Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Alabama School of Fine Arts Jazz Band

Join us for a wonderful concert by the talented students from the Alabama School of Fine Arts. It’s always fun! Wednesday, December 2, 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.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wonder of wonders

Wonder of wonders, I found a remarkable book last week. 84, Charing Cross Road is not a book like many others. It was published in 1970 and it just goes to show you what a blessed job BPL’s librarians do of preserving books that this tome still sits on the shelf. As I read it, sitting in one of downtown Birmingham's beautiful parks, I was reminded of what a gift the library is, because it collects and offers such gems.

84, Charing Cross Road is nothing more than a series of letters, a twenty-year correspondence, between an American (N.Y.C.) scriptwriter and the employees of a wonderful British bookshop named “Marks and Co.”

The featured scriptwriter, Helene Hanff, is uproariously funny, not to mention generous and kind (she sends gifts of much-coveted food to Marks and Co. employees through a European catalog, as England suffered under a meat-rationing phase following WWII). Those Brits loved that quirky American, too, and not just for Hanff's scrumptious parcels but for her rare and insatiable appetite for antiquarian books and her original wit and world view. There was a movie made from this glorious book with a young Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft (neither of whom could have been a suitable substitute for the experience of reading this book).

If you have not recently visited one of the twenty Birmingham Public Library locations, who preserve so many rare and wonderful books, then you should, and if you have not remembered to thank your local librarian for their work recently, then you should, because this group of employees in the city of Birmingham has done a job worthy of every tax dollar which it graciously receives.

And for all the talk of the book going away, as if someone is going to strike a match and cause these precious tomes to reach Fahrenheit 451, not to mention the dubious idea that one day we will be reading all our books from a computer screen, it was just wonderful to have that soft November sun hitting the pages of the 39-year old book while the autumn leaves fell around the Linn Park Fountain. I think technology is grand, but I’ll take a fine-papered book printed on good stock any old day.

To reserve a copy of this book or any other, please visit or

And speaking of book reviews, the annual publication of Season's Readings, a collection of BPL's staff reviews, will hit the shelves soon. Be on the lookout at your neighborhood library for a copy of this publication.

Resource Spotlight: Prep for ASVAB Test Online

In the tutorial above, viewers are guided in accessing and using LearningExpress Library to prepare for the ASVAB test for entry into the Military.

LearningExpress Library is a comprehensive, interactive online learning platform of practice tests and tutorial courses designed to help users improve basic skills in reading, writing, and math, as well as prepare for tests such as the GED, ACT, SAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, ASVAB, CLEP and others.

LearningExpress Library includes self-paced interactive study, instant scoring, and diagnostic feedback, and can be accessed from any computer with Internet access. Users will need to create an account using the barcode from your JCLC library card as your Username and making up your own Password.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BPL@Night to Host Concert Featuring Rosephanye Dunn Powell

Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell
The Birmingham Public Library is proud to present a concert featuring Rosephanye Dunn Powell, an Auburn University professor. Dr. Powell has recently released a CD titled Motherless Child that features ten African-American spirituals. She has infused the traditional songs with a mix of R&B, urban, gospel, and jazz. Accompanied by her husband, Dr. Powell will perform selections from her album, offering listeners a unique concert.

Powell is an internationally acclaimed composer and arranger of choral music. She has over 100 published works, including some for the Hal Leonard Corporation, the nation's leading music publisher. Additionally, Dr. Powell has composed for the Oxford University Press (London). As one of the country's premier women composers of choral music, her works are in great demand at schools, churches, and choral festivals around the world.

For more information on Rosephanye Dunn Powell, visit her website at

The library will provide light refreshments. If you have any questions about the BPL@Night performance, please contact (205) 226-3742. For more information on the Birmingham Public Library’s programs and events, please visit

What: An evening with Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Bldg., Arrington Auditorium, 3rd floor
When: Thursday, December 3
Time: 6:30 p.m.

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.

photograph by Sante White

Big Read Poetry Contests

Caricature of Mark Twain
As part of the state-wide Big Read, the public libraries of Jefferson County are sponsoring two poetry contests: 1) a Word Up! poetry slam for high school students and 2) a written poetry contest for middle-school students. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore the importance of reading in American culture. We will be encouraging everyone in the state to read and discuss The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

For details on entering the Word Up! contest for high school students (grades 9-12), visit The deadline for schools to sign on to participate for Word Up! is December 10, 2009.

