Thursday, March 28, 2013

Groundhog Day Was a Bust

Punxsutawney Phil and Bill Deeley
Phil (C) Bill Deeley (R)

Before you even say it, I know that Groundhog Day was almost two months ago.  Why talk about it now?  On Tuesday morning, nearly a week since the official beginning of spring, the wind chill in Birmingham was in the 20s. I thought winter was over, especially since I live in the South.  So what about Groundhog Day?  On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil predicted that we would have an early spring.  Butler County (OH) prosecutor Mike Gmoser was so incensed by an impending snowstorm in his county last week that he filed an indictment against Phil for the offense of misrepresentation of early spring.  Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, came forward to take the blame for the inaccurate prediction, stating that he incorrectly interpreted Phil's prediction.  The prosecutor later dropped the charges.

You may ask yourself, with modern technology and so many well-educated meteorologists, why are we depending on rodents to predict our weather?  Good question.  I don't want to cheat you out of the opportunity to read about the history for yourself, but I will tell you that the idea of animal behavior as a forecast for early spring goes back to the Middle Ages.  Punxsutawney Phil has been on the scene since 1887, however the Phil that made this year's prediction is not the same Phil who predicted the weather back then.  The notion of a vampire groundhog predicting weather for centuries is kind of cool, though.  Maybe someone can develop that into a screenplay

Where does all this leave our weather in Birmingham?  Over the weekend, we should get back to our average temperatures for this time of year.  Next week, though, the forecast shows upper 50s and lower 60s.  As long as I'm not facing popsicle status trying to walk from my car, I can handle below average temperatures. I'm no meteorologist, but I predict Birmingham will shift directly from winter temperatures to summer temperatures.  I hope the county prosecutor doesn't indict me if I'm wrong.

President of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle - See more at: prosecutor later dropped the charges.

Help Give Birmingham Teens a Voice!

Your help is urgently needed to ensure that poetry survives and thrives! Between now and May 5, the Birmingham Public Library hopes to raise $7,000 to nurture an ever-growing number of teens who are passionate about poetry. We'd like to fulfill a dream to send a team of Birmingham-area youth to the Brave New Voices (BNV) international poetry competition this August. BNV has never seen a team from the state of Alabama--we can't let this situation continue!

Your tax-deductible gift will also fund a twelve-month series of poetry writing/performance workshops and open mic events for teens in the Birmingham metropolitan area led by the non-profit creating writing group Real Life Poets. Whatever amount you can afford will be appreciated.

At WORD UP!, the annual poetry slam for Jefferson County high schoolers, these young people have proven they have what it takes. Now these teens are ready to take on a much bigger stage. So help them get to Brave New Voices in Chicago this August. And help many more young people gain writing and public speaking skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Visit the Library WishList page and donate today!

Students Commemorate Civil Rights Movement in Annual Poetry Slam

Students from Tarrant performing at WORD UP! 2012

Young poets from high schools all over Jefferson County will add their voices to the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. They will perform at the sixth annual WORD UP! student poetry slam on Sunday, April 7, at 3:00 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library. Their poems will be inspired by photographs that document events that took place in Alabama a half century ago—many years before these students were born.

Justin Wright who attends the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate program will be representing Shades Valley High School at WORD UP!. He was the third place winner at last year’s WORD UP! In a recent article in Weld, he states, “For me, it (the photograph) created a feeling of more than just the event but of loss and hurt and frustration…I believe it is a good way to celebrate the Civil Rights Movement. We as teenagers are so far distanced from these events that we sometimes forget them, and this competition helps us to connect with it on a different and more personal level.”

The poets who will be competing at WORD UP! are the first and second place winners of contests held at their schools. This year, sixteen high schools will be participating at the slam. The contestants are scored by a panel of three judges both on the content and performance of their three-minute poems.

BPL is partnering with the non-profit creative writing organization Real Life Poets (RLP) to nurture the talents of these budding poets in a project we are calling “Flow Tactics.” Every first Saturday, RLP leads a workshop for teens from middle-school to high-school age. John Paul Taylor, director of RLP, observed that students get the opportunity to interact with people from other schools who they may not have had a chance to meet otherwise. And they discover they’re not the only ones who are interested in poetry.

Patrick Johnson, award-winner filmmaker and board member of RLP, observes that he has seen these young people really grow through their experience in the poetry workshops. He gives the example of one student who was extremely shy and reluctant to read her poetry out loud at first. But she gradually gained the confidence to voluntarily perform her work.

