Showing posts from October, 2013

Legend of the Jack-O'-Lantern

The jack-o'-lantern is the most recognized symbol associated with Halloween in the United States.

You may be aware that the custom of carving pumpkins evolved from the age-old tradition of utilizing turnips as lanterns in the British Isles, but are you familiar with the legend surrounding jack-o'-lanterns and their association with Halloween?

According sources such as Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night and Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History, the carving of jack-o'-lanterns stems from an old Scots-Irish custom of placing candles inside carved turnips to show respect for souls lost in purgatory. These lost souls were said to walk the earth on the evening before All Saints Day (All Hallows). Pumpkins were soon substituted for turnips in the Americas once the Scots-Irish were introduced to the large native squash.

The term jack-o'-lantern is alleged have originated in the Irish legend of Jack of the Lantern. Jack was known as Stingy Jack or Jack t…

Movies Built To Last

Last month I blogged on some of the movies I return to again and again. As with any list, there were some that I didn't get around to. So here’s a roundup of some of the stray dogies I didn’t corral. Only some? Well, there's more than a handful of films that are in it for the long haul; the more I think about it, the more the list grows. Note: as in the last blog ("Can't Wear 'Em Out"), I list at the end of each entry an estimate of how many times I've seen the movie.

Double Indemnity (1944). For about 20 years I looked for this all over Birmingham. Nobody-rental stores, libraries, friends-had it. It must have been out of print. Then it started cropping up and I watched it. It was more than worth the long wait. Though I still had some reservations about Fred MacMurray playing a heavy. I'd grown up with MacMurray as the All-American nice guy in My Three Sons and scrubbed clean Disney movies. It was a hard sell on his part. I couldn't have been reve…

Affordable Care Act Information Session with Congresswoman Sewell

Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell will host an ACA Marketplace Education and Enrollment Workshop at the Five Points West Library on Monday, November 4 at 5:30 p.m. The information session will cover the Affordable Care Act and will include presentations from ACA Navigators. There will also be information on understanding the Health Insurance Marketplace and how to enroll.

Library Resource:
Affordable Care Act Subject Guide

What: ACA Marketplace Education and Enrollment Workshop with Congresswoman Sewell
Where: Five Points West Library
When: Monday, November 4, 2013, 5:30 p.m.

Five Birmingham Public Libraries Will Offer Winter Hours Starting November 4

Five Birmingham Public Library locations will have winter hours starting Monday, November. 4, 2013. The five neighborhood branches will continue to offer programs and services. The only change will be that they will open an hour earlier and close an hour earlier.

Libraries in Ensley, North Avondale, Powderly, Woodlawn, and Wylam currently open at 9:00 a.m. and close at 6:00 p.m. on every day except Wednesday and the weekends. Starting November 4, these five neighborhood libraries will open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 5:00 p.m. The five locations will continue to be closed from 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for lunch, be closed on Wednesdays until 1:00 p.m., and be closed on Saturdays and Sundays. The winter hours will end on February 28, 2014.

All other BPL locations will maintain regular hours.

Staff from the Inglenook Branch Library, which is currently closed for renovations, will continue to provide library services from the Inglenook Recreation Center, 4016 37th Ave. North from 1:00-5:…

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month.  There are nearly 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Over 101,000 need adoptive homes right now. In Alabama alone there are over 6000 children in foster care over 600 of whom are available for adoption.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources provides information how to begin the adoption search, a step-by-step checklist for the process, as well as a listing of some of the children seeking Forever Families.

The Department of Human Resources works with other agencies, such as Heart Gallery Alabama to help place these children.

In addition to the Heart Gallery Alabama exhibition, a display photos of children available for adoption which runs from October 31-November 27, 2013, in the First Floor Gallery of the Central Library, there will be a Kickoff Party on November 6th at 6:30pm in at the Central Library. This Reception and Information Session will provide instruction on Adoption in the state of Alabama and introduce some of c…

Bards & Brews Travels to Good People Brewing Company, November 1

The November Bards & Brews will feature an Open Mic Night on Friday, November 1, at Good People Brewing Company.Live music will begin at 6:30 p.m., and poetry performances will start at 7 p.m. Craft beer will be available for sampling and light refreshments will be served.

Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins will emcee both events, which are free and open to the public. Attendees must be 18 years or older to attend, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked.

