Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hold It!

Deja Vu CoverCan't find that copy of Déjà Vu or other new DVD on the shelf? Want to read that fiction bestseller or new nonfiction book?

Hold It!
Do not leave finding a copy up to chance.

Reserving, by placing a hold, is the fastest way to get the library material you want. The hold puts you on a waiting list for the item. Once the item becomes available, you will be notified so that you can pick it up. You will get an e-mail if you have given us your e-mail address. Otherwise, you will get an automated phone notification.

Holds can be placed on almost any book, DVD, or audio book the library has, even on soon to be released titles in our catalog like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.Harry Potter Cover

There are many options for placing holds on the library material you want.

  • You can join the Best Sellers Club, our program to provide quick access to new releases from best selling authors. Click here to sign up.
  • You can ask the library staff to place the hold for you during your next visit to the Library.
  • You can call the Library and ask the staff to reserve items for you.
  • You can even place a hold on library materials yourself from our catalog.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, here is how Mr. Vila would place holds using our catalog:

Vila connects to our website at which he considers the best thing since “Signature Series” power tools. Clicking on the catalog link along the bottom of the page, he chooses title and types in his search for “The New Yankee workshop kids' stuff” by Norm Abram. Vila scans the search results to select the book he wants. Once found, he clicks on the blue reserve item button at the top of the screen.

After entering his name and library card numbers in the appropriate boxes, he clicks on submit. Since the Avondale Branch is convenient for him, Vila chooses Avondale from the location selection dropdown menu and clicks submit.

As his computer screen reports that his request will be delivered to the selected Birmingham Public Library location when it is available, he thinks what a quick easy complete solution this is.

If Vila wanted to place multiple items on hold at once he could have used our handy shopping cart feature.

If you need any assistance with this process, a staff member would be happy to assist you in placing your holds.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Book Review : The Deep, the extraordinary creatures of the abyss

Book Jacket, The Deep
“It was a squid of colossal dimensions, fully eight meters long. It was traveling backward with tremendous speed in the same direction as the Nautilus. It gazed with enormous, staring eyes that were tinted sea green. Its eight arms (or more accurately, feet) were rooted in its head, which has earned these animals the name cephalopod; its arms stretched a distance twice the length of its body and were writhing like the serpentine hair of the Furies.”
From 20,000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne

I have to confess that I’ve always had mixed feelings about coffee table books. On the one hand, these oversized books usually have lush, never before seen photographs that leave me dreaming about whatever topic the book covers. But on the other hand, these tomes frequently have an exorbitant price tag. After spending an hour with my new, expensive book, I walk away wondering why I spent $45.00 on the book equivalent of Whitman chocolates when I could have consumed two or three steak dinners for the same price.
That was then, this is now. I recently purchased a book of photographs that is absolutely unbelievable. The Deep: the Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian is a book of photographs that has me reconsidering my stance on coffee table books and will you leave you breathless.
Thanks to new submersibles capable of searching down to six miles, photographer Claire Nouvian was able to photograph deep sea creatures in their natural environments. Though natural is hardly the word to describe these environments. These marine animals exist in a depth of the ocean untouched by light of any type. The nearly flat floors of the Arctic Ocean and the Monterey Canyon are occasionally interrupted by submerged mountains, hydrothermal vents, underwater volcanoes and whale carcasses.
The fish that occupy this habitat are just as otherworldly. Many of the creatures use a bioluminescence that renders them either angelically beautifully or frighteningly surreal. Others use bizarre appendages to hunt and wander through the eternal darkness, and all seem to have alarming names like viperfish, cutthroat eel, spookfish or vampire squid from hell. (No, I’m not making up that last one. You’ll understand when you see it.)
This is not simply a stunning photography book; Nouvian has included 15 essays written by leading deep sea biologist who shed some light on the mysteries of the deep. But only some. “5% of the seafloor has been mapped, and scientists estimate that there are between 10 million and 30 million species in the 'vasty' deep.”
This coffee table book is not only a full meal, but a new, exotic dish that words simply can not describe. Click on the link below, and then choose GALLERY to view some of the 220 color photographs.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Book Review: Read my book, y'aaall

book coverPaula Deen, the Sweet Potato Queen of Savannah, Georgia, and a star of the Food Network, has written an autobiography titled Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’. I’m going to warn readers in advance that Deen is even bawdier in her book than on TV, and that means lots of cussing and candor. Even I found myself blushing and shaking my head in amazement several times. But all this makes for one of the funniest memoirs I’ve ever read.

Deen writes like she speaks, which means the pages are dotted with double negatives, “ain’ts” and lazily dropped “g’s” from the end of almost every gerund. It almost feels like one isn’t so much reading a book as enjoying a Monday morning kaffeeklatsch around Deen’s kitchen table.

