Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Sanctuary Cove

book coverSanctuary Cove
A Cavanaugh Island Novel
Rochelle Alers

Rochelle Alers introduces a new series that takes place on Cavanaugh Island, considered as Low country in South Carolina. Residents in Sanctuary Cove adhere to 400-year-old traditions, and a much slower pace of living.

Deborah Robinson is recently widowed. Her best friend and husband of eighteen years drowned after attempting to save three boys who were swimming in a rip tide. Prior to his death, her husband was involved in a high school scandal that implicated him in an affair with a pregnant teen.

In order to remove herself from the hurt and loss, Deborah Robinson sells her home and moves her two teenaged children from Charleston to Sanctuary Cove. They reside in her grandmother’s house.

Sanctuary Cove is also home to snowbirds who visit during the winter months. This is where Dr. Asa Monroe enters the story. Asa has experienced a loss. Not only did he lose his wife, but his six-year old son, as well. He is only in town until Doctors Without Borders approves his application.

Deborah opens a bookstore called The Parlor in Sanctuary Cove and hires Asa as her part time assistant. Business is flourishing at the bookstore. Debs, as Asa fondly calls Deborah, has events planned for the bookstore including themed months, book clubs, and three o’clock tea times. Since Asa plays the piano, beautifully, Debs has him to play at The Parlor which brings in the ladies. Things are going well. Asa and Debs are getting closer. Will the relationship blossom? Read Sanctuary Cove to enjoy the answer.

Angel’s Landing will be the second installment in the Cavanaugh Island series.

Felita Hawkins
East Lake Branch Library

The Art of Science May Programs: Paper Project

Art of Science logo
It’s in any décor,
Easy and frugal.
Art made from paper –
A favorite of all.

Participants will have the opportunity to create their own special project using paper.

The Art of Science is a grant-funded after-school program conducted by Elinor and Winfield Burks at six Birmingham Public Library branches: Avondale, East Lake, Five Points West, Ensley, Powderly, and Springville Road. The program will run nine months—from September 2011 through December 2012—and will cover the science of nutrition, geometry, sound, plants, optics, recycling, and materials engineering in a hands-on atmosphere. Each program will begin with a science principle and end with a craft or group project. Supplies for the crafts are provided.

At each session, the library will showcase books and videos about the program’s topic, and introduce age-appropriate databases for children to further explore what they learned at each program.

The Art of Science is made possible by the Kresge Arts in Birmingham, a partnership with the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham.

May Programs

Five Points West Regional Library, May 8, 4:00 p.m.
Ensley Branch Library, May 10, 3:15 p.m.
East Lake Branch Library, May 15, 3:30 p.m.
Springville Road Regional Library, May 16, 4:00 p.m.
Avondale Regional Library, May 18, 3:15 p.m.
Powderly Branch Library, May 22, 4:00 p.m.

9th Annual Art in Avondale Park Scheduled May 5

Art in Avondale Park logo
The 9th annual Art in Avondale Park, along with a community arts festival, will be held Saturday, May 5, from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. in the newly-restored and refurbished historic Avondale Park. The mission of Art in Avondale Park Alliance, Inc. is to inspire children to discover their talents through a wide variety of art lessons provided by local art teachers, artists, and community volunteers. Art from local and regional artists will be on exhibit and for sale. The event will also feature an area which will showcase art from students of area schools. Local musicians, singers, and dancers will perform on the Avondale Park Amphitheatre stage. A hands-on art area, clowns, magicians, pony rides, popcorn, and cotton candy will also be a part of the festivities. In case of rain, the festival will be held Sunday, May 6.

The event is free and food and drinks will be available for purchase. The park is located at the intersection of 41st Street, South and 5th Avenue South, beside the Avondale Regional Library. After you've enjoyed the art show and explored the renovated park, be sure to visit the Avondale Library to cool off and check out some books and movies to keep you entertained for the rest of the weekend.

Carla Perkins
Avondale Regional Library

Book Review: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

In Joshilyn Jackson's A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, we are introduced to three generations of strong Slocumb women, Ginny, Liza and Mosey. As the story is told through the points of view of different characters, we gain an understanding of each of their personalities.  Jackson delivers southern fiction at its finest.  You will laugh, cry, shout.  The Slocumb family undergoes hardships and heartbreak, but the family bonds stay strong.

Now, pull up a chair and stay a while.  I would like to tell you a little about the Slocumb family and the mystery surrounding a long-hidden grave. When the novel opens, young Mosey Slocumb discovers a hidden grave under the Willow tree in the backyard.  This discovery is the catalyst which drives the rest of the book. 

Over the years, this family has learned that the number fifteen means trouble is coming.  Now, Mosey Slocumb has just turned fifteen and she discovers a grave in the backyard.  When Mosey and others search further, they find a tiny jawbone.   Of course, everyone in town wonders who would do such a horrible thing.  Is this an accident or a true crime?

Ginny Slocumb is the eldest member of the family and must remain strong to pull everyone together during this crises.  Liza Slocumb has had a stroke and remains in a world of her own.  Memories are trapped in her mind, perhaps knowledge about this horrific incident, unknown to others, hidden forever.  Liza has endured so much and is trying to find her voice.  Mosey Slocumb is the youngest and desperately wants to find her true family.  You will find yourself cheering on these characters as they endure challenges. 

Piece by piece, Jackson gives us more information to put together the puzzle.  You'll find yourself turning the pages trying to find the answer to this mystery.  Each character is complex and we learn a great deal as they evolve during the story.  

