Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery

This fall, the Birmingham Museum of Art will host the exhibition Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery (October 4, 2009 - January 10, 2010). This major exhibition includes 230 masterpieces of American art, including John Trumbull's iconic painting, The Declaration of Independence, which has appeared in nearly every American history textbook and on the back of the $2 bill.

Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, PhD, Curator of American Art, gives an illustrated talk about this important exhibition,and shares the fascinating stories behind the works of art. Wednesday, October 7, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch 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-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton Event and Book Signing at Central Library

Teddy's Child
Author and Alabama historian Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton discusses and signs her new book, Teddy's Child: Growing Up in the Anxious Southern Gentry Between the Great Wars: A Family Memoir.

When: Sunday, October 18, 2009
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Bldg., Arrington Auditorium, 3rd floor

Graphic Novel Review: Solomon Kane

“It has fallen upon me, now and again in my sojourns through the world, to ease various evil men of their lives.”

– Solomon Kane

In the world of graphic novels, Dark Horse Comics has for the last few years been spearheading a Robert E. Howard revival. Best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard, in his all-too-brief career as a writer (he died at the age of 30), left an undeniable imprint on American adventure fiction. Howard’s characters were so primal and iconic that even his lesser-known heroes need little introduction or explanation for a reader to instantly understand who they are.

One such character was the 16th century Puritan avenger Solomon Kane. Featured in seven stories that appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales between 1928 and 1932, as well as two others published long after Howard’s death, Kane was a grim, wandering adventurer with an unshakeable moral code who traveled the world destroying evil (whether mortal or supernatural) wherever he found it.

Following the success of their Conan graphic novels, Dark Horse has published a new Solomon Kane story, The Castle of the Devil, written by Scott Allie and illustrated by Mario Guevara, based on an unfinished story fragment by Howard himself. Traveling through the dark forests of Germany, Kane and his highway companion John Silent discover a young boy dying on a gallows. After rescuing the child, Kane is directed to the supposedly-cursed castle of the Baron Von Staler to seek out those responsible. What he discovers there is a terror more ancient and hideous than even he, after all his earthly travels, had expected.

Reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy but in a more serious vein, The Castle of the Devil is a horror-adventure story worthy of Howard himself, with echoes of Howard’s fellow writer and friend H.P. Lovecraft. Guevara’s elegant artwork captures the brooding menace of Germany’s Black Forest as well as any classic horror movie, and he does not shy away from the horror itself when it finally descends. Be warned: this is not a graphic novel for the timid or squeamish. Robert E. Howard did not write for children, and neither does Dark Horse’s Scott Allie.

In modern pop culture, Solomon Kane was the stylistic inspiration behind Stephen Sommers’ film Van Helsing (and not the Bram Stoker character it was supposedly based on). With a highly anticipated film of his own due out next year, Solomon Kane may finally battle his way out of the darkness of obscurity and find his place in the sun.

Reserve a copy today:
The Castle of the Devil by Scott Allie and Mario Guevara
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Storyteller Swap

One of the services the Birmingham Public Library provides is storytime and programs for children of all ages. This is a time when children hear and watch their favorite stories come to life. Storytellers partner with parents and teachers to help children achieve the early learning skills they need. Children are introduced to the literary world, filled with imagination and wonder.

But storytellers put a lot of planning and research into their craft. One of those avenues are swaps where they come together to learn, share and borrow ideas from each other. Materials include anything from homemade props to songs -- anything that helps to make storytime and learning more enjoyable for children. After all, as you will see, storytellers are really children at heart.

North Birmingham Public Library, one of the regional libraries, hosted the swap on Monday, September 28. As with all swap workshops, there was a theme. This swap's theme was on Holidays. Each regional library take turns hosting the swap workshops. Springville Road Public Library will be hosting the next one in December. All storytellers and children's librarians are invited and welcome to attend.

Book Buzz: A Gate at the Stairs

Gate at the StairsThere's a lot of chatter about Lorrie Moore's first book in 15 years, A Gate at the Stairs. It has received positive write ups in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and many other publications.

What it's about:
In her best-selling story collection, Birds of America (“[it] will stand by itself as one of our funniest, most telling anatomies of human love and vulnerability” —James McManus, front page of The New York Times Book Review), Lorrie Moore wrote about the disconnect between men and women, about the precariousness of women on the edge, and about loneliness and loss.

Now, in her dazzling new novel—her first in more than a decade—Moore turns her eye on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the recklessness thrust on others in the name of love.

As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.

The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.

As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is forever changed.

