Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Inglenook Branch Library Prepares for Makeover

A rendering of the remodeled Inglenook Library

The structure currently housing the Inglenook Branch of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) began its early history as Birmingham’s Fire Station #23. Built in 1927, the station served the Inglenook community until 1978 when the community, with a brand new fire station, asked to have a library in the neighborhood. The “new” library was established in 1979. This year, it will be made “new” again.

Mayor William A. Bell stated, “As we work throughout the City to revitalize areas, decrease blight and provide affordable housing, the renovation of this library is a strong indicator that we are committed to improving life in our neighborhoods.” Mayor Bell will hold a “ground breaking” ceremony on Friday, August 2, at 10:00 a.m. on the grounds of the library located at 4100 40th Terrace North. The public is invited to attend. Staff at the 34-year-old-library will lock the doors later that day at 6:00 p.m. and make way for a major renovation of the facility. Birmingham City Councilor Maxine Herring Parker is the District 4 representative for the area.

Scheduled to get under way by the first of September, the overhaul will take approximately four to five months to complete. Beginning Monday, August 19, Branch Manager Karnecia Williams and staff from the Inglenook Branch will provide limited service Monday through Friday from a temporary setup at the Inglenook Recreation Center from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The Inglenook Recreation Center is located at 4016 37th Avenue North. BPL Director Renee Blalock stated, “We are very excited that this project is about to get underway. It is our hope that the refurbished library will help drive revitalization in the area as well as the best in library service to the community.”

Flow Tactics Teen Poetry Workshop, August 3

Flow Tactics Teen Poetry Workshop for grades 6-12 is held the first Saturday of every month, 2:00-4:00 p.m., in the Youth Department Story Castle at Central Library. August's workshop is scheduled for Saturday, August 3.

John Paul Taylor of Real Life Poets, Inc. is the coordinator. For more information, call Taylor at 585-8271 or email him at

Remembering a Civil Rights Martyr

Join us on Wednesday, August 7, at noon in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library to hear Alabama author Marianne Weber discuss the dramatic story of civil rights martyr Jonathan Daniels.

Jonathan Daniels
On August 20, 1965, Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Daniels was released from jail in the small Lowndes County, Alabama, town of Fort Deposit. Daniels and 29 other civil rights activists had spent a week behind bars for picketing white-owned businesses. Hoping to buy some cold drinks, Daniels and three other activists walked to a store, but the white store owner, Tom Coleman, appeared in the doorway and ordered them away at gunpoint. Moments later Coleman fired. Daniels pushed his companion, 17-year-old Ruby Sales to the ground, saving her life, and took the full blast from Coleman’s shot gun in his chest. Daniels died instantly, and Coleman fired again, wounding another activist. Coleman was acquitted of murder by an all-white jury, but Daniels’ death inspired many of his fellow Episcopalians to join the struggle for equal rights. Today, Jonathan Daniels is remembered as a martyr by the Episcopal Church and people of all faiths remember his sacrifice with a pilgrimage to Lowndes County each August.

Weber will explore the life and legacy of Jonathan Daniels.

Marianne Weber
Marianne M. Weber is a freelance writer, social worker, and author of Truman Capote’s Southern Years (University of Alabama Press). She lectures on Capote’s and Harper Lee’s Monroeville, Alabama. She is a book reviewer for First Draft, the Montgomery Advertiser, and others. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama and is a former board member of Alabama Writers’ Forum and Writing Today. Her deep interest in social justice led her to research and write about Alabama’s rich civil rights history.

To learn more about Jonathan Daniels, check out historian Charles W. Eagles’ award-winning book Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama or visit the Encyclopedia of Alabama online at

Jim Baggett
Archives Department
Central Library

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Railroad Park Event Will Celebrate Birmingham Teens Competing in Chicago Poetry Competition

On Sunday, August 4, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., poets and musicians will take to the stage in the lovely outdoor setting of Railroad Park in the “Flow Tactics on the Tracks” event. The line-up includes performers familiar to Birmingham audiences such as musician and spoken word artist Sharrif Simmons, drummer John Scalici, and singer-songwriter Gabriel Tajeu. The program is a sendoff celebration for a team of six Birmingham-area teens who will compete in the Brave New Voices international poetry competition from August 7-11 in Chicago. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Several of the team members have proven their mettle by winning in WORD UP!, the annual poetry competition for Jefferson County high school students sponsored by the public libraries of Jefferson County and the non-profit creative writing organization, the Real Life Poets ( RLP); the event is held at the downtown Birmingham Public Library. Eboni Wallace, a student at Tarrant High School, has won first place in WORD UP! the past two years. Miaya Webster from the Alabama School of Fine Arts placed third in this year’s competition, and Justin Wright representing the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Shades Valley High School, placed third last year. The other members of the team are Chase Essary, also from IB, Jacob Bryant of Huffman High School, and Jordan Montgomery of Minor High School.