Bards & Brews, which is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, is usually held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around Birmingham. Visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page for more information.

National Novel Writing Month: Nov. 1-30, 2013

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual writing challenge / literary marathon in which participants pledge to write a 50,000 word short novel in thirty days (1,667 words of original fiction, or 4-5 single-space typed pages, per day). The premise is based on the idea that, in program founder Chris Baty’s words, “The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of the deadline.” NaNoWriMo provides that deadline and connects aspiring authors with a worldwide community of fellow writers sharing the same dream.

How it works: Go to the National Novel Writing Month website and set up an author account. There are a plethora of online forums for authors to connect with others working in the same genres, doing research, or seeking advice on how to squeeze in all that writing time. There is also a Birmingham forum where you can meet other aspiring novelists from the area, either online or in person.

On November 1, participant…

Smithfield Library Closed October 26 for Magic City Classic

Smithfield Library will close at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, October 25, and be closed all day Saturday, October 26, for the Magic City Classic. All other Birmingham Public Libraries will be open for regular scheduled hours.

Children's Book Review: Prisoner 88

Prisoner 88
Leah Pileggi

Jake Evans was just trying to protect his dad, but when manslaughter is involved, the courts in Idaho, 1885 don’t mess around. Even if you’re a kid and just trying to take care of your only family! This is the story of Jake and the time he served at the Idaho State Penitentiary. This historical fiction is set during the time when the frontier was barely settled and the courts were not prepared to deal with a young kid like Jake. He had to serve hard time with full-grown men, hardened criminals. As dreadful as this prospect might sound, Jake manages to see the silver lining. He gets a cell all to himself, three meals a day, a job to do, and he even learns to read (albeit reluctantly). What seems to be the worst possible situation turns out to be a great opportunity to learn, grow, and move on.

This story would make a great introduction to historical fiction and a great read-aloud for elementary school students. This is based on true events and a real boy nam…

Heart Gallery Alabama Exhibition

Heart Gallery Alabama (HGA) is a state wide non-profit agency whose mission is to help find forever families for Alabama's foster children. There are more than 300 children at any one time, who have no identified resource for a permanent home and family of their own, and these are the children for whom HGA recruits. They recruit professional photographers to volunteer to take the Children's portraits, and then take these professional grade photographs around the state to museums, malls, galleries, libraries, and other locations in order to increase awareness of the need for foster and adoptive families in the state of Alabama. Operating for almost eight years, they have been very successful in finding forever families for over 450 children statewide. As November is National Adoption Month, this is timely.

The Heart Gallery photos will be on view at Central Library from October 31-November 27, 2013, in the First Floor Gallery.
For more information contact Haruyo Miyagawa at 205…

Have a Healthy Halloween

UAB’s Weight Management Clinical Dietician Megan Davis shares her tips for providing healthier Halloween options for parties and trick-or-treaters this year.

1. Hand out non-food items as treats.
Instead of offering mounds of candy, try handing out festively fun prizes such as crayons, stickers, pencils, whistles, or temporary tattoos. These items are also great as game prizes or party favors: bouncy balls, spider rings, mini-sized Play-Doh, and plastic vampire teeth.

Note: Always be sure that toys are age-appropriate for the group you are treating.

2. Offer low-sugar options.
Davis says that children will get suspicious if there are no sweets at Halloween parties or while trick-or-treating. Fun-size candies such as Twizzlers, Dum Dums pops, and M&Ms are all 4g of sugar per serving, which is less than a full-size bag of candy. She also suggests offering low-sugar sweets like sugar-free gum, string cheese, bags of peanuts, or almonds. Other options include boxed raisins, p…

October Is Great for Sports Fans

When you think about October, most people immediately turn their minds to Halloween.Considering every store ad is advertising candy and costumes, it’s hard to think otherwise.Turn on the television, however, and you will discover something even more important about October.It is one of the best months of the year to be a sports fan.