This long-awaited new novel by one of the most heralded writers of the past two decades is lyrical, funny, moving, and devastating; Lorrie Moore’s most ambitious book to date—textured, beguiling, and wise. (summary by Knopf)

Reserve your copy today!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Whale Beat

Whale Eye
Have you ever read something and come away feeling that your world is larger, more marvelous and mysterious than you’d previously suspected? It’s a rare event and it’s made me a bit evangelical. Feel I have to share it. It’s the cover story of the New York Times Magazine (July 12, 2009): “Watching Whales Watching Us” by Charles Siebert. One reason I was so stunned by this is that I know a fair amount about whales, though I’m nowhere near the talking head level. After I started reading I wondered: “Are they even more intelligent, more human-like than I thought?” I hoped so. To sum up: they are. Sometimes the scientists who study them (cetaceans) wonder just who’s examining who. (This phenomenon’s being going on with dolphins and their researchers for decades, but it’s new to the whale beat).

Gray whales, for example, swim up to recreational boaters and small-boat fishermen. If the people react favorably the whales return with their calves. Apparently the adult whales are sizing up the humans to see if they’re safe. (Whales don’t, however, approach large, deep ocean fishing boats, or large boats of any kind, perhaps because they associate these with whaling vessels). The adults then get under the boat, raise it up a little, leave it there for a moment, then gently let it down. The people this has happened to see this as an intentionally friendly encounter on the part of the whale. After all, the grays could easily wreck the boat in an instant if they wished to. (Skeptics say the whales are just attracted to the hum of the boats’ motors. As for rubbing the underside of the boat, that’s just the whales’ way to scrape lice off). Grays and other whales also like to come right up to people and stare at them for several minutes.

Some random revelations from the article: Humpbacks hunt in organized packs. Sperm whales have been seen to snatch a single fish off a fishhook (they also teach this to other sperm whales). Fishermen worldwide are up in arms about this because it’s made such a dent in their catch all the sudden. The gray whale brain contains magnetic iron oxide which makes it possible for them to find magnetic north in their migrations. Baleen whales (gray whales and humpbacks) were observed joining forces to fight off an attack by pilot whales (apparently there’s some sort of baleen connection that transcends whale type and encompasses this entire suborder). Whales have been observed “spontaneously breaking into song; crying out in ecstasy; or just flat-out crying,” notes Siebert.

Are we anthropomorphizing? In other words, are we projecting ourselves onto the whales? Siebert and the cetaceans say no. What’s going on is a “cognitive revolution.” We’ve recently found out that whales possess “highly specialized neurons” that are associated with language and were until recently thought to exist only in humans and a handful of other primates. A new realization has come about, says Siebert: “a kind of parallel ‘us’ has long been out there roaming the oceans’ depths.” Anthropomorphizing assumes that animals aren’t like us (we are, however, scientifically speaking, animals ourselves). But whales are in many significant ways just that-like us. Maybe if humans had spent their evolutionary past in the sea rather than on land we might’ve ended up something like these highly social, articulate, gentle, inquisitive and unsettling creatures so evident in “Watching Whales Watching Us.” Why, for instance, do whales with visible harpoon scars approach boating humans in nonviolent ways? For the debate on that, you’ll have to read the article.

The gap between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom was wide indeed when I was young. It’s been rapidly narrowing ever since and now it’s generally considered to be very thin (some scientists says it’s nonexistent and that the line is an illustration of our ego). An opportunity for feeling threatened or humbled? I’ve always instinctively gone with option 2. With what we now know about whales I think we can all feel less lonely here on Earth. And speaking of how we deal with our loneliness, the immense efforts now being put into SETI are transfigured when you consider that we have a very human-like life right here nudging our boats.

Simon & Schuster: Charles Siebert

A Caveman Can

In the video above, Thagg the Caveman advances past hunting and gathering.

He learns that reserving, by placing a hold, is the fastest way to get the library material he wants. Using his library card, he can place a hold on almost any book, DVD, music CD or audio book the library owns. Even soon to be released titles can be reserved.

Once the item becomes available, Thagg is notified so that he can pick it up.

You too can place a hold on library materials. Click here to begin.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Some of you might have seen the funny video comparing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to Forrest Gump. I didn’t pay attention to the mawkish similarities while weeping through Benjamin Button and I don’t care to now. I haven’t bawled this much since I watched Russell Crowe’s pectoral-perfect Maximus stagger around a Roman coliseum in Gladiator, pushing open an imaginary heavenly gate that led to his dead wife and son. By the time an elderly Cate Blanchett sat rocking a baby, I jumped off the couch and ran down the hall to the bathroom, where I sat with the door shut for a 10 minute sob. In fact, I didn't even watch the ending until later when I watched it on YouTube, safely settled back into my it's-only-a-movie cocoon.