The author takes us on an honest-to-goodness  romping adventure, one filled with love, hope, laughter and suspense.  Often, the journey is difficult, but there are some hilarious moments in this novel.   Joshilyn Jackson knows how to create quirky characters, plot twists and an exciting mystery that keeps you reading until the last page.  I would recommend this book to anyone who loves southern fiction or reading novels with quirky characters and clever plot twists with a sprinkle of laughter and a dash of mystery.

Now, if you like this novel, you might enjoy reading books by these authors:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Looking Forward to Memorial Day

May is coming, and with it the Memorial Day Holiday. For some this marks the unofficial beginning of summer and ushers in a time for picnics, family reunions, and blockbuster films. But the holiday was originally known as Decoration Day and originated shortly after the American Civil War as a time to honor the war's casualties and decorate their graves. By proclamation of General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, “the 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country . . .” This first celebration of Decoration Day was marked by a speech from President Garfield and the decoration of graves in Arlington National Cemetery. Many towns took up the practice and after World War I it became a day to honor all of America’s war dead. Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971 and fixed the date for its observance as the last Monday in May.

For more on Decoration Day/Memorial Day, check out these links:

Memorial Day

U.S. Memorial Day Association

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reception for Four Decades: Photography from the University of Montevallo Exhibition, April 30

image of eggs in a nestResponsibility by Mary Dillard

Birmingham Public Library (BPL) presents a very special exhibition created by faculty and former students from the University of Montevallo’s College of Fine Arts. Four Decades: Photography from the University of Montevallo opens in the Fourth Floor Exhibition Gallery of the Central Library on Tuesday, April 17, and runs through Friday, May 25. A reception for this exhibition will be held on Monday, April 30, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Board Room adjacent to the Gallery. The reception is free and open to the public. Read more about the exhibition.

Reception Details
Central Library, Board Room adjacent to Fourth Floor Gallery
Monday, April 30, 2012
5:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public

Exhibition Details

Four Decades: Photography From the University of Montevallo
Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
April 17, 2012-May 25, 2012
Gallery open during library hours:
Monday-Tuesday, 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Sunday, 2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.

Pratt City Library Plans Unveiled This Weekend

Pratt City Branch Library after the April 27, 2011 tornado
One year ago today, the Pratt City Branch Library was destroyed by a tornado. Tomorrow at noon, the city of Birmingham will unveil the plans for the new library as part of this weekend's schedule of events to be held in Pratt City. Additional Information Photographs of the Pratt City Branch Library's Damage "Tornados Rip Apart Several Libraries in the South" American Libraries
Schedule of Events

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: Girls in White Dresses

book coverGirls in White Dresses
Jennifer Close

Ah, to be twenty-two again; or maybe not. The girls referred to in Jennifer Close’s debut novel are young, well-educated, and eager to begin their adult lives. Three college friends, Isabelle, Lauren, and Mary have settled in New York City for work and law school. Follow each young woman (and several of their friends and co-workers) as she takes those first tentative steps into adulthood, experimenting with careers, relationships, and living arrangements.

Just as the characters begin to find their footing in the job market the weddings begin, hence the “white dresses” of the title. The romantic relationships chronicled here may not seem ideal, but they are described with such realism and empathy that I found myself rooting for every one of them. In the end, however, the relationship that the author is most concerned with is the women’s relationship with each other. Though their lives change via marriage, job loss, and motherhood, the three friends still support and love one another.

A few caveats: The chapters are told from the points of view of the different characters, with Isabelle as the main character getting more chapters than the others, and the book’s non-linear style can take some getting used to. While the different chapters come together to form a loose plot, most of them can stand alone and the book almost feels like a collection of short stories. Readers looking for lots of drama will be disappointed, but those looking for quirky dialogue and spot-on observations about life and love will be rewarded. While I have never been a single woman living in New York, I hope that if I was I would have a group of friends as funny and loyal as the Girls in White Dresses.

M.B. Newbill
Southern History Department
Central Library

Updates at LearningExpress Library

LearningExpress Library has added some updates to their test prep and skill-building website.

New Online Practice Exams

New professional and educational practice exams are available to users preparing for various state and national tests, as well as basic skill-building practice. These new additions include NCLEX-RN, PANCE, ASSET, and Praxis practice tests.

New eBooks
The inventory of vocational and instructional eBooks has grown to include new preparatory materials in various areas of study. New professional skills eBooks include Nursing Assistant/Nurse Aide Exam, Fifth Edition; Praxis I: Power Practice; PANCE: Power Practice; and Career Changer's Manual. Academic skills eBooks include 501 Geometry Questions, Second Edition; ACT Flash Review; and Practical Math Success in 20 Minutes a Day, Fifth Edition.

LearningExpress Library has something for everyone in the household. Beginning with fourth grade level reading and math help and continuing through college to workplace-related skills, the database offers resources in the form of exercises, practice tests, and eBooks. Best of all, this database is available to you in any Jefferson County Library or at home, provided you have Internet access and a library card.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Reader's Advisory: Urban Grit: A Guide to Street Lit

Street lit, also known as urban fiction, has become a very popular genre among readers. Publishers such as Urban Books and Triple Crown Publications specialize in publishing street lit titles for interested readers. Urban Grit defines the genre as “raw, gritty, urban stories set in the violent, dangerous, familiar, and sometimes exhilarating landscape of the streets, featuring tough African American characters and focusing on themes of interpersonal relationships and survival by any means necessary.”