As you know, every professional sport has a specific season.Baseball season starts in the spring whereas football, basketball, and hockey start in the fall.The month when all four sports come together is October.  Baseball is wrapping up its season with the World Series which starts tonight between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.Preseason is underway in the NBA and the regular season tips off on October 29th.We are in week 8 of the NFL season and week 4 of the NHL season.Add NASCAR and Major League Soccer to the mix and you could spend hours switching from one sporting event to the next.
In case you need something to browse during the comme…

Free Halloween-Themed Events are Set for the Birmingham Public Library

The Birmingham Public Library will host its Fifth Annual Ghouls’ Ball on Thursday, October 24, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event, which is open to ages 13 to 18, will be held at the Central Library, 2100 Park Place. Attendees must have a ticket to enter. Free tickets are available at all Birmingham Public Library locations. For a list of locations, please visit

The event will include owls, snakes, and other reptiles from Alabama 4-H; food; dancing; balloon sculptures; a photo booth; music; and Wii games. Ron Anglin of Quite a Catch Juggling will teach students how to juggle “spending, saving and sharing’’ when it comes to smart investing. A talk about online resources that address money matters and long-term investing will be offered for parents.

Other Halloween-themed events include:

Enjoy spooky children’s stories on Monday, October 28 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library’s Youth Department Story Castle, second floor. The free event is open t…

Audiobook Review: Okay for Now (Grades 5-9)

Okay for Now
Gary Schmidt
Narrated by Lincoln Hoppe

Doug Swieteck copes with his family's poverty, his dad's abuse, a new school, learning to draw, a mean librarian and a meaner PE "teacher," his brother coming home from Vietnam, and the cops figuring he is a thug. Doug also experiences his first kiss, a fantastic librarian, the artistry of John James Audubon, some fabulous teachers, a wonderful part-time job, and more—"I'm not lying"—truly great things. Love it!

The narrator actually doesn't change his voice for each character, but somehow he makes them all distinct. I swear I can hear him smiling sometimes. Other times, I could hear the tears way in the background.

Submitted by Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West Library

Inglenook Library Participating in October 30 Spooktacular Event

The Inglenook Library will be participating in the Inglenook Recreation Center’s “Spooktacular” event where there will be lots of food, games, treats, and crafts. The event will be held on October 30, 2013 from 3:00-6:00 p.m. and is free and open for the public to attend. If you’re looking for something fun, safe, and free to do for Halloween, stop by the Inglenook Recreation Center.

Submitted by Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Library

Neil Gaiman on Libraries and Reading

Neil Gaiman's lecture "Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming" is well worth a read. The above link is an edited version of his lecture. A full transcript is available here: Reading Agency lecture.

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Are You a Reality Show Junky?

Are you addicted to reality television shows? If you are, you’re not alone. Almost everyone is addicted to at least one of these “guilty pleasures.” Did you know that there are several categories of reality shows? Wikipedia uses the following outline:

1. Documentary Style
a. Extraordinary People
b. Historical re-creation
c. Science
d. Dating
e. Law Enforcement/Rescue/Military
f. Makeover
g. Lifestyle Change
h. Fantasies Fulfilled
i. Docu-soaps starring Celebrities 2. Video Cameras/Hidden Camera
3. Game Show/Reality Playoffs
a. Talent Searches 4. Spoofs
5. Parodies

The most popular ones are talent searches and game shows/playoffs. Top Chef, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars would be examples of the talent search type. The game show/playoff group includes such hits as the Amazing Race, Survivor, and Celebrity Apprentice. There also several smaller categories, which are dominated by one or two hits. America’s Funniest Home Videos practically owns the Video Camera genre …

Digital Bookmobile Highlights

The OverDrive Digital Library made a stop at the Birmingham Public Library Central Branch on Wednesday, October 18, 2013. Here are some highlights:

November RLCC Computer Classes include Excel 2010

The Regional Library Computer Center November computer classes schedule is now available, and registration is open to staff and the public. This month, we will offer multiple basics classes and Microsoft Excel 2010. To register for the classes, you may do so online, drop by the Computer Commons, or call (205) 226-3681.

Microsoft Excel 2010 is a spreadsheet software in the new 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. To understand the basics of Excel, you might want to become familiarized with some of its features.
Components of the Excel Window The tabbed Ribbon system was introduced in Excel 2007 to replace traditional menus. It contains all of the commands you'll need in order to do common tasks. There are multiple tabs, each with several groups of commands. Some groups have an arrow in the bottom-right…

OverDrive's Digital Bookmobile Will Be Parked at Central Library, October 16

The Digital Bookmobile National Tour will showcase the free e-book download service from Birmingham Public Library’s Central location at 2100 Park Place on Wednesday, October 16, 2013, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. At this free event, readers of all ages will learn how to download e-books from the library through interactive demonstrations and high-definition instructional videos. A gadget gallery—featuring Samsung Galaxy Tablet, Windows Phone 8, Kindle Fire, Nook HD+, Sony Reader, Creative Zen, iPad Mini, Creative Zen X-Fi, and much more—will help visitors discover portable devices that are compatible with the library’s download service.

