Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tea with Addy

A pretty girl dressed in 1860s garb sits with "Addy" during the American Girl Tea Party at Springville Road Library on Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Neil Gaiman Enjoyed His Trip to Tuscaloosa

Neil GaimanAfter 22 years of book signings in 47 states, Neil Gaiman's publisher finally scheduled a reading/book signing for Alabama—Tuscaloosa to be exact. When he'd ask why his tour never ventured south, his publisher would tell him that people didn't really buy books there or that there was no demand for this sort of thing.

When tickets went on sale, the first batch sold out in 120 seconds. They thought the website had crashed. What other reason could there be for this kind of interest from a small, southern town? Tickets released later in the week sold at the same speed. In a matter of minutes a 1078-seat theater sold out. Some drove four hours or more to hear Gaiman speak.

Read more about this Tuscaloosa visit at Neil Gaiman's blog.

It's always nice to remind "outsiders" that southerners love to read...and write: Erskine Caldwell; Flannery O'Connor; Tennessee Williams; William Faulkner; James Dickey; Harper Lee; Margaret Mitchell; Alice Walker; Michael McDowell; Rick Bragg; Donna Tartt; Dorothy Allison; Pat Conroy; John Grisham; Robert McCammon; Eudora Welty; John Kennedy Toole; Thomas Wolfe; Anne Rives Siddons; Kay Gibbons; Zora Neale Hurston; Tim Gautreaux; Shelby Foote; Charlaine Harris; Richard Wright; Caitlin Kiernan; Poppy Z. Brite; Booker T. Washington; Walker Percy; James Lee Burke; Ernest Gaines; Katherine Anne Porter; Cormac McCarthy; Mary Monroe; Mark Childress; Carson McCullers; Truman Capote; William Bradford Huie.

Neil Gaiman's Official Website

Sci-Fi Author Connie Willis Returns with Third Time Travel Novel

BlackoutBlackout is Connie Willis' first book since 2001's Passage, which won the Locus SF Award and was nominated for Hugo, Clarke, and Nebula awards.

Blackout opens in Oxford, England, in 2060. Three scholars prepare to time travel to the time of WWII. They are supposed to observe the nature of life during this time, but when they get caught up in the action of the Dunkirk evacuation and the London Blitz, they are forced from the sidelines into participating in these defining events in history.

Time travel and the possibility of altering the future are subjects that interest Willis. Doomsday Book (1992) and To Say Nothing of the Dog (1998) were her first two books tackling these concepts.

When Willis researches history to help write these books, she says, "You realize that history balances on a knife's edge, over and over again. If things had just gone slightly differently, the whole course of the world would be different, and that's a pretty terrifying thought."

All Clear, part two of Blackout, will be released in October.

Willis has won ten Hugo Awards, seven Nebula Awards, three Locus Awards, and received many more nominations for her body of work.


Storytime Dancing

Miss Judy and little friends dance to "The More We Get Together" during storytime at Springvill Road Library. Come join us each Wednesday at 10 a.m. for terrific tales and super stories!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WORD UP! 2010

WORD UP! is a poetry slam open to students enrolled in high school in Jefferson County. The participants in the WORD UP! contest will be the winners of the contests held at their schools.

The 2010 contest takes place Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm. It will be held in the Arrington Auditorium at Birmingham Public Library, Central. It is free and open to the public, so please take the opportunity to enjoy some great spoken word poetry from a group of talented young people.

For more information, check out the Word Up! website.

Ralph Ellison's Unfinished Second Novel Published

Three Days Before the ShootingExcerpts from Ralph Ellison's unfinished second novel was edited by his literary executor, John Callahan, and published in 1999 as Juneteenth. Three Days Before the Shooting...the Unfinished Second Novel is the entire manuscript edited by Callahan and co-editor Adam Brantley and published in January 2010.

Ellison started his second novel in 1954 and still hadn't completed it by his death in 1994. He claimed at one point that part of the manuscript was lost in a 1967 fire, but he later told a friend in a letter that it was only revisions to the manuscript that had been lost. Whatever the reasons, the self-confessed "fast writer, but...slow worker"never could pull the novel together.