Little wrinkled Benjamin Button is born one stormy night in the swampy humidity of New Orleans, and his socially prominent biological father leaves him on the doorstep of an old folks’ home, unable and unwilling to raise such a freak of nature. He is raised by a black woman employed at the home, but he’s everyone’s child. It's no surprise that Benjamin the old man-child blends seamlessly into the faded wallpaper and rooms filled with the elderly in wheelchairs.

Benjamin meets a pretty red-haired girl named Daisy at the home and is smitten. She moves in and out of his life, getting older as Benjamin gets younger, and one day they meet in the middle, fall in love, and marry. They live a happy life right out of Chuck Berry’s song about young wedded bliss, “C’est La Vie.” But it isn’t long before their ages start to pass going the other way, and an aging Daisy must accept the choice Benjamin makes as he reverse-ages into young adulthood, adolescence, toddler- and babyhood. If you can guess how it ends it won’t matter, because by then you’ll be too caught up in this extraordinary tale that so fully illustrates the wonder of life at every stage.

Now, Benjamin Button was a big deal when it came to theaters, and it was nominated for and won several awards, so I'm sure most everyone who wanted to see this movie has done so. I usually like to champion and review those little-seen movies that I consider gems (Ravenous, your review is forthcoming), but I heartily embrace the message of Benjamin Button: that life is messy and imperfect beings should not be thrown away; that in the case of a baby born a prematurely-aged man, there is potential friendship and wisdom and love behind such old eyes. If you're as tired as I am of society’s quest for the perfect, plastic human, then you might embrace this weeper, too.

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing for WORD UP! 2010

See why these three ladies won last year's WORD UP!:

What is it? WORD UP! is a poetry slam open to students enrolled in high school in Jefferson County.

When is it? Sunday, February 28, at 3:00 p.m.

Where is it? Central Library, Linn-Henley Building, Arrington Auditorium, 3rd floor.

Are there prizes? Yes, indeed! The prize for 1st place is $150, 2nd place is $100, and 3rd place is $75.

What is the deadline for entering? The deadline for schools to sign on to participate is December 10, 2009.

Please read carefully the guidelines for entering and performing in WORD UP! 2010

Birmingham Public Library to Host "A Financial Fire Drill: Planning for Uncertain Times"

FPA logo
The Birmingham Public Library would like to invite everyone to a free, public-service workshop sponsored by the Alabama Chapter of the Financial Planning Association, the nation's largest not-for-profit association of financial planners.

There will be no sales or products or services, just information to help you find a financial "fire escape." The seminar will offer the following tips:

  • Learn what you can do to control your financial circumstances and how to do it
  • Create a step-by-step plan to get rid of debt
  • Develop a sound philosophy for savings and investements
  • Identify the resources you have available if you lose your job
  • Spot scams that do not have your needs and interests in mind
  • Discover tips for weathering this and other economic storms in life

There will be a question and answer time at the end. If you have any questions about the program, please contact 226-3742.

WHAT: A Financial Fire Drill: Planning For Uncertain Times
WHERE: Arrington Auditorium at the Central Library
DATE: Thursday, October 8
TIME: 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.
COST: Free

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

National Punctuation Day

So. Tomorrow is the day when we mind our grammars. Schools, businesses, libraries and ordinary citizens with a propensity for proper punctuation pay homage. It bids us all to mind our ABC's - apostrophes, brackets, and commas. Not only do punctuations help us communicate more clearly, but it also helps us to state our ideas more effectively. It reminds us that a well-placed punctuation is important; the semi-colon is such an example. So, use proper punctuation. Do it! What have you got to lose?

For more information on National Punctuation Day, click here.

Brown Bag Lunch Program: What Is a Database?

computer pic
Have you ever heard the word "database" and wondered what is that? We have all the answers about how to find the answers to almost any question that pops into your brain! Check out the exciting resources available at your library, home, or office. Wednesday, September 30, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch 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-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm with the Banned

Are you a groupie, always wanting to be around them, perusing through their “stuff”? With rock stars like Harper Lee, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman … who wouldn’t want to be with the banned?

The last week of September (September 26−October 3) marks Banned Books Week, an annual observance since 1982. It is a time when we remind ourselves of the freedom to read, the freedom to choose specific materials and the freedom of expression. We don’t necessarily have to agree with another’s opinion or like their writing, but this observance is also about not impeding on another’s rights to write about them or read them.

The American Library Association states in its Intellectual Freedom Manual that “intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met.” The first condition is that all persons have the right to believe and convey their beliefs in forms they deem appropriate. Second, society allows that freedom by not restricting access to information and ideas of the author and reader.

