Friday, November 30, 2007

The Harry Potter Series- An Alternative Approach

Harry Potter Books photo by Alberto Alvarez-Perea creative commons photo courtesy of Alberto Alvarez-Perea
  • 2007 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    Author - J. K. Rowling

    My wife and I planned a trip recently where we would spend between 25 and 30 hours driving in our car. We both enjoy listening to audio books but our tastes and interests are different. I enjoy books on politics, biographies, military history, true crime, and legal thrillers. She is more likely to enjoy suspense and mystery novels, books on metaphysics spirituality, and romance. What were we to do? We asked the advice of our son, Samuel, who works at the Springville Road Branch of the Birmingham Public Library and he suggested Harry Potter audio books. We were skeptical but he checked out the first three books for us and we took them on the trip. We both had seen all of the Harry Potter movies but did not comprehend the complex plots devised by J. K. Rowling. We saw the movies out of curiosity concerning all of the media hype. After listening to the books, we became Harry Potter fans.

    For me the books were fun because they contain all of my favorite types of reading. There was the politics of the Ministry of Magic and the meeting of the Minister of the wizarding community with the muggle (non-wizard) Prime Minister. The stories were biographical because we learned the pedigree of Harry Potter and other characters. Also, they were comparable to military history because of the war between the Dark Lord and the Order of the Phoenix. There was true crime due to the mischief and murders caused by the Death Eaters. And there were even elements of a legal thriller as Harry was put on trial for performing under-age sorcery outside of wizard school. My wife, Pat, enjoyed the suspense, the thrills, and the fantasy elements, the supernatural features, and the romantic interplay hinted at between certain characters.

    The audio books were all unabridged and they were very well read by the narrator. Although reading is not how I would describe this listening adventure. These books were performed by Jim Dale. He was masterful in creating the voice of each character, whether male or female, wizard or human, elf or giant, and so on. Each character came to life
    through Dale’s portrayal of a unique voice. He was perfect for the narrator’s role as he has won a Grammy Award, a Tony Award, three Audie Awards, and he has an Academy Award nomination.

    Another highlight for us was to go back and view each movie - five have been produced to date - immediately after listening to the audio book. The movies now made sense. The characters were clearer. We understood the background and the complicated plot created by the author.

    The Harry Potter septology was written in the decade of 1997 through 2007. It has proved to be a publishing phenomenon. But to the busy person or the person who feels they cannot commit the time to reading very long books, our alternative of listening to the books and then viewing DVD’s was terrific. And best of all, each media version is available at the libraries of Jefferson County.

    Samuel A. Rumore, Jr.
    Trustee, Birmingham Library Board

TELL ME MORE® Replaces Rosetta Stone

Tell Me More Language Learning Software Logo
With Rosetta Stone's business decision to no longer allow public libraries to subscribe to their online products, the Jefferson County Library Cooperative has found another product for online language learning.

TELL ME MORE® Online is the name of the new product and we're thrilled about it. TELL ME MORE is also called Auralog.

Currently, TELL ME MORE offers German, American English, Dutch, Spanish, French, Italian, Spanish (Latin America).

Here are a few of the many features that TELL ME MORE Online has:

• Up to 2,000 lesson hours per language

• Up to 10,000 exercises

• Grammar explanations classified by level and category

• An audio-glossary including up to 10,000 words classified by level and category

• Advanced speech recognition technology that recognizes and analyzes pronunciation.

• Placement test to determine your language level

• Progress Test

• Language Achievement Test at the end of the language learning program to rank the patron in comparison to the major standardized tests on the market: Council of Europe, TOEIC, TOEFL…

Select TELL ME MORE from the library's databases. For your first visit, you must register (which is free if you have a Jefferson County library card).

Auralog/TELL ME MORE Online language program is only compatible with Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the library at 226-3600.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Learn Bargainomics

20000 Dollars This time of year we spend! According to a recent Gallup Poll, Americans expect to spend an average of $866 on gifts this holiday season. Why not learn some tricks to save a few bucks?
The Gospel Truth About Money Management

Join us as local author Judy Bates, the "Bargainomics" lady, shows us how to make every dollar count.

