Thursday, October 31, 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 the Drunkard and was well-known for playing several tricks on the devil. Most famous of these legends is the time in which he tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree. Once aloft, Jack carved a cross into the tree, thus trapping the devil. Jack only agreed to let the devil out of the tree if he promised to never take Jack's soul.

Jack passed away many years later and, naturally, heaven would not accept him owing to his sinful ways. The devil lived up to his promise and tossed Jack an ember from the fires of hell which Jack carried around in a carved turnip in order to help light his way as he wandered the earth as a lost soul. Jack then became known as Jack of the Lantern or Jack-O'-Lantern.

Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

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 reversed more. Good actors have range; it's as straightforward as that. This is one of the most affecting slide-into-evil portrayals in movie history. His insurance man character tries to get away with murder with the help of partner (Barbara Stanwyck, also brilliant). What a ferociously tangled web they weave, and it's a pleasure to get caught up in this consummately rotten world all over again. Brilliant, diamond-hard, pitiless dialogue by James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler is essential to the success of this noir tale. About 8 times.

Sunset Boulevard (1952). Like Double Indemnity, another Billy Wilder-directed triumph, another landmark in film noir history and another tale of doomed love. The tone is different from Double Indemnity, though, in that there's way more humor and a subplot of romance to somewhat lighten the overall darkness. Gloria Swanson plays a past-it silent film star who sees Bill Holden's screenwriter character as a ticket back to the limelight. She tries to swallow him whole; he eventually tries to redeem himself. The movie's a paradox. It's the bitterest indictment of Hollywood ever, yet it was made as a major Tinseltown offering. This shadowy (and shadows have never been better photographed than in Sunset and Double), campy, gothic, witty, pathetic world of loss is one that's so rich, you still see new facets in it after many viewings (as those adjectives might suggest.) More than a few repeats is best for me. About 8 times.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Peter O'Toole's stint as T. E. Lawrence may strike you as overdramatic until you consider that the original was more than a bit of a showman. It's compelling to watch a man assume heroic proportions while going bonkers at the same time. The unearthly desert landscapes are continually astonishing to look at and also function as corollaries to the isolation and alienation going on in Lawrence's head. About 10 times.

Since Halloween is today, here's a couple of horror stalwarts sure not to bore. Genre-defying stalwarts, too.

Beetlejuice (1988). An ultra-conventional couple dies, and when they realize it, they discover that navigating the afterlife is infinitely tougher than getting through life on our side. A plus is that all this adapting makes them more interesting and more sympathetic. Their biggest problem, though, is Beetlejuice, a "bio-exorcist" who promises to rid them of the live people inhabiting their old house. Since this is a Tim Burton movie, and it's from his stronger, earlier years, it's enormous fun, full of zaniness, good in-jokes, on-target satire and celebration/mockery of gothic tropes. One of the best rollercoaster rides ever, but it's much more than merely that. It is showtime. Around 10 times.

The Shining (1980). Despite what the goofballs in Room 237 might make you think, there is nothing necessarily mentally dubious about watching The Shining many times over. No one will want to document you on film. Stanley Kubrick's epic horror national ritual movie will appeal to anyone who appreciates subtle, hidden layers which reveal themselves only after the first two-three times you watch it. There's plenty of shock horror too, of course, but even that morphs every couple of viewings into new takes on old expectations. Stephen Spielberg told friend Kubrick that Jack Nicholson's essay was "one of the great Kabuki performances" of all time. It's that, too, but it's a lot more, as Spielberg would later admit. One critic recently called the movie a screwball comedy and he's partly right, too. It does get funnier after about 8 times. But the first time I saw it it terrified me, something horror movies almost never do. The Shining can provoke an enormous range of emotions the first time and over the long haul, like a good novel. At least 10 times.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department

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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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 1:00-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

All five neighborhood locations are closed on Wednesday mornings in order for staff to handle various duties, perform community outreach activities, participate in training and attend system-related meetings.

Note: All Birmingham library locations will be closed for Veterans Day on November 10 and 11.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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 children still hoping to be adopted as well as a few of the over 450 children successfully placed with Forever Families.

This event is open to the public.

For additional resources on adoption see:
Attaching in adoption : practical tools for today's parents / Deborah D. Gray
Adoption nation : how the adoption revolution is transforming our families-- and America / Adam Pertman.
Unveiling the adoption process : seven families' adventures and insights / Rhonda Y. Miller.

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

B&B performance at Central Library, September 2013

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.

Monday, October 28, 2013

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, participants start writing. Each day authors can update the word count on their profiles so that other writers can compare it to their own. At the end of the month, the official NaNoWriMo word counters check each writer's work for length – nothing else – and those who have crossed the 50,000 word finish line are awarded the status of “Winner!”