Urban Grit is a great resource for learning more about the genre and finding good books to read. Although designed to educate librarians and booksellers about street lit, it is a valuable resource for readers who want to find information on authors, titles, series, and subgenres (e.g. players and hustlers, prison). The guide uses a gun symbol and a pepper symbol to indicate the levels of violence and sexuality in each book. The rating ranges from one symbol indicating mild violence and sexual content to three symbols indicating explicit content.

Urban Grit provides author, title, and keyword indexes to help readers find exactly what they are looking for. Each entry contains a summary of the novel along with recommendations for similar titles. If an author has written a series, there is an entry for the series title along with a description. Titles in the series follow in chronological order with individual descriptions of their own.

I know how much fun it can be to browse the collection to find books to read. As you browse, just remember there is a reference guide that may help you discover additional authors and titles. If we don’t have the book in the collection, we can always request it from another library in the county or through Interlibrary Loan (outside the county). If you would like to be notified about new street lit (urban fiction) titles, just sign up to receive e-mail notifications each month when the New Urban Fiction list is published on the library website.

BPL’s Jared Millet Edits Collection of Ghost Stories

book coverSummer Gothic: A Collection of Southern Hauntings
Edited by Jared Millet

Anytime is the right time for a good ghost story, or maybe 22 of them. This you will find in Summer Gothic, a new collection of stories edited by Jared Millet. As head of the Birmingham Public Library's Acquisition Department—the people who buy the books for the library—Jared knows good story telling and he's assembled a score plus two ghost stories with a summer theme.

While we think of dark and stormy nights as the best time for reading ghost stories, Summer Gothic might be more appropriate for the beach or the pool. In the story "Beachfront," a demonologist and her friend spend a week at a beach house that was the sight of a grisly murder. In "Fourth of July," set on Alabama's Smith Lake, a suicidal young woman returns to her family's vacation cabin searching for the ghost only she sees. In "Earl and Bubba Save the King," two beer besotted good old boys, devoted sons of an Elvis fan still grieving the King's death, use the power of their minds (stop laughing) to travel back in time to 1972. It's a simple plan to prevent Elvis' death and "make Mama happy again."

In Jared Millet's contribution, "Hurricane Season," a young woman moves to the Gulf coast to live in her grandmother's house that she has inherited. Once there she discovers a ghost, who walks about in the rain, and a terrible family secret. Jared conjures ghosts with a sense of place and writes with wit. As his heroine ponders the financial consequences of abandoning her haunted residence, Jared asks his readers, "After all, what did the wrath of a murderous spirit matter compared to her credit rating?" He describes the first rain of an approaching hurricane as Mother Nature's "statement of intent." It's the kind of good story, and good writing, that will keep you turning pages until the end.

Summer Gothic is available from Amazon (in paperback and Kindle editions), Barnes and Noble (in paperback and Nook editions), and is available for check out from libraries in Jefferson County. For more information visit

Jim Baggett
Archives Department
Central Library

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Note About Letters

Letter Writing Pen and Paper

Did you know April is National Card and Letter Writing Month? As with many of us who delve deeper into the digital-age trends of e-mail and texting, we may have grown a tad lackadaisical with our handwritten correspondence. However, this eloquent means of communication does deserve its well-deserved recognition. So, what’s a better way to ensure this literary art does not become obsolete? Well, get inspired, of course! Here are some interesting books about letters that will, hopefully, remind us that the art of handwriting snail mail is not lost.

Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self edited by Joseph Galliano
I Love You, Ronnie : the Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan by Nancy Reagan
The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens edited by Jenny Hartley
Marshalling Justice: the Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall edited by Michael G. Long
Ten Letters : the Stories Americans Tell Their President by Eli Saslow
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway edited by Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon
Write the Right Words : Messages from the Heart for Every Occasion by Sandra E. Lamb
The Art of the Personal Letter : a Guide to Connecting through the Written Word by Margaret Shepherd

Friday, April 20, 2012

Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the Civil War: Part Four: The Shape of War

Let's Talk About It logo
The Birmingham Public Library will host a free five-part reading and discussion series called Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War. In commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial, the series encourages participants to consider the legacy of the Civil War and emancipation. The series is open to all adults in the community (registration is required) and is led by Dr. Victoria E. Ott, Associate Professor of History at Birmingham-Southern College and author of Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War.

Part Four: The Shape of War
Thursday, April 26, 2012
5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Central Library, Arrington Auditorium
Program consists of a group discussion on Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (2002) by James M. McPherson, and readings from America's War (2012):
  • Drew Gilpin Faust, excerpt from This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War [2008]
  • Gary W. Gallagher, "The Net Result of the Campaign was in Our Favor: Confederate Reaction to 1862 Maryland Campaign" [1999]
List of Discussion Dates and Registration Information

Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War series is developed by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Local support for the series is provided by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and the Birmingham Public Library.

Patron Self-Registration for E-Card

Did you know you can register for a temporary e-card? E-cards are one-month library cards that allow you to have access to the Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) electronic resources, which includes databases and e-journals. You can obtain an e-card if you are a resident of Jefferson County and can do so online. However, the card is limited to the virtual library and won’t allow you to check out library materials. You will need a full-use library card which you can get, with proper identification, at any JCLC location. Those who reside outside the Jefferson County area could still get a library card for an annual fee of $50.

Please Donate Today. JCLC "Keep It Alive"Services such as this and the “one county, one card” system is provided by the JCLC. The cooperative includes 22 municipal libraries and the 19 branches of the Birmingham Library System. Help keep JCLC alive by giving your support.

Where Does All The Money Go?