For details on entering the written poetry contest for middle school students (grades 5-8), visit The deadline for schools to sign on to participate in the written poetry contest is January 15, 2010.

Schools wishing to participate in the contests should call 226-3670 or e-mail Haruyo Myagawa at by the designated dates. Good luck, students!

Knopf Publishes Vladimir Nabokov's Posthumous Novel, The Original of Laura

The Original of Laura
One of Vladimir Nabokov's last wishes before his death was for the 138 index cards that comprised The Original of Laura—the novel he was working on when he died in 1977—to be burned. His wife, Vera, never granted the wish because of “age, weakness and immeasurable love.” But another reason she may not have burned the work-in-progress was because her husband also wanted to burn Lolita, but Vera stopped him on the way to the incinerator. Dmitri Nabokov sat on his father's unfinished book for over thirty years before having it published. The work had been previously viewed only by Nabokov's wife, son, and some scholars.

Make no mistake, this is not a novel but a rough rough draft, and some scholars feel it may serve to diminish Nabokov's name as a writer. But fans of Nabokov will enjoy experiencing the progression of his writing. The book reproduces the handwritten index cards—perforated for removal—that show the markings of his editing process.

The actual index cards are headed to the Christie's auction block on December 4 and are expected to sell for between $400,000 and $600,000. Your best bet is to plunk down $35, tear out the index cards, and play at being a millionaire.

What The Original of Laura is about:

Young Flora is married to a fat, rich man with whom she becomes bored after many years. One of promiscuous Flora's lovers has written a roman a clef about her titled My Laura, and it becomes a scandalous success that eventually ruins her. Poor Flora. Groped at age 12 by by the man who leches after Lolita—Hubert H. Hubert—and now this tell-all.

Take a look inside The Original of Laura

Who's Got the Cutest Pets?

The votes have been tallied and the results are in! The winners of the Cutest Pet Photo Contest are:

dog picture

1st Place Winner: "I’m sorry, but we’re taken. Layla and Buddy"
Submitted by: Tate Roberts
Prize: $50.00 Summit Gift Card

donkey picture

2nd Place Winner: "Fee, fie, fo, fum--I smell the juice of a nice, ripe plum!"
Submitted by: Katie Martin
Prize: $35.00 Summit Gift Card

dog picture

3rd Place Winner: "Dog Gone Tired"
Submitted by: Kelly Drinkwater
Prize: $25.00 Summit Gift Card

Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to everyone who submitted photos.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Bites for Little Vamps

It’s here. It’s finally here, as indicated by the deafening decibels of thousands of screaming teenage girls. Stephanie Meyer’s second installment of the young adult Twilight series, New Moon, hits theaters Friday. But what kind of appeal does forbidden vampire love have to the “pre-tween” crowd who think vampires are cool but kissing is “icky”? While others long to sink their claws into Edward Cullen, here are a few suggestions to help your little Bella and Bela Lugosi cut their teeth on the fantasy genre.

The Vampire Bunny is a children’s book by James Howe that introduces Bunnicula, a bunny that their cat Chester and dog Harold suspect is a vampire. They are determined to save their humans from this “hare”-raising menace.

Dear Vampa by Ross Collins is an ironic story of a vampire family, the Pires, who are troubled by their new neighbors. They stay up during the day, go out in the sunshine, and complain about noise at night. What’s a nice vampire family to do about these scary neighbors?

• Then there’s J.otto Seibold’s Vunce Upon a Time. A vegetarian vampire, Dagmar is a gentle soul who has an enormous sweet tooth. He then learns about Halloween and meets a cute little “ghost” who helps him trick or treat for candy.

• In Dear Dracula by Josh E. Williamson, a little boy writes a letter to Dracula instead of Santa for Christmas. What is his Christmas wish? He wants to be a real vampire. You’ll be surprised to learn who responds.