What it's about: Set in the frame of a deathbed vigil, the story is a gripping multigenerational saga centered on the assassination of the controversial, race-baiting U.S. senator Adam Sunraider, who’s being tended to by “Daddy” Hickman, the elderly black jazz musician turned preacher who raised the orphan Sunraider as a light-skinned black in rural Georgia. Presented in their unexpurgated, provisional state, the narrative sequences form a deeply poetic, moving, and profoundly entertaining book, brimming with humor and tension, composed in Ellison’s magical jazz-inspired prose style and marked by his incomparable ear for vernacular speech. (from Modern Library)

Eight months before his first novel was published, Ellison told a friend he was already starting on his second book so that if his first one was a dud, he'd be too busy to think about it. Invisible Man has been hailed as an American classic and won the National Book Award in 1953.

BookPage interview with the editors of Three Days Before the Shooting

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Smooth Sunday

Jazz musician Keith Williams provided a serene musical ambience for staff and patrons at the Springville Road Public library Sunday afternoon. Williams, who has played music since the age of five, said he saw it as a great opportunity to introduce people to his style of smooth jazz. He also plays the drums and bass guitar. His CDs and more information are available at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dick Francis Dies at 89

Dick Francis ImageDick Francis died on February 14 at a home he kept in the Cayman Islands. No cause of death was reported, but he had prostate cancer that was diagnosed in the mid-1990's.

Before he began writing, Mr. Francis was a champion British jockey for the royal family, who was later involved in a horse racing accident. Francis was competing at the Grand National, which is considered to be the world's most prestigious horse racing event, while he was riding Devon Loch, the Queen Mother's horse. For an inexplicable reason, the horse collapsed and could not complete the race. Dick Francis, the British steeplechase jockey, retired from horse racing at age thirty-six.

Mr. Francis became a highly successful crime fiction writer, as well as a popular mystery writer who specialized in an immensely popular genre of mysteries set in the horse racing world. His main characters were often jockeys who were involved in murder and kidnapping plots. He began his second career, in 1962, with the publication of his first novel, Dead Cert. The popularity of his first novel led to his second novel, Nerve. He averaged approximately a thriller a year during his career. Mr. Francis sold over 60 million books during his writing career, including 42 novels.

Francis was awarded Britain's Silver Dagger in 1965 for For Kicks, three "best mystery novel" Edgars for Forfeit in 1969, Whip Hand in 1980, and Come to Grief in 1996. He was awarded the prestigious Grand Master citation from the Mystery Writers of American in 1996. Francis stated in his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, "I still find the writing . . . grindingly hard, and I approach Chapter One each year with deeper foreboding."

His stories were popular with millions of fans. Francis will be missed for his incredible talent and imagination. Survivors include his two sons, Felix and Merrick.

Link of interest:

Biography Resources Center (Requires JCLC Library Card)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt Book JacketBeth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a funny, warm and wonderful little southern novel. You'll love the quirky characters, southern charm and dramatic living. Color, as well as the surroundings, play a large role in CeeCee's story and affect her life.

Twelve-year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt has been living with her mother, the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. Mrs. Honeycutt loves to wear prom dresses, a tiara, smeared lipstick and red high-heeled satin shoes. Tragedy strikes and CeeCee is suddenly left alone. Her great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell, comes to her rescue in a vintage Packard convertible. She takes her away to Savannah, a charming southern town with lush gardens, dramatic moss-covered trees and warm magnolia scented air.

CeeCee Rose soon meets Oletta, Tootie's wise housekeeper, who later becomes one of CeeCee's friends. She makes the best beaten biscuits and scrumptious iced cinnamon rolls. You will meet the busybody Violene Hobbs, who has the news on everybody, and is often seen in a berry pink dress, and with blonde teased hair. She also meets the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, with red hair piled atop her head and an incredible emerald ring.

So, come along for a wonderful ride with Miss Cecelia Rose Honeycutt for a dramatic journey through Savannah, that will result in an incredible self-discovery.

This story will remind you of the importance of female friendship and finding your passion.

Get ready to sit back on the front porch with a glass of sweet iced tea, with the breeze blowing, and have a good ol' time in Savannah!

For more information, please visit:

Beth Hoffman Official Website

Beth Hoffman talks about her debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt:

For more reader’s advisory, please visit our Bookletters page. Bookletters offers book reviews, author bios and interviews, book group discussion guides, audio clips, and much more. To receive monthly updates on new books, simply sign up for BookLetters' email newsletter service. Reviews of recommended books in your favorite genres will be delivered right to your inbox.

My Favorite Part...

Interviews from the Big Read Kickoff for Jefferson County.

Join Alabama’s Big Read!