Five Points West Library
Monday December 10, 2007
5:00-6:00 PM

"$20,000" Image courtesy of Johnny Vulkan

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Relive Radio's Golden Age Dec. 5 at Central

Turning On Alabama exhibitWednesday, December 5, Dave Cisco, Dee Haynes and members of the Alabama Historic Radio Society share tales of how radio came to be as well as the historic equipment and programs Society members have collected and restored. The program is a part of Central's Brown Bag Lunch Series and will be held in the Arrington Auditorium at 12 p.m. It is offered in association with Turning On Alabama, an exhibition of photographs and artifacts from the collections of the Society and Alabama Power Company on display at Central's Library Gallery, November 4 to December 30.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

North Birmingham Library Closes For Renovation

North Birmingham Library will be closed for approximately three weeks beginning at the close of business on Wed., Nov. 21, 2007, for a renovation project.

We apologize for any inconvenience but we trust that you will be pleased with the improvement.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

East Ensley Closes for Repairs

The East Ensley Branch of the Birmingham Public Library will close November 16 for repairs to the roof.

Please visit one of our other locations for your information and entertainment needs.

BPL@Night Presents the Get Rhythm Experience

john scalici photo
For the December edition of BPL@Night, the Birmingham Public Library presents the Get Rhythm Experience, presented by seasoned performer John Scalici. Mr. Scalici was born to drum. He helped found two nationally touring bands, Gravy and junkyardmen. Blues Revue and Blues Access Magazine called junkyardmen one of the best live blues bands in the country.

For the Get Rhythm Experience at BPL@Night, John Scalici will be accompanied by Daniel Long, Christopher Johnson, Jay Burnham, Justin Wallace, and Sans Pointe Dance Company.

The Get Rhythm Experience is a collaboration of drummers, percussionists and dancers. The group was created by Scalici, who is a drum circle facilitator, musician, clinician, and teaching artist. The group will perform original compositions which blend urban voices and sounds with world-beat influenced rhythms from West Africa, the Middle East, and Brazil.

In 1999, Scalici started the Get Rhythm programs as a way to share his passion for drumming and rhythm in communities everywhere. According to him, his program was designed “to empower its participants to discover the universal language of rhythm.”

John Scalici has taken his programs across the country as well as oversees to Asia. He has written many articles on the subject of drumming. The scope of his work is wide-reaching and he conducts a variety of Get Rhythm programs. Mr. Scalici is a vibrant and enthusiastic performer and this special library performance will be sure to please.


Where: Birmingham Public Library’s Atrium at Central
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Date: Thursday, December 6, 2007
Cost: Free

Two Great American Novelists Die

norman mailer photoNorman Mailer died of acute renal failure on November 10 at the age of 84. Mailer was the author of more than 30 books and the co-founder of the alternative New York newspaper The Village Voice. Mailer was a regular column writer for the paper.

His first novel, The Naked and the Dead (1948), was based on his experiences as a rifleman with a reconnaissance platoon during the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines. After the success of this novel, he ditched his previous plans of becoming an aeronautical engineer to attend the Sorbonne in Paris.

At several points in his career, Mailer turned his style of writing to non-fiction narrative—a novel based on real events. An example of this style is his Executioner’s Song (1979), which tells the story of real-life killer Gary Gilmore, the first person to be executed in the United States after the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

In addition to fiction and non-fiction books, Mailer also wrote, directed, and acted in his own films.

ira levin photoIra Levin died of natural causes on November 12 at the age of 78. Although he wasn’t as prolific a writer as Mailer, he left no less of an impact on the literary world. His first novel, the mystery A Kiss Before Dying (1953), received rave reviews. It's a murder mystery told in three parts: from the viewpoints of the killer and the dead girl's two sisters as they try to solve her murder. It was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Award as best first novel in 1953.