The team members have been working hard to get ready for Chicago—they have been honing their performances three hours a day, four days a week for the past three months. John Paul Taylor, Executive Director of Real Life Poets, stated, “The Youth Will Lead The Way. I have watched our group of youth poets transform into young emerging leaders, which is the larger goal in doing this. Birmingham will be well represented by the powerful message of Team #KnowDisclaimer. The passion, the power, the love of our city and state will shine through in each poem delivered by the team. When we started the process, we were happy to be headed into the competition, I feel confident in saying Birmingham will do extremely well. We are proud to represent you, Birmingham."

This event is sponsored by RLP, Railroad Park, and the Birmingham Public Library.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan

Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young are living the American Dream. Both are well-educated college professors that have the world laid out in front of them. Rachel has worked herself up from a single parent household and is very content with her life in academia. Nick is a well-mannered intellectual with a quick wit and a big heart. They’ve been dating for about 2 years when Nick suggests that Rachel spend the summer with him and his family in Singapore. Rachel is delighted to have a chance to learn more about Nick and his background, which he rarely brings up. Little does she know that spending time with Nick and his family means being thrust into a rich lifestyle that will eventually bring her confusion and despair. At the center of the couple’s unhappiness is Nick’s mother Eleanor, who is determined to protect Nick's inheritance even more than her son. See what happens when the world of new and distinguished money collides with ABC (American Born Chinese) sensibilities.

In his debut novel, Mr. Kwan uses fashion, food, cultural idioms and a large stable of colorful characters to bring realism to the setting. I thought this was a fun and over-the-top book, full of Chinese and Singaporean history and culture, and some of the most scandalous behavior I've ever read about. Yet no matter how far Mr. Kwan pushes the envelope, his novel still manages to retain, at its core, main characters are multi-faceted, interesting and sympathetic and the reader can’t help but to find themselves drawn into their stories and invested in what happens to them. Fans of Jackie Collins will enjoy the glitz, glamor and betrayal portrayed in this novel. It’s just the kind of fun read that can quickly consume your weekend.

Submitted by Pamela Jessie
Woodlawn Library

Bizarre Foods Comes to Birmingham!

Hey, all you foodies---check out this evening's episode of Bizarre Foods! Host Andrew Zimmern shows that "There's more to Birmingham, AL, than barbecue and bread pudding."

Check your local listings for The Travel Channel. This episode of Bizarre Foods should air tonight at 8:00 PM Central. For more information:

Bizarre Foods: Birmingham, Alabama

And if this episode inspires you to cook, check your library for cookbooks!

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History

Jamey Grimes and Charles Clary Sculpture Exhibition Runs Through Friday, August 2

The sculptural work of Charles Clary and Jamey Grimes will intrigue, fascinate, and challenge viewers. It is an exhibition unlike anything shown at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) before. The artwork may resemble objects seen in nature, yet they are fictional fabrications born of the artists’ imagination. This exhibition titled Fusion: Sculpture by Jamey Grimes and Charles Clary is scheduled to open on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in the Fourth Floor Exhibition Gallery of the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. An opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, June 29 from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. in the Fourth Floor Board Room. The exhibition runs through August 2, 2013 and is on view during regular hours of operation.

Hugg-a-Diddle Serology Movement 2 by Charles Clary
Charles Clary is Associate Professor at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee where he teaches painting and design. He received his BFA in Painting from Middle Tennessee State University and an MFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. He has received numerous honors and awards including the New York Workspace Residency (2004) and Emerging Alumnus award (2010), both from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He has also been featured in publications including Papercraft 2 published by Gestalten and PUSH Paper published by Lark Books. Clary has exhibited nationally and internationally at such venues as the Diana Lowenstein Gallery in Miami, Florida and a recent solo show at Galerie EVOLUTION-Pierre Cardin in Paris, France.

When asked about his art, Clary stated, “I use paper to create a world of fiction that challenges the viewer to suspend disbelief and venture into my fabricated reality. By layering paper, I am able to build intriguing land formations that mimic viral colonies and concentric sound waves. Towers of paper and color jut into the viewer’s space inviting playful interactions between the viewer and this conceived world. These constructions question the notion of microbial outbreaks and their similarity to the visual representation of sound waves, transforming them into something more playful and inviting.”

strata VIa by Jamey Grimes
Jamey Grimes teaches design and drawing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He received his BFA in painting and BS in Biology with a Mathematics Minor from Birmingham-Southern College and MFA in Sculpture from the University of Alabama. He has shown at numerous galleries and museums around the country including the Alabama Artists Gallery at the Alabama State Council on the Arts in Montgomery, Alabama, Salt Space Gallery in New York City, and the Gutstein Gallery in Savannah, Georgia. Among his many honors are the 2012/13 Alabama State Council on the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship Recipient and the Director’s Award at the Annual Members’ Juried Exhibition at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts in Wilmington, Delaware.

Grimes describes his sculptures as “fragments of a conversation with nature. The dialogue can be hostile, soothing, or both. Storms, trees, and the sea personify heightened emotion, wisdom, and awareness. Reflecting on my own vivid experiences with nature, I realize that imagination plays a powerful role, transforming observations into unique, dream-like forms. This process guides experimentation with synthetic materials. As I find unlikely relationships between memories and materials, metaphors open and expand this dialogue.”