And these young poets get the opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned in the workshops at a monthly open mic event, Flow Tactics Teen Open Mic, held every third Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the YMCA Youth Center near Phillips Academy. The open mic is limited to high school age students. Though RLP facilitates these events, they are organized by the teens.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
by Jon Meacham

Thomas Jefferson was given many gifts: wealth, in the form of plantations and slaves, vast natural talents, education, health, powerful family connections, a capacity for hard work, a nose for the main chance and the political savvy to take it. Of all our great men, we know most and least of Jefferson. Great volumes treat pieces or summarize. Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power is a portrait of Jefferson, the political theorist and working politician who, by intent, became a world historical figure.

Jefferson’s father, Peter, was a renowned frontiersman in the early 1700s. He was given great tracts of land for surveying the Virginia-North Carolina border, a feat when one imagines surveying a straight line several hundred miles long through the wild forest mountains and swamps. And that’s the delight of this Jefferson biography. The characters and the scenes come to life. One can imagine Jefferson sitting by the sunny window of his corner office in the White House, his pet mockingbird, Dick, perched on his shoulder singing, his red roses and geraniums in pots on the sill, humming along as he worked through the federal correspondence twelve hours a day (he read and corrected all federal paperwork).

Even more wondrously, Jon Meacham, the author, brings Jefferson’s voice back to life. One can hear Jefferson’s amusement and the subtle ironies and wit of his voice, see the lift of an eyebrow and his warmth as we read his passages, framed by Meacham’s writing. The influence of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman on Jefferson’s writing is unmistakable. He carried the book with him always.

Peter Jefferson died when young Tom was fourteen. At sixteen Tom, already proficient in Latin, Greek, French, and Spanish, went to William and Mary College in Williamsburg, studied eight hours from dawn, ran a couple of miles, raced horses (he always kept fine horses) and went to the Governors palace for evenings of music, wine, and conversation. A teen, he was already at the center of power, an intimate of the acting royal governor, Francis Fauquir, the colony’s leading attorney, George Wyeth and his cousin, Payton Randolf, Speaker of Virginia’s House of Burgesses.

By his mid-twenties Jefferson, a young lawyer, was a member of the Burgesses, and already patriarch of an extended clan which included his own young family, his widowed sister’s family, and his father-in-law’s enslaved concubine’s family, the Hemings. All of this he risked, in 1774, with his first state paper, his Summary View of the Rights of British America, a brilliant declaration of human rights, treasonous to the British. In 1776 he was young (32), rich, famous, and admired as he entered the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and wrote his immortal Declaration.

Jefferson’s political acumen failed him in the military disaster of the 1881 British invasion of Virginia, during the last days of his governorship of that state. Lessons learned from his failings paid handsome dividends for the US during his presidency, twenty years hence. Following the death of his beloved wife in 1883 (He and Patty wrote out passages from Tristram Shandy for each other, from memory, as she lay dying), he became the American minister in Paris and began his French adventure, A jewel of the Parisian salons, he built upon his international renown, had an affair of the heart (at least) with a beautiful Anglo-Italian matron, educated his daughters, discharged his ministerial duties, negotiated loans for the US, collected seeds of useful plants, helped LaFayette shape the Declaration of the Rights of Man and began his intimate relationship with Sally Hemings, his deceased wife’s fifteen-year-old half-sister.

In Meacham’s telling, we see one scene of their relationship, about which so little is yet known. Jefferson was set to return to the US. Sally was pregnant with his child and did not want to leave France, where she was free. She had learned French and she was not alone; Jefferson had brought her enslaved brother to France to be trained as a chef. And, so, began a political negotiation, wherein Jefferson, unusually, was at a disadvantage. She would return to the US, if he would free her children at age twenty-one, which he did. On returning to the US, Patsy Jefferson, Thomas’s daughter, barely older than Sally Hemings, married her cousin Thomas Mann Randolf. One suspects she felt displaced from her father’s affections by her enslaved half-aunt. Four of Sally Hemings’ and Thomas Jefferson’s children survived to become adults, and be freed.