“When the Digital Bookmobile stopped at our location in 2010, we had hundreds of visitors to walk through and become familiar with downloadable devices,” said Birmingham Public Library Director Renee Blalock. “As a result, we have increased our collection of e-books and other downloadable items. We are committed to keeping pace with changing technology and…

Children’s Art Gallery at Springville Road Library

The Springville Road Regional Branch now has an art gallery in the Children’s Department. Come and check it out! We will be displaying art created by children from schools in our area. We are currently displaying art created by students at W.J. Christian K-8 School. We will be holding an artists’ reception on Sunday October 27 from 3-5 p.m. in honor of the students whose artwork was selected for our inaugural exhibit. This come-and-go reception will be accompanied by light refreshments.

Submitted by Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

Book Review: The Hare with Amber Eyes

The Hare with Amber Eyes
Edmund de Waal

The Family Netsuke

Netsuke are tiny works of art, smaller than a ping pong ball, intricate figures carved from ivory or boxwood before Japan entered the modern world in 1859. The author, a potter on an extended fellowship in Japan, was taught to love his Uncle Iggie’s family heirloom collection of 264 netsuke. He becomes fascinated by the family stories wound around them. The Ephrussis of Odessa, Vienna, Paris, London and Tokyo were no ordinary family.

This is a book with a family tree, but it is simpler than that sounds. De Waal writes the story of the netsuke and his forbearers who owned them, beginning with de Waal’s great, great uncle Charles, a grand Parisian gentleman connoisseur (friends with Degas, Manet, Renoir, Monet and Proust), who collected them during the Japonisme craze of the 1870s.

The author writes:

“I want to know what the relationship has been between this wooden object that I am rolling between my fingers – hard and tricky …

5th Annual Ghouls' Ball, Thursday, October 24th at the Central Library

It's that time of year again! Calling all ghouls to head downtown for a real treat and a devilishly good time.See you there....if you dare.

Thursday, October 24, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Central Library – First floor Atrium and Fiction Department Students ages 13 – 18. Tickets are free and are available at all BPL locations Activities:
In conjunction with the Smart Investing @ your library programs, Ron Anglin of Quite a Catch Juggling will teach students how to Juggle the Three "S"s of Smart Investment: Spend, Save, and Share! In a funny and interactive show, students will learn ways that will keep their finances balanced, much like Ron on top of his rola-bola! So make a smart investment of your time and come join the Fun! It doesn't cost you any money! Alabama 4-H will bring owls, snakes, and other reptiles. Participants will learn “up close and personal” about the habitat and care of these native animals. RKO Photography will provide a photo booth. Partici…

Ghost Stories and Hauntings

In keeping with the impending season, I decided to focus on things which go “bump” in the night. Lately, when I’m in bed at night, I keep hearing creaks, bumps, and groans. The last time this particular phenomenon happened to me, the gutter over my bedroom window was beginning to fall. I better have that gutter checked, but in the meantime enjoy the scary selections I’ve picked.

13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Paranormal
Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World
The Ghost in the Sloss Furnaces
Ghost Stories
Ghoulish Ghost Stories
Haunted Christmas: Yuletide Ghosts and Other Spooky Holiday Happenings
Haunted Heritage
Haunted North Alabama: The Phantoms of the South
Jeffrey's favorite 13 Ghost Stories
Jeffrey's Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories

Ghost Hunters - Seasons Two-Four
Paranormal state: The Com…

Wowbrary: Weekly Alert For New Library Books, DVDS, and CDs Available

Would you like to be the among the first to know what new books, DVDs, and CDs have been added to the collections of the Public Libraries In Jefferson County (PLJC)? Well, you now have the opportunity to do just that. Birmingham Public Library has teamed up with Wowbrary to put together a weekly list of all the new materials added to the PLJC catalog. The list is available as a weekly email as well as online. You can sign up to have weekly email alerts automatically sent to you or read the weekly alert online.