Visit the artists’ websites for more information at and

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sanspointe Dance Company Announces Birmingham Public Library Tour

Sanspointe Dance Company will present “Life on A Shelf,” dances created to connect us all, regardless of age, to the shelves and books in a library. Circulate through the poetry, research, children's, and non-fiction sections and celebrate with us the life and imagination we experience in books. The company will perform a 30-minute show on August 5, 6, and 8 at 6:00 p.m. in local Birmingham Public Libraries and the Fultondale Library. Sanspointe artists Michelle Knutson and Shellie Chambers will be presenting two new works and two repertory works in collaboration with three company dancers.

Knutson, Project Director of the Library Tour, wanted to present a show that directly linked the importance of libraries in our communities. “I first thought of all the kinds of people, regardless of age, that gather to read, explore book shelves, technology, research…the different sections of the library and then narrowed it down to four sections (poetry, research, children’s and non-fiction) to inspire choreography.” From book shelf, into the hands of the reader, and into our lives and imagination—this show is a thank you to the public service libraries provide for us all.

Chambers’ new work digs into the Dewey Decimal system. Knutsons’ new work will take the sounds, books, and energy from the children’s section. “Part of my process will be going to the library and observing and listening and sitting quietly with a book; maybe even reading a book to a few children who will listen!”

Sanspointe presented the first Birmingham Public Library Tour in 2012 with “The Golden Record,” performed at Avondale, Five Points West, and Central Public Libraries. This year’s presentation of “Life on A Shelf” includes performances by Michelle Knutson, Sara Turney, Susie Poythress Long, and Stella Nystrom.

Central Library in the Atrium, Monday, August 5, 6:00 p.m.
Five Points West Library in the Main Reading Room, Tuesday, August 6, 6:00 p.m.
Fultondale Library in the Main Reading Room, Thursday, August 8, 6:00 p.m.

All performances are free and open to the public.

Sanspointe is a Birmingham-based professional modern dance company founded in 2003. To learn more about Sansponite or to make a tax-deductible donation to Sanspointe, visit

12th Annual Summer Math and Science Day at Five Points West, July 27

Science should always be interactive, interesting and unforgettable. When Elinor and Winfield Burks are in the mix, it usually is. Make plans to join them and others for the 12th Annual Summer Math and Science Day in partnership with the Birmingham Public Library. The event takes place Saturday, July 27, 2013, from 1:00– 5:00 p.m. at the Five Points West Regional Library located at 4812 Avenue W. This event is free and designed for students ages 5 to 105. Parents must accompany all participants.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Talk and Signing with Local Author Marian Powell at Springville Road Library

Visit the Springville Road Library on Sunday, July 28, 2:00 p.m., and meet local author Marian Powell. Copies of the author's book will be available for purchase. Refreshments will be served.

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie BPLYP Fundraiser, July 25

The thicker the book, the better. If this is your philosophy—or not—then make plans to join the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals (BPLYP) for their first social event of the year on Thursday, July 25, 2013, from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, at Avondale Brewing Company located at 201 41st Street South. Tickets can be purchased online at for $20 or at the door for $25. A ticket includes one free Avondale brew (while supplies last), food from Saw’s Soul Kitchen, and the opportunity to win a gift basket filled with books and other goodies for library lovers.

The BPLYPs are Birmingham Public Library’s newest support group, comprised of accomplished young professionals ages 25-40 who live and work in the metro area. The mission of the BPLYPs is to promote the library through cultural events and service projects and support library programs through fundraising events like the social. This is the BPLYPs first fundraiser. All proceeds will go to support the Birmingham Public Library and the efforts of the BPLYPs.

Interested in supporting the library as a BPLYP member? There are still a few seats left on the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals Board. Interested young professionals, ages 25-40, can go to for more information or to fill out an application.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Latest in Urban Fiction

I can't believe it has been over a year since I blogged about Urban Fiction.  Where did all that time go?  Patrons come in regularly to ask for titles by their favorite authors.  The genre is as popular as ever and publishers keep us supplied with new titles.  The following are a sample of newly-released titles.  Descriptions are from the publisher.

Philadelphia: Street JusticePhiladelphia: Street Justice  by Treasure Hernandez (6/13)
When Billie was eight years old her father was murdered. Ever since that day, she has vowed to bring every criminal to justice, especially the man responsible for her father's death. Twenty years later, Billie is still on a mission to rid the streets of criminals. If she can't do it legally, then she takes matters into her own hands.
Billie is the hottest lawyer in the district attorney's office. Her record for winning cases is unmatched. If she keeps it up, she could one day be mayor. Her boyfriend, Walter, is a hard-nosed detective in the Philadelphia police department. Together they are on track to become the power couple in Philly—that is, if no one finds out about Billie's secret.

