Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oprah's February Book Club Pick

book cover"Ego is a conglomeration of recurring thought forms and conditioned mental-emotional patterns that are invested with a sense of I, a sense of self. Ego arises when your sense of Beingness, of 'I Am', which is formless consciousness, gets mixed up with form. This is the meaning of identification. This is a forgetfulness of Being, the primary error, the illusion of absolute separateness that turns reality into a nightmare." (excerpt from A New Earth)

Oprah Winfrey has chosen Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose not only as her February Oprah's Book Club pick, but also as the topic of her first ever worldwide classroom that goes live Monday nights starting March 3 on

A New Earth has already received a four star rating on the library catalog. Read it, star it, and write a review to let others know what you think about it. Didn't know you could review library materials on the catalog? Click here to find out how to awaken the Roger Ebert within you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1,2,3 Play with Me

ted and griffin shade playing at the avondale library Ted and Griffin Shade enjoying playtime at the Avondale Library

1,2,3 Play with Me began at the Avondale Branch of the Birmingham Public Library this past September. Two of the participants were Ted and Griffin Shade. Griffin had just turned 4-months-old. Ted is a stay at home dad. At first they were not sure what they were getting themselves into, but as the weeks went by their increased confidence was evident to all.

Ted found the infant play area and soon Griffin was right at home with the baby gym and the tummy time pillows. Ted got to know the other participants and was appreciative of the opportunity to meet other parents. He says, “We had a great time. I think I got more out of it than Griffin, but I think getting him exposed to a kid-dominated environment is good for him at any age. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to converse and network with other stay-at-home spouses. I still sing the circle-time "hands" song to him (which he loves), and it gave me a lot of new avenues to research with regard to children's culture. Thanks so much for doing this.”

Carla Perkins, the Youth Librarian at the Avondale Library, was enthusiastic about the new additions of children's activity tables, rugs, Legos, and parenting resources to the Youth Department. She observes, “So often we see children playing in the library, but Family Place makes it okay for parents to play, too. Thanks to interactive and organized play, the library is the place to be.”

Avondale and Springville Road Public Branch Libraries have been designated Family Place Libraries™. Family Place Libraries™ is a network of children’s librarians nationwide who believe literacy begins at birth, and that libraries can help build healthy communities by nourishing healthy families. Family Place Libraries™ welcome young children and their parents and caregivers in unique ways. Special areas in the Youth Department are designed to invite children and their families to play and read together. Parenting materials and resources are readily available.

One of the key components of Family Place Libraries™ is an organized time for children--birth through age 3--and their parents to play and learn together. Running for five weeks, 1,2,3 Play with Me is a 1 hour and 15 minute program featuring toys, an art experience, books, play, and circle time. Community resource professionals are on hand to discuss parenting questions and concerns. Topics covered include nutrition, speech and hearing, child development, and music and movement.

1,2,3 Play with Me Schedule

Avondale Branch Library
(205) 226-4003 for registration
Every Wednesday
10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
February 6 – March 5, 2008

Springville Road Branch Library
(205) 226-4085 for registration
Every Thursday
10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
April 3 – May 1, 2008

Space is limited. Pre-registration is required.

The Birmingham Public Library Family Place Libraries™ is funded in part by a Project Development Grant from the Junior League of Birmingham.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Brown Bag Program ~ Postal Service 2008 Commemorative Stamp Honors Charles W. Chesnutt

chesnutt commemorative stamp
The United States Postal Service and the Birmingham Public Library will celebrate Charles W. Chesnutt as the 31st honoree in the USPS' Black History Heritage Series.

Charles W. Chesnutt, a recipient of the NAACP's Springarn Medal for outstanding achievement, was a critically acclaimed African-American author and activist. Working alongside prominent figures such as W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, Chesnutt became one of the era's most prominent and outspoken commentators on African-American life, and his talents as a fiction writer, essayist, and activist contributed to the flowering of the Harlem Renaissance.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1858 to free Negro parents (the fathers of both his parents were white), Chesnutt could pass for white but chose instead to honor his African-American heritage. Chesnutt was one of the first African-American writers of fiction to receive serious acclaim for eschewing the condescending characterizations and nostalgia for the antebellum days of slavery in the South. His stories are rich with symbolic imagery that highlight the brutality of the South's former slave system.