NaNoWriMo is not like traditional writing contests. Entries are not judged by any merit other than length, authors do not compete against each other, and the final prize is not publication. Instead, at the end of the month, NaNoWriMo winners have achieved that which is most difficult for any author to create – a finished first draft. Many people dream about “one day” writing a book. NaNoWriMo participants are living that dream now.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

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 named Jake Evans, which makes it so much more interesting. As an adult, I couldn’t resist pulling this title off the shelf to see if there was an explanation about why this kid was convicted of manslaughter, why he did it, and how things worked out for him in the end. I imagine kids would find it even more fascinating than I did. The story moves pretty quickly, it’s sure to keep the attention of reluctant readers. Despite his criminal past, Jake is an incredibly sympathetic character. He was just a kid who landed in the wrong place at the wrong time and reacted before he could think of the consequences. It’s a story that will give readers something to think about for sure.

Submitted by Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

Thursday, October 24, 2013

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 205-226-3671 or

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, peanut butter crackers, or fruit cups with 100%juice.

Note: Make other parents or chaperones aware if you are serving items that may be a potential food allergen, such as peanuts.

3. Choose wisely.
Instead of choosing traditional candy mixes, choose brands that have individually wrapped portions. As much as possible, avoid treats with:

• Trans fats and hydrogenated oils
• Sugars (such as corn syrup)
• Artificial flavors and dyes

Some examples of not-so-scary snacks include Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop!, CLIF Kid Zbars, and Let’s Do Organic Fruiti Bears Gummies.

4. Provide water or juice boxes as beverages.
Davis suggests filling an empty planter or container with ice and offering mini water bottles and 100%juice boxes for trick-or-treaters. This can also be an option at Halloween parties to limit soda intake.


Submitted by Felita Hawkins
East Lake Library

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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 commercials, check out some new and upcoming sports titles from the library.

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

I Was a Teenage Zombie, 2012 Ghouls' Ball

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 to children of all ages and parents. Refreshments will be served. The address is 2100 Park Place. For more information, call 226-3655.

Personalize your pumpkin with decoupage on Wednesday, October 30, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Youth Department of the Central Library, 2100 Park Place. Call 226-3655 for more information. Staff will be present to help students. Ideal for ages 8 and up.

Inglenook Library will participate in Inglenook Recreation Center’s  Halloween Spooktacular Festival on Wednesday, October 30, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. The free event will include food, games, treats, crafts, a costume contest, and a dance contest. The address is 4016 37th Ave. North. Call 841-6634 for more information.

For a complete list of October events at BPL, please visit

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

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 and the Real Housewives is currently dominating the Extraordinary People category. Whatever your pleasure, you might enjoy some of the new books which are being released to provide more detailed information on some of the more popular shows.

Project Runway: The Show That Changed Fashion
Chasing Spirits: The Building of the Ghost Adventures Crew
The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Created a Dynasty
License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver
My Ox is Broken!: Roadblocks, Detours, Fast Forwards, and Other Great Moments from TV's The Amazing Race
Survivor!: The Ultimate Game: The Official Companion Book to the CBS Television Show
A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make it Work
American Pickers Guide to Picking
For What it's Worth: Business Wisdom from a Pawnbroker
Public Enemies: The Host of America's Most Wanted Targets the Nation's Most Notorious Criminals

Reading the books is an enjoyable way to re-live your favorite shows. After researching the subject, I found that the Biggest Loser is also the biggest winner at the publishing game. There are six books devoted to it: two biographies and four cookbooks. Why not check out a few and you can enjoy your “guilty pleasure” even more.

Submitted by Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Library

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

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:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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 corner that you can click to see even more commands.

  •  File Tab: Opens Backstage view, which displays a menu of commonly used file-management commands, such as Open, Save, Save As, and Print.
  • Quick Access Toolbar: Contains buttons for frequently used commands. By default, Save, Undo, and Repeat/Redo are available. You can customize the toolbar to include additional commands.
  • Ribbon Tabs: Contain Excel’s primary tools and commands, which are organized in logical groups and divided among the tabs. The main tabs are File, Home, Insert, Page Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View.
  • Ribbon Groups: Further organize related tools and commands. For example, tools and menus for changing text formats are arranged together in the Font group.
  • Title Bar: Displays the name of the current document.
  • Document area: Displays the text graphics that you type, edit, or insert. The flashing vertical line in the document area is called the insertion point, and it indicates where text will appear as you type.
  • Status Bar: Contains the page number, word count, View commands, and document Zoom.
  • Scrollbars: Used to view parts of the document that doesn’t currently fit in the window. You can scroll vertically and horizontally.
  • Help: Pressing your F1 key will bring up the Help function for Window-based programs. Excel 2010 offers relevant results with articles from different sources online.