As Jefferson moved in political circles within the Washington administration, as our first Secretary of State, he was often accused of hypocrisy. Jefferson never disagreed with anyone to their face. He judged it never did any good. If someone made ten points, he picked out the one he could agree with and left the others aside. His listeners often believed he had agreed with many of their other nine points, and were surprised to learn, from others, that he did not. (He also gave few speeches, believing they did little good for the speaker). But the larger hypocrisy, widely discussed, was for planters like Jefferson to be leading advocates for democratic rights, accusing others, who had no slaves, of championing hereditary rights and monarchy. How was it that a world famous champion for democracy and universal human rights continued to be a slave owner? Meacham’s book does not fully answer that question, but one is given fresh insights. Jefferson had extraordinary abilities of command and great talent. He did not need slaves and plantations to be rich. He was well aware of the evils of slavery, the danger slavery would create for the nation and said so, if not often, regularly. Given his strength of will, and his extraordinary capacity for self-awareness we must conclude that Jefferson was the man he wanted to be, a Virginia planter, a slave-owner and a powerful advocate for democracy and human rights, and he was not personally torn by the contradictions. Meacham’s portrait is that of a happy man who enjoyed political struggle and was good at it. His cause was a powerful, enduring democratic republic.

The continental (Atlantic to Pacific) power of the United States and its democratic institutions, and its ambivalence about African-American rights, are largely the result of Jefferson’s vision and his work shaping our political and governing structures. The lesson learned from his want of boldness during the British invasion of Virginia informed his bold purchase of the Louisiana Territory during the brief period when it was on offer from Napoleon, thus setting into motion the US westward expansion. He did not have authority to so fundamentally change the nature of the young nation, by doubling its size, and did not have time for permission, so he acted, bought the territory for 3 cents an acre and gained approval afterwards. The New England-based federalists were overwhelmed by the popularity of his actions. Capitalizing on this diplomatic and political victory he sent his personal secretary, Meriweather Lewis, and his friend William Clark, Virginians, west to lay claim to the Pacific northwest for our young country. Jefferson’s political victory and that of his party were complete. .And by the end of his presidency his party controlled three fourths of congress and discussion of returning to British monarchical forms was ended. He had formed what is now the oldest political party in the world and his direct political successors included three two-term presidents (Madison, Monroe and Jackson) and presidents Van Buren and Polk.

Our popular image of Jefferson is that of a mild-mannered courteous man, architect, gardener, statesman. But Meacham shows us other aspects of his personality. He was an avid outdoorsman, who loved hunting, He always carried a gun and could kill game at 30 yards with his pistol. He always fished and would go fishing with Washington and his friend Madison. He rode for hours every day and famously disdained the cold and wet. His even temper was, in part, enabled by his complete command of his household. He was a patriarch with exacting standards and was always obeyed by slaves, servants, laborers, daughters and grandchildren. He was known to wipe the flanks of his horses with a white handkerchief and, if they were not perfectly clean, the horses were sent back to the stables. The portrait we see in Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is that of a happy man, not at all oppressed by his ideals, a robust, witty man who knew how to please himself and command others, who lived a grand life of his making.

(Audio versions of this title are also available from the library in formats including CD and Downloadable. Edward Herrmann, the Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated actor, is the reader and his treatment is both vibrant and engaging. Should you choose either of the audio formats, be sure to check out the print edition as well. The historic illustrations and the documentation are not to be missed.)

Submitted by David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: How the Irish Saved Civilization

How The Irish Saved Civilization
Thomas Cahill

As someone who is part Irish, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not well-versed in Irish history. That’s why I wanted to read this book. That, and the fact that many people over the years, some of them Irish-American, have strongly recommended it to me (one even chided me).

Thomas Cahill is well-positioned to do the job of explaining to the masses the crucial part the Irish played in saving Western Civ. A former academic, he now makes his living by writing. So he has the chops and the incentive to write plainly for the average educated reader. The fact that his writing is often inspiring is a bonus.

You don’t have to be Irish to get a charge out of How The Irish Saved Civilization. Because, as Cahill so eloquently shows, the Irish actually did in the Middle Ages save the West, which means that all residents of the Western world (and by extension, the planet, in this Westernized present) owe them an enormous debt. After Rome fell to the barbarians, civil life in Europe (i.e., the Classical heritage of Rome) was decimated. Learning, science, literacy, art, architecture, engineering, plumbing, legal principles—the whole lot, and far more, took a nosedive. By a series of twists, turns and sheer blooming luck, that heritage ended up almost totally in the hands of the Irish, a people whose land the Romans and the barbarians had shown very little interest in because it was considered so worthless, so beyond the radar. The Irish didn’t just warehouse it, though. They preserved it, engaged it, re-charged it. Then they sent it back to Europe, which was truly a Dark Continent by this time.