Chesnutt's first two books were the short story collections The Conjure Woman (1899) and The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line (1900). Stories such as "The Wife of His Youth" and "The Sheriff's Children" deal with the unjust social treatment resulting from miscegenation. In 1899 his biography of Frederick Douglas was also published.

At the time his three novels were not critically acclaimed and were not commercial successes, in large part because they were deemed too controversial. The House Behind the Cedars (1900) is set in South Carolina and tells the story of an African-American woman who passes for white and how she deals with her suitors; The Marrow of Tradition (1901) is about the 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina, race riot and the affect it has on the white and mulatto branches of a family; The Colonel's Dream (1905) refers to a successful New York businessman's return to his southern hometown and his futile efforts to bring positive change during the Reconstruction era.

Wednesday, February 6, noon.

For more information on Charles Chesnutt's life and writings, visit the Biography Resource Center (library card is required).

Books not available for checkout may be borrowed through Interlibrary Loans.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Hinley Research Library, 2100 Park Place. There is no charge for these programs.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Storyteller Donna Washington to Entertain Several Branches of the Birmingham Public Library

donna washington
Famed performer Donna Washington, longtime favorite of children and adults, will appear at several Birmingham Public Library locations in early February. In 2004 Ms. Washington entertained library crowds in Birmingham and after an enthusiastic reception from all audiences, the Birmingham Public Library proudly welcomes her back to the Magic City.

Donna Washington has been in the business of telling stories for fourteen years. She is an award-winning recording artist as well, having released seven CDs to date, for which she has won many awards.

As a writer, Ms. Washington has published three children’s books with a fourth one on the way. Her books include The Story of Kwanzaa (a book that relates the story and custom of this famous African-American holiday), A Big Spooky House (a book perfect for reading at Halloween), and A Pride of African Tales (an anthology of authentic African folktales).

Recordings and books will be available for purchase at her events. For more information on Donna Washington, please visit her Website at

Donna Washington will appear at the following locations from February 7-10:

Thursday, February 7, 2008:

Five Points West Regional Library – 10:00 a.m.
Central Library, Arrington Auditorium – 1:30 p.m.
Springville Road Branch Library – 4:00 p.m.
Central Library, Atrium, for BPL@Night – 6:30 p.m.

Friday, February 8, 2008:

Eastwood Branch Library – 10:45 a.m.
Smithfield Branch Library – 1:30 p.m.
East Lake Branch Library – 3:30 p.m.

Sunday, February 10, 2008:

Avondale Branch Library – 3:00 p.m.

Agent Zigzag

It seems that all good spy novels have some, if not all, of the following predictable elements: the lovable rogue coming to the aid of his country, the villain with the ingenious plan to bring down the enemy of his Fatherland, and the daring night drop over enemy territory. Let’s not forget the Byzantine plot to hide the secret cipher system and the sabotage of a factory critical to the war effort.

And of course, any spy novel worth its salt must have romance. Frequently the lovable rogue falls for the beautiful girl who may, or may not, be collaborating with the enemy. (Should he tell her the truth and risk being exposed as a spy?)

All of these devices are common and perhaps a little dull. One element that would help raise such a book a rung to two over the pedestrian crowd is the element of doubt. For instance, is the lovable rogue truly fighting for his country, or is he really a traitor? Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre has all the expected ingredients, that helpful element of doubt, and one monumental surprise that puts it at the top of the heap; it’s not a novel, it’s a biography.

In 1939 Eddie Chapman was arrested for “housebreaking and larceny” and imprisoned on the island of Jersey. In less than a year Germany had occupied the island. Chapman immediately offered his many illegal skills to the Third Reich. The Abwehr, the German foreign intelligence and espionage service, was convinced that a native Englishman would make the perfect spy. He could sabotage plane factories, gather results on bombing missions, transmit information to his German masters while blending perfectly into the general population. The fact that he was an accomplished safe-cracker and well rounded criminal was an added bonus.

The Abwehr spent three months training Chapman in the black arts of sabotage, poisoning and secret communications. The German Air Force then arranged for a diversionary bombing raid over London, and Chapman was dropped out of a specially designed Focke-Wulf plane over the village of Mundford. A few minutes before midnight, December 16, 1942, Chapman parachuted onto English soil ready to spy, bomb and poison his way into the history books. And by the end of the war Agent zigzag had destroyed the De Havilland plane Aircraft Company at Hatfield, smuggled himself back into Europe via Portugal, destroyed the troop ship City of Lancaster with explosives disguised as lumps of coal, seduced a member of the Norwegian underground and finally parachuted back into Great Britain.