Some cases of attempted banning include a 1978 case in Eldon, Missouri where a library banned American Heritage Dictionary (1969) because it contained “objectionable” words. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was banned for fear of creating too much individualism and independent thought. It was removed from West Marion High School in Foxworth, Mississippi in 1998.

With the attempts to ban, there are also attempts to keep these literary works on the shelves. Many librarians, teachers, booksellers and parents use these books and Banned Books Week to educate people about our First Amendment rights. They teach others about the importance of society not placing restraints on our freedoms. But we also learn to respect and not squash the rights of others. Our shelves are filled with classics and new books that thrive on these freedoms to exist. As they pass from one hand to another, they leave a legacy of tolerance and respect for the rights and struggles of others.

So, come visit your library and exercise your right to read. Maybe you can rock out to Maya Angelou and catch J.R.R. Tolkein at a later gig.

Jefferson Country Library Cooperative Plans for Deep Cuts

JCLC LogoThe Jefferson County Library Cooperative is scheduled to lose funding of more than $1 million from Jefferson County starting October 1. However, all efforts will be made to save the basic services which include the online catalog. The online catalog allows access to nearly 2 million items located in the 39 public libraries of Jefferson County. Every effort will also be made to continue five day delivery to libraries and internet access.

Each Jefferson County municipal library’s local building, books and operations are funded locally by their cities, up to $30 million in 2008. However, the funding that supports the 31-year-old Library Cooperative links all the libraries. This funding also purchases and maintains databases, and allows all libraries to share materials.

The Library Cooperative, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, will begin accepting donations to try to bridge this gap in funding. Online donations can be made at or Facebook, dropped off at any local library designated for JCLC, or mailed to Jefferson County Library Cooperative, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203.

Just 13 More Days

What was the book that got you hooked into reading? We invite you to share about those memorable books from childhood and, in turn, get children hooked on reading with a new book. But we only have 13 days left.

The First Book campaign will donate 50,000 new books for Alabama's children in need. We are currently in 4th place. Hawaii is number 1; Kentucky is number 2. Oklahoma is number 3. We can pull this off for our children, can't we?

You can vote once every 24 hours. So that's 13 votes per person! Come on. It won't take long. Just click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

City Hall Closed Due to Swine Flu Case, But BPL Will Remain Open

Due to an employee in the I.M.S. department being diagnosed with a case of swine flu, Mayor Langford has ordered the closing of City Hall until Monday, September 21.

All Birmingham Public Libraries will remain open.

Read more about the closing at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's Easy (and Convenient) Being Green

In an effort to conserve money and trees, overdue notices will no longer be mailed to patrons. To keep up with your checkouts, we encourage you to sign up for e-mail notification that alerts you three days before an item is due. If you opt out of e-mail notification, you will receive telephone notification. If you would like to start receiving e-mail notification for overdues and reserves, call or drop by your local library.

Don't forget that you can view your record online to keep track of checkouts; to place, cancel, or freeze holds; to view and pay fines; and more.

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Step Up to Nutrition and Health

Food Pyramid
Robbie Lewis, a registered dietitian from St. Vincent's Health System,will present a program of updated information on heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Learn about healthy eating, exercise, and stress reduction to help decrease your risk for these chronic diseases. Wednesday, September 23, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch 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-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Central Library's Crosswalk Is Now Open

Crosswalk Linking Central Library's Buildings
ADA-compliant renovations have been completed on the crosswalk that links Central Library's two buildings. It is now open to the public.

Alabama Symphony Orchestra 2009-2010

Alabama Symphony OrchestraThe Alabama Symphony Orchestra will open the 2009-2010 Regions Masterworks Series this weekend, September 18-19. The first concert "Brown Plays Beethoven" features conductor Justin Brown on piano for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The ASO will also perform Paul Lansky’s Line and Shadow and Brahms Symphony No. 2. During the season, visit the library’s subject guide for the 2009-2010 Masterworks Series to find CDs of music to be performed by the Orchestra.

Be like Big V! Read magazine articles for free!

Big V accesses popular magazine and newspaper articles for free at You can too! All you need is your library card.

If you are looking for articles in a specific newspaper, magazine, or journal, use the BPL Electronic Magazine Holdings listing to find out which magazine databases provide coverage.

Simply type in the name of the newspaper, magazine, or journal you're looking for in the search box, and our Electronic Magazine Holdings will display a list of our databases contain the full text of the title, including the years covered by each database.