It’s not as though no one knew about all this. But Cahill’s skill is in taking it out of the academy and bringing it to a general audience, thereby kicking down some of what he calls the bulwark of Anglo-American dominated history, which has very seldom acknowledged the importance of Ireland. Now we can all learn about this tradition, from Skellig Michael, to a flexible, non-Puritanical, women- and nature-affirming Christianity, to Green Martyrdom, to new insights on a young Romanized Briton slave called Patricius, better known as St. Patrick. (By the way, the Irish were the first European country to do away with slavery.) There’s the paradox of a people who converted en masse to Christianity but who kept some of their pagan Celtic customs (pretty wild ones, too). It’s an account of a people enraptured with learning, writing, calligraphy, book arts. And committed to nature, joy and justice. (It wasn’t all sweetness and light- Cahill accounts for that, too.

On a very few occasions, Cahill overstates, as when he says, “in four centuries between Paul and [Saint] Patrick there are no missionaries.” That’s true of Europe, but not true of the churches in the East. But, on the whole, the book is convincing.

Eventually, the barbarians would destroy almost all of this Ireland, and Vatican control would greatly diminish its spiritual distinctiveness, but the Irish would start to revive their golden age in the 19th century. Cahill shows just how much of the Celtic civilization there is yet to learn about and revive. John Scotus, for one, gets my vote.

Submitted by Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Downloadable African American Titles

We assist many of our BPL patrons with the how-tos in the use of their downloadable devices to read or listen to our free e-books/audiobooks. While doing so many often ask if we have African American authors in our collection. The quick answer is yes, we have many. We are then asked for a list of those authors. This is not as simple as it seems, especially given the authors’ varied subject matter and vastness of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative African American downloadable collection. We have some African American authors who have only a few titles in our e-books/audiobooks downloadable collection, and others whose titles are quite a bit more significant—some have as many as thirty titles in our downloadable collection. Narrowing the focus to a few is very difficult. So I have simply chosen to identify some of those African American fiction writers for which we have a significant number of titles and many patron requests:

Rochelle Alers ● Vanessa Davis Griggs ● Mary Monroe
Adrianne Byrd ● E. Lynn Harris ● Mary B. Morrison
Wahida Clark ● Donna Hill ● Toni Morrison
Pearl Cleage ● Brenda Jackson ● Noire
Eric Jerome Dickey ● Beverly Jenkins ● Kimberla Lawson Roby
Gwynne Forster ● Lutishia Lovely ● Carl Weber

Also, although downloadable accessibility has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, there are still many titles that publishers have not made available in downloadable format. A good example of this can be seen when we look at popular authors such as Gwyneth Bolton, Terry McMillan, Nikki Turner, and Zane. Although we have numerous titles in physical books and audiobooks, many of their titles and those of other African American authors might not be available in downloadable form yet.

Lastly, as previously stated, we have many more African American authors aside from the above list, many of whom write non-fiction, as well.

Please go to our downloadable website to determine if a particular author you might be interested in is available.

This just touches the surface of the African American authors we have with our downloadable collection, but hopefully this will give you a small idea of what we have to offer. As usual, if you need any help with your downloadables, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 226-3600.

NOTE: Karyn Davis-West will be conducting four instructional classes in April on how to download e-books and audiobooks from the collection. Click here for dates and times.

Submitted by Karyn Davis-West
Information/Circulation Department
Central Library

Gifts of a Wordsmith Workshop in April

John Paul Taylor
Award-winning poet and community activist John Paul Taylor will lead free adult poetry workshops on the first Tuesday of every month from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Gifts of a Wordsmith will take place in the Story Castle on the second floor of Central Library. The next workshop is scheduled for April 2.

The class will cover how to get your thoughts down on paper, overcoming writer's block, copyright issues, self-publishing, how to perform, and more. The Friends of the Birmingham Public Library funds the workshops.

Taylor is one of the founders of Real Life Poets, a nonprofit creative writing program based in Birmingham. This summer he presented two workshops as part of BPL's adult summer reading program. Participants enjoyed the adult classes so much that they wanted to see them continue.

"We offered it this summer and the people wanted it back. That's why I wanted to do it,'' Taylor said. "We know it works. But it's cool when your community says, 'This is valuable.'''

For more information on the adult poetry class, contact Taylor at or 205-585-8271. The Real Life Poets website is The BPL contact is Haruyo Miyagawa, 205-226-3670. Her email address is

Monday, March 25, 2013

It’s A Downloadable World

The increased use of electronic books and audiobooks and the devices used to play them has a number of library visitors anxious to get on board, but not exactly certain how to make that leap onto the platform! Potential users are often faced with a myriad of concerns ranging from how to get started, to getting the e-book onto the e-reader. For many potential users, this is still uncharted territory that many do not want to face alone.

