Showing posts from 2014

Can Hard Work Make You a Good Writer?

Are good writers born or made? Can writing skills be developed through practice? Ken Haruf, best known for the National Book Award finalist Plainsong, had this to say on the topic: “It doesn't seem to me there's a scarcity of talent among students who want to write. But what there is a lack of is a talent for work, that it's so difficult to write and it takes so long to learn how to write well that most people give it up before they get good enough.” (from interview 10 years ago on NPR's Diane Rehm Show-italics added for emphasis)

Haruf died on November 30 of this year at the age of 71. It wasn’t until he was 40 that he got his work published. He modestly said that it took him that long to get good enough to be published.

If you’ve been meaning to work on your writing skills, the library is here to help. Starting in January, BPL will offer free poetry writing workshops for adults twice a month, on first and third Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Storyca…

Impact Alabama To Offer Free Tax Prep Assistance at Selected BPL Locations, Plus Tax Forms, Resources, and More

Check back for updated information in the coming months.

As a service to the community, the Birmingham Public Library provides some copies of current Federal and Alabama tax forms, instructions, and publications. The following forms/booklets are available at most library locations: Federal - 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms only; State - 40 and 40NR forms and instruction booklets. All other forms and instructions can be found online at

Federal Forms
IRS forms and publications
Request IRS forms by mail

State Forms
Alabama Department of Revenue

General Resources
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - This governmental site has United States federal income tax forms, information, and tips. Includes warnings about tax frauds and scams, information about filling online, and the ability to track the status of your refund.

Yahoo! Finance: Tax Center - Tax forms, estimators, calculators, preparation, guides, tips, terms, calendars, rates, rules, news, and state tax profiles. Includes a basic "B…

What’s Your Resolution?

We’re fast approaching the New Year and everyone is probably considering New Year’s resolutions. Many of my resolutions have been one of the following: healthier eating “dieting,” improving my personal finances, and trying to travel more. The resources I’ve found may help you do all of this and more. Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year and good success in keeping your New Year’s resolutions.

Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating the Holidays without Breaking the Bank 
Diabetes & Heart Healthy Cookbook
The Everything Budgeting Book: Practical Advice for Saving and Managing Your Money—from Daily Budgets to Long-Term Goals
Fodor's Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West
Go Fresh: A Heart-Healthy Cookbook with Shopping and Storage Tips
The Mediterranean Zone: Unleash the Power of the World's Healthiest Diet for Superior Weight Loss, Health, and Longevity
Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, and Keep More …

Birmingham's Rich History of Generosity

It isn't surprising that Birmingham's metropolitan area is number 3 in the amount of charitable giving since Birmingham has a rich history of generosity.

As an example of that generosity, one of my favorite heroines, Roberta Morgan, was a woman who contributed greatly to Birmingham's charity community in the early twentieth century. She worked with the local and national Red Cross, helped establish Birmingham's Community Chest (United Way), and was involved in several social work projects during the Great Depression. In 1928, Morgan took part in the Birmingham Association of Social Workers Confidential Exchange. This group set up a Christmas Exchange Committee to coordinate several organizational groups efforts to provide Christmas presents for those who had no means to have a Christmas otherwise.

A brochure detailing Christmas needs in 1928 is available to view as part of the library's online digital collection. Take a look at the coordination and detail put tog…

Springville Road Crafters to Begin Warm Up America Projects—A Modern Day Crafting Bee

Warm Up America is an organization that pairs America’s knitters and crocheters with people who need warm blankets or accessories during the cold months of the year.

The Coffee, Conversation and Crafts group at the Springville Road Library will be working together to crochet and knit caps, afghans, scarves, etc., for local charities to pass along to people in need.

We’ll begin by stitching 7” x 9” blocks, which we’ll then join to form complete afghans. There will be written patterns available, as well as instructions and templates. If you already crochet or knit, please join us! If you don’t know how, but would like to learn, we invite you to come and we’ll teach you. Hands on instruction will be provided free, as well as yarn, crochet hooks, and needles. If you have your own scraps and notions, you are welcome to bring them along, too. It’s a great way to use up scraps of yarn left over from previous projects, and making the blocks is excellent practice for the beginning …

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: Christmas With the Washingtons: Being a Special Account of Traditional Rites Observed in Virginia . . .