Tax Receipt Calculator
Now that your 2011 tax returns have been filed (or at least were supposed to have been filed), you might find it rewarding to take a look at how your federal tax dollars are being spent. For the second straight year, the White House has placed on its homepage a tax receipt calculator. The idea for placing such a calculator on the homepage was first proposed by President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address. It was the President’s intention to make the operations of the United States Government more transparent and accountantable to the American people. The tax receipt calculator helps him accomplish that goal by allowing taxpayers to find out how much of their money is being spent on the variety of services offered by the federal government.

The calculator works like this: you enter the dollar amount that you paid into three categories of taxes—Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, and income taxes—and the calculator computes the dollar amount that goes to each of twelve broad government service categories plus a thirteenth category for interest on the government debt. If you want a more service specific breakdown, you can expand the list to 40 categories.

What if you don’t have your W-2 form handy with which to input your tax burden? Not to worry, because the Whitehouse has created 5 different precalculated scenarios that will allow you to see how people at various ends of the income spectrum are affected by the federal tax rates. For example, a single parent with one child who has an income of $35,000 pays at total of $2,741 in taxes. 52% of that total, or $1,441, is eaten up by Social Security taxes, while Medicare taxes account for $497 and income tax consumes the remaining $803. The largest share of the income tax goes to National Defense, $199.95, and the smallest shares goes to governmental responses to natural disasters, $3.21.

As you might imagine, the White House is not the only entity that has created such a calculator. Third Way, a Washington D.C. based think tank that advances centrist positions on public policy issues, has one on their website that will break down your tax contribution to the federal government into over 200 different categories.

Jim Murray
Government Documents Department
Central Library

Bards & Brews Travels to Avondale Library

B&B logo
The Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance and beer tasting series is heading back to the Avondale neighborhood and will be an OPEN MIC rather than a slam. On May 4, staff will pack up the sound equipment and supplies as they return to the spot which has generated one of the largest gatherings yet for the popular after-hours series. Usually held the first Friday of each month at the Central Library downtown, the May edition of Bards & Brews will travel to the Avondale Regional Library located at 509 40th Street South. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. with live music, and poetry performances start at 7:00. Emcee Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins will deftly guide both novice and veteran poets through an evening of verse with topics that run the gamut from romantic relationships to the local political scene.

Back Forty Beer Company, located in Gadsden, will provide craft beer for sampling. Light snacks will also be served. Attendees must be 18 years or older to be admitted, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked. Bards & Brews has its own Facebook page which features a wealth of information about the event. This program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Worth the Shot

Battle of Lexington-Concord
"Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."

These are the words of American Captain John Parker, engraved on the stone at Lexington Green where American minutemen and British redcoats came to blows. It was the commencement of the American Revolution and end of the British hold of the colonies.

General Thomas Gage, then Governor of Massachusetts, was secretly ordered by King George III to enforce the Intolerable (or Coercive) Acts, law enacted as response to the Boston Tea Party with the intent to gain control and bestow punitive measures to the colonies. Gage was also ordered to suppress any and all rebellion, using any force necessary.

On April 18, Paul Revere and William Dawes learned of the attack and set out to warn the colonists, especially Samuel Adams and John Hancock who were main targets. A signal of two lanterns meant the troops chose a route “by water.” Revere and Dawes rode out, alerting all members of the militia of the impending attack.

At dawn, about 70 armed colonial minutemen met the British army and pushed the them back to Boston. Captain Parker was well aware that he and his American men were largely outmatched, but they stood their ground. And there it was, in the wee hours of April 19, 1775, the shot heard around the world.

Suggested Readings:
Social Sciences Department
Central Library

Tarrant High Student Claims Grand Prize in Poetry Slam

WORD UP! winnersWORD UP! 2012 winners from left to right: Eboni Wallace (Tarrant), first place winner; Derrick McKenzie (Hewitt-Trussville), second place winner; Jeramie Scott (Woodlawn), third place winner; Justin Wright (Shades Valley), third
place winner.

WORD UP! is an annual poetry slam for high school students who are enrolled in schools, or home schooled, in Jefferson County. At the event held on Sunday, April 1, Eboni Wallace walked away with the grand prize. Eboni is a 10th grade student at Tarrant High School. Also stepping onto the stage to receive cash awards were second prize winner Derrick McKenzie, a 12th grade student at Hewitt-Trussville and two winners who tied for third place, Jeramie Scott, a 10th grader at Woodlawn High, and Justin Wright, an 11th grade student at Shades Valley High School. Other schools represented by the more than 25 participating students included the Alabama School of Fine Arts, A.H. Parker High, Spain Park, and Wenonah High. The slam was sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library (BPL).

WORD UP! celebrated its fifth anniversary this year. Students in grades 9 through 12 wrote and performed original poetry inspired by a theme selected by the event planning committee. In keeping with the spirit of this year’s anniversary, the theme for WORD UP! 2012 was “milestones.” Each participating high school held a preliminary contest where the first and second place winners at each school moved on to the WORD UP! competition. Contestants on April 1 faced a cheering audience of more than 110 guests and a panel of three judges. Jim Reed, owner of Reed Books, served as the emcee. The judges were Jerri Hardesty, Barry Marks, and Erika Wade. Jerri Hardesty has competed in poetry slams at the national level and is an experienced slam host. Barry Marks is a poet and attorney whose book of poetry, Possible Crocodiles, was named Alabama’s poetry book of the year for 2010 by the Alabama State Poetry Society. Erika Wade won first place at WORD UP! the first two years of the competition as the representative of the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA). After graduating from ASFA, Wade enrolled in the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (UA). She is the current editor of the UA's literary journal, Marr's Field Journal and is a Teach for America Rising Leaders Fellow. Word UP! 2012 is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The first WORD UP! was held in 2008 as part of The Big Read for Jefferson County in which public libraries encouraged county residents to read and discuss To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The Big Read was an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in our lives.