You can then click onto one of the databases in the list to access the articles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze Dies at 57

Patrick SwayzePatrick Swayze, best known for his roles in Ghost (1990) and Dirty Dancing (1987), died yesterday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Swayze, who studied dance at his mother’s studio in Houston, was as talented a dancer as he was an actor. He portrayed Danny Zuko in the original Broadway production of Grease. He also toured and performed on Broadway in the musical Chicago and appeared in a London production of Guys and Dolls. Even while undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, Swayze continued to work. He appeared in the A&E television series The Beast which aired during the early part of 2009. Patrick Swayze’s movies made us laugh, cry, and cheer out loud. He taught us that you can dance and look cool at the same time. His performances will be watched and enjoyed for years to come.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Birmingham Public Library to Host Visions of China: Exploring China's History and Culture Through Early Photography

The Shopkeeper, 1944 The Shopkeeper, 1944, courtesy of Lt. Col. Clinton C. Millett, M.D.

The Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation (the former Birmingham Chinese Garden & Asian Cultural Center Foundation) in partnership with the Birmingham Public Library, will present a Curator’s Talk titled Visions of China by Dr. Gregg Millett of Schenectady, New York, at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, 2009, in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library.

This lecture will compliment an exhibition of the earliest known color photographs ever taken in China on display in Bloch Hall at the University of Montevallo from October 1-23, 2009.

Imagine viewing rickshaws, sampans, water-buffalo, bound feet, "criminals" in stocks, and Qing Dynasty princesses. This photographic journey will begin in 1945 in Kunming (Yunnan Province) with the earliest known color photographs of China, taken by an Army doctor (Dr. Gregg Millett’s father) who became captivated by the people and surroundings he saw daily. The presentation then takes viewers back to the early 20th century, following the coast of China, with glass “Magic Lantern” slides and stereoviews. The journey will end in the late 19th century back in Yunnan, with the earliest motion picture footage of China. Dr. Millett will share his pictures and hand-painted glass slides using a digital projector. However, magic lantern and carousel projectors and a stereoscope will be demonstrated and on display at the lecture.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact 226-3742.

Check below for a complete listing of the Exhibition and Lecture Schedule:

October 1-23, 2009*
University of Montevallo - Bloch Hall Gallery
Visions of China: World War II and The Burma Road -- The World War II Photographs of Dr. Clinton Millett
Presented in partnership with the Birmingham Chinese Garden & Asian Cultural Center Foundation, d.b.a, Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation
Call the University for gallery hours. Open to the public free of charge. Donations to the Foundation’s “Site Fund” suggested.

Thursday, October 1, 2009, 5:00 p.m.*
Curator's talk on World War II and The Burma Road by Dr. Gregg Millett
University of Montevallo - Merchant & Planter's Auditorium, Comer Hall
Presented in partnership with the Birmingham Chinese Garden & Asian Cultural Center Foundation, d.b.a, Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation
Opening reception to follow in The Art Gallery, Bloch Hall

Friday, October 2, 2009, 10:30 a.m.
Lecture on China in Color One Hundred Years Ago by Dr. Gregg Millett
University of Montevallo - Merchant & Planter's Auditorium, Comer Hall
Presented in partnership with the Birmingham Chinese Garden & Asian Cultural Center Foundation, d.b.a, Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation

Saturday, October 3, 2009, 3:00 p.m.*
Lecture on Visions of China: Exploring China's History and Culture Through Early Photography by Dr. Gregg Millett
Presented in partnership with the Birmingham Chinese Garden & Asian Cultural Center Foundation, d.b.a, Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation
Birmingham, Alabama - Downtown Main Public Library, - Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium, 3rd floor, Linn-Henley Research Annex

Monday, October 5, 2009, 11:00 am
Lecture on Visions of China: Exploring China's History and Culture Through Early Photography
University of Montevallo - Room 203, Jeter Hall
Presented in partnership with the Birmingham Chinese Garden & Asian Cultural Center Foundation, d.b.a, Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation

*Open to the Public. Admission is free. Donation to the
Foundation’s “Site Fund” Campaign is recommended.


Birmingham Public Library to Host Book Signing by John Klima

Willie's Boys by John Klima
As a precursor to Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience to be held May-June 2010, the Birmingham Public Library is excited to host the just-published book, Willie’s Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, The Last Negro League World Series and the Making of a Baseball Legend. Published in September of 2009, author John Klima will begin his book tour in the city that first gave Willie Mays his shot at stardom.

As the author Klima’s website states, “While much has been said and written about Willie Mays over the years, no book has ever explored how Willie became the player so many baseball fans consider to be the greatest all-around talent in the game’s history.”

“Imagine for a moment Willie as a teenager, affable and awesomely gifted, yet thrown into a world where even major league teams that signed black players discriminated against them. For all the romantic images of the Negro Leagues, this was the reality. There were too many players and too few jobs.”