Dirty Rotten LiarDirty Rotten Liar  by Noire (7/13)
What can go wrong when con-mami Mink LaRue joins forces with her slick-tongued look-alike Dy-Nasty Jenkins to run a three-hundred-grand hustle on the super-rich Dominion oil family?  With the conniving Philadelphia stripper Dy-Nasty seeking to dip her fingers into the same pot of gold, Mink knows she has to play her hand right and hustle at the very top of her grind. But when Mink is suddenly called back home to be at the bedside of her sick mother, she is forced to leave Dy-Nasty alone at the mansion to work a solo scam on the Dominions and possibly claim the entire jackpot for herself.

On the Come Up
On the Come Up  by Hannah Weyer (7/13)
Thirteen-year-old AnnMarie Walker dreams of a world beyond Far Rockaway, where the sway of the neighborhood keeps her tied to old ideas about success. While attending a school for pregnant teens, AnnMarie comes across a flyer advertising movie auditions in Manhattan. Astonishingly, improbably, and four months before she's due to give birth--she lands a lead role. For a time, AnnMarie soars--acting for the camera, flying to the Sundance Film Festival, seeing her face on-screen. But when the film fades from view and the realities of her life set in, AnnMarie's grit and determination are the only tools left to keep her moving forward.

Busy Bodies: Chocolate Flava 4
Busy Bodies: Chocolate Flava 4  ed. by Zane (8/13)
Zane Presents serves up its eighth anthology, an impressive compilation of short stories by twenty-five up-and-coming writers of erotica plus Zane, who dishes out a tale about a town that once visited will leave memories that last forever. Busy Bodies is filled with erotic escapes and sexy scenarios. From the student in a faraway place who encounters a mysterious man with a supernatural attraction, to a boyfriend who gives his girlfriend a birthday surprise she never saw coming, this diverse collection of stories is an express train to all points of passion and pleasure.  Get on board and get busy.

Hey, Mate, What Do You Think You're Lookin' At?!

What an incredible site for pictures of Australian wildlife! The Atlas of Living Australia is a community effort from “museums, herbaria, community groups, government departments, individuals and universities.” These different institutions and groups have come together to produce a fantastic site that lists “all known” Australian species. The site has six main tabs: Australia’s Species, Species Location, Natural History Collections, Mapping Analysis, Data Sets, and Field Data Software. However, I think most lovers of exotic animals will gravitate toward the first tab, Australia’s Species.

Once you’ve clicked on the first tab, you’ll find that this database does not limit itself to birds, fish, frogs, mammals, or reptiles. The editors have also included invertebrates, conifers, and even fungi. Once you selected your area of interest you’re presented with a short gallery of ‘iconic’ Australian animals, or plants, within that kingdom. Each entry consists not only of pictures, but the proper classification, a map highlighting where in Australia the animal will most likely be found, a literature search and more. And the pictures are not always photographic. Some of the entries’ image galleries include skeletons, x-rays, and one, the Botany Bay Weevil, even includes a map.

X-ray of a reptile

But you’re not limited to the ‘iconic’ animals. There’s a search box on nearly every page. Just type in your favorite Australian animals, or Bugs Bunny’s favorite, the Tasmanian devil, and voila! I was surprised to discover that this site even lists some extinct animals such as the Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger. (Although it’s only a black and white photograph, the image still manages to render the tiger poignant, mysterious and dangerous at the same time. I find it heart wrenching that this animal was hunted to extinction.)

The Atlas of Living Australia also has a social media component. The blogs section includes posts on how to incorporate science into your daily life and citizen science posts. The concept behind citizen science is that you don’t have to possess a PhD in Botany to learn, collaborate and contribute to the scientific process. You can, for example, post you observations from a nature walk to a central online depository where professionals studying that geographical area can analyze your findings and apply them to their research. And though some of these entries are specific to Australia, the ideas could be easily be modified for American vacations. (Crowdsourcing in the scientific community could be a blog entry onto itself. If you interested in learning more on this topic and working on projects, visit Citizen Science at Scientific American.)

For students looking for the proper classification of Australian wildlife it’s indispensable. For college students looking for an Australian zoology bibliography it’s a necessity. For lovers of exotic animals it’s a treat to simply scan through the multitude of photographs on this site.

Submitted by David Ryan
Business, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

Monday, July 22, 2013

Introduction to Finding Funders: Connecting You with Funding Opportunities

WHO: Birmingham Public Library
WHAT: Introduction to Finding Funders: Connecting You with Funding Opportunities To Make A Real Difference
WHEN: Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Central Library—Youth Department Story Castle
HOW: Pre-Register, Space is Limited

ABOUT OUR PROGRAM: This free session provides an introduction to the Foundation Center’s comprehensive online database Foundation Directory Online Professional. Attendees will learn how to create customized searches to develop targeted lists of foundations that will match an organization’s funding needs. They will also be introduced to Power Search which allows searches across nine Foundation Center databases—grant makers, grants, companies, 990s, news, jobs, RFPs, nonprofit literature, and IssueLab reports.