Celebrate Earth Day on April 22

Earth Day logo
Earth Day is a day in which the events occur world-wide to increase environmental awareness and to appreciate the natural environment. Earth Day falls on April 22 this year. Many counties celebrate it on different days, some having an Earth Week, but most celebrate on April 22 as well.

The name and concept of an Earth Day was first discussed at a UNESCO conference in 1969 in San Francisco. The next year was the first official celebration of Earth Day. The celebration of Earth Day helped raise environmental issues in the United States and the world, and helped lead to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 by President Richard Nixon.

To find materials in the Library about Earth Day, click here.

For information about events on Earth Day, check out the Earth Day Network.

For national Environmental issues, check out Keep America Beautiful.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for Earth Day.

On May 5, the Botanical Gardens will be having a special Earth Day Event.

Auntie Litter, our local promoter for Earth Day and the environment has her own website.

Earth Day logo

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Let BPL's Small Business Resource Guide Help Start or Expand Your Business

According to the Alabama Small Business Development Consortium, the first three steps to starting a business are: prepare a written business plan complete with financial statements; decide whether you wish to operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation; and establish a source of adequate and reliable financing. These are daunting but necessary steps to making your dream a reality. To help you get started, Birmingham Public Library offers access to resources to help you start your business as well as information to manage and grow your business.

Some of the resources we offer are listed in our online Small Business Resource Guide. This guide provides you with an overview of materials you can use to help with market research, write a business plan, contact other agencies that help entrepreneurs, etc. The lists of references contained in the Small Business Resource Guide are not exhaustive, so in order to find out all we have to offer, visit the Business, Science, & Technology Department on the third floor of the Central Library.

Business, Science, & Technology Department
Central Library

BPL Wins Alabama’s Brightest Trivia Competition

Trivia contest winnersRepresentatives from Impact Alabama and members of BPL's Trivia Team (green shirts) from left to right: Danny Dorroh, Tobin Cataldo, Jaclyn Hogan, Jared Millet, Marybeth Newbill, and Jim Pate

Congratulations to BPL’s Trivia Team for winning not one, but TWO $10,000 awards in the annual Birmingham’s Brightest trivia competition! Presented by Impact Alabama and sponsored by Protective Life Corporation, the first competition, held at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, drew over 70 Birmingham-area businesses and organizations, with over 650 individuals in attendance. The state-wide contest on April 18 netted an additional $10,000. Team members beat out Mobile’s Hargrove Engineers + Constructors, Montgomery’s Alabama Arise, and Huntsville’s Dynetics Inc. All four teams were the winners of their respective city competitions. The total of $20,000 will go to BPL’s sponsor in this endeavor, the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library. Thank you, Friends!

And now to the team members: Tobin Cataldo (Collection Management), Danny Dorroh (Business Office), Jaclyn Hogan (Southside), Jared Millet (Acquisitions), Mary Beth Newbill (Southern History), and Jim Pate (retired Southern History). Team alternates included Lynn Carpenter (Five Points West), Barry Crane (Springville Road), Katie Elkins (Avondale), and Jennifer Neely (Administration). What a fabulous team.

Never underestimate the collective brain power of six BPL librarians!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus
Sarah Dunant

The grand panorama of the Renaissance Florence of Lorenzo Medici and Savonarola is largely denied to young Alessandra Cecchi, who strains against the social and religious constrictions of her time that imprison women in the homes of their fathers and husbands. Luckily for the reader, our heroine seizes every chance to experience humanist learning and art in the freshness of its birth through her eager eyes and mind.

The Birth of Venus is historical fiction with a dollop of romance, but Sarah Dunant has not left the thriller genre entirely behind. Torture, slavery, evisceration and childbirth, the sublimity of the Virgin, Dante and Botticelli, all challenge Alessandra as she seeks freedom in a rapidly evolving new world.

At age sixteen Alessandra is introduced to her prospective husband, Christofero Langella, a wealthy middle-aged scholar and art collector.

Langella asks, “So tell me, Alessandra Cecchi, do you love the art of our fair city?”

“Oh I adore it,” she says, “and you?”

“The very same. That is why Savonarola’s words don’t freeze my soul.”

“You are not a sinner?” she asks.

“On the contrary. I sin often. But I believe in the power of love and beauty as an alternative route to God and redemption.”

Fine details and rich characterization reward the attention of the reader who maneuvers with Alessandra through Florence’s narrow streets, the chambers of her wool merchant father’s palazzo and the shifting rivalries of her siblings. Venus is born as Alessandra at last learns the secrets of her true protector and ally.

Alessandra is an alert companion for your arm chair tour of Florence at the height of its historic and artistic brilliance.

Experience The Birth of Venus.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Titanic—The Real Story

front page story about sinking of TitanicThe front page of the April 16, 1912, evening edition of the Boston Daily Globe details the Titanic disaster. Picture: AP

You’ve seen the movie and TV shows and maybe you’ve read some books about the sinking of RMS Titanic 100 years ago. But if you want to read actual documentation of the Titanic disaster, read the documents available on the U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection database.

This database gives access to documents created by each of the United States Congresses since 1789. You can do advanced searches or basic ones, like the one for information on Titanic. Enter “Titanic” into the search box, and you’ll retrieve ten documents produced soon after the sinking occurred—and all in full text. Three can be singled out for their detailed content.