“So Willie got his education on the bus, with his wise player-manager Piper Davis, and a group of ballplayers you’ll meet when you hop aboard Willie’s Boys. There was Pipe, Squeaky, Stainless, Rocking Chair, Schoolboy, the Prophet, Zapp, His Majesty, Grease, Brit, and Buck Duck – that was Willie. Mays and his gifted teammates formed a brotherhood, centered around helping the youngest player among them achieve his dreams.”

The Library will provide light refreshment at the booksigning and copies of the Willie’s Boys will be available for purchase.

Event: Book Signing with John Klima
Date: Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium
Cost: Free

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Alabama Symphony Orchestra: 2009-2010 Season at a Glance

ASO Logo
Take this great opportunity to hear about the new Symphony season and all the wonderful concerts that are waiting for you! Wednesday, September 16, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch 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-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Vee Vant You to Donate Your Blood

Dracula Taking a Sip
LifeSouth will be at Central Library's Youth Department Story Castle (2nd floor) Wednesday, September 9, from 9:00 a.m-3:00 p.m. If you have any questions, please contact Vincent Solfronk at 226-3651, or the Life South Blood Bank at 943-6000.

From LifeSouth Community Blood Centers Website:

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers is a community blood supplier for local hospitals in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. LifeSouth is committed to meeting the blood supply needs of these hospitals in each of the communities we serve by providing the highest quality blood components and services.

Each year, nearly five million Americans need a blood transfusion. To meet our responsibility, we need to collect 266,000 blood donations a year. That’s 728 donors a day. With over 30 donor centers, 37 blood mobiles and over 1,000 blood drives a month, our LifeSouth team is committed to making sure the blood is there when you or your family member is in need. We are your community blood center. The blood supply collected from our donors directly serves the needs of patients at over 120 medical facilities throughout our footprint. The blood donated here will stay in our community for local patient transfusions. Only if our local supply is met will LifeSouth share our blood resources with other communities.

There are no substitutes for blood. Volunteering to give blood is giving the gift of life to patients who need transfusions. We hold this gift with the highest regard. Please consider becoming a part of our community’s blood supply by donating blood with LifeSouth.

AVL Database Cuts Due to Funding Shortage

The picture above says it all: A world of knowledge at your fingertips by way of computer. This is what the Alabama Virtual Library (AVL) is synonymous with, and it has served many Alabamians well since its inception in 1999.

The AVL was created so that the poorest and most rural schools in Alabama would have the same access to educational information as the most wealthy districts. Sadly, because of funding shortages, the Alabama Virtual Library Executive Council had to make some difficult decisions deciding which databases to cut. Even with AVL vendors agreeing to reduce their pricing, many cuts were inevitable. Annual usage, trends, and an overlap of resources are just some of the criteria the Council used to make their decision.

As of October 1, 2009 the AVL will no longer have access to:

OCLC FirstSearch databases
CAMIO - Catalog of Art Mursum Images Online
Clase and Periodica
Electronic Collections Online
GPO Monthly Catalog
World Almanac
WorldCat Dissertations

H.W. Wilson's Biography Reference Bank

SIRS Knowledge Source databases
SIRS Issues Researcher
SIRS Government Reporter
SIRS Renaissance

Britannica's add-on databases
World Data Analyst
Annals of American History
Enciclopedia Juvenil
Enciclopedia Universal en EspaƱol

In addition to the above resources not being renewed, EBSCO's Academic Search Premier will be downgraded to Academic Search Elite.

As mentioned above, usage was an important gauge of deciding which databases had to go. Since funding to libraries and other educational institutions continues to decline, it's important for citizens to use and promote these wonderful databases available through the AVL and your local libraries. Regardless of these cuts, AVL will continue to provide excellent services to the citizens of Alabama.

If you have used the AVL databases or just want to express the importance of keeping them, please drop your representative a note thanking him or her for providing this resource.

Share a Book Memory to Win Books for Alabama's Kids

First Book logoIt just takes a minute. Go to the First Book website and cast your vote for the first book that made reading fun for you. Then vote for the state you want to receive 50,000 books. When I cast my vote, Alabama was #4. So please cast your vote for the kids of Alabama. You may vote daily, so vote as often as you can.

Voting closes at midnight on September 30, 2009. Results of the national vote—as well as a Top 50 list of books that got readers hooked—will be published at the First Book webiste in October.