This program will be presented by Joanne Kepics, Regional Training Coordinator at the Foundation Center-Atlanta. The session is free and open to the public; however, pre-registration is required. Register by e-mail to For more information, visit

Book Review: In-Flight Entertainment: Stories

In-Flight Entertainment: Stories
Helen Simpson

Please make sure that all of your personal belongings are stored in the overhead compartments or under the seat in front of you.

Make sure that all tray tables are secured in their upright positions.

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night. –Margo Channing (Bette Davis) in All About Eve

If you plan to read Helen Simpson’s latest short story collection, In-Flight Entertainment, fasten your seatbelt indeed. The title story involves an actual plane flight to Chicago that begins with a four hour delay on the tarmac at Heathrow. The disgruntled main character, Alan, begins to feel better once he is bumped up to first class and can imbibe champagne from a real glass and enjoy legroom. Soon turbulence sets in as he gets into an argument with a fellow passenger (a scientist) over global warming and climate change. Next, another nearby passenger, an octogenarian, starts coughing and spitting and then dies. Tensions ratchet up even tighter with a further delay, an unscheduled emergency landing, a late arrival, and a missed business presentation. The author’s signature economic writing offers not one spare word and confirms her reputation as one of our most talented contemporary short story masters.

The remaining stories do not involve air travel, but present flight metaphorically as a journey through life from birth to death, health to illness, loving partnerships to break-ups. The life cycle of the earth as its health begins to decline is present again and even apocalypse and dystopia are occasional themes. Two of the stories read more like essays than fiction shorts.

Those familiar with Simpson’s previous short fiction will observe a noticeable shift away from her usual treatments of domestic fiction to a more global scope, yet some domestic scenarios are present. In “Squirrel” a bored housewife feels like the varmint her husband has trapped in their garden. “Homework” depicts a young student who whines to his mother, “I can’t do it!” when sitting at the kitchen table procrastinating on an essay assignment on “An Event That Changed Your Life.” The mother wants her son to do this independently, but after more whining she finally gives up and helps him compose a false and outlandish tale sure to embarrass the entire family and probably the teacher.

Be careful when opening the overhead compartments as some items may have shifted during the flight.

Whether you read these 13 stories on a plane or in the comfort of your armchair, you will not need to worry about the overhead compartments. The shifting will happen inside your head.

Submitted by David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Teen Summer Reading Finale

Thursday, July 25th

Join us at one of the following events:

Birmingham YMCA Youth Center
2400 7th Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203
By the pool, by the sun, we are all getting together to have some fun!
Bring your swimsuits, flip flops, and a towel.
Ages 11-18
For more information contact 226-3655

Snacks, games, and activities
2 Locations: 
Springville Road Library (226-4081) and  
Five Points West Library (226-4017)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Historic House Research Workshop at Central Library, July 20

The Birmingham News, August 26, 1980
From BPL Digital Collections

Have you ever wondered who may have lived in your house before your family moved in? Could the previous owner have been a prominent politician or civic leader? The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is hosting a workshop on historic house research on Saturday, July 20, from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. in the Central Library’s Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium. This workshop does not require registration and is free to the public.

The workshop is sponsored by the Jefferson County Historical Commission and the Birmingham Historical Society. Attendees will learn how to conduct research on historic dwellings in Birmingham and Jefferson County. Linda Nelson, Jefferson County Historical Commission Executive Secretary, will discuss requirements of the Historical Marker Program and other historical designations.

A second component of the workshop will feature BPL Assistant Archivist Catherine Oseas. She will discuss library resources that are useful in researching a historic house. For more information, please contact the Southern History Department of BPL by phone at 205-226-3665 or by e-mail at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: The Tiger

The Tiger
John Vaillant

If you know about tigers you know about the Siberian Tiger. But that’s no longer an accurate name because it’s been wiped out of Siberia. It now lives in the Russian Far East beyond Siberia and it’s more accurately called the Amur Tiger. Tigers are disappearing so fast it’s hard to keep up, with names or anything else. The Russian Far East is an oxymoronic place, easily the most exotic one in that country. Author John Vaillant calls it the Boreal Jungle, or arctic jungle. It’s 40 below for weeks on end in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. Leopards and moose drink from the same river. It’s where an Amur Tiger hunted and killed two men in 1997 before it was itself killed by a group of locals who saw no other option. In the book Vaillant demonstrates how the tiger is nature’s most perfect predator, but by the end you realize that there’s an even more terrifying one roaming the forest.

You can live in the taiga, or forest, and not even see a tiger for ten years. They almost never hunt humans. Why had this one done so? They have to be crossed, robbed of their food, severely threatened. Had someone done that? These and other questions must be answered by Yuri Trush, head of a local tiger conservation group. In effect, he’s the detective, the tiger is the suspect and he has to find a motive and proof. In portraying the region, the unusual Russians who live there, the Amur Tiger and human-tiger relations that go back almost two million years, Vaillant has given us a thrilling, poetic and marvelously factual account.