I’m fond of steel magnolias, and Deen earns this respected southern title. It’s all here: her parents' early deaths; her verbally abusive first marriage; her struggles as she's forced to raise her sons in poverty; the launch of her successful The Bag Lady catering business; the opening of her famous restaurant The Lady & Sons in downtown Savannah; the hilarious first meeting of her soul mate and future husband; and her quick rise to fame on the Food Network.

Deen shares fond family memories that center around their love of food and tradition. Her natural talent as a cook has earned her fame and riches. Her own success in the food industry allowed her sons to have careers in the restaurant and TV business. She couldn’t even resist including favorite family recipes in her autobiography. So, maybe it is all about the cookin’.

I’ll leave this review with comedienne Sara Schaefer’s take on the perfect Paula Deen recipe:

Butter, for greasing pan
2 cups butter
1 ½ cups butter oil
1/4 cup butter juice
3 cups all-purpose butter
1 teaspoon baking butter
3 cups peeled and finely chopped butter
1 cup shredded butter
1 pinch butter, for taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a tube pan. For the cake: In a large bowl, combine the butter, butter oil, butter juice, and baking butter; and mix well. Fold butter, butter and butter into batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bathe in it until you go into cardiac arrest.


Search the JCLC catalog for Paula Deen's cookbooks

The Official Website of Paula Deen

Paula's Home Cooking and Paula's Party pages at Food Network

History of Birmingham's Motels

Tourist Cabin
In today's Birmingham's News there is an interview with Birmingham Public Library's Archivist Jim Baggett discussing the early history of motels in Birmingham. To read the article, view photographs, and read contemporary newspaper articles, click on the links below.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

BPL sponsors PhotoCamp Birmingham

PhotoCamp Birmingham
Originally uploaded by RichardThomas.

Birmingham Public Library is proud to sponsor PhotoCamp Birmingham. Join us this Saturday at Homewood Public Library for this "unconference".

"PhotoCamp is an all day discussion about all things photography. This is an open invitation to anyone and everyone to attend. Professional photographers, amateurs, photojournalists, photo clubs, photo classes- don’t be left out!

We’ll discuss what YOU want to hear because most attendees not only choose the topics, they present then as well! What are you good at? Portraits? Landscapes? From the hip? Share it. Got some Photoshop tips/tricks? Let’s hear them. Interested in learning how to get more exposure? Come on in. This conference is designed for you, you make it happen." (PhotoCamp Birmingham)

Saturday, April 21 2007, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Homewood Public Library
1721 Oxmoor Road
Homewood, Alabama 35209
Open To Everyone

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

No Time to Wait

You're in a hurry, you're in a line and the person right in front of you is checking out what seems like the library’s entire collection of Stephen King, T.D. Jakes, and Dr. Seuss. You feel your pressure rise as that little voice inside your head whispers, “You are going to be late!”

At the far end of the queue, you see the library staff busily scanning out books, but the line seems ominously long. The unconscious tapping of your foot is interrupted by an exasperated mumble up ahead, “Where is my card? It was just here.”

Repeated anxious glances at your watch does not help, but what can you do?

Practice the yoga breathing technique you read in that “stress” book last year or take the matter into your own hands?

With no time to wait, you decide to take matters in your own hands. You walk over to the library's Self Check-Out machine. In mere moments, you scan your card, scan your books, and print a date due receipt. You can’t help but break into a little smile as you take your receipt and make your way to the exit.

Central Self Check Out Machine

North Birmingham, Five Points West, Springville Road, Avondale and the Central Library have Self Check-Out machines for your convenience.

NoveList: A Fiction Reader's Best Friend

NoveList icon
When most people think about library databases, they think non-fiction. NoveList is a fiction database that provides subject heading access, reviews, annotations and much more for over 135,000 fiction titles. It also includes other content of interest to fiction readers, such as Author Read-alikes, What We're Reading, Book Discussion Guides, BookTalks and Annotated Book Lists. For school media specialists and teachers there are Picture Book Extenders and articles on Teaching with Fiction.

What stumps most readers is the confusing search for a book in a series, finding similar books of interest or trying to recall a forgotten book they enjoyed with only a few clues to guide them. NoveList to the rescue! Search by a series name to pull up a list of the author’s books; enter a favorite title to find similar books; and enter search words to describe a plot to help you locate that ever elusive book.

NoveList even lets you personalize by creating folders to save your lists for the next time you log on. Anyone who has ever spent time researching only to lose information will understand what a great bonus feature this is.