Hearings on Titanic Disaster (May 28, 1912) is an 1176-page report of the Senate Committee on Commerce’s questioning of dozens of witnesses. These included J. Bruce Ismay, the General Manager of the White Star Line and also a passenger, and Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the telegraph and then chief engineer and chairman of Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company.

Report of British Government on loss of steamship Titanic (August 20, 1912) is based on information gathered from twenty-six specific questions, such as “Was proper discipline maintained on board after the casualty occurred?”

Report on investigation into loss of British White Star liner Titanic (May 28, 1912) is the United States Senate’s findings. In addition to the narrative of events, it also has a complete listing of the crew and the first-, second-, and third-class passengers, including their addresses.

As time has passed, many more facts have been established (the assumption is made that Titanic sank in one piece, for example). However, nothing can compare to the first-hand accounts.

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents Department
Central Library

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bards & Brews Poetry Slam Tonight at Central Library

B&B logo
The Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance and beer tasting series is scheduled tonight starting with live music at 6:30, call time at 7:00. Usually held the first Friday of each month, the April edition of Bards & Brews is being held on the second Friday since BPL was closed for Good Friday on April 6. Tonight's event will return to the slam format and will be held at the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place.

The slams are emceed by poetry slam events director Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins. Hawkins has hosted On Stage at the Carver at the Carver Theater, the longest running poetry open mic in Birmingham (7 years running). He has hosted numerous additional events of this nature and has also performed his own works many times across the country.

Each contestant contributes $5 to the pot, and winner takes all. Southern Fried Slam rules will be observed. Craft beer will be available for sampling, along with light refreshments. You must be 18 years or older to be admitted, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked. Live music at 6:30 p.m. Call time is 7:00 p.m. Check out the Bards & Brews page on Facebook for more information. This program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: Smut: Stories

book coverSmut: Stories
Alan Bennett

For at least fifteen years Alan Bennett has been one of my never-miss fiction writers (he also writes un-missable memoirs, plays, journalism and more). His short stories expertly, and often hilariously, reveal the misunderstandings, snobbery and—best of all—embarrassment that so define the English.

Speaking of miscommunications, the title alone indicates not what you’d think (there’s little explicit sex here) but instead what could be called erotic fumblings among the English. Fumblings: because class, boredom, anxiety and, yes, embarrassment get in the way. Not actually having sex (or satisfactory sex) is what mostly happens here; the title is a send-up.

In "The Greening of Mrs Donaldson," the first of the two stories in this book, the title character carries the talent she developed muddling through her marriage to her late husband into acting out patient symptoms for medical students. Why not get paid for something she’d always, in effect, done? She also takes in a young couple to supplement her income. They get behind in the rent and ask Mrs. Donaldson if they can take it out in trade, albeit in an indirect way. She soon begins to wonder of the young ones: Is this more playacting along the lines of what she and her late spouse Cyril so often resorted to? Public faces mutate, but they always seem necessary. On one occasion, Mrs. Donaldson, bored by the floor show, finds herself “looking at the floor and wondering if it was time she had the carpet cleaned.” She may consider herself a bit of a bore, but not to the reader, not with observations like this.

"The Shielding of Mrs Forbes," the companion story, offers another stereotype-exploding cast of characters many opportunities to deceive, lie to and cheat each other as well as themselves. Bennett perfectly balances social probing and hilarity, as he does in so many of his creations. As in the previous story, snobbery is displayed to winning comic effect: “Still she felt a church ceremony was essential if only to demonstrate that the bride was neither pregnant nor Jewish.” This tale reads like a present-day Moliere piece, but that only partly gets at its fun. The older writer would certainly take his hat off to Bennett, if given the revival chance.

As always, Bennett has compassion for all of his characters. That might seem odd, with all the deception going on, but that’s one of the great achievements that he pulls off. You’ll probably have compassion, too, because, if only in a small way, his characters are us.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Zumba Fitness @ Wylam Library

Zumba flyer
Over the past two months, Wylam Library has been offering Zumba classes for adults and they seem to love it! Zumba is a Latin-based dance that was created by Berto Perez in 1999 and loosely translated from a Columbian slang word means "to move fast or buzz like a bee."

Zumba combines body-sculpting moves with the dance steps of meringue, cumbia, reggaeton, salsa, mambo, hip-hop, rumba, calypso, and flamenco. This fun exercise program allows our patrons to have fun while burning calories. You can also do the workouts in the privacy of your own home by watching and practicing them on DVD.

This program has been a great way to motivate many of our patrons to get up and get moving while introducing them to something new. Not only is Zumba incredibly fun, it is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. A high-intensity Zumba workout can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour. In addition to the workout, this time allows the staff to interact with our patrons on a more personal basis. We get the opportunity to ask those key questions, take suggestions from those we serve, and improve or change our services to better accommodate their needs.

Zumba Fitness @ Wylam Library
April 11 & 25, May 9 & 16
10:30-11:30 a.m.
Registration is required. To register for a Zumba class, call 205-785-0349 or e-mail

Alisha Johnson
Wylam Branch Library

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scottish Highland eBooks and Audiobooks

book cover
There are many who criticize romance fiction and view it as fluff. However, being the most popular downloadable genre, obviously its readers couldn't care less. The bottom line in any fiction genre is finding a good author who writes a great story. One very popular sub-genre of historical romance is Scottish Highland. A multitude of authors write in this genre, but sometimes it can be difficult sorting through them to find the best stories.