Fourteen years later Levin wrote his most famous novel, Rosemary’s Baby (1967). It's a chilling tale of modern-day Satanism and its power over a young couple in a gloomy New York apartment building. The setting of the novel is based on a similar building that Levin lived in, down to the creepy basement laundry room that he wouldn’t let his wife visit alone.

Levin wrote two more classic chillers, The Stepford Wives (1972) and The Boys from Brazil (1976). His sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, Son of Rosemary, was written in 1997. Levin was also a playwright, penning the popular No Time for Sergeants (1956) and Deathtrap (1979). Ten of Levin’s books were adapted to film.


For more information on these two authors, visit our Biography Resource Center (library card required)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Signing at Avondale Library

Catherine Greene Browne, author of The History of Forest Park, will be at the Avondale Library to sell and sign copies of her new book, A History of Avondale.


Where: Avondale Library
When: Saturday, November 17
Time: 2:00-4:00 p.m.

For more information call 226-4000.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Turning On Alabama Exhibit

The Birmingham Public Library is currently showcasing the “Turning On Alabama” exhibit on the main floor and in the fourth floor gallery of the Central Library.

Sponsored by the Birmingham Historical Society and Birmingham Public Library, this unique exhibition features 1920-1945 photographs and artifacts from the collections of the Alabama Power Company and the Alabama Historical Radio Society.

Historic artifacts and more than 60 notable photographs from Alabama Power’s archives highlight the company's growth and how electricity has radically transformed the lives of all Alabamians. More than a dozen vintage radios from the Radio Society will be on display.

This exhibition will last until until December 30, 2007.


Webwire News

Alabama Power Press Release

Thursday, November 08, 2007

BPL@Night Welcomes Birmingham Bluegrass Group, Shades Mountain Air

shades mountain air pic
The Birmingham Public Library’s popular BPL@Night presents Homewood-based bluegrass group, Shades Mountain Air, on Thursday, November 15. This dynamic bluegrass group has been playing that high, lonesome sound for nearly a decade collectively.

Composed of five members, the group was formed in 1998 and played their first banquet a year later. According to their members, Shades Mountain Air is a self-proclaimed “family band” and they take their name from the Birmingham mountain that surrounds their homes.

Gary Furr helped found the group and he contributes vocals, guitar, and lyrics. He and husband and wife team, Nancy and Greg Womble, started the group when they discovered they enjoyed playing bluegrass together. Nancy plays the stand-up bass and sings lead, while Greg plays the five-string banjo, guitar, and sings. Don Wendorf plays the mandolin, hammered dulcimer, and banjo, and his son Paul rounds out the band with some fiery fiddle playing, while both father and son help sing. Paul was the final member to join the band, as he was busy playing backup for such stars as Smoky Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles.

The group has recorded two CDs, the self-titled Shades Mountain Air as well as Sky’s A Clearing. The albums feature the band’s unique blend of blue-grass, “newgrass,” and gospel.

The hammered dulcimer that Don Wendorf plays gives this band a unique flavor that most bluegrass bands do not have.

This is a must-see, free concert in one of the warmest and most pleasant night spots in downtown Birmingham, the library’s Atrium. It begins at 6:30 and will last approximately an hour. The library encourages everyone to come early to get a good seat. CDs will be available for purchase.


Where: Central Birmingham Public Library Atrium
When: Thursday, November 15th, 2007
Time: 6:30 p.m.

For more information about Shades Mountain Air, visit their Website at

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Harper Lee Receives Medal of Freedom

On November 5, 2007, Alabama author Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. She received this honor for her contribution to American literature. Celebrate her award by participating in The Big Read, Jefferson County, Alabama's One County - One Book program. You are invited to read her Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, join in a book group discussion, and attend The Big Read programs. The Big Read will take place April 2008.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Book Review: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

look me in the eye book cover“Look me in the eyes, young man!”
“Nobody trusts a man who won’t look them in the eye.”
“You look like a criminal.”
“I’ve read about people like you. They have no expression because they have no feeling. Some of the worst murderers in history were sociopaths.”