Using NoveList will surely keep you in great books for some time to come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Michael McDowell: A Most Underrated Alabama Author

book cover
The recent 9th annual Alabama Bound at the Central library brought to mind my all-time favorite Alabama author, Michael McDowell. Never heard of him? It could be the fact that not every great writer makes the New York Times bestseller’s list. Well, to be honest, most of our great writers don’t. McDowell is one of those writers. Unfortunately, he died too soon and too underrated.

McDowell was born in 1950 in Enterprise, Alabama. He died in 1999 of AIDS-related illness in Boston, Massachusetts. In between he left his mark on different fiction genres and even rubbed elbows with Hollywood’s Tim Burton through their collaborations on Beetlejuice (1987) and Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

My first introduction to McDowell happened 25 years ago in my favorite used bookstore on Rocky Ridge Road. Browsing the horror section I came across a series set in Alabama. Blackwater (1983) is a serial of six books that tells the story of the Caskey family’s rise to power in the small mill town of Perdido, Alabama. The twist in the story is that the matriarch is something other than human; something that crawled from the red mud of the Perdido riverbank and set her ambitious sights on a man and a town.

The Amulet (1979), Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980) and The Elementals (1981) are also set in Alabama and contain similar supernatural themes of revenge and redemption. McDowell is an expert at bringing to life the mannerisms and diction of his southern characters, from the sweet tea they guzzle in the summer to their endearing use of “gone” for “going.” It's not for nothing that McDowell's southern gothics are matriach-heavy; he really had an understanding of just who heads up families here in the south.

McDowell takes a wide turn in his two turn of the centry novels set in New York, Katie (1982) and Gilded Needles (1980). Katie tells the story of a cunning woman, her dull, psychic stepdaughter and their desperate attempts to hang on to a carpetbag full of blood money. Don’t let the book cover showing a silhouette of a girl holding an hammer dripping with blood and the line “Katie kills for kicks and cash” scare you away. This is not a pulp fiction throwaway but a smart, tense story that will keep you white knuckled until the last word. Gilded Needles chronicles the clashes between a mother and her family of thieves and a powerful, wealthy New York judge.

Stephen King didn't call McDowell one of the "finest writers of paperback originals in America today” for nothing. Tabitha King was asked to complete McDowell's unfinished novel Candles Burning, which was published last year to good reviews.

Many of McDowell’s books are out of print and hard to find. So if you find yourself in some dusty used bookstore and happen to spot one, grab it for posterity.


Search the JCLC catalog for a list of McDowell's books. Books not listed on our catalog may be available through Interlibrary Loans.

For more of McDowell's life and career achievements, please visit our Biography Resource Center (library card is required)

McDowell's filmography on IMDB

Monday, April 16, 2007

2007 Pulitzer Prize Winners

Congratulations to Brett J. Blackledge of The Birmingham News who was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting today for his series of articles investigating Alabama's two-year college system. You can read many of his articles here.

To read more about the history of the Pulitzer Prize and Joseph Pulitzer for whom the Prize is named, check out some of our books.

2007 List of Pulitzer Prize Journalism Winners

The Wall Street Journal
The Staff of The Oregonian, Portland
Brett Blackledge of The Birmingham (Ala.) News
Kenneth R. Weiss, Usha Lee McFarling and Rick Loomis of the Los Angeles Times
Debbie Cenziper of The Miami Herald
Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe
The Wall Street Journal Staff
Andrea Elliott of The New York Times
Cynthia Tucker [Alabama native] of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly
Arthur Browne, Beverly Weintraub and Heidi Evans of the New York Daily News
Walt Handelsman of Newsday, Long Island, NY
Oded Balilty of the Associated Press
Renee C. Byer of The Sacramento Bee

2007 List of Pulitzer Prize Letters, Drama and Music Winners
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire
The Race Beat by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff [Alabama native] (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate (Doubleday)
Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin)
The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright (Alfred A. Knopf)
Sound Grammar by Ornette Coleman

2007 Special Citations & Awards
Ray Bradbury
John Coltrane

Answers Found Here

question marks Ever wanted to:

Learn a language like Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese?

Repair your car?

Learn about prescription medications?

Work on your family tree ?

Study for a test, such as the GED, ASVAB, GRE, EMS, cosmetology, civil service, or real estate licensing exam?

Price something for sale on eBay?

Evaluate stocks or funds before investing?

Did you know that the library provides access to online databases that can help you do all this and more?

Accessing these databases on your own would otherwise cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Yet our databases can be accessed for free at any of the library’s public access computers.