In April, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host a 90-minute class designed to move folks in the right direction. The library offers thousands of free e-books and audiobooks for members to download and checkout. This training will teach attendees how to checkout and download material from the library’s downloadable site to a computer and/or reading and listening device. The Central Library’s computer lab will be used for training, and staff will be on hand to demonstrate popular devices. Led by BPL librarian Karyn Davis, the training is scheduled to take place in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) on the fourth floor in the Linn Henley Research Library.

Training dates:
Thursday, April 11, 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 18, 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 20, 12:00 p.m.
Monday, April 22, 6:00 p.m.

The classes are free and open to the public. However, space is limited and reservations are required. Please call (205) 226-3600 to reserve your space today.

Library’s Popular Bards & Brews Travels to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Friday, April 5!

Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance/beer tasting series will travel to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Friday, April 5, 2013. The Gardens are located at 2612 Lane Park Road. Usually held the first Friday of each month, the April Bards & Brews will be a SLAM—first place winner gets $200, and second place winner $100. The festivities start at 6:30 p.m. in the lovely outdoor setting of the Hill Garden with live music, and poetry performances start at 7:00. In case of inclement weather, the event moves inside to Strange Auditorium. 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.

Craft beer will be available for sampling courtesy of Birmingham’s own Cahaba Brewing Company, and light refreshments will 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 is usually held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around town. Look for us on May 3, 2013, at either Avondale Park OR the Avondale Regional Library located at 509 40th Street South (location TBD—stay tuned). 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, March 21, 2013

Margaret Wrinkle, Author of Acclaimed Novel WASH, to Make Special Appearace at the Powderly Branch This Tuesday, March 26, 10:00am.

We're thrilled to announce that Birmingham-born author Margaret Wrinkle will make a special appearance at our Powderly Branch Library on Tuesday March 26, 10:00 a.m. She will discuss her highly acclaimed novel Wash

From the book's Facebook Page: "Wash reexamines American slavery in ways that confound our contemporary assumptions about race, history and power as it carries the reader from the burgeoning South to West Africa and deep into the ancestral stories that reside in the soul." Facebook page

The acclaimed novel Wash has been voted as one of Oprah’s 16 picks for March 2013.People Magazine recently chose Wash as a "People Pick of the Week." 

This book explores slavery through the story of a slave named Washington, who travels with his owner in order to impregnate other slaves and create the next generation. Landowner Richardson, a troubled Revolutionary War veteran, has spent his life fighting not only for his country but also for wealth and status.  When the pressures of westward expansion and debt threaten to destroy everything he’s built, he embarks on a new plan. 

Born in 1963 in Birmingham, AL, author Margaret Wrinkle is a writer, filmmaker, educator, and visual artist. She has spent much of her life exploring issues of race. 

Before she penned Wash, Wrinkle and Chris Lawson made the documentary broken\ground, examining contemporary race relations in Alabama.  The film was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition and won a prize at Council on Foundations’ Film and Video Festival in 1968.

Please join us on, Tuesday, March 26th at 10:00a.m., as the Powderly Branch Library (located at 3301 Jefferson Avenue S.W.) will host Margaret Wrinkle during this special appearance.  Book clubs and groups are welcomed.  Please call 925-6178 for further details.

Submitted by  Loretta Bitten
Powderly Branch

Library Board Election and New Trustees

Amamoo Elected To Lead Library Board
City Council Appoints Two New Members

At its February 2013 meeting, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) Trustee Board elected Gwendolyn Amamoo as its President and Georgia Morgan Blair as its Vice President. A member of the Board since 2008, Amamoo follows Gwendolyn B. Guster Welch in the position. Amamoo appointed Judge Scott Vowell to serve as the Board’s Parliamentarian and Welch now serves as the Immediate Past President. Additionally, the Birmingham City Council appointed Patty Pilkerton and Kimberly Richardson to serve on the Board during its meeting on March 12, 2013.

About the Board President
President Gwendolyn R. Amamoo
Gwendolyn R. Amamoo is a Birmingham native, a product of the Birmingham Public School System, (Wilkerson and A. H. Parker High), a graduate of Miles College and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has worked in the Birmingham School system for many years and currently leads the teacher mentoring program through the Professional Development Department. She is committed to giving back to her community and is a member of numerous professional and civic organizations, which includes the American Library Association, Life Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Birmingham Sister City Commission, and the Ghana Committee Chair. Amamoo is a deaconess at the Sardis Missionary Baptist Church. Her commitment to service is extended globally as she and her husband take yearly mission/medical trips to Ghana, West Africa, her husband's native land. She is married to Dr. Paul A. Amamoo and they are the proud parents and extended parents of, Naa- Ahinee, Kingsley, Nii-Amar, Brenda, Amartei and Bettina Boateng-Afari. They have one grand-daughter, Annie Amamoo.