Pick up a copy and begin reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain" today.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brown Bag Lunch Program: The Spiritual: The Origin and Impact in the African American Community

Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell
Join us for a riveting experience with voice and piano featuring the story of how the spiritual came from Africa and served as a centerpiece of the slave community. Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell, Professor of Voice at Auburn University, creates an experience that you will remember forever! Wednesday, February 24, 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, February 16, 2010

Joe Hill Alert

Joe HillJoe Hill shares more than a startling resemblance to his famous father, Stephen King; he also shares a talent for turning out some haunting tales of his own.

In 2005 Joe Hill published his first book, 20th Century Ghosts, a collection of short stories, some truly frightening ("Best New Horror"), others comical ("Pop Art") and touching ("20th Century Ghost"). The collection won the Bram Stoker Award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Fiction Collection, and the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story for "Best New Horror."

Heart-Shaped Box, Hill's first novel, was published in 2007. It's a modern ghost story about a washed-out rocker who bids on a dead man's haunted suit on eBay. It was awarded British Fantasy's Sydney J. Bounds Best Newcomer Award.

Hill teamed up with illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez to create the graphic novel series Locke & Key. Welcome to Lovecraft (2008) and Head Games (2009) are the first two books in the series, and Crown of Shadows is slated for a July 2010 publishing.

Fans are eagerly awaiting his second novel, Horns, due out today.

Horns summary: At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside.

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge. . . . It's time the devil had his due. . . . (courtesy of William Morrow Publishers)

The Official Joe Hill Website

New Study: Need for Library Services Rises

The American Library Association (ALA), in conjunction with the University of Maryland Center for library and Information Innovation, recently released preliminary findings on how libraries coped last year during the economic crisis. The study, printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday, concluded that while libraries throughout the country were financially bruised by the downward economic impact, the demand for their services rose, especially among those unemployed.

The Birmingham Public Library is one example of library institutions rising to the challenge of the recession, offering electronic tools for those directly hit by the flailing economy. From the online database to the access of types of services offered, BPL remains standing on the frontlines of the federal financial struggle. Patrons are encouraged to take advantage of free computer classes, financial workshops and print resources to find employment or better themselves for other job opportunities.

Larra Clark, the ALA’s research project manager, commented, “A lot of libraries depend on local funding. … Libraries have been first responders in this financial crisis.”

She added, “But 21st century libraries can’t meet demands with a 20th century funding.”

But despite any lack or flux of funding, BPL unceasingly strives to meet the demands and needs of the community, especially those who need these services most.

For more information on the free classes, workshops or other resources offered by the BPL, you can access the BPL Web site, the Event Keeper or contact your local branches.

BPL@Night Presents "Writing What You Don't Know"

Irene Latham
Irene Latham, author of the young adult novel Leaving Gee’s Bend, isn't African American and she wasn't alive in 1932, but that didn't stop her from writing a story set in Depression-era Gee's Bend, Alabama, home of the now-famous quilters.

Ms. Latham is a poet and novelist who writes heart-touching tales of unexpected adventure. Her debut, middle-grade historical novel Leaving Gee’s Bend is set in Alabama during the Great Depression. A resident of Birmingham, Alabama, for the past 25 years, she has published over 120 poems of various books, journals and anthologies, including a full-length collection What Came Before, which was named Alabama State Poetry Society's book of the Year and earned a 2008 Independent Publisher's (IPPY) Award. Irene loves exploring new places and often uses "research" as an excuse to travel. Her favorite characters in books and real life are those who have the courage to go their own way.

At this BPL@Night event, Latham will sign books and discuss how she overcame challenges associated with writing across time and culture to create a meaningful, authentic story. The library will provide light refreshment.

For more information on Irene Latham and Leaving Gee’s Bend, please visit

For information on books, African-American Art, Alabama, please check out BPL’s subject guides dedicated to these topics at

Event: “Writing What You Don't Know” with author Irene Latham
Date: Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Central Library, Linn-Henley Bldg., Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Cost: Free

Monday, February 15, 2010

We the People

Birmingham Public Library has received the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) We the People Bookshelf award. The grant award provides collections promoting the theme of “Picturing America.” The collections are available for checkout at all 20 Birmingham Public libraries. The Bookshelf includes Spanish translations to accompany three of the selected titles, as well as bonus materials for readers of all ages. This special NEH grant also supports public programs in Birmingham’s communities.