So, while the colonies of teens swoop into the theaters this Friday, why not sit and read one of these with your little one? We promise that they are something you can really sink your teeth into.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

North Birmingham Regional Library Wins Beyond the Budget Award

Beyond the Budget winnersDora Sims (President of the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library), Librarian Marguerite Scott, Librarian Leigh Wilson

Leigh Wilson, North Birmingham Adult Deptartment Manager, and June Lacanski, North Birmingham Youth Deptartment Manager, submitted the winning 2009 Beyond the Budget proposal to fund two projects: two family-friendly computer rooms and the development of a teen area.

The family-friendly computer rooms will feature toys, books, stuffed animals, and more to entertain children while their parents use the computers. Children and parents may also use the rooms to work on homework assignments together.

The teen area, which teens will have a part in designing, will provide them with a nook of their own to relax, share ideas, talk, socialize, work on projects, and complete homework assignments.

We thank the BPL Friends Group for this award. Congratulations, North Birmingham!

Book Review: Stitches: A Memoir

Stitches: A Memoir
When I was a kid comic books were innocuous fun—Scruffy and Little Lulu and Richie Rich. David Small's Stitches: A Memoir is far from fun, but it is a captivating illustration of Small's childhood in an angry, silent, and non-demonstrative family living in Detroit, Michigan.

When David was 11 the wife of his father's colleague noticed a growth on his neck. Fast forward 3 1/2 years and David's cyst removal operation is scheduled. ("Do you know how much doctors cost!") David wakes up from the surgery only to find out that the cyst is still there but is slated for removal during a second surgery scheduled the following morning. When he wakes up he learns that half of his vocal cords and his thyroid were removed. ("Your vocal cords make the sounds of your voice, your curses, and your prayers. When I woke up from operation #2, I had only one vocal cord, and with only once vocal cord the sound you make is...ACK.")

He is 14 years old, voiceless, with an ugly scar running down his neck. His cancer was not discussed before his operation, nor afterward. ("Dear Mama. David has been home two weeks now. Of course the boy doesn't not know it was cancer.") His mother's concern makes a rare appearance when she buys him Lolita in the hospital gift shop to replace his copy she burned at home; when David doesn't die, she confiscates it once again. Years later his father takes him to dinner and confesses: "In those days we gave any kid born with breathing difficulty x-rays. Two-to-four-hundred rads. I gave you cancer!"

At age 16 David moves out on his own to get away from his increasingly dysfunctional family and to make it as an artist. It isn't until Small's parents send him to a therapist ("It's like throwing money down a hole if you ask me!") that he accepts an obvious truth about his mother and begins to heal. ("But I'm going to tell you the truth. Are you ready? Your mother doesn't love you.")

After reading Small's humorous books for children, the frowns, wrinkles, and snarls on the faces of his family in Stitches are jarring. This is a haunting story about an abused, neglected, and misunderstood little boy who loves to draw and searches his entire life for the secret to becoming like Alice and tumbling down the rabbit hole to freedom.

David Small's Official Website

Graphic Novel Review: Ghost in the Shell

Imagine the near future. Imagine that instead of using a clunky keyboard and monitor to read this website, you could have this blog downloaded directly into your brain. Imagine that the line between Man and Machine continues to blur until computer viruses infect living minds, and corporations and governments can reprogram people’s thoughts and personalities to suit their political agendas. Such is the world of Shirow Masamune’s ground-breaking manga, Ghost in the Shell.

Created in 1989 and first released in the U.S. by Dark Horse Comics in 1995, Ghost in the Shell has spawned two follow-up volumes, several movies, and a popular animated TV series. Kodansha Comics has recently rereleased Shirow’s original masterpiece in a special edition on the comic’s 20th anniversary.

Ghost in the Shell tells the story of Major Motoko Kusanagi and the members of Section 9, an elite unit of 21st century crime fighters who specialize in taking down the cyber-terrorists of the future, including ghost hackers – criminals who reprogram their victims into mindless slaves and destroy their very souls. While on the trail of one such terrorist, the genius known only as the Puppet Master, Kusanagi begins to suspect that her nemesis may be an intelligence born from the fabric of the Internet itself with no real existence in the physical world.