In the Seventies a book came out called Mind in the Water which argued for and celebrated the consciousness of whales and dolphins. (Ascribing consciousness to some animals is mainstream now and not radical, as it was in the Seventies.) A variation on that title, Mind in the Taiga, could well be an alternate title for this book. The mind here would refer to the mind of the tiger, which Vaillant argues for and indirectly celebrates. It’s this mind that’s the main revelation of the book. A tiger can, according to Vaillant, “assimilate new information…ascribe it to a source, and even a motive, and react accordingly.” It’s capable of abstract thinking. Examples of this kind of thinking run through the book. The tiger’s profound cunning is apparently why the native peoples of the taiga have stayed away from, feared, even worshipped it, for millennia. But the newer residents are desperately poor and don’t necessarily have this caution, and that’s how the trouble starts. Vaillant marshals much lore about the Udeghe and Nanai natives so that we can gradually see how far we’ve strayed from the pragmatism of their tiger coexistence and how badly we need to learn it before it, like the tiger, is extinguished. Fascinatingly, Vaillant shows how the Bushmen of Africa over the eons learned to live with lions in eerily similar ways. But things aren’t as simple as a foolish moderns/wise natives stereotype. The Bushmen were forced to give up their traditions decades ago and now they’ve lost most of their heritage. Similarly, the Far East natives have assimilated to the Slavic norm so much their lore is almost gone, too. That being said, our species has the ability to live, and live well, with tigers. We’re inextricably linked with them. We’ve known for some time now that healthy tigers mean healthy forests (and jungles, grasslands, etc.). When those systems, go, we’ll go. We’re joined at the hip, skin to stripes.

But wait, you say. This was supposed to be a suspense book. Yes, it’s that. But it’s also an impassioned green plea, paradoxical as that may seem. Meditative and unstoppably forward-moving, detailed and electrifying, it’s a new kind of book, a “conservation thriller,” in the words of one reviewer. In the end it’s more sobering than anything, because it convinced me that this animal has, in terms of modern human-tiger relations, conducted itself far better than we have. Ours isn’t necessarily the supreme morality. I wanted the tiger caught, and then I didn’t. I thank John Vaillant for challenging some of my deepest assumptions, and my arrogance. I haven’t had an experience like this since I read The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. Even that comparison comes up short. But rule-breaker books are hard to corral.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Personal Finance 2013

What do you think when you hear the term personal finance? Do you think about balancing your check book, paying your household expenditures, or how to save for the future? Most Americans do not understand basic concepts of personal finance. According to, “A new survey by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that 75% of U.S. adults say they're pros at managing their finances, but only 14% could ace a five-question quiz on basic financial concepts, and only 25% more managed to score four out of five.”

When considering your personal financial situation, one must look at many aspects: credit worthiness, debt ratio, home ownership, money management, insurance, retirement, estate planning, etc. The Birmingham Public Library is a good place to go for free, unbiased resources on all aspects of personal finance. The resources listed below will get you started on expanding your knowledge of this topic.

The everything personal finance in your 20s and 30s book : eliminate your debt, manage your money, and build for an exciting financial future / Howard Davidoff
Pocket your dollars : 5 attitude changes that will help you pay down debt, avoid financial stress, and keep more of what you make / Carrie Rocha
Financial fresh start : your five-step plan for adapting and prospering in the new economy / Shari Olefson.
Securing your financial future : complete personal finance for beginners / Chris Smith.

Spend well, live rich with Michelle Singletary: seven money mantras for a richer life
Get out of debt!: and rebuild your credit.
Personal finance. Program 1, Money basics
Personal finance. Program 2, Saving strategies

Business Source Premier
Business Insights: Essentials
Mergent Online

Submitted by Business, Science, & Technology Department
Central Library

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Money Talks! Stories about Money Lost and Money Found

Dolores Hydock

If you are looking for a more entertaining approach to learning about personal finance, please join us at the North Birmingham Library on Monday, August 5, 2013, at 11:00 a.m. Famed storyteller Dolores Hydock will present a collection of funny, sweet, and surprising stories about first jobs, spending sprees, and the unexpected value of a penny.

This program is part of the MakingCents: Resources to make your money grow and Smart investing@your library® series, a partnership between the American Library Association and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

On the Water

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Cole 

As we begin to enter the dog days of summer, I am reminded that one of the best ways to cool off  in the Alabama summer heat is by spending a day on the water.

Alabama has an enormous variety of opportunities for aquatic recreation, though I must admit that paddling along our rivers and streams has become my favorite.  Paddling (canoeing or kayaking) is a great way to relax on a scenic river and get a little exercise at the same time.

Over 631 miles of river and stream within our state have been officially designated as part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail system. The array of geography, history, and wildlife that one can encounter along this trail system is quite stunning, including towering hemlocks and sandstone bluffs along Bear Creek, hundreds of sunbathing turtles on Terrapin Creek, the challenging rapids of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, remnants of American Indian stone fishing weirs on the Tallapoosa River, as well as the chance of an encounter with alligators or even a black bear in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta.