The Bookshelf is awarded through the NEH We the People program, which supports projects that strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. The Bookshelf offers libraries and local communities additional educational resources that may not otherwise be available. Each year the Bookshelf provides an opportunity for readers to examine themes important to America’s history such as freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. “Picturing America” explores the premise that a nation’s literature, as well as its visual art, can be a window into its history, aspirations, and ideals.

The We the People Bookshelf on “Picturing America” is a literary complement to NEH’s Picturing AmericaSM program—a free education resource that provides reproductions of 40 works of great American art to schools and public libraries to help educators teach American history and culture through our nation’s art (

We the People Bookshelf Collection
"Picturing America" Collection
“Picturing America” theme includes the following titles, selected by the NEH, in cooperation with the ALA and the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of ALA:

Kindergarten to Grade 3

Walt Whitman: Words for America by Barbara Kerley
Cosechando esperanza: La historia de César Chávez by Kathleen Krull (translated by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy)
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sweet Music in Harlem by Debbie Taylor

Grades 4 to 6

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne
On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriette Gillem Robinet
The Captain's Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe by Roland Smith

Grades 7 to 8

The Life and Death of Crazy Horse by Russell Freedman
La leyenda de Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (translated by Manuel Broncano)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Across America on an Emigrant Train by Jim Murphy
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Grades 9 to 12

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
Viajes con Charley - en busca de América by John Steinbeck (translated by José Manuel Alvarez Flórez)
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

Bonus books for readers of all ages:

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out by The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance
1776: The Illustrated Edition by David McCullough

Vancouver 2010

Vancouver 2010

I don't know about you, but I think Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The pictures during NBC's coverage have been amazing. Give me Summer Olympic Games in Vancouver and I'm headed for the airport. Perhaps not, but you understand what I mean. The Winter Olympics is another story. The thought of standing in freezing cold temps in the snow waiting for someone to finish the downhill is a little more than I can handle. However, put me in a recliner in the comfort of my home and I'm there. Some people say they don't like the Winter Olympics. I really enjoy the alpine skiing, luge, bobsled, skeleton, and speed skating (especially short-track). The hockey is fun to watch as well. If there's a good backstory (think Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding) I can get into figure skating as well. Oh come on, you know that's why you watched the 1994 competition. Nancy Kerrigan won the silver medal and Tonya Harding came in last place. I'm sure Vancouver 2010 will provide its own historical moments. Between events, take a look at the Olympic Games subject guide to discover books, websites, and other information about the Olympics. Enjoy the next two weeks.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Flying Jenny Kicks Off The Big Read

The Flying Jenny
Charlie, Jim, Duncan, Joyce & Rachel

The Birmingham Public Library is so excited about the statewide program, “The Big Read” featuring Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that it has scheduled two months worth of programs for the city of Birmingham to enjoy. To kick-off this magnificent program, BPL is hosting events all over the library system, including a party in the Atrium of the Central Library on February 16, 2010, as well as a performance by the old-time string band, Flying Jenny, that night at 6:30 p.m. The band has tailored its music to fit Tom Sawyer’s time period.

Flying Jenny plays the music of the American settlers from the British Isles, which is a forerunner of bluegrass and country music. It consists of lively fiddle tunes meant for dancing as well as old songs sung on front porches and in front of fireplaces when families and friends got together after the day’s work was done. Flying Jenny (named after an old-fashioned mule-powered carnival ride) plays breakdowns on fiddle, guitar, banjo and bass, and sings old songs, often comical, in three-part harmony. In addition to the music, a performance by Flying Jenny includes stories about the tunes and the fiddlers who first played them. They have done a number of thematic performances on such topics as Alabama history, folk art, early radio music, Christmas folk music, romance in old-time music, etc.

For more information on The Big Read, including a complete line-up of events, please visit and click on Jefferson County.

For information on music, or more broadly, the arts, entertainment, literature and history, please check out BPL’s subject guides dedicated to these topics at

Flying Jenny Concert
Central Library
Arrington Auditorium, Linn-Henley Bldg., 4th floor
Tuesday, February 16, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public

photo courtesy of the Flying Jenny website

In the News: Slave Diary Connection That Inspired William Faulkner’s Literature Discovered

William Faulkner
The son of William Faulkner’s childhood friend remembers Faulkner visiting their family home in the thirties and taking notes from a family diary and slave ledger belonging to a wealthy plantation owner named Francis Terry Leak. In 1942 Faulkner’s novel Go Down, Moses was published. This novel is made up of seven connected stories that trace the life of a family and its slaves in the fictional town of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.