I chose Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary because it was the first book I can remember showing me the introspective workings of a little girl my age. It wasn't someone simply telling me what Ramona was doing, thinking, or feeling, but Ramona herself who allowed me access to her thoughts to show how she was grappling with the Rules of Life on Klickitat Street, at school, and at Howie's grumpy grandmother's house.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Schedule of Events for BPL's 25th Anniversary Celebration

25th Celebration
It has been twenty-five years since the Central East Building opened its doors at 2100 Park Place. The then state-of-the-art-building has held up well. It was the first building in downtown Birmingham to have all floors open-aired, created by the glass pinnacle at the southwest corner of the building.

On Bright House’s Channel 4, Public Services Coordinator Sandi Lee and former director George Stewart will host the program BPL Presents. They will discuss how the library came to be and where the library is located and how they chose the location and all sorts of interesting facts about the facility.

Below is a calendar of events for the celebration, featuring music, cake, tours and all sorts of activities. We would love to invite you to join us as we celebrate this special milestone. For more information, please visit the 25th Anniversary link. You may also call 226-3742.

Here is the full schedule:

September 9, 2009
Brown Bag Lunch Program – We’re Turning 25!
Join us for a trip down memory lane as the “new” building turns 25 years old. George Stewart, former Birmingham Public Library director, will be our tour guide through those formative years. It’s sure to be a great trip and we hope you join us.

September 14-19, 2009
Tours available of the East Building beginning in the Atrium at 12:15 p.m.

September 15, 2009
Join us for a sweet treat to commemorate the opening of the East Building twenty-five years ago today! Cake will be served in the Atrium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

September 17, 2009
BPL@Night will celebrate the Library's 25th Anniversary with An Evening with Eric Essix.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Birmingham Public Library to Host An Evening with Eric Essix for September’s BPL@Night

Eric Essix
As part of the Birmingham Public Library’s 25th Anniversary of the Central East building, Eric Essix will perform a special concert in the Atrium for the BPL@Night program.

In 2000, while signed to Zebra Records, Eric Essix decided to explore the soul, R&B, gospel and country music that he grew up listening to in his home state of Alabama. It was the start of a musical journey that began with “Southbound” followed by “Somewhere In Alabama” on his own Essential Recordings label in 2004 and now has brought him full circle with his latest offering, ”Birmingham.”

Eric recorded his debut album as a solo artist in 1988 for Nova Records called First Impressions and 13 albums later he is still making music that moves; that captures the imagination…that touches the emotions. But it is his last three recordings that are particularly revealing and personal, giving the listener an up close look at the man behind the music and the place he calls home.

Home is Birmingham. Eric grew up here in the midst of the turbulent 1960s and, after an initial introduction to the guitar by the Beatles, got his start as a performer in the church. Today gospel music still informs and influences everything he does. However, early exposure to Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, and Jimi Hendrix greatly contributed to Eric’s sound and style as a guitarist. His trademark “southerness” is evident on the new CD which highlights some of the people and experiences from the city of his birth.

For more information, please visit The Library will provide light refreshment at the concert.

What: An Evening with Eric Essix for BPL@Night
When: Thursday, September 17, 2009
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library’s Atrium
Cost: Free

photo from

BPL thanks Compass Bank for its generous support of BPL@Night. BPL@Night is also made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Are You Ready?

Auburn TigersAlabama Crimson Tide
Miles Golden BearsUAB Blazers

Is it my imagination or have I been seeing a lot more flags and windsocks lately? The days are getting shorter, the air is a little bit cooler. Could it be? Is it time? Are you ready?

We’ve been waiting all summer and football season is FINALLY here. Sure, I know that high school football has started and the NFL season is about a week away, but The Tide, Tigers, Blazers, Gamecocks, Hornets, Panthers, Samford and Alabama A&M Bulldogs take the field for the first time on Saturday. The Labor Day Golden Classic between Miles College and Tuskegee takes place on Sunday. Get the food ready, pack the car, call your friends, fire up the grill, turn on the high-def, head to the sports bar, whatever you do to get ready for the game, do it, because FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!!!

Check out the Football subject guide to get updated news articles, listings of books, and links to team websites to keep you up-to-date on all the latest. Enjoy the season.

Southside Library Closed Tuesday

Plumber photo by cncphotos
The Southside Branch of The Birmingham Public Library will be closed Tuesday, September 8, 2009 for plumbing work.

creative commons photo by cncphotos

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Book Review: Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading

book coverLadies, who among you remember: 1) “We must, we must, we must increase our busts!” 2) spending the night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 3) a young spy’s penchant for her notebooks and tomato sandwiches 4) Tony wearing his raincoat to the blackboard 4) taming a wild island dog and naming him Rontu 5) and gazing at your first real love over a pot of boiling fondue cheese?