Most of our databases are available via the Internet too. This means that you can use a “virtual library” of databases anytime you want from home, work, or any place with an Internet connection. All you need is your library card number to access this virtual library. Discover what databases the library offers here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

kurt vonnegut
As a teenager, I was not particularly interested in novels. I lived on the second and third floors of the downtown library. The first floor was for checking out or returning books as far as I was concerned. At the time fiction seemed like a waste of time. Why read about a world that doesn’t exist when I could explore all the incredible parts of the actual world? (This naïve view would of course go by the wayside as I got older). And then there was Kurt Vonnegut. For me, Kurt was a different kind of writer. Vonnegut did not believe in clichés. There were no happy endings, no “guy gets the girl” plots which often seemed too disconnected from reality to be interesting to me. No, in Vonnegut’s writing he pulled no punches. He was undeniably dark and unflinchingly honest about the ebb and flow of life’s ups and downs. And he really loved talking about the down parts.

Kurt Vonnegut was a master at creating a world that was so over the top, so transparent about tragedy, that it ended up somehow seeming a more true representation of the parts of life that are glossed over in other writing. The absurdity of this thing that we’re all a part of, modern life, was always pulsing underneath the individual stories Vonnegut created. And yet, despite this seemingly nihilistic attitude (his stories tended to end with the death of most of the characters, sometimes all of humankind), despite the dark places he went, there was something oddly satisfying and happy about his writing and where it left the reader.

Vonnegut pushes through the individual bad aspects of his stories, the frail morality of his characters, the cruel twists of fate, and somehow managed to keep the reader from falling into despair. It’s not that he ended things happily. It’s that he did it all with a bit of a smile. Supposedly, Vonnegut was once quoted as saying: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward”.

It’s that kind of whimsical refusal to get bogged down in the dark parts of life that is so powerful about Vonnegut’s writing. To be able to laugh in the face of the worst of calamities, even death, is the key to Vonnegut’s charm. There are rare occasions when the sheer magnitude of a piece of information is so unbelievable that the only possible reaction is to laugh incredulously at the shock of the news. However, when I heard about Kurt’s passing I finally felt appropriate in quietly chuckling at the news, just as I imagine he would.

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut. We’ll miss you.

Submitted by Brad Barnett
Central Library
Fiction Department

Search the JCLC catalog for a list of Vonnegut's works.


The Official Website of Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Book Review: It's a Bing Thing

book coverThis review is in honor of my 3-year-old son Lucas, who showed me the glory of the Bing Bunny books. For all of those out of the loop, Bing and his stuffed sidekick Flop are creations of Ted Dewan, an American-born writer and illustrator of children’s books who lives in London.

Unlike Barney, Pooh, Thomas or the usual suspects over at Sesame Street, Bing and Flop do not grace the fronts of Underoos; parents cannot flip through a book and order a Bing Bunny birthday cake. Check out the Bing Blog to see the imaginative ways parents are supplying their tykes with Bing paraphernalia. You might say we go above and beyond to please our little fan-atics.

The illustrations in the Bing Bunny series have a cool, hip daddy-o vibe, which makes the colors and objects of Bing’s world pleasing to the eye. The eight books humorously teach shapes (How about a picnic in the square? No. Too much dog poo); sounds (Bingo! Bongo! Bang! Don’t go bongo, Bing); getting dressed (You forgot your dungarees!); and the vagaries of potty training and trying new foods. The books are small and square, a perfect size for greedy little hands to snatch off the bookshelf.

Lucas loves these books so much that he can spout some of the dialogue verbatim. Yes, I do have to read these books over and over again, but unlike most put upon parents, I can honestly say it’s a pleasure.

Search the JCLC catalog for more Dewan books.


The Bing Bunny Homepage

All about Ted

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Alabama Bound 2007 Preview

The 9th annual Alabama Bound: A Book and Author Fair will be held this Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Central Library with Mark Childress and Angela Johnson as the featured speakers. Seventeen additional authors will also speak and sign their books and there will be local publishers and writers groups available for questions.

For a preview of some of the Alabama Bound authors, books, and poetry, check out our 7 videos available via YouTube.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Hooked on Audio Books?

I could hardly wait to get in my car this morning. Yesterday on the way home from work, I was listening to Michael Palmer’s newest audio book, The Fifth Vial, and pulled into the garage ready to exit my car … but felt strangely compelled to continue listening. Hooked, I know.

Fortunately, the library offers audio books as CDs, cassette tapes, downloadable mp3s, and recently in Playaway format for free.

The Playaway, a palm sized audio book device, gives me a new way to feed my audio addiction. The simple allPlayaway All-in-One Audio Book-in-one Playaway delivers high quality digital sound without the juggling of multiple CDs, rewinding multiple cassettes, or downloading mp3s. All you have to do to listen is plug in your headphones, put in one AAA battery, and press play.

Playaway self-playing audio books are currently available at Avondale, Eastlake, Eastwood, Five Points West, North Avondale, North Birmingham, Southside, Titusville, West End, and the Central library.

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