The library has several books that are great sources of information on Alabama's navigable  rivers and streams. These can help you plan a day trip or even an extended float trip and can advise you on the equipment (and skill-level) that is best suited for particular sections of  "blueway" around the state.

These books include:

Alabama Canoe Rides and Float Trips by John H. Foshee

Paddling Alabama by Joe Cuhaj and Curt Burdick

Paddling the Tennessee River by Kim Trevathan

We also have issues of the Birmingham Canoe Club's newsletter, Afloat,  that are available in the Southern History Department dating back to 1987. This is likely the best resource you can find in the printed format, it will have the most frequently updated information of any Alabama paddling resource.

If you are an exceptionally thorough planner, you could even research some of the many volumes of reports by the (no longer in existence) Bureau of Light-Houses to find details on many of the navigable waterways around the state. (Those are housed in the special collections of the Government Documents Department.)

A great resource for Alabama paddlers is the Alabama Scenic River Trail website - there you can find a list of outfitters around the state where canoes and kayaks are available for rental and purchase. Although outfitters such as Terrapin Outdoor Center, Big Wills Outfitters, and Coosa Outdoor Center are situated on some very nice runs, Five Mile Creek Canoe & Co. has access to miles of tranquil blueway that can be reached within twenty minutes of downtown Birmingham.

Also, for those interested in learning how to canoe or kayak, the Birmingham Canoe Club offers classes for beginners as well as advanced paddlers. UAB Outdoor Pursuits also offers classes (as well as low-cost trips) and even has rental equipment at a very good rate if you are interested in setting up your own paddling trip.

Birmingham Baseball Alumni

What do Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Reggie Jackson, and Michael Jordon all have in common? 

All played baseball in Birmingham.  

While the current team, the Birmingham Barons, is the AA Affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, professional baseball has been a part of Birmingham in one form or another since 1885.
The Black Barons of Birmingham
Willie Mays, an Alabama native and Baseball Hall of Famer got his start with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948, playing with the team for two years before getting recruited to the New York Giants (1951-1957), San Francisco Giants (1958-1972), and ending his career with the New York Mets in 1973. 

Mays played in 24 All-Star games, and participated in four World Series. Career statistics include 3,283 hits and 660 home runs, National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1951, two MVP Awards, 12 Gold Gloves, played in a record-tying.  (Baseball Hall of Fame).

Read more about Mays:
Willie Mays: the Life, the Legend by James S. Hirsch  B Mays 2010 
Willie’s Boys by John Klima 796.357 KilmJ 2009

Leroy (Satchel) Paige, a native of Mobile, Alabama, was known for being the oldest Major League Baseball rookie, at 42 - an interesting feat as he had already been playing professional baseball for 22 years. Paige got his start in 1926 with the Chattanooga Lookouts before being traded to the Birmingham Barons where he played until 1930. He continued to play in Negro Leagues and overseas, including taking the Kansas City Monarchs to Negro American League Pennants and the Negro World Series, until 1948 when he joined the Cleveland Indians, making him one of the earliest African Americans Major League Baseball and helping the Indians clinch the pennant. He played in the 1952-3 All Star Game and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

Read more about Paige:
Leroy (Satchel) Paige: Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever as told to David Lipman 796.357x
Satch,Dizzy, & Rapid Robert by Timothy M. Gay 796.357 GayT

Reggie Jackson had a 20 year Major League Baseball career, beginning and ending with the Oakland As, including the New York Yankees and the California Angels.  Playing right field in six pennants and four World Series wins, Jackson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993. After playing football and baseball in college, Jackson was drafted to the Athletics, who were then the Major League affiliate of the Birmingham Barons. After a year with the Barons he moved up the majors. 

Read more about Jackson:
Sixty Feet,Six Inches by Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson  796.357 GibsB 2009 
Reggie Jackson : the Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball's Mr. October by Dayn Perry. B Jackson 2010 

While Michael Jordan will always be known as a basketball icon, many remember his short-lived career in the minor league.  After signing a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox in 1993 (who had the same owners as the Bulls) he played one season with the Birmingham Barons, batting .202 with three home runs, 51 runs batted in, 30 stolen bases, and 11 errors, followed by a stint with the Scottsdale Scorpions, before returning to basketball. 

Read more about Jordan:
One Last Shot : the Story of Michael Jordan's Comeback by Mitchell Krugel B Jordan 2002 

There have been many other baseball players who have come from and passed through Birmingham. These include (but are not limited to) Artie Wilson, Bruce Benedict, Lyman Bostock, Mike Cameron, Bubba Church, Alex Grammas, Jerry Hairston, Sr., Bert Campaneris, Carlos May, Lee May, Gus Niarhos, Jimmy Piersall, Virgil Trucks, Bob Veale, and Robin Ventura. Active players include Mark Buehrle (Chicago White Sox), David Robertson (NY Yankees) and Jason Standridge (debuted with Tampa Bay, currently plays in Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball).