If you remember that these are from the teen books 1) Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret 2) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 3) Harriet the Spy 4) Then Again, Maybe I Won’t 5) Island of the Blue Dolphins and 5) Forever, then you are among the legions of women readers who never forgot the teen books that saw them through school bullies, puberty, heartbreak, body angst, and soured friendships.

Blogger and teen book author Lizzie Skurnick, along with guest essayists Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Jennifer Weiner, write about their favorite books with some humor, a little snark, and a lot of earnestness in Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading.

If it seems like this book leaves out the guys, well, it kind of does. Out of 72 essays, only 7 are what can be considered books for boys: Farmer Boy; Danny, the Champion of the World; The Great Brain; I Am the Cheese; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t; The Pigman; and A Day No Pigs Would Die. Keep in mind that all of the contributions to Shelf Discovery are women, most of whom make a living writing chick lit.

I’d like to add a personal note that my favorite teen book of all time—A Summer To Die—is not included in the book. But since Lizzie Skurnick so eloquently blogs about it here, then I’ll forgive this oversight. Now I'm wondering why One Fat Summer (the male Blubber), A Separate Peace (I had the biggest crush on Finny), and The Chocolate War (one of my first life lessons about the good guy not always coming out on top) didn’t make the cut?

This book is like People Magazine’s Most Beautiful issue. In the following issue there are always angry letters-to-the-editor from fans whose idols didn’t make the cut. Like People always tells them, there are only so many pages to devote to all the beautiful people in Hollywood. And there is only so much room in Shelf Discovery to talk about the hundreds of beloved teen books out there.

On the Horizon - New Books in October

Mama Dearest – E. Lynn Harris
In the late Harris’s final novel, Yancey Harrington Braxton returns to tackle Broadway and her own reality TV series. Yancey is determined to make her comeback no matter who stands in her way… even her own mother.

And Another Thing… – Eoin Colfer
Just when no one was expecting it comes the unprecedented sixth novel in the late Douglas Adams’ beloved “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Trilogy, penned by the author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series.

Blood Game – Iris Johansen
In her latest thriller, Eve Duncan faces off against a serial killer with a taste for blood who may have information regarding Eve’s missing daughter.

True Blue – David Baldacci
Mason Perry is an ex-cop just released from prison and determined to get back on the force. To do that, she must prove herself by solving a major case while fending off a U.S. attorney who is determined to see her behind bars.

Pursuit of Honor – Vince Flynn
After a deadly attack on Washington, D.C., counter-terrorism expert Mitch Rapp must hunt down three at-large Al Qaeda operatives while defending himself and his actions from the interference of key government officials.

A Change in Altitude – Anita Shreve
A newly married couple sets off for an adventure in Africa that ends in tragedy on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. In the aftermath, they must learn to cope with events that have changed their marriage forever.

Half Broke Horses – Jeanette Walls
In this “true-life novel” the author of The Glass Castle tells the story of her grandmother Lily, who grew up in a dirt dugout in western Texas and became a teacher at the age of fifteen.

The Christmas Cookie Club – Ann Pearlman
Every year in December, twelve friends gather to swap stories, food, wine… and cookies. At this one special time, they celebrate their struggles, the hard choices they’ve had to make, and their absolute joy in life.

Souls of My Sisters Book Tour Coming to Smithfield Library

book cover
Best selling authors Dawn Marie Daniels, Candace Sandy, and Dr. Jarralynne Agee will be visiting Smithfield Branch Library to promote their book Tears to Triumph: Women Learn to Live, Love, and Thrive.

Tears to Triumph shares a new framework that will help move you beyond just surviving. Here, real women share their stories of triumph over life's difficult and sometimes tricky, unfair hardships. Most importantly, it shows you how to use your own adversities as a blueprint for future success.

What: Souls of My Sisters Book Tour
Where: Smithfield Branch Library
When: Thursday, September 10
Time: 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: We're Turning 25!

East Building construction photos
Join us for a trip down memory lane as the “new” building turns 25 years old. George Stewart, former Birmingham Public Library director, will be our tour guide through those formative years. It’s sure to be a great trip and we hope you join us. Wednesday, noon, September 9.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch 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-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Smartest Card

Candace Parker , Olympic gold medalist and WNBA MVP, encourages everyone who does not have a library card to sign up for "The Smartest Card" during September, National Library Card Sign-up month.

Why so smart? Well, to begin with library cardholders have full access to all the library has to offer: books, computers, music CDs, DVDs, online databases, audio books, and so much more.

Visit any Birmingham Public Library location this month to sign up for a library card or trade in old library cards for a new keychain card for FREE! We are waiving the usual replacement fee for the month of September only.

Check here for everything you need to know about signing up for a library card and borrowing materials.

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