These are just some of the things John Elder Robison heard as a young boy, decades before a friend handed him a book about Asperger’s Syndrome and told him, "This book describes you exactly." Hearing these predictions made Robison withdraw even further as a child as he waited for these awful things to come true. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that he realized he wasn’t going to become a serial killer. By that time he had met enough shifty people who had no trouble looking him in the eye to realize that these people had no idea what they were talking about. Learning that he was not defective and that he was not alone brought great peace to the adult John Elder Robison.

Although Robison was raised by a violent, alcoholic father and an increasingly mentally unstable mother, he was luckier than most Aspergian children at that time in that he was raised in a collegiate environment, where his quirky nature and adult personality were admired by professors and students. He honed his coping skills on college campuses across America. His brother, Augusten Burroughs, chronicled the dysfunction of the Robison family in his popular memoir, Running with Scissors (made into a movie in 2006). Burroughs believes that his brother was able to survive their turbulent childhood by his ability to shut down in traumatic situations.

Robison learned early on how not to answer a question. If a kid said, “Look at my Tonka truck,” instead of blurting out “I want some cookies,” he would force himself to supply the correct response: “That’s a neat truck! Can I hold it?” These skills helped him in his teenage and adult years, and he went on to design speakers for Pink Floyd and flaming guitars for KISS before settling down in the corporate world of designing electronic games for Milton Bradley. Eventually, his expertise in automotives steered him towards his own business of repairing and restoring European automobiles.

Some who are familiar with Aspies might be surprised at the emotion that Robison brings to his story. The chapters “I Get a Bear Cub” and “Winning at Basketball,” and the epilogue about his father’s death are surprisingly touching, breaking through the common robotic barrier of an Aspie. I was especially moved by his perfectly rational reason why Aspies don’t show emotion over tragic events that don’t directly affect them: "People die every minute, all over the world. If we tried to feel sorry for every death, our little hearts would explode." And he’s absolutely right.

Look Me in the Eye is one of the few books on Asperger's Syndrome that is not a dry training manual on the condition. I will always be grateful to Robison for telling his story because someone I'm close to has Asperger's, and I can now see that this person's eccentric way of doing things makes perfectly good sense to him, even if it sometimes doesn't to me.

Augusten Burroughs interviews his big brother

Just what is Asperger's Syndrome? Asperger's is a high-functioning form of autism. A high IQ, lack of empathy, avoiding eye contact, obsession with one interest, delayed motor skills, and heightened sensitivity to loud sounds and bright lights are just some of the characteristics of the condition. It is more common in boys than girls. There is no cure for Asperger's, but there are treatments to help cope with the symptoms. The impressive list of famous Aspies have allowed some to feel pride in their diagnosis: Albert Einstein, Andy Kaufman, Bill Gates, Bob Dylan, Henry Ford, Isaac Asimov, Isaac Newton, Michael Palin, Thomas Jefferson, Vincent van Gogh, and Woody Allen.


The Official James Elder Robison Website

The Official Augusten Burroughs Website

Our JCLC medical databases offer a wealth of information on Asperger's Syndrome. Try searching in Alt HealthWatch, Health and Wellness Resource Center and Alternative Health Module, and Medline Plus (library card is required).

The National Autistic Society Homepage

O.A.S.I.S. and Wrong Planet are two resource and support sites for the Asperger's community.

Annual Friends of the Library Meeting

friends of the library logo The annual Friends of the Library meeting will be held on Thursday, November 8 at 6:00 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium. There will be a reception beginning at 5:30. On the agenda is a 2006 year in review and the announcement of the Beyond the Budget winner. If you are not a member, please consider joining and helping promote our libraries. Visit our Friends page for information on dues and the services our Friends provide.

Jim Baggett, BPL’s archivist, will be the guest speaker. The topic will be “When the Blast Occurred: Remembering the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing.”

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