Shirow’s story contains enough detail and intrigue to make this more than just a casual read, and his artwork displays an almost frightening level of technical complexity. Because Ghost in the Shell was originally published before the onset of the current manga craze, the American edition was specifically designed to introduce newcomers to the world of Japanese comics. As a result, the book is designed to be read left-to-right, not right-to-left as traditional manga. Also, each chapter begins in full color and only after several pages reverts to Japanese comics’ usual black-and-white. The result is a blending of both Eastern and Western styles to tell a story that is as prophetic and compelling now as it was twenty years ago.

Reserve your copy today!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Resource Spotlight: Free Legal Help!

Alabama Legal Forms is a great place to begin addressing a legal matter whether you chose a do-it-yourself legal form or plan a legal consultation.

The database offers thousands of common forms covering a variety of issues, including leases, real estate, contracts, bills of sale, wills, bankruptcy, divorce, copyrights and more. Each of the documents within Alabama Legal Forms are crafted to conform to Alabama law.

You can browse an alphabetical list of categories or use the search feature to find exactly what you need. Everything from basic fill-in-the-blank forms to samples of more complex contracts can be downloaded or printed.

Also included is a comprehensive attorney state directory, tax forms for all 50 states and federal returns, and a dictionary of legal definitions explained in layman's language.

This online database is just one of our many useful online resources.

Patron Appreciaton Day

slice of cake
The Birmingham Public Library Board and Friends of the Birmingham Public Library are co-sponsoring Patron Appreciation Day on Thursday, November 19. All Birmingham Public Libraries will be serving cake and coffee from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Register to Win Tickets to ASO's Family Series Featuring The Snowman

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Put on your pajamas, bring your favorite stuffed friend, and curl up for a special holiday celebration at the majestic Alabama Theatre. The classic animated film The Snowman comes magically to life when the film score is performed live by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO). This breathtaking big-screen presentation and plenty of your favorite Christmas carols are sure to make this concert a new holiday tradition for your family.

Giveaway Details
  • Visit any Birmingham Public Library to register to win a family four-pack of tickets to the movie The Snowman, based on Raymond Briggs' children's book
  • The contest will run through November 29
  • A winner will be drawn on December 1
  • The ASO will contact the winner for ticket pick up
  • The event will be held at the Alabama Theatre on Sunday, December 6, 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Book of Genesis as Illustrated by R. Crumb

The Book of Genesis graphic novel
Can you imagine the undertaking of turning all 50 chapters of the Book of Genesis into a graphic novel? Not even R. Crumb could, at first. He was going to do a takeoff of Adam and Eve's story, but a friend threw down the challenge of turning all of Genesis into one big graphic novel. Crumb was all set to satirize it, until the bizarre text proved to be satire-proof. And, behold! Crumb's straight illustration of the unabridged story of The Book of Genesis.

Crumb's Genesis took five years to complete and includes 207 black and white drawings that incorporate every single word from the first book of the Old Testament.

Reserve your copy today!

The Official R. Crumb Website

On the Horizon: New Books in December

U is for Undertow – Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone takes on a twenty-one year old cold case when a young man tells her that he may have witnessed the victim’s burial when he was six years old.

Pirate Latitudes – Michael Crichton
In 1665 Jamaica, Captain Charles Hunter recruits a crew of cutthroats and renegades to take on a Spanish galleon carrying a fortune in gold.

Trial by Fire – J.A. Jance
As Ali Reynolds and Sister Anselm work to identify the amnesiac victim of a house fire, they begin to realize that discovering who she is may place her in even greater danger.

The Paris Vendetta – Steve Berry
A former operative for the Justice Department uncovers a conspiracy of multi-millionaires that centers on the location of the lost treasures of Napoleon.

Nanny Returns – Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
The heroine of The Nanny Diaries returns to New York after twelve years abroad only to once again be drawn into the lives of her former employers.

Stones Into Schools – Greg Mortenson
The author of Three Cups of Tea recounts his ongoing efforts to establish schools for girls in Afghanistan and to promote peace through education and literacy.

Reserve your copies today!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Invisible Americans: Choctaw Indians in Alabama

The Say the Wind Is Red
Join us as Jackie Matte, independent scholar and member of the Alabama Humanities Foundation speaker’s bureau discusses the history of the Alabama Choctow Indians.