Edgar Wiggin Francisco III wanted to keep the diary’s connection with Faulkner a secret because of the darker side of his family's history, but was urged by his wife to share it with the public. Many of the names Faulkner gave to characters in Go Down, Moses, The Sound and the Fury, and Absalom, Absalom! come directly from the slave ledger. Francisco said that Faulkner would rant about Leak’s pro-slavery views while studying the papers.

Leak’s diary and papers are not a new discovery. They were donated to the University of North Carolina in 1946. But the connection to Faulkner is new and an important discovery for scholars studying the inspiration for his body of work.

Faulkner is considered one of the premier voices of southern literature, in good company with Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams. He died of a heart attack in 1962.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Pass the Proverbs Lifeline: The Black Book of Proverbs

book cover
Proverbs unite the timeless wisdom of Black communities in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas, while speaking to the triumphs and challenges of everyday life. Join us as Dr. Askhari Johnson Hodari discusses her book Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs and how these works inform our lives today. Wednesday, February 17, 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.

An Evening with Mark Twain

Mark Twain is one of the best loved American authors known for his wit and humor. Join us as Mark Twain Comes to life in "An Evening with Mark Twain" starring Darrell Revel.

This lively enactment of Twain’s stories and humorous anecdotes from his life are guaranteed to result in laughter.

Caricature of Mark Twain

Tuesday February 16, 2010

6:00 p.m.

This performance is a part of the Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. The Big Read is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama State Council for the Arts. For more information on the Big Read visit:

Grub Down!

"Time to Grub Down"

"At Grub Down, the weekly feeding open to the public, patrons can learn about and even handle some of the exotic pets in each library's menagerie" Anne Ruisi -- The Birmingham News

When do the animals Grub Down?

North Birmingham Regional Library

Each Wednesday @ 4:00 p.m.

Springville Road Regional Library

Each Tuesday @ 4 p.m.

Thanks to the Birmingham News for the video and article on Dinner at the North Birmingham and Springville Road libraries: Mealworms, anyone?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Fourth Floor Gallery Exhibit: Alabama Illustrated: Engravings from 19th Century Newspapers

An Alabama illustration
In the 19th century many Americans received news and learned about the world beyond their home towns by reading illustrated newspapers. Prior to the 1890s, the technology did not exist to economically publish photographs in newspapers, so some publishers employed artists to draw and engrave images. From the 1850s to the 1890s, more than 250 engraved images of Alabama were published in national and international papers. This exhibition contains 30 of those engravings showing Alabama at work, at play, and at war.

Fourth Floor Gallery
Central Library
February 13 - March 31, 2010

Accompanying Lectures
February 23, 6:30 pm, Birmingham Public Library, Arrington Auditorium
“Depicting Dixie: Alabama in 19th-Century Visual Culture”
Graham Boettcher, Birmingham Museum of Art

March 3, noon, Birmingham Public Library, Arrington Auditorium
“Birmingham Illustrated: Images of the Magic City in the 19th Century Press”
Jim Baggett, Birmingham Public Library Archives

Canceled: March 10, noon, Birmingham Public Library, Arrington Auditorium
“Nineteenth-Century Illustrated Newspapers as Art”
Kelsey Scouten Bates, Chinati Foundation

March 7, 3:00 pm, Birmingham Public Library Gallery
“Gallery Talk on Alabama Illustrated”
Jim Baggett, Birmingham Public Library Archives

March 21, 3:00 pm, Birmingham Public Library Gallery
“Gallery Talk on Alabama Illustrated”
Jim Baggett, Birmingham Public Library Archives

The Birmingham Public Library to Host "Foundation Center Resources for Nonprofits"

Foundation Center logo
The Birmingham Public Library continues to seek innovative ways to assist the public. There are few resources that affect the local community more than the resources for nonprofit organizations available at the library. With this knowledge, BPL will host an hour and a half seminar titled “Foundation Center Resources for Nonprofits.”

The Foundation Center is the leading authority on connecting grant-seeking nonprofit organizations with philanthropic institutions. It provides organizations with tools they can use and information they can trust. Established in 1956, the Foundation Center supports a nationwide network of Cooperating Collections, such as the one at the Birmingham Public Library. These collections provide under-resourced populations with the tools and training needed to connect with those willing to provide funding for their endeavors.