The Jefferson County Library Cooperative downloadable collection has a large number of eBook/audiobook highland historical romance titles available for checkout. The following is a short listing of popular authors of this genre in our collection: Paula Quinn; Julie Garwood; Diana Gabaldon; Hannah Howell; Karen Marie Moning; Karen Ranney; Jennifer Ashley; Maya Banks; Mary Wine; and Connie Brockway.

There are many more authors of the Scottish Highland romance genre available in our downloadable collection. Just type the string of words highlands-scotland-fiction into the keyword search box in the classic or Encore catalog and choose either eBooks or downloadable audiobooks from the list of formats.

Karyn Davis-West
Central Library

Teen Book Review: Tempest

TempestTime travel isn't what it's like in the movies. Nothing changes, and people don't remember anything about the traveler. In Julie Cross' Tempest, Jackson Meyer has the ability to jump through time. It's just harmless fun for him. When two strangers burst into his girlfriend's room and attack Jackson and Holly, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back to 2007—further than he's ever jumped before. But this isn't like his other times, he's stuck there, unable to get back to his own time. As Jackson assumes his past self's life and learns more about his power, Jackson will learn the truth about his past and find out not even time will stop these attackers from finding him.

Tempest is a quick paced read that with an unpredictable plot that keeps the reader caught up in the story. You will want to finish this story in one sitting.

Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West Regional Library

Four Decades: Photography from the University of Montevallo

image of eggs in a nestResponsibility by Mary Dillard

Birmingham Public Library (BPL) presents a very special exhibition created by faculty and former students from the University of Montevallo’s College of Fine Arts. Four Decades: Photography From the University of Montevallo opens in the Fourth Floor Exhibition Gallery of the Central Library on Tuesday, April 17, and runs through Friday, May 25. A reception for this exhibition will be held on Monday, April 30, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Board Room adjacent to the Gallery. The reception is free and open to the public.

Faculty featured in the exhibition includes Associate Professor of Art, Karen Graffeo, and Scott Stephens, Professor of Art and Chair of the Department of Art. Graffeo is also the director of the photography concentration at the university. In 2005, she was appointed University Scholar for her documentary work in Roma communities in western and central Europe. Graffeo’s personal work includes multi-media, alternative processes, and documentary photography, including an ongoing documentary (1999-present) of Roma communities. She has also presented performance-based work in national and international venues including a performance choreographed and staged during a teaching residency at Ulster Art Academy in Belfast. Graffeo has a Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Painting (1987), as well as a Master of Arts in Art Education from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (1978).

Scott Stephens is an artist who teaches printmaking and photography. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Alabama and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Washington University in St. Louis. Stephens has completed artist residencies at the Centrum vor Grafiek Frans Masereel in Kasterlee, Belgium, the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France, and the Hamilton Printmakers Arts Association in Ontario, Canada. His work has been recognized with a fellowship from the Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts and two individual artist fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts in 1992 and 2002. His work in photography focuses on photomechanical techniques and historical processes.

In addition to Graffeo and Stephens, the exhibition will include works by artists Margaret Blevins, Andrea Bliss, Gena Gann Childers, John DeMotte, Mary Deering Dillard, Lee Dunnie, Amanda Rowland Erwin, Philip Griffith, Sky Johnson, Ben Rigsby, Jesse Robitaille, Ted Tucker, and Joel Whitaker.

Exhibition Details
Four Decades: Photography From the University of Montevallo
Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
April 17, 2012-May 25, 2012
Gallery open during library hours:
Monday-Tuesday, 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Sunday, 2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.

Reception Details
Central Library, Board Room adjacent to Fourth Floor Gallery
Monday, April 30, 2012
5:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Children's Book Review: Dead End in Norvelt

book coverDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. It’s a great read for guys, but girls will love it too.

Dead End in Norvelt is an entirely true and wildly fictional novel. The story takes place during an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, who had plans for an exciting vacation but ends up "grounded for life" by his parents. Although poor Jack’s nose discharges blood badly at every little shock he gets, there is plenty of excitement and shocks coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore: typing obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded this model town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a tricycle, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels, and possibly a murder.

This book is full of endless surprises. Gutman is at his best with his sly, sharp-edged narrative of growing up in slightly off-kilter, small-town America where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely unknown.

Barbara Hutto
Youth Department
Central Library

Monday, April 09, 2012

Last Week to See Maurice Cook Exhibition at Central Library

Maurice Cook painting
The exhibition Simpler Times: The Paintings of Maurice Cook will be available through Friday, April 13, at Central Library's Fourth Floor Gallery.

Cook is self-taught and his work depicts people enjoying life and activities typically found throughout the rural South. He began painting professionally in 1994. Working primarily in acrylics, Cook’s art is honed from experiences and impressions through his lens on life—working as a juvenile detention officer, barber, welder, and fireman. Cook has exhibited in numerous shows including the Birmingham Art Walk, Montevallo Art Show (where he was recipient of the 2010 Award of Excellence), Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, and the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the Civil War: Part Three: Making Sense of Shiloh

Let's Talk About It logo
The Birmingham Public Library will host a free five-part reading and discussion series called Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War. In commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial, the series encourages participants to consider the legacy of the Civil War and emancipation. The series is open to all adults in the community (registration is required) and is led by Dr. Victoria E. Ott, Associate Professor of History at Birmingham-Southern College and author of Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War.