Christmas With the Washingtons:
Being a Special Account of Traditional Rites Observed in Virginia . . .
Olive Bailey, with drawings by Worth Bailey

Not many modern readers would associate George Washington with Christmas. If we think of Washington in winter, we’re more likely to remember the painting of the General praying in the snow at Valley Forge. But Olive Bailey’s delightful Christmas with the Washingtons gives us a look at the Christmas season of the late 18th century in America and how it would have been celebrated by the upper classes at such manors as Belvoir, Westover, and—of course—Mount Vernon.

Far from limiting herself to Washington the President and Founding Father, Bailey starts with young George and tracks him through various Christmases, explaining as much as the historical record allows of where and how he spent them. As a young man in 1751, Washington was on the deck of the ship Industry in the seas around the Barbadoes and his Christmas dinner consisted of “Irish…

Birmingham's Best Bites Cookbook Signing at Primeaux Cheese & Vino at the Summit, December 22

Food Network Star finalist Martie Duncan, Arden Photography, and Chanda Temple will sign copies of the new Birmingham's Best Bites cookbook during a wine and cheese tasting event at Primeaux Cheese & Vino at the Summit on Monday, December 22, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Primeaux is located next to Pottery Barn Kids.

Duncan says Monday's event is not only a good time to get a copy of the book, but to also learn about which wine and cheese pairings are ideal for those last-minute holiday gatherings. Paul and Deborah Primeaux, owners of the Primeaux and Dixie Fish Co., said they are excited about the book, Monday's event and supporting the library. Book proceeds benefit the library.

"We really are proud to be a part of the Birmingham restaurant community and anything that can do to bring attention to the quality of food purveyors in the city,'' says Paul Primeaux. "I think any great city has to have a great library.''

The book, which is a Birmingham P…

A Librarian's Guide to Gift-Giving


Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland, and Birmingham

As you read the title of this blog post, you may have exclaimed, “What does Birmingham have to do with the song, 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' and Judy Garland?” This song made its debut in the 1944 classic musical, Meet Me in St. Louis, which starred Judy Garland and contained several songs written by Birmingham native, Hugh Martin. The song, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", went on to become a hit and a Christmas favorite. What you might not know is that the lyrics were changed as Judy Garland deemed them too sad.

The original lyrics were: 
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last, 
Next year we may all be living in the past. 
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, pop that champagne cork, 
Next year we will all be living in New York. 
No good times like the olden days, happen golden days of yore, 
Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more." 

After a lot of convincing and realizing it was probably…

The Battle of the Bulge

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Battle of the Ardennes). Fought December 16, 1944-January 16, 1945, this was the last significant German assault against the Allies in World War II.

Hitler’s plan had two objectives: to capture the port city of Antwerp, Belgium, and in doing so split in half General Dwight Eisenhower’s forces; and to destroy four Allied armies located between Bastogne, Brussels, and Antwerp.

Early in the morning of December 16, 1944, the Germans surprised the Allies in the fog, cold, and snow along a 75-mile front in the Ardennes Forest. The surge of German forces created the “bulge” in the front line as the three Allied divisions positioned there pulled back.

From December 17-22, the allies held back the Germans while reinforcements arrived. December 23 brought good weather, and the Allies began attacking by air. Some American troops were surrounded in the city of Bastogne until December 26 when it was relieved b…

Deck the Halls...and Everything Else! Christmas with the Arts, Literature, & Sports Department

The countdown continues—only a few more days until the jolly man in red comes around. But guests will be popping in your home many times before the big day. (By guests I mean the human kind, not those spunky jingle-bell elves.). Does your home say “HoHoHo” or “Bah, Humbug”?
No one wants to be a Scrooge around the holidays. Check out these featured items in the Arts, Literature, & Sports Department so your home and everyone in it will be feeling the festivities.