The City Council Appoints Two New Trustees
Patty A. Pilkerton is the former Associate Librarian and Head of Digital Programs and Preservation at the Mervyn H. Sterne Library at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). She retired from UAB in July of 2012. A graduate of Fairfield High School, she received a B.S. in Education from the University of Montevallo; a M.A. in Education from the University of Alabama in Birmingham; and an M.L.I.S. from the University of Alabama. Patty has been very involved in civic and professional organizations and activities locally, statewide, and nationally. She is a former president for the Central City Neighborhood Association and currently serves on boards of the Alabama Writers Forum, Alabama Book Festival, Alabama Center for the Book, Birmingham Planning Commission, Birmingham Historical Society, Jefferson County Historical Commission, the Library School Association (University of Alabama) and REV Birmingham's Executive Committee

Kim Richardson is the President and owner of Kimberly Richardson Consulting, LLC, specializing in the provision of federal grant writing, management and technical assistance to municipal, non-profit, and faith-based organizations in Alabama and the southern U.S. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio and a Master's of Science in Urban Affairs from Cleveland State University. In 2009, she became the first grant writer in the State of Alabama to obtain the Grants Professional Certification (GPC) awarded by the Grants Professional Certification Institute, and she is currently the only grant professional in the state holding this credential. Richardson is a member of the Grant Professionals Association and has served on the Board of Directors of the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, as well as having served on the Agency Impact Committee of the United Way of Central Alabama. She is the mother of one daughter, Imani.

The Library’s Trustee Board includes:

Gwendolyn Amamoo, President
Georgia Morgan Blair, Vice President
Gwendolyn B. Guster Welch, Immediate Past President
Judge Scott Vowell, Parliamentarian

Dr. Monique Gardner-Witherspoon
Patty Pilkerton
Kimberly Richardson
Samuel A. Rumore, Jr.
Dora Sims
Katrina M. Watson

Dr. Regina Ammon, President of the Friends (Advisory Board Member)

Keeping Up With Science:

I find it difficult to keep up with advances in science. I usually try to stop and visit or other news sites several times a week, but I find that if the site’s raison d’etre is political or financial news, the science stories will consist mostly of the latest computer app and how it will affect a corporation’s bottom line, or the most sensational science stories. As a reference librarian I definitely need to be aware of these news stories, but I also occasionally like looking beyond the headlines to the ‘merely’ interesting stories that make up the bulk of science advances., the magazine of the Society for Science & the Public, does a great job of presenting ordinary science news for the layman, and presenting these stories in an extraordinary way. But don’t misunderstand me; doesn’t just cover the quotidian. They also report on major science events such as the recent meteor that caused over 1,000 injuries in the Russian town of Chelyabinsk. What I appreciated about this piece is that the science reporter, Andrew Grant, covered the destruction, but also explained why NASA and other international space agencies were unable to see this meteor approaching and entering our atmosphere. (At 15 meters in diameter, it was too small to be detected. Yikes!)

I’m a believer that just about any science story is aided by pictures and video. And has some wonderful media accompanying their stories. Check out the artwork for the HR 8799 planetary system, or the video showing the interaction between a paralyzed woman and a robotic arm. This isn’t science fiction, but emotionally moving science fact.

The site is separated into eleven categories, e.g. atom & the cosmos, environment, matter & energy. All the news stories include networking tools for sharing such as Facebook and Twitter. And speaking of social media, a recent story highlighted in ScienceNews showed what scientist can learn from social media tools such as twitter. In the piece Twitter maps New York City, language by language Delia Mocanu of Northeastern University in Boston showed how twitter reveals which second languages are prominent in New York City and in which neighborhoods these second language speakers can be found. also reviews science books, but not dry, academic titles. A recently reviewed title, The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece, explores the intersection of science, culture and literature. (And it just happens to be available at your local library.)