Except he didn’t. The De Havilland plant continued to produce the Mosquito bombers that so bedeviled the Luftwaffe and the City of Lancaster was never sunk and survived the war. (However, he most definitely did seduce a member of the Norwegian underground.) So how did Chapman manage to convince the Germans that his fiction was reality? I could tell you, but I always hate it when someone tells me how the novel ends and this is one biography you don’t want spoiled.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brown Bag Program ~ Investing for the New Year

It's a New Year and time to look at your investment plans. Richard Crew, Vice President and Senior Financial Consultant at Merrill Lynch, will discuss strategies for investing during these uncertain times.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Hinley Research Library, 2100 Park Place. There is no charge for these programs.

BPL@Night Presents Music by Masters

sheet music image
Birmingham Public Library is proud to present five members of the music faculty at the Alabama School of Fine Arts performing classical music pieces on January 31, 2008. The faculty members include Chair of the Music Department, Kimberly Scott (flute), Laura Doss (voice), Kevin Chance (piano), Robert Janssen (clarinet), and Paul Hicks (guitar). The group will be performing music by Liszt, the 19th Century Romantic composer, Muczynski, 20th Century modern composer, and J.S. Bach, the 17th Century Classical composer.

Since 1968 the Alabama School of Fine Arts has been instrumental in guiding students with talent in the Arts and Sciences. The ASFA music faculty has encouraged students to hone their gifts and has led many to a successful career in the performance world. The Birmingham Public Library is excited to host the music faculty from this outstanding institution as one of its earliest guests in 2008 for the BPL@Night series.

For a complete list of the music faculty at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, visit

Event Details
Where: Arrington Auditorium at the Central Library
When: Thursday, January 31
Time: 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Brown Bag Program ~ Hospice--A Special Kind of Caring

Join us as SouthernCare Hospice explores the life-changing experience of volunteering for hospice. Learn how a little time can provide joy, support, comfort, and care to a family during a difficult time. Wednesday, January 23, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Hinley Research Library, 2100 Park Place. There is no charge for these programs.

BPL@Night Presents Groove Daddy

groove daddy
BPL@Night and the Avondale Library present a musical extravaganza with the local ensemble Groove Daddy. Headed by longtime local artist Marc Phillips of Hotel and Split the Dark fame, Groove Daddy will present “Music for a Winter’s Night.”

Where: Avondale Library
When: Monday, January 28, 2008
Time: 6:30 p.m.

Call 226-4000 for more information.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Foreign Film Review: Angel-A

angel-a dvd cover“It’s a Wonderful Life” . . . à la Française.

Fans of Frank Capra’s holiday film classic, It’s a Wonderful Life will not want to miss Luc Besson’s edgy update, Angel-A. It begins alongside the Canal Saint Martin in Paris as André (a short puppy-dog-faced grifter) is being beaten up by impatient gangsters over an unpaid debt of 40,000 euros ($57,200). Terrified and helpless, the vulnerable Moroccan-American trudges his way to Paris’s most ornate bridge resigned to end his misery by plunging himself into the Seine. Just as he settles on the ledge, he is startled to discover several yards away the presence of a very tall platinum blonde woman in a short black dress. Before he can catch his breath the mysterious woman jumps into the Seine. André dives in and rescues her and they develop a friendship. Soon André learns that his new friend, Angela, is an angel with no memory of her previous life on earth. Angela helps André reduce his debt and grasp new challenges that lift his self awareness and self esteem.

Similarities and differences both abound between It’s a Wonderful Life and Angel-A. Both are filmed in black and white. While both are based on the same basic premise, the character of Angela is much more worldly than her counterpart of Clarence. She chain-smokes like a stereotypical Parisian and gambles and turns tricks to help André reduce his debts. They bicker a fair amount but the viewer cannot miss how André is falling in love.

André is played by Jamel Debbouze, who is probably best known to many viewers as the grocery delivery man in the famous French film Amélie. Rie Rasmussen, a Dane who plays Angela, is remembered for her larger than life screen presence in Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale. The cinematography is nothing less than breathtaking thanks to Thierry Arbogast, the same photographer that De Palma used in Femme Fatale.