The Ribbon
Becoming familiar with the Ribbon is a great way to help understand the changes between Microsoft 2003 to Microsoft 2010.  The ribbon holds all of the information in previous versions of Microsoft Office in a more visual stream line manner through a series of tabs that include an immense variety of program features. The Ribbon contains multiple tabs, each with several groups of commands. You can add your own tabs that contain your favorite commands.

  • Home Tab-This is the most used tab; it incorporates all text and cell formatting features such as font and paragraph changes.  The Home Tab also includes basic spreadsheet formatting elements such as text wrap, merging cells and cell style.
  • Insert Tab-This tab allows you to insert a variety of items into a document from pictures, clip art, and headers and footers.
  • Page Layout Tab-This tab has commands to adjust page such as margins, orientation and themes
  • Formulas Tab-This tab has commands to use when creating Formulas.  This tab holds an immense function library which can assist when creating any formula or function in your spreadsheet.
  • Data Tab-This tab allows you to modifying worksheets with large amounts of data by sorting and filtering as well as analyzing and grouping data.
  • Review Tab-This tab allows you to correct spelling and grammar issues as well as set up security protections.  It also provides the track changes and notes feature providing the ability to make notes and change someone’s document.
  • View Tab-This tab allows you to change the view of your document including freezing or splitting panes, viewing gridlines and hide cells.

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 the needs of our community.”

The Digital Bookmobile is housed inside an 18-wheel tractor-trailer. This 74-foot community outreach vehicle is a high-tech update of the traditional bookmobile that has served communities for decades. The vehicle is equipped with broadband Internet-connected PCs, high definition monitors, premium sound systems, and a variety of portable media players, all of which help visitors explore Birmingham Public’s download service. Interactive learning stations give visitors an opportunity to search the library’s digital media collection, use supported mobile devices, and sample e-books, audiobooks, music, and video.

Patrons can take advantage of the download service 24/7 when they visit the library’s website. From there, they can browse the growing collection of bestselling, new release, and classic titles, and check out a digital title with a valid library card. Once downloaded, digital titles can be enjoyed on a computer or transferred to supported mobile devices. Many audio titles can also be burned to audio CD. At the end of the lending period, titles will automatically expire and are returned to the digital collection. There are never late fees or damaged items.

The Digital Bookmobile is a service of the Birmingham Public Library and is operated by OverDrive, Inc. To check out and download digital books and more, visit

Friday, October 11, 2013

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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

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 and Japanese – and where it has been. I want to be able to reach to the handle of the door and turn it and feel it open. I want to walk into each room where this object has lived, to feel the volume of the space, to know what pictures were on the wall, how the light fell from the windows. And I want to know whose hands it has been in, and what they felt about it and thought about it – if they thought about it. I want to know what it has witnessed.”

It, the netsuke, “witnessed” the ruin and murder of a glorious Jewish banking family in Europe’s virulent twentieth century anti-Semitism: the French anti-dreyfusards, the Gestapo and post-war Austrian indifference to Jewish loss. When de Waal’s grandmother was married and moved into her husband’s Viennese palace on the Ringstrasse, she remarked that it was like living in the grand hall of the opera. She ended her life a penniless refuge. Yet, the story of the netsuke continues and the true wealth of the family is revealed in the final journey.

The Hare with Amber Eyes is an account of the author’s quest to find the truth about his family’s past. Written in the first person as de Waal travels from Paris, to Vienna and the Czech Republic and Tokyo, we stand shyly, with the author, on sidewalks, staring at the Park Monceau mansion and the Ringstrasse palace, formally owned by the Ephrussis, family seats long since lost to other owners. With de Waals we are apprehensive on penetrating further into the past and the rooms once occupied by the netsuke to rediscover the inner lives of the netsuke owners. But as we do so, the writing shifts into the third person. De Waal, and the reader, find immersion in their stories.

Many readers report reading The Hare with Amber Eyes in one sitting. It is that engrossing.

Accompany de Waal on his grand, and intimate, quest.

Submitted by David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

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. Participants will have the opportunity to “dress up” with hats, glasses, wigs, etc. and pose alone or with friends for a souvenir photo.
  • Space Air Tattoos will provide a variety of designs for a special air-brush tattoo.
  • Participants will have the opportunity to participate in Nintendo Wii tournaments including bowling and other sporting events.
  • Basketball and football enthusiasts will have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills at the inflatable games.
  • Balloon sculptures will be provided by Larry Moore.
  • Music and dance demonstrations will be on-going throughout the event.
  • Free food and beverages will be available including hot dogs, nachos, sodas, popcorn and snow cones.
Note – To relieve parents’ minds, numerous chaperones and security will be on hand to ensure everyone has a great time. Younger siblings are not invited.

Ghost Stories and Hauntings

.Jeffrey the ghost makes an appearance after a group of people in
Kathryn Tucker Windham's Selma home played around with the Ouija board.