Part Three: Making Sense of Shiloh
Thursday, April 12, 2012
5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Central Library, Arrington Auditorium
Program consists of readings from America's War (2012):
  • Ambrose Bierce, "What I Saw of Shiloh" [1881] *online*
  • Ulysses Grant, excerpt from the Memoirs [1885] *online*
  • Shelby Foote, excerpt from Shiloh [1952]
  • Bobbie Ann Mason, "Shiloh" [1982]
  • General Braxton Bragg, speech to the Army of the Mississippi [May 3, 1862]
List of Discussion Dates and Registration Information

Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War series is developed by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Local support for the series is provided by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and the Birmingham Public Library.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

"42" Calls On Birmingham

Jackie Robinson
The Birmingham News reported this morning of an open call for extras in the upcoming film “42,” about Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jackie Robinson. The casting call will occur Monday, April 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Boutwell Auditorium. A second casting call is scheduled for Tuesday in Chattanooga, TN.

The film’s casting directors are looking for men and women ages 18 and older to play stadium crowds, fans, umpires, and coaches. Headshots and 1940s attire are encouraged. The movie is tapped to be filmed in Alabama and Tennessee later this year. Harrison Ford is slated to play Dodgers vice president Branch Rickey, and Chadwick Boseman will play Robinson.

Robinson was the first African-American to play major league baseball. He helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series in 1955 and retired in 1957 with a batting average of .311. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, becoming the first African-American to have the honor. He continued his advocacy for social change and served on the board of the NAACP until 1967. In 1972, the Dodgers officially retired his uniform number “42.” Robinson died in 1972 from heart problems and diabetes.

To perhaps help give aspiring actors that "extra" advantage, here are some materials to help prepare for the part:

“I never had it made” by Jackie Robinson as told to Alfred Duckett
“First class citizenship : the civil rights letters of Jackie Robinson” edited by Michael G. Long
“Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers” by Milton J. Shapiro
“Jackie Robinson : a life remembered” by Maury Allen
“Jackie Robinson” by Richard Scott
“Jackie Robinson : an intimate portrait” by Rachel Robinson with Lee Daniels
“Jackie Robinson : a biography” by Arnold Rampersad
“Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball” by Scott Simon
“Amazing baseball heroes : inspirational Negro League stories” by Bryan Steverson
“Jackie Robinson: Champion for Equality” by Michael Teitelbaum (Children’s)
“Jackie Robinson : hero of baseball” by Carin T. Ford (Children’s)
“Jackie Robinson” by Philip Abraham (Children’s)

National Library Week, April 8-14

NLW couponBe sure to visit your favorite Birmingham Public Library branch during National Library Week, April 8-14, 2012. If you have ever researched a paper, checked out a bestseller, used a computer, discovered an old photograph, or attended a special program, you know what a great resource your library is every day of the year. To celebrate National Library Week, we are providing a coupon good for $5 to pay your overdue charges. To get a coupon, access The Reader online to print one.

West End Branch Library—100 Years

The West End Branch of the Birmingham Public Library is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. An all-day reception will be held on Thursday, April 12, 2012, at the West End Branch Library from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

The first West End Branch Library became part of the Birmingham Public Library on April 1, 1912, when the town of West End was incorporated into the city of Birmingham. West End Branch then became the third branch in the Birmingham Public Library system.

By 1962 it was time for a new library because the 1912 branch was too small and outdated to house a modern library. The City of Birmingham approved a bond issue for $109,000 for a new building. While the new library was being built, a store front on Tuscaloosa Avenue was used as a temporary library. So it was that the second West End Branch was opened on Sunday, December 9, 1962. It had a separate area for children and adults and a meeting room for programs and community events. At 4,500 square feet, the second branch was spacious and modern compared to the old building. By 2003 the second West End Branch Library had been in operation for approximately 41 years and desperately needed another new building.

In 2003 the Birmingham City Council accepted a bid to build a new $1.7 million West End Community Library. This would be the third West End Branch Library and would serve the five neighborhoods in the West End Community and the surrounding area. At 8,200 square feet, the new library has a meeting room that will accommodate 75 people, a conference room, thirteen computers for public use, and a spacious reading room that houses a more than 18,000 items.

Maya Jones
West End Branch Library

Southern History Department Partners with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to Provide After-School Programming

Buffalo Soldier photo
Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) Southern History Department recently completed a month-long series of after-school programs at Birmingham City Hudson Middle and Green Acres Middle schools. The programs were part of the Birmingham Cultural Alliance Partnership (BCAP) headed by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI). BCAP seeks to provide quality after-school programming by connecting local cultural institutions such as BPL, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the McWane Science Center, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens with local middle school students. BPL has been a BCAP partner since its inception in 2000. BCAP has been called a “model after-school program” and in 2006 received the President’s “Coming Up Taller” award.

Southern History’s programs were designed to expose the students to the importance and basic techniques of genealogy and family history, which involved discussions on the story behind their names and nicknames and family traditions, interacting with historical resources such as local school yearbooks and newspaper microfilm, and receiving a copy of the front page of the newspaper on the day they were born. Guest presenters spoke on various aspects of genealogy and history and included Dr. Larry Spruill of Morehouse College, Isaac Prentice of the Alabama Buffalo Soldiers, and members of the Birmingham African American Genealogy Study Group. In all, Southern History conducted 10 programs to over 240 participants. “It was a real treat getting to know these students,” said Southern History staffer Beth Willauer. “They are scary smart and leading discussions and having them to open up about their family traditions was a delight.

We are delighted to see the students in the library after the formal programs wraps up and we look forward to continuing the partnership in the future.

Ben Peterson
Southern History Department
Central Library

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