Ms. Matte is the author of The History of Washington County: The First County in Alabama and They Say the Wind is Red: the Alabama Choctaw Lost in their Own Land. She also co-authored, with Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton, Seeing Historic Alabama: Fifteen Guided Tours. Wednesday, November 18, 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, November 10, 2009

Read It Forward 2009 to Feature Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
The Birmingham Public Library will launch the 4th annual Read It Forward project in November 2009. Read It Forward is a community-wide reading program designed to encourage reading throughout the City of Birmingham. The concept is based on the book Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It is a story about an eighth grader who decides to change the world by doing a good deed for someone and then asks that person to “pay it forward” by doing the same for others.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank has been selected for the 2009 Read It Forward campaign. Anne Frank would have been 80 years old this year. Each BPL location will have copies of the books for distribution. Each copy of the book is labeled with the “Read It Forward” logo and instructions for participation.

In order to participate, simply:
  • Visit any Birmingham Public Library location starting November 11 and pick up a free copy of Diary of a Young Girl (while supplies last)
  • Read the book
  • Log on to, click on the Read It Forward link, enter the book's tracking identification number, and leave a comment
  • Pass the book forward for someone else to read it
  • Log on to the library's Website often to track your book as it travels from reader to reader and see what others have to say about the book
For more information on Anne Frank, including a virtual tour of her hiding place, information about her life, and her online museum, visit

For the 2009 Read It Forward, the Birmingham Public Library has partnered with the Birmingham Jewish Federation and the City of Birmingham. If you have any questions, please contact Janine Langston, Literacy and Outreach Coordinator, at (205) 322-6371.

What: Read It Forward featuring Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Where: All Birmingham Public Library locations
Date: Starting November 11, 2009
Cost: Free

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Time to Remember

" A Remembrance of the Holocaust"

Please join us as we host Holocaust Survivor, Mr. Jack Bass.

Mr. Jack Bass was born in Germany in 1923. Like millions of others, Mr. Bass and his family endured many hardships in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Come and hear this one man's remarkable story of courage and determination.

Location: Avondale Library

Date: Monday November 09, 2009

Time: 6:00pm

For further information please call Jon Newman 226-4000 or

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Vote for the Top Ten Finalists in the Cutest Pet Photo Contest

Vote Now for the Cutest Pet Photo!
Which is the cutest pet photo? Head over to the poll and choose one from the top 10 finalist pictures and vote for your favorite by November 17! The winner will be announced on November 18.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You Are Invited to the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library's Annual Meeting

Friends of the Birmingham Public Library Logo
It has been an exciting year for the Friends! Money received from sales in the bookstore and Friends membership fees have helped us to fund highly valued library programs and services for patrons.

The three largest projects sponsored by the Friends are: (1) the Beyond the Budget award, in which all BPL locations compete for funding for a much needed project; (2) the Local Authors’ Expo, a two-day venue in which self-published authors display and sell books; and (3) Staff Day, for which the Friends provide much of the funding for a guest speaker for BPL employees.

The Friends are happy to announce the first celebration of National Friends of Libraries week, which will occur October 18–24. We invite you to join us!

We’re doubly excited and happy to welcome our new Library Director, Renee Blalock, a strong supporter and advocate of the Friends. Finally, we are excited to have Ms. Priscilla Hancock-Cooper as our guest speaker for the Friends annual meeting. Ms. Hancock-Cooper is a poet, storyteller, and author. We hope you’ll join us November 12.

The Friends of the Birmingham Public Library is a non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to promote the library. Please join us by becoming a Friend!

For more information, call 226-3600, or visit us at, where soon you you may sign up to become a Friend electronically.

What: The Annual Meeting of the Friends
Where: Central Library, East Bldg., 4th floor, Boardroom
When: Thursday, November 12, 2009
Time: 5:30 p.m.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Stephen King Alert

Under the DomeAnother door stop-sized tome from Stephen King is due to be released on November 10. Under the Dome totals up to 1,136 pages of fright. Dan Simmons—author of his own door stoppers The Terror and Drood—enjoyed King's new "huge, generous, sprawling" book.

Under the Dome is one of a handful of big-name books that sparked a price war between Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart, with the lowest price cut bottoming out at $8.98 with free shipping. Hey, but the library's got the best price cut of all: free! Reserve your copy today.

From the Scribner catalog:
“On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.”

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