Submitted by David Ryan
Business, Science & Technology
Central Library

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Holocaust Survivor Aisic Hirsch Speaks at the March 20 Brown Bag Lunch Program

Aisic Hirsch, a Holocaust survivor, speaks to us about his life in Poland that changed completely when at the age of nine he witnessed German troops invade his small town, and he and his family were forced into a ghetto. Later in the Warsaw Ghetto, he watched helplessly as his brother and grandmother died of typhus, and his mother slid into madness. At age 12 he was alone. He was able to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto by bribing Polish and German guards. He is alive today because of “his guardian angel," a Catholic priest who befriended and protected him. Wednesday, March 20, noon, Arrington Auditorium, Central Library.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Central Library, Linn Henley Research Building, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor. For more information call 226-3604 or visit

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Smart Shopping Tips Concludes BPL's Money Smart Series

In collaboration with the Urban Development Group, Inc. and Alabama financial institutions and agencies, the Birmingham Public Library is offering free programs to enhance your financial skills and banking knowledge. Four financial classes were offered at various branches during February, and "Smart Shopping Tips" scheduled at the Southside and Eastwood Libraries will complete the Money Smart program.

Smart Shopping Tips
Tuesday, March 26
10:30-11:30 a.m.
Southside Library

Tuesday, March 26
1:00-2:00 p.m.
Eastwood Library

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Break Family Fun at Avondale

It’s that time of year again: birds are singing, bees are buzzing, flowers are budding, and spring is in the air. March 24-31 marks the week of spring break fun for the students of Birmingham City Schools. If you and your family are staying home this week, add the library as part of your staycationing fun.

Tuesday, March 26th at 6:30 p.m. the Avondale Library will host The Giant, The Beanstalk & Jack presented by Lee Bryan“That Puppet Guy.” The show is based on the timeless tale of a lazy boy named Jack who outwits the Giant, gets the gold, and saves the farm. Call 205-226-4003 today to register your family for an evening of Fee-fi-fo-Fun!

Submitted by Carla Perkins
Youth Services
Avondale Regional Library

Friday, March 15, 2013

April Computer Classes Schedule Now Available

Computer Classes image
The Regional Library Computer Center April computer class schedule is now available, and registration is open to the public for the free courses. Please note that class times have been changed to 10:30 am – 12:30 pm.
In addition to the basic core course (which consists of Keyboarding, Basic PC, and Basic Internet), we are offering classes teaching email, introduction to social media software, and Microsoft Office 2010 programs.
Here are descriptions of the classes offered in April:
Keyboarding: This beginner class is designed for people who have not had formal training in keyboarding. It is intended to introduce you to the basics of working with the computer keyboard and the mouse. Participants need not have any previous computer experience to take this course. 
Basic PC: This beginner class introduces people to the computer: basic PC terms, components, hardware, peripherals, desktop features, etc. Participants need not have any previous computer experience to take this course. 
Basic Internet: This beginner class introduces people to the history of the Internet, how to access and surf the Web, what web browsers are, what search engines are available, and basic search methods. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course. 
Email Workshop: This intermediate class is a practical workshop which helps people set up email accounts and learn to maneuver their way through email browsers. While there are many different email services available, we have chosen to work with Gmail and Yahoo! Mail, because they are free and are two of the more popular email services available. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding, Basic PC, and Basic Internet or have some PC, mouse, keyboarding, and Internet experience to take this course. This class roster is FULL. Registration will no longer be taken.
Microsoft Word 2010 (Parts 1, 2, & 3): This intermediate class introduces people to Word 2010, a word processing application that is part of the Microsoft Office suite. This version of Word uses the new interface that was introduced in Word 2007. Even if you’ve used Word before, it will help to familiarize yourself with the interface, since there are significant differences from the older versions. Because Microsoft Word 2010 has many components, the entire course will be taught in three parts. We recommend participants to take all three parts. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course.
Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 (Parts 1 & 2): This advanced class introduces people to PowerPoint 2010. This presentation software allows you to create dynamic slide presentations that may include animation, images, videos, music, and more. Unlike previous versions, this version provides a base to create slides, demos, and presentations at a more professional level. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course. It is recommended that participants take Microsoft Word 2010 prior to taking this course.  It is also recommended that participants take both parts of the course.
Microsoft Excel 2010 (Parts 1 & 2): This advanced class introduces people to Microsoft Excel 2010, a spreadsheet software in the Microsoft 2010 Office Suite. Excel allows you to store, manipulate, and analyze data in organized workbooks for home and business tasks. You can use Excel to keep up with inventory, budgets, bookkeeping, contact lists, etc. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course. It is recommended that participants take Microsoft Word 2010 prior to taking this course.  It is also recommended that participants take both parts of the course.
Introduction to Social Media – TWITTER: The April Social Media class will focus on TWITTER. This advanced class introduces people to the history, elements, and software used in social media interactions.  This class focuses on the three most popular social media software: Pinterest,Twitter, and Facebook. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding, Basic PC, and Basic Internet or have some PC, mouse, keyboarding, and Internet experience to take this course. An email account is needed for this class.