Borrowing a Capra-esque premise sixty years after It’s a Wonderful Life could have resulted in a corny and trite film at best, but in the hands of this talented team headed by Luc Besson, a modern and memorable experience awaits the viewer. And, if you are already in love with the City of Light, you might never see it quite as lovely as revealed here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

BPL@Night Presents Conversations on the Constitution

ben franklinBen Franklin, one of the authors of the Constitution, said that the document contains the words that define us as Americans. It is how we choose our leaders, reform a government every four years, and so much more.

On the occasion of his 302nd birthday, join us under the trees in the atrium for a slice of history and birthday cake as Ben Franklin leads a lively conversation about the Constitution and what it means to Americans today.

Event: Conversations on the Constitution with Benjamin Franklin
Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2008
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Central Library Atrium


Books, audios, DVDs and videos about Ben Franklin

Books, audios, DVDs and videos on the U. S. Constitution

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Staff Pick: Into the Wild

chris mccandless

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself..."

I don’t know what I was doing in 1996 to make me miss this book the first time around, but I must've been just cruising along, living my motto of "So many books, so little time." I picked up Into the Wild when I recently revisited Jon Krakauer, and I knew vaguely about the movie version directed by Sean Penn that came out last year. I couldn’t put this book down until I knew how Chris McCandless died, and I’ve been haunted by his story ever since. No young man should have to die for his idealism, however naïve we feel he’s being.

After graduating from Emory University in 1990, Christopher McCandless left home to “disappear for awhile,” and his family had no idea of his whereabouts until they were notified of his death two years later. He shook off his upper-class trappings and roamed through several states, first in his trusty yellow Datsun and then by thumb. His final destination was the Stampede Trail in Alaska, and his goal was to spend the summer in the bush, living off the land. He survived for 112 days.

When Krakauer published the story in Outside magazine in 1993, readers bombarded him with mail. McCandless was either hailed for his adventurous spirit and deified for his noble ideals, or he was branded a starry-eyed fool too stupid to survive in "the wild"--30 miles east from a major highway and 16 miles south from the main road into Denali Park.

Krakauer, an adventurer himself and a former self-absorbed, reckless youth, veers off for two chapters to explain why the young seek such extreme sports. A year after Krakauer graduated from college, he travelled alone to the Stikine Icecap region near Petersburg, Alaska, to climb the Devils Thumb. He looks back on his three weeks in Petersburg and acknowledges his hubris and an appalling innocence, not thinking about the affect his possible death might have on his family and friends. But he just couldn't resist "stealing up to the edge of doom and peering over the brink."

He comes down clearly on McCandless' side because he so readily understands this: "It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it." He understands it because he lived it. “In coming to Alaska, McCandless yearned to wander uncharted country, to find a blank spot on the map. In 1992, however, there were no more blank spots on the map--not in Alaska, not anywhere. But Chris, with his idiosyncratic logic, came up with an elegant solution to this dilemma: He simply got rid of the map. In his own mind, if nowhere else, the terra would thereby remain incognita."

McCandless’charm, intelligence, and enthusiasm endeared him to the outer fringes of society. The people he met on his journey--the commune dwellers, the employers, the drivers who gave him a lift and a place to stay for the short term--were all grateful for the time he allowed them to spend with him. They gave him money, their lunch, hunting gear, and advice. They begged him to call home, to stay and work, to come and live with them. But this just wasn’t part of his plan.

Reserve a copy of the movie Into the Wild

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Clowns are Coming to the Birmingham Public Library!

clown posseClowns from Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus will make a special guest appearance at the Birmingham Public Library on Friday, January 11, 2008.

The clowns will entertain children at a special storytime at the Smithfield Library at 10:00 a.m. In addition, the clowns will visit the Central Library at 3:30 p.m. for a mini performance in the library’s atrium. Come be a part of the “Greatest Show on Earth”!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Celebrate The Chinese New Year At The Movies

Celebrate the year of the ratThe Birmingham Public Library will show two acclaimed Chinese films in conjunction with the community-wide Chinese New Year Festival celebrations. Get ready to ring in the Year of the Rat with this cinematic immersion in Chinese culture!

Chungking Express
Saturday, January 12 at 2:00 p.m.