The weekly alerts will spotlight the many new bestsellers, DVDs, CDs, cookbooks, mysteries, science books, travel guides, histories, children's titles, health books, science fiction, and more. With this information you can place a hold on any library book, DVD, or CD, and any hold can be picked up at the library location of your choice. It’s easy, it’s free, and it is a fun way to find something new and unexpected at your local library.

To sign up, learn more, or view th…

A Cappella Group Out of the Blue to Perform at Avondale Library, October 14

Avondale Library Youth Department proudly presents Out of the Blue and welcomes back our very own Sarah Bender. The group will perform at Avondale Library on Monday, October 14, 3:30 p.m.

Out of the Blue is Duke University’s oldest, award-winning all-female undergraduate a cappella group. Out of the Blue frequently performs at a variety of venues in Durham, North Carolina, including universities, restaurants, museums, private parties, Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the Durham Bulls Stadium. In recent years, Out of the Blue has traveled across the country to Washington DC, Chicago, and New York, as well as internationally to Istanbul, Turkey, where they performed live on Turkish national television. Out of the Blue was awarded Best Female Collegiate Album for the third year running with their latest album, Still Point, available on iTunes.

Submitted by Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

LifeSouth Blood Drive at Central Library, October 14

Please consider coming to the Central Library on Monday, October 14, 12:00-5:00 p.m., to donate blood. The LifeSouth Community Blood Centers team will be on hand to take your donation and offer a hot dog lunch (hot dog, chips, and drink), a gift, and a free cholesterol screening.

MakingCents Program at Central Library Focuses on Banking and Credit, October 8

If you are interested in getting your financial life in order this fall, then the Central Library is the place to be! Dr. Andreas Rauterkus, Associate Professor of Accounting and Finance at UAB, will be leading a series of programs that will focus on a variety of issues related to personal finance and investing. The programs take place at noon in the Central Library's Arrington Auditorium and will continue at the same time and place on the second Tuesday of the month thru December.

The individual programs are:

Banking and Credit
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
12:00 p.m.
Arrington Auditorium
Information will be provided in this session to help you determine your banking needs, manage a personal checking account, obtain and interpret your credit score, and make wise choices about credit cards.

Saving and Investing
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
12:00 p.m.
Arrington Auditorium
This session will help you understand the various financial markets, evaluate different saving and investment option…

Can’t Wear ‘Em Out

When times are tough, the tough watch movies. I’m hardly the first to say that movies can be comfort food. Sometimes a new one just won’t do and you feel that conservative urge to re-watch an old film. But that familiarity can lead to fresh insights, too, as you see in a new way the themes, images, dialogue, camera angles and so on. Any first-rate movie will continue to be new, of course, but even an old fave that has no claim on posterity will reward multiple viewings. It’s all about a personal connection. The late film critic Andrew Sarris once said he didn’t think Psycho was a great film, but he’d seen it thirty-three times nevertheless. He did, as it happened, teach it in a film course at New York University. Still-33 times! I have more than a sneaking suspicion he liked it more than he let on.

For a long time I’ve wanted to share my heavy rotations with the public in a more organized and formal way. So here they are (some, anyway). Each entry ends with an estimate of how many t…

Birmingham Public Library to Host Walking Tour of Notorious Downtown Historic Sites

Learn about Birmingham’s most famous brothel, its memorable 19th century murders, and the scandal that nearly destroyed former Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor’s career during Birmingham Noir, a walking tour in downtown Birmingham on Friday, October 25, and Wednesday, October 30. The tour starts at 5:45 p.m. The same tour will be offered on both dates.

Birmingham Public Library Archivist Jim Baggett leads the tour, which covers several blocks filled with stories about local murders, fallen women, and unsolved mysteries. It’s a popular library program that’s offered every year around Halloween.

The tour begins in the Atrium of the Central Library, 2100 Park Place, and lasts approximately 90 minutes. The tour ends in the library’s parking lot at Park Place and 22nd Street North.

Space is limited and reservations are required. To make reservations, call (205) 226-3631 or send an e-mail to Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes an…

Print from Anywhere to Birmingham Public Library

The Birmingham Public Library is now offering a new web-based printing service that makes printing on-the-go easy and convenient.

You can print to one of our library printers from your desktop at work, from your tablet at home, from your laptop while inside the library or from your smartphone almost anywhere.

All you need to do is go to this page, chose the location to pick up your print jobs and follow the steps to print your document, email attachment, or web page!

This service is available at our Central, Avondale, Five Points West, North Birmingham, and Springville Road locations.