iwate Prefectural Museum and underwent various restoration processes. She is a unique and valuable artifact that overcame two major disasters of war and the earthquake/tsunami.

Ichinoseki: Ichinoseki Museum, Decembcer12-17, 2017
Miss Iwate will be displayed along with four “blue-eyed dolls.”

Morioka: Iwate Prefectural Museum, January 8-March 22, 2018
Miss Iwate will be displayed along with all 18 “blue-eyed dolls” known to exist in Iwate Prefecture.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Celebrate the Holidays at the Birmingham Public Library

People will have plenty of opportunities to get in the holiday spirit during the month of December at many of the 19 Birmingham Public Library (BPL) locations.

Among the holiday-themed programs being offered in December are open houses and tree trimmings, cooking demonstrations, shopping and entertaining on a budget workshops, a musical, storytimes, arts & crafts, trivia contests, family fun nights, and movie marathons.

To see a complete list of December programs at all BPL locations, visit the events calendar. Some programs and events require registration, but all are free to our patrons.

All BPL locations will be closed for the Christmas holiday from Saturday, December 23, through Tuesday, December 26.

Naughty or Nice?

by Carla Perkins, Avondale Regional Branch Library

Naughty or nice, that is the question! Santa’s List Day is observed annually on December 4. While no one knows the true origin or creator of the holiday, Santa himself is the prime suspect. Throughout the year Santa and his elves have been busily checking on children all over the world and categorizing them by their behavior—naughty or nice. It has been reported that while Santa looks over his list on this day, he reviews and adjusts it all the way to Christmas Eve. If you fear your name may appear on the Naughty List, now is the time to do something about it. Visit the library and check out our self-improvement books. You have 20 days to get your name off the list. Good luck!

Manners Mash-Up: A Goofy Guide to Good Behavior 
The Berenstain Bears Say Please and Thank You by Jan Berenstain
D.W’s Guide to Perfect Manners by Marc Brown
Nobunny’s Perfect by Anna Dewdney
Do Unto Otters: A Book about Manners by Laurie Keller
Cowboys Can Be Kind by Timothy Knapman
Monster Knows Table Manners by Connie Colwell Miller
Manners in the Library by Shannon Miller
Manners Out and About by Josh Plattner
Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners Judy Sierra

Friday, December 01, 2017

Dolores Hydock to Perform "A Christmas Memory" December 3 at Central Library

Dolores Hydock

Dolores Hydock Performs "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote
When: Sunday, December 3, 2017
Time: 3:00-4:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Details: Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The Christmas season doesn’t really begin until you have experienced Birmingham storyteller Dolores Hydock’s incredible one-woman performance of "A Christmas Memory," Truman Capote's poignant reminiscence of his boyhood in rural Alabama. Dolores will perform this holiday classic on Sunday, December 3, 2017, at 3:00 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium at the Central Library.

There is always a full house for this performance, so come early and enjoy refreshments.

For more information contact Jim Baggett at 205-226-3631 or

Healthy Holiday Cooking with Chef E at the Southside Branch Library, December 7

What: Healthy Holiday Cooking with Chef E
When: Thursday, December 7, 2017
Time: 3:00-4:00 p.m.
Where: Southside Branch Library

Holiday cooking can be delicious and healthy. Chef E will take the stress out of cooking for family and friends. You will enjoy a taste of the results of Chef E's cooking demonstration. There will be light refreshment and door prizes. The program is free but limited to 25 adults. Reserve your spot by registering online through the BPL events calendar or by calling 205-933-7776.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Family Fun Night with Pete the Cat at Avondale Library, December 5

Family Fun Night at the Avondale Regional Branch Library on Tuesday, December 5, 6:30 p.m., features a super cool special guest: Pete the Cat! Help Pete the Cat save Christmas and then enjoy stories, treats, games, and even get a souvenir photo of "Santa Pete."

Registration is required. Please register online through the Birmingham Public Library events calendar or call Avondale Library at 205-226-4003.

Alabama Illustrated: Engravings from 19th Century Newspapers Exhibit, December 4, 2017-February 2, 2018

What: Alabama Illustrated: Engravings from 19th Century Newspapers exhibit
When: December 4, 2017-February 2, 2018
Where: Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
Details: Free and open to the public

An exhibit from the collections of the Birmingham Public Library Archives will be on display at the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery from December 4, 2017, through February 2, 2018. Titled Alabama Illustrated: Engravings from 19th Century Newspapers, the exhibit features images of Alabama people, places, and events that appeared in national and international newspapers from the 1850s to the 1890s.

Prior to the 1890s, the technology did not exist to reproduce photographs in newspapers inexpensively. To provide illustrations for their readers, national and international papers like Harper's Weekly, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and the Illustrated London News sent artists around the world to draw pictures that were then engraved onto copper plates and printed in the newspapers. Many of these artists visited Alabama, and this exhibition features 28 examples of their work.

BPL Archivist Jim Baggett will offer a free gallery tour on Sunday, December 10, 2017, at 3:00 p.m. Reservations are not required.

An accompanying book, Alabama Illustrated: Engravings from 19th Century Newspapers by James L. Baggett and Kelsey Scouten Bates is available from Turner Publishing.

For more information contact Jim Baggett at 205-226-3631 or

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