The Cooperating Collection, located in the Government Documents Department at the Central Library, provides free public access to grantmaker directories, books on fundraising, and information on managing nonprofit organizations. Also, Government Documents offers free access to the Foundation Directory Online, which contains more than 99,000 profiles of grant makers, 1.6 million records of recently awarded grants, and much more. Trained staff members are available to help searchers make the best use of the collection’s resources.

Joanne Kepics, Regional Training Coordinator, Foundation Center in Atlanta, will give the special presentation at the seminar on March 1. She will explain how to find funders using the Foundation Directory Online database of the over 99,000 grantmakers and grants. She will also cover how to get the most out of the resources on the comprehensive Foundation Center web site. This program is free, but registration is required as space is limited.

To register, please contact the Government Documents Department, located on the 3rd floor of the Central Library’s Linn-Henley Building. Government Document’s telephone number is 205-226-3620 and its email is The department’s Cooperating Collection may be accessed at any time during the library’s regular business hours.

Event: “Foundation Center Resources for Nonprofits,” Presented by Joanne Kepics
Date: Monday, March 1, 2010
Time: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Place: Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium (4th Floor of Linn-Henley Building)
Cost: Free; advance registration required
To register by phone: 205-226-3620
To register by email:

Monday, February 08, 2010

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing an African-American Book

Join us for the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing a book. The discussion will expose the audience to various local African-American authors and their experiences writing and marketing a book. Joining us will be Linda and Harry Chambers. Wednesday, February 10, 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.

Book Review: The Pilo Family Circus

The Pilo Family CircusI don't know if I've ever read such an original story chock-full of so much weirdness, violence, and humor. Yes, humor. The Pilo Family Circus was written by a 19-year-old law school dropout from Australia who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Will Elliott wrote the rough draft in three months, sometimes in sporadic bursts and sometimes in a single sitting resulting in ten thousand words. Pilo was written in times of sleep deprivation, using cabin fever as inspiration, and while he was coming down off anti-psychotic medication. This book is amazing.

One late night an Ordinary Joe named Jamie spies three menacing clowns on the street. One throws a bag of something behind a bush, and when Jamie gets it home he discovers some weird beads in the velvet bag. His ingestion of some of the beads gets him visited by three ruthless clowns who vandalize his apartment and leave him a message informing him he has 30 hours to pass his audition or he forfeits his life.

Jamie passes his audition when me makes the head clown laugh and is whisked away to the Pilo Family Circus. He is now part of a family of clowns led by the brutal and short-tempered Gonko. Once Jamie puts on the clown paint, his alter ego emerges. J.J. the clown is not an Ordinary Joe, but a psycho who enjoys roughing up carny barkers, menacing the dwarves, and getting a thrill out of murdering the gypsies who travel with the circus. Thus begins the battle between Jamie and J.J. over control of their body, not to mention keeping secrets from each other about a revolution at hand by a small group of carnival workers who yearn to break free from the Pilo Family Circus.

The circus is run by Kurt Pilo and his dwarf brother, George. The circus performers include macho but graceful acrobats, evil clowns, and a bitter magician allowed to perform only silly acts like pulling rabbits from hats, which sends him into fits of rage. The freak show is run by Fishboy, and includes Tallow, a thing whose skin melts into rivulets at his feet; a Yeti that is forced to eat glass at every show; and a severed head kept in a glass cage. All freaks were once human, but as punishment by the Pilos were turned into grotesque things by the Master Manipulator.

The circus has been around for centuries, putting on shows for tricks—humans attending a normal circus but who stumbled up to the wrong ticket booth. Sometimes the tricks lose their lives due to unforeseen circumstances, but they are the lucky ones. The others who stumble back into the real world had their souls sucked out of them as wages for the performers.

The most amazing part of this book is finding out how the circus came into existence, and just who is running the show. Oh, and the clowns have been recruited throughout history to return to the normal world and steer the course of human events in violent ways—e.g. influencing a failed Austrian artist with the initials A.H.

The Pilo Family Circus is one of many great bizarro books being published today. If you're a horror fan and want to delve into the truly weird, the world of bizarro fiction might be for you. Bizarro fiction has been described as the equivalent of the cult section at the video store, and some of the names to watch for are Jeremy Shipp, Carlton Mellick III, Anderson Prunty, Mykle Hansen, David Wong, Lance Carbuncle, Rolan Topor, Ryan C. Thomas and, hopefully, many more from Will Elliott.