From popular Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai comes this 1994 film about two policemen and their romantic woes. The first half tells the tale of Cop 223 who has broken up with his girlfriend of five years. He buys a can of pineapples with an expiration date of May 1 every day for a month. By May 1, he feels that he will either be reunited with his girlfriend or that his love for her will have expired forever. In the second half, Cop 663 is having a difficult time dealing with his breakup with his flight attendant girlfriend. Then he meets a girl who works at a local fast food stall.

In The Mood For Love
Saturday, January 26 at 2:00 p.m.

This film directed by Wong Kar-Wai is a visually lush, languid tale of unfulfilled longing set in 1960s Hong Kong. A man and a woman move into neighboring Hong Kong apartments and form a bond when they both suspect their spouses of extra-marital activities.

Both movies are free and will be shown in Central's Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library.

African-American Inventors

Garrett Morgan
Garrett Morgan, born into poverty in Reconstruction Kentucky, used his inventive genius to improve his own life and save others. His life-saving inventions included the “breathing mask” and the automatic traffic signal. His “breathing mask” would save countless firemans’s lives and become a mainstay of rescue workers.

Granville Woods, known as the “Black Edison,” was a prolific inventor. The total number of his inventions is unknown, but he had 28 “letters of patent” from New York state alone. The “third rail” used in modern subway systems is one his devices.

Jan Ernst Matzeliger, a nineteenth century inventor, revolutionized the shoe industry. He created a greatly improved shoe-lasting machine. (Lasting is the step where you join the bottom part of the shoe to the top.) Before Matzeliger’s invention, workers could put together at most “50 shoes a day.” Matzeliger’s machine could produce anywhere from “150-700 pairs of shoes a day.”

In January and February a great many local schools look at the contributions African-Americans have made through the years. I know that many students write papers about African-American inventors. I wrote the above thumbnail biographies as small teasers of what you can find using the library’s African American databases. These databases, and many more, are available at your local library or at home. One of my favorite databases, the Biography Resource Center, allows you to search by occupation, ethnicity, or even gender.

Some teachers require reports to be accompanied with a picture of the inventor or an image of the invention. If our databases don’t include a picture, try the website This is a reliable site with biographies, patents, and, in some cases, pictures of the inventors.

If you still can’t find the particular inventor your teacher assigned you, try coming on down to the library. We have a lot of printed material on this and other Black History topics.

Brown Bag Program ~ The Convergence of the Twain: Dr. King and Bishop Carpenter - Lives in Collision

Historian and Episcopal priest Barry Vaughn will explore the parallel lives of Rev. Marting Luther King, Jr. and Alabama's Episcopal bishop Charles C. J. Carpenter, both pivotal figures in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Wednesday, January 16, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Hinley Research Library, 2100 Park Place. There is no charge for these programs.

New Urban Fiction Notification

book coverCan't wait to read the latest book by Nikki Turner, LaJill Hunt, and other urban fiction stars? It's easier than ever with the Birmingham Public Library's New Urban Fiction notification.

Visit any Birmingham Public Library to pick up a form. Each month a link to the library's list of New Urban Fiction will be e-mailed to you. You will be able to read about the new titles and place a hold on each one you want to read, all weeks before the books are published!

Read more about the rise in popularity of urban fiction.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Brown Bag Program ~ From Hippocrates to Galen: The Practice of Medicine in the Ancient World

wallpainting from pompeiiWall painting from Casa di Sirico, Pompeii, 1st Century BCE: Aeneas receiving medical attention from lapyx

The ancient Romans were advanced in many ways, including the practice of medicine. Dr. Dennis Pappas shares his personal collection of ancient medical instruments and discusses images of Roman medical tools in the exhibition Pompeii: Tales from an Eruption. Wednesday, January 9, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Hinley Research Library, 2100 Park Place. There is no charge for these programs.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Beijing Olympics Photograph Exhibit At Central

2008 Olympics Photograph Exhibit
Can’t make it to the Olympics in Beijing this summer? Visit the downtown library and share the excitement.

The Beijing Photograph Exhibit provided by the Chinese General Consulate in Houston will be on display at Birmingham Public Library's Central location until January 31. The photographs capture the liveliness of the city and the sheer joy of the people. Skyscrapers, palaces, the Beijing Opera, acrobats, state of the art facilities for the Olympic Games, numerous daily street scenes, and celebrations for this world renowned event are represented in this exhibit.

What: 2008 Summer Olympics Photograph Exhibit
Where: Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, Alabama
When: Dec. 17-Jan. 31
Cost: Free

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