ENTERTAINING & DECOR Christmas with Southern Living 2012 Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas: Crafts, Decorating Tips,and Recipes, 1920s-1960s  Holiday Theme Parties: Entertaining Ideas, Decorating, and Recipes for Nine Unique Parties Christmas with Mary Engelbreit: Here Comes Santa Claus Christmas Trees: Fun and Festive Ideas The Farm Chicks Christmas
GIFTING & CRAFTS Deck the Halls: Christmas Notecards, Labels, Ornaments, and OtherFestive & Fun Projects The Gift Wrapping Book: Over 150 Ideas forAll Occasions Holiday Cr…

New Library Digital Collection Commemorates the 75th Anniversary of Gone with the Wind

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the premiere of David O. Selznik’s Gone with the Wind, a film that these many years later remains a mainstay in American popular culture. To commemorate the anniversary of the movie’s release, the Birmingham Public Library’s webmaster and the Department of Archives and Manuscripts created the digital collection Gone with the Wind and Back Again: Birmingham and an Indelible American Film. Made up of newspaper articles, an illustrated Gone with the Wind program, and letters from Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell to former Birmingham mayor George Ward, this collection highlights a number of connections between Gone with the Wind and the Magic City while also placing these documents and the film itself in their broader historical and cultural contexts.

The digital collection can be viewed at

Jim Baggett
Archives and Manuscripts Department
Central Library

Bad Girls Book Club

Bad Girls Book Club 2014
Wilmington, North Carolina

Every December, my sister-in-law sends her brother and me a year’s summary of her Bad Girls Book Club selections. Their choices have served me well in my reading, and sometimes they have chosen my recommendations as well. These women are serious readers, but perhaps not so “bad.” They are “bad” in the sense of “awesome” as they seek literary fiction and engage in in thoughtful, rigorous, and lively discussion. Being a “bad” boy, I would have to be a fly on the wall to actually attend. Knowing three of them well, I am certain that I am missing out on interesting discussions and fabulous food and libations.

Nonetheless, we can all partake of their excellent and inviting selections.

January: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

An almost 800-page Dickensonian tale of love, identity and art; beautifully written and hard to put down.

February: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Set in India and America and beginning in the 1960s, this is the unforgett…

Calling All Authors: Register Now for the 2015 Local Authors Expo

Registration has begun for the 2015 Local Authors Expo & Book Fair at the Birmingham Public Library. This annual event provides an opportunity for authors from the Birmingham area to meet the reading public, autograph books, and network with other writers. The Expo will be held at BPL's Central Library at 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, Alabama, on Saturday, February 7, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event is free for the public, but registration is required for authors who wish to promote and autograph their books.

In addition to hosting up to 100 authors at this year's event, there will be presentations open to the general public: At 10:00 a.m., local author and attorney Keith Lee (The Marble and the Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice) will speak about the legal aspects of publishing. At 1:00 p.m., UAB professor and author Marie A. Sutton (The A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Landmark) will speak about writing on historical subj…

What's in a Logo?

I read an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about the meaning of various movie production logos. Older companies have recognizable logos that have been around for years. Some are simple while others are complex. If the logo is confusing, moviegoers and investors might not understand the message the production company wants to express. When I see the Disney, MGM, or Lionsgate logos appear at the beginning of a movie, I think I am in for a visual treat.

I thought about the Birmingham Public Library logo. It is a simple design reminding us that books are a great source of information. The glowing flame of knowledge emerging from the book tells me I can find a variety of resources at the library.

The Birmingham Public Library provides great sources of information for the public. Free internet and computer access is critical in today’s society. Every day, patrons conduct online job searching, resume writing, and communicate with friends through e-mail services. Through Homew…

Food Network Star Martie Duncan and Birmingham area chefs will host “Birmingham’s Best Bites’’ cookbook signing this Saturday

Food Network Star Martie Duncan and several popular Birmingham area chefs will be at the Birmingham Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 13 to sign copies of the new cookbook, Birmingham’s Best Bites: Favorite Recipes from Restaurants, Bars, & Food Trucks Around the Magic City from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The book, which features more than 80 recipes from more than 60 area restaurants, is $25.

Proceeds will benefit the library.

"This is a book that’s giving in so many ways. Not only is it creating funds for the library, but it’s bringing attention to our local restaurants," says Duncan.

"People who’ve never been to Birmingham, are buying the book. Now they want to come here."

The book's first edition was released in early October 2014 during a finale party for the library's Eat Drink Read Write Festival. Demand was so great, especially for the holidays, that a second printing was needed. Alagasco made the second printing possible. The cookbook is now available …