Bizarro Central

Friday, February 05, 2010

Birmingham's 1902 Tragedy

The National Baptist Convention, an African American organization, met at Birmingham's Shiloh Baptist Church in 1902. The guest speaker was Booker T. Washington and the church was filled beyond capacity with people eager to hear him. What happened after Washington finished speaking left the city of Birmingham and the nation in shock and disbelief.

To find out what happened the night of September 19, 1902, view our new online exhibit.

Online Exhibit Screenshot

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV

Drew Brees and Peyton Manning
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Super Bowl is this Sunday. The bad news is that the NFL season is over. This year’s Super Bowl features the number one seeds from both the NFC and AFC, so it should be an outstanding game. During the regular season, both the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints were on track to go undefeated. The Colts got off to a 14-0 start and may have gone undefeated if the coach hadn’t rested his players for the playoffs. New Orleans started 13-0 and even though they dropped the last three games, they played like champions during the playoffs. Two of the league’s premiere quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, face off for what will probably be a very high-scoring game. Each defense will have its hands full trying to slow down the other team’s offensive attack. The Saints have never played in the Super Bowl before, so they have a lot riding on this game. The Colts are hoping that lightning strikes twice in Miami. On February 4, 2007, in the pouring rain, they beat the Chicago Bears to win Super Bowl XLI. I’m looking forward to a great game and I’m sure you are too. See you next season.

Monday, February 01, 2010

BPL@Night to Feature Performance by Carl Winters,"The Kalimba King"

Carl WintersAs Mr. Winters charmed the library audience in March of last year, the Birmingham Public Library is excited to host Carl Winters again for February 2010’s edition of BPL@Night.

The ethereal, mysterious kalimba, a.k.a. the African thumb piano, is often misunderstood, misinterpreted, and mistaken for being a museum piece or trinket. Consequently, Carl Winters has been inspired to develop an extensive songbook with the kalimba. His repertoire includes gospel, jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, pop, and original songs while delivering a complete solo performance. He also performs in duo, trio, quartet and quintet configurations.

Mr. Winters attended an Earth, Wind, and Fire concert in the 1970s and became inspired to master the kalimba. He has played all over the United States. The fusion of styles that inform and create Winters’ music will remind the listener of a dream. His songs create a mood and his performances leave a lasting impression on audience members.

“The Kalimba King’s” enriching program includes spoken word as well as music. Audience members will explore the kalimba’s beauty and its power in this special library performance.

Mr. Winters will also perform at the Avondale Regional Library on Tuesday, February 16, 2010.

For more information about Carl Winters and his unique music, visit

For information on music, or more broadly, the arts, entertainment, and recreation, please check out BPL’s subject guides dedicated to these topics at

Event: Performance by Carl Winters, “The Kalimba King”
Date: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium
Cost: Free

This BPL@Night program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. BPL would also like to thank the Alabama Power Company Foundation for their generous support of BPL@Night.

Know Where Tom Is

Join us for the Big Read.

For more information visit

Update: Brown Bag Lunch Program: That's Sew Gee's Bend Quilters

Tinnie PettwayTinnie Pettway and BPL staff member Audrey Brantley at last year's program.

Tinnie Pettway, Gee's Bend's first published author and founding member of The Gee's Bend Quilt Collective, will be on hand to promote her book The Gee's Bend Experience, Vol. 1. It is a collection of poems, short stories, and tidbits on life . Tinnie will be joined by her sister Minnie Pettway. Wednesday, February 3, noon.

Update: The Pettways will visit two additional libraries on February 3:

North Birmingham Regional Library
10:00 a.m.

Five Points West Regional Library
2:00 p.m.

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.

Resouce Spotlight: African-American History Online

African-American History Month begins today.

This is the perfect time to visit our online databases for rock-solid information exploring African American history and culture.

In the tutorial above, viewers are guided in accessing and using African-American History Online. African-American History Online can connect you to over 500 years of the African American experience using primary source documents, images, video, maps, and much more!

A host of other African-American History Month resources can be found on the BPL Subject Resources page for African-American History Month. The guide provides a list of reference books, databases, magazines, newspapers, and websites you can use to find the information you need.

If you have a casual interest, need to help a child with a school report, or want to do scholarly research about African American history and culture, African-American History Online and the BPL Subject Resources page are the places to start.

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