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 Complete Season One
Shades of Darkness
Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts

Submitted by Maya Jones
West End Library

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

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

Wowbrary: Weekly Email of New Library Materials
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 the latest list of new arrivals, check out our Wowbrary page.

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

Monday, October 07, 2013

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.

Friday, October 04, 2013

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

Dr. Andreas Rauterkus

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 options, find and utilize investment information, and develop ways to make better investment decisions.

Paying for College
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
12:00 p.m.
Arrington Auditorium
A college education is a good investment, but is also a very expensive one. In this program, Dr. Rauterkus will discuss ways to make this process more manageable. Among the topics to be covered are evaluating college affordability, utilizing personal savings, and assessing the different forms of financial aid.

These programs are 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.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Can’t Wear ‘Em Out

Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Michael J. Pollard

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 times I’ve seen the movie.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Over the years many have used to the word “hypnotic” to describe the Star Gate sequence toward the end of this movie, but to me the whole film is one long trance story, a safe and reliable altered state of consciousness. Silence, Gyorgy Ligeti’s choral clouds, judicious use of slowness-these and other ingredients produce a pleasurable, meditative state with an admixture of awe. For the first time the language of avant-garde films was injected into a major motion picture and millions were gobsmacked. Did you know that an Alabamian from Huntsville was the chief technical advisor? About 12 times.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Couldn’t be more different than the last one. Hyperkinetic, unrelenting, loving its speed all the way. And yet punctuated with reflective scenes. My favorite line: C.W. Moss’ “Dirt in the fuel line. Just blowed it away.” The final crossfire scene is easily the equal of the Odessa steps sequence in The Battleship Potemkin. Is it true that violence, as Kubrick said, can be beautiful? And that beauty isn’t always linked in the mind to what is good? And that that is one of our human flaws? About 8 times.

Barry Lyndon (1975). Stanley Kubrick again, and again hypnotic. Many have said it’s too slow, but that slowness is key to its success-it’s the director’s way of putting the viewer in the pace of late-18th Century life. Like 2001, it’s another total immersion experience, and the stately pace adds to this. Round about 10 times.

Drugstore Cowboy (1989). The trials and tribulations of drug addiction and hence marginalization, and how the leader of a drug crew leaves the life, or tries to, with uncertain results. It’s also very funny, with the best stoner humor I’ve ever come across. Approximately 8 times.

Ed Wood (1994). A few key years in the life of the man who is, by common consent, the worst film director of all time. In the 50s in Hollywood, you could financially squeak by making terrible movies few people watched. Hilarious, brilliantly scripted and endlessly quotable for those who’ve caught the bug. I’m saying 10 times.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). A group of desperate Americans in Mexico in the early 20th Century takes a last chance-gold prospecting. This entirely compelling story was beautifully filmed on location. The natural beauty is in sharp contrast to a panoply of emotions from the dark side of humanity and how they threaten to engulf all. “We don’t need no stinkin’ repeat viewings!” Yes, I do. At least 8 times.

The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974). Is this movie (admittedly an artificial construct-where’s Part III?) the best American movie ever? It’s almost impossible to start it and not go through to the end, even on, say, the seventh go-round. The Corleones are immersed in evil, but you care about them intimately. That is a very strange paradox. It’s a pleasure to see evil at a remove, up there on the screen. And yet you’re drawn to that screen. The family, every one of them, are fully-formed, non-stereotypical hoods. That makes them impossible to dismiss or ignore. About 12 times.

Citizen Kane (1941). Or is this? I don’t agree with Pauline Kael about much of anything, but she was right when she said that, of all the great films, Citizen Kane was the most fun to watch. No, it shouldn’t have been shoved down to number two in the Sight&Sound Greatest Films Poll, giving way to Vertigo. Vertigo is a rapturous masterpiece, but it’s not even my favorite Hitchcock movie. Back to Kane, though. A waking dream about the shadow side of the American myth, it surprises you over and over with its daring, ravishing multiplicity and sureness. Roughly 10 times.

Psycho (1960). This is where we came in. So is this my favorite Hitchcock? Or is it The Birds? Or North by Northwest? Or Rear Window? I’m sorry, I can’t make that decision. I love Hitchcock’s movies too much to ever give up part of this family. Psycho is highly watchable, but I doubt I’ll ever watch it—or any movie—33 times. Menace, loneliness and emotional retardation have seldom been as compelling as they are in Psycho. Bernard Herrmann’s zero-degree score is inseparable from the visuals-you can’t think of one without the other. (The same has been said of 2001 many times). A true fusion of minds, Hitch and Herrmann, working together almost telepathically. I’d say 8 times.

And I haven’t even gotten to Lawrence of Arabia, Beetlejuice, The Shining, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Aguirre, The Wrath of God and so on down the pleasurable path of memory, celluloid and digital discs. Maybe next time.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

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 and bring bottled water. The tour is free.

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.

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