Submitted by Allie Graham
Central - Art, Literature, and Sports

Young Professionals Group Hosts Fundraiser for Birmingham Libraries

The thicker the book, the better. If this is your philosophy—or not—then make plans to join the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals (BPLYP) for their first social event of the year on Thursday, July 25, 2013, 5:30-8:30 pm, at Avondale Brewing Company located at 201 41st Street South. Tickets can be purchased online at for $20 or at the door for $25. A ticket includes one free Avondale brew (while supplies last), food from Saw’s Soul Kitchen, and the opportunity to win a gift basket filled with books and other goodies for library lovers.

The BPLYPs are Birmingham Public Library’s newest support group, comprised of accomplished young professionals ages 25-40 who live and work in the metro area. The mission of the BPLYPs is to promote the library through cultural events and service projects and support library programs through fundraising events like the social. This is the BPLYPs first fundraiser. All proceeds will go to support the Birmingham Public Library and the efforts of the BPLYPs.

Interested in supporting the library as a BPLYP member? There are still a few seats left on the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals Board. Interested young professionals, ages 25-40, can go to for more information or to fill out an application.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Registration Now Open for August Computer Classes

Registration for the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) August 2013 computer classes is now open to the public with added new and improved choices. In addition to offering regular applications such as those from the Apache, RLCC is also extending its training line-up to include Prezi and E-Books.

The major change in the usual classes offered is the merging of the Basic PC and Keyboarding classes. In the past, these popular basic classes were offered individually, once per month, often filling up within the first week. Combining them and providing two days will give more patrons the opportunity to attend this training course.

Because many educational institutions and companies have discovered Prezi, RLCC is providing a tutorial workshop for this online alternative to slide presentations. Rather than a linear approach to presenting, Prezi deals with one canvas and uses "zoom" features for animation. It’s cloud-based, so your presentations are stored online but can be downloaded is needed. This class is an intermediate to advanced class, and previous PC, Internet, and keyboarding experience are recommended. This is NOT recommended for beginners with no previous or minimal computer experience.

An E-Book is basically a digital version of a book. In this workshop, you will learn how to download E-Books from the JCLC digital library. Many readers find them more convenient and portable. If you have a tablet or an E-Reader, you are welcome to bring your personal device. This class is considered an intermediate class, and previous tablet experience is recommended.

The word processing, presentation, and spreadsheets classes this month will be from the Apache suite.

To register, please call (205) 226-3681 or register online. Class time is 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. No one will be admitted into the class after 15 minutes past the time class is scheduled to start, and cell phone use is prohibited during class.

Flow Tactics Teen Open Mic at the YMCA Youth Center

Teens, get your poetry on at the Flow Tactics Teen Open Mic every 3rd Saturday from 6:00 to 8:00 the YMCA Youth Center, 2400 7th Avenue North (near Phillips Academy). Admission is free. The sessions are for high school students only. To sign up to perform or for more information, e-mail This month's program is scheduled for Saturday, July 20.

Flow Tactics is sponsored by The Real Life Poets, the Mayor's Office Division of Youth Services, YMCA Youth Center, and the WORD UP! Student Poetry Slam Committee of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative. WORD UP! is an annual poetry slam for Jefferson County high school students hosted by the Birmingham Public Library.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

12th Annual Math and Science Fun Day Scheduled at Five Points West Library

Science should always be interactive, interesting and unforgettable. When Elinor and Winfield Burks are in the mix, it usually is. Make plans to join them and others for the 12th Annual Summer Math and Science Day in partnership with the Birmingham Public Library. The event takes place Saturday, July 27, 2013, 1:00–5:00 p.m., at the Five Points West Regional Library located at 4812 Avenue W. This event is free and designed for students ages 5 to 105. Parents must accompany all participants.

“Science is Corny” is this year’s theme and activities will explore methods by which plants become food and other common necessities. Children can roam among the various exhibits and explore hands-on science experiments. This year, attendees will experience such tasks as baking bread from flour ground from wheat, concocting an African black soap-based shampoo, tasting parts of unusual plants, and calculating how many plants can fit in a garden plot.

“Kids today do not know where things come from—simple things like bread. This year, we’re going to break it down,” explains Lawson State Community College Math Professor Dr. Preston Scarber, Co-Chair of the event. Guest presenters will include Dr. Allison Grizzle, Alabama Teacher of the Year; Brenda Russell, Keep Birmingham Beautiful; Mary Jones, Greater Birmingham Ministries; Gene Norman, CBS42-TV Meteorologist; and pizza twirlers from the Mellow Mushroom restaurant.

“We expect that the children will be encouraged and motivated for the new school year,” said Dr. Scarber. “This will be a good opportunity to network with professionals and meet presenters who can encourage their interest in science careers.” Families are encouraged to attend together—parents are asked to remain with students and not drop them off. Activities will cover agriculture, biology, botany, chemistry, nutrition, the environment and mathematics—the “queen of science.”

For additional information about the program, please call (205) 786-3731.

Elinor Burks explaining an experiment.

Winfield Burks demonstrating how science can be fun.

Some teens getting hands-on with an experiment.

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