UPDATE 4/8/2013:
The following courses are now FULL:
  • Keyboarding (April 1)
  • Basic PC (April 2)
  • Basic Internet (April 3)
  • Word 2010 Part 1 (April 8)
  • Word 2010 Part 2 (April 9)
  • Word 2010 Part 3 (April 10)
  • PowerPoint 2010 Part 1 (April 15)
  • PowerPoint 2010 Part 2 (April 16)
  • Email Workshop (April 17)
  • Excel 2010 Part 1 (April 22)
  • Excel 2010 Part 2 (April 24)
  • Keyboarding (April 29)

          Registration will no longer be taken for these sessions.
          Submitted by Farah A. Ferguson
          Central Library

          Rescued by Righteous: How Gertruda's Oath Saved a Child from the Holocaust

          On April 8 the Birmingham Public Library, in collaboration with The Birmingham Jewish Federation, will be hosting a program in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Michael Stolowitzky, a Polish survivor who now lives in New York, will be sharing his amazing account of his experience during the Holocaust. Michael was just three years old when war broke out and his family lost everything. His father, desperate to settle his business affairs, traveled to France, leaving Michael in the care of his mother and Gertruda Bablinska, a Catholic nanny devoted to the family. When Michael's mother had a stroke, Gertruda promised the dying woman that she would make her way to Palestine and raise him as her own.

          In 2007 Israeli author Ram Oren recreated Michael's amazing journey in the book Gertruda's Oath. It is a story that transcends history and religion to reveal the compassion and hope that miraculously thrives in a world immersed in war.

          Copies of Gertruda’s Oath will be for sale at the program.

          Event: Discussion on Gertruda's Oath
          Presenter: Michael Stolowitzky
          Place: Central Library, Arrington Auditorium
          Date: Monday, April 8
          Time: 12:00 p.m.
          Cost: Free and open to the public

          A clip of Michael Stolowitzky's testimony in the Rescued by Righteous
          Among the Nations

          The International School for Holocaust Studies' book page for Gertruda's Oath

          Teacher's Guide

          Book trailer featuring Michael Stolowitzky 

          Brown Bag Lunch Program - A Holocaust Survivor Speaks

          Aisic Hirsch, a Holocaust survivor, speaks to us about his life in Poland that changed completely when at the age of nine he witnessed German troops invade his small town, and he and his family were forced into a ghetto. Later in the Warsaw Ghetto, he watched helplessly as his brother and grandmother died of typhus, and his mother slid into madness. At age 12 he was alone. He was able to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto by bribing Polish and German guards. He is alive today because of “his guardian angel," a Catholic priest who befriended and protected him. Wednesday, March 20, noon, Arrington Auditorium, Central Library.

          Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Central Library, Linn Henley Research Building, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor. For more information call 226-3604 or visit

          Thursday, March 14, 2013

          BPL to Raise Dough with Slice on April 9th, 2013! @SliceBirmingham

          On Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, Slice Birmingham will be Raising Dough for the Birmingham Public Library. Bring a printed copy of this flyer and Slice will donate 10% to your favorite library. Slice is located at 725 29th Street South (35233) in the Lakeview District (past St. Vincent's Hospital).

           Pic taken from Slice's Facebook.
          The proceeds will go to benefit young poets in the Birmingham area, in a program called "Flow Tactics" Poetry and Performance Workshops. So while you’re enjoying some of the restaurant's many menu choices, you can feel satisfied that BPL will benefit from your patronage. 

          One of BPL's patrons enjoying a meal at Slice (see her mother Rachel C.'s great review here.

          We hope you will take this opportunity to host a pizza party at your office or for your kids, friends and family. The deal is also good on carry-out orders.  

          If you're planning a larger order, please call ahead of time to avoid a delay. The fine folks at Slice have supported BPL programs for some time now and we do indeed "heart" them for it. 

          As you can see from the above picture, their stone cooked pizza is really enough to make the angels sing, so we know you'll both enjoy the meal and the good its doing for BPL. 
          Thank you for all your support and especially for helping us Raise Dough on April 9th. 

          Slice Birmingham will be open Tuesday, April 9th, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant is located in Bham's gorgeous Lakeview District at 725 29th St. South (35223).

          Be sure to tell Slice that your order is part of the BPL fundraiser. Visit to find more information. If you have any questions, please call the library at 205-226-3761. 

          If you'd like to donate for the Flow Tactics teen poetry workshops independently, you may do so here.

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