Showing posts from 2015

Registration Open For January 2016 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the January 2016 Classes.  During this month, we include our popular computer classes, as well as genealogy, patent basics, and employment assistance classes. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. You will receive an email confirming your registration for classes.  You may also call to confirm your registration.

To register for any class, please email us at or call 205-226-3681.   You may also download and print a PDF copy January 2016 Classes to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the January 2016 Class Schedule pdf can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Serving Others

Serving others is a privilege, especially when serving people who are less fortunate than we are. In most cases, service is equally if not more beneficial to both the recipient and server. In fact, several studies have linked higher self-esteem, happiness, and overall physical health to serving and helping others in need. Working for public libraries enables us to exercise this privilege and connect people to information and resources that will improve the quality of their lives. Subsequently, many of those people will do the same for someone else thus continuing the cycle of service.

If you would like more information on how to serve, where to get started, or great examples check out the following books.

Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others / Cheryl Bachelder

The Customer Rules: The 39 Rules for Delivering Sensational Service /  Lee Cockerell

Anointed to be God's Servants: How God Blesses Those Who Serve Together / Henry Blackaby and Thomas Blackaby


Book Review: Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Rise of the Robots
Martin Ford

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Isaac Asimov

Such a melodramatic title. It sounds like pulp tale from the golden age of science fiction. I can’t help but picture a stiff-legged, iron behemoth lumbering toward a helpless, screaming blonde. But Martin Ford hasn’t written a science fiction novel. In fact, he hasn’t even written a novel. Rise of the Robots is an economic analysis of the increased use of robotics, automation, and algorithms in the workplace. Still, the conclusions he draws are just as frightening as watching The Day the Earth Stood Still, and one walks away from the book wondering if humans are already being harmed by robots.

Job obsolescence from scien…

Fixed Lunch Hour Added to Birmingham Community Library Schedules Beginning January 4

Seven community libraries in the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) system will close for lunch beginning Monday, January 4, 2016. The libraries making this change are: East Lake, Eastwood, Pratt City, Smithfield, Southside, Titusville, and West End.

Each of these seven community libraries will close each day that they are open to the public from 1:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. for lunch. Their hours of operation will now be Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

“We are making this change in hours to streamline our service system-wide and make the best use of staff,” said Angela Fisher Hall, director of BPL. “This will help ensure that our branch locations have proper employee coverage during the hours they are open to the public. Additionally, library patrons will have access to staff familiar with the branch location, its visitors, and the area it serves.”

BPL’s neighborhood libraries will maintain their current schedule with winter hours through …

With Heavy Traffic Anticipated, Smithfield Library Will Be Closed December 30

The Smithfield Library will be closed Wednesday, December 30, due to the anticipated large crowds expected for the Birmingham Bowl taking place at nearby Legion Field. The football game featuring the in-state Auburn Tigers vs. the Memphis Tigers kicks off at 11:00 a.m.

“When large events are held at Legion Field, our staff and library patrons usually have some degree of difficulty in getting to the Smithfield branch. With all of the excitement focused on the Birmingham Bowl, and especially with our own Auburn Tigers as one of the featured teams, our board agreed to close the facility for the big game,” stated library Director Angela Fisher Hall.

All other 18 locations in the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) system will be open as normal on Wednesday. Smithfield Library will reopen during regular business hours on Thursday, December 31. All of the BPL’s 19 locations will close on Friday, January 1, 2016, in observance of New Year’s Day. Libraries with weekend hours will open during the…

It’s a New Year, Now What?

Recently, I read an AARP article online titled “A Year of Wise Money Moves." It encouraged me to think not only about financial housekeeping during the year, but things that will help me better organize my life. I want to set goals that can be accomplished, not make resolutions I know I may not keep.

My first thought for the year is charitable giving. I give to my local church and to several charities, but I’m wondering whether I should give to the same charities that I have in the past. It’s good to review your charitable giving annually. If this is one of your goals, Money Magazine has the great article “How to Get the Most Bang for Your Charitable Giving Buck.”

I am a bibliophile who is a librarian and there are so many books I want to read. This year, I’m going to make a list and try to read at least ten books on the list. If you want to try something like this, take a look at BPL’s Library Resource page to find recommended books for reading and best-seller lists. Rem…

Oakwood School of California Visits Central Library as Part of Civil Rights Tour

A group of students and teachers from California gained knowledge about Birmingham’s segregated educational past by visiting the Birmingham Public Library last weekend as part of a civil rights tour of Alabama.

The 20 students and teachers from Oakwood School, a private K-12 school in North Hollywood, visited Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma. While in Birmingham, they visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Central Library downtown. Here is background on Oakwood School:

At the Central Library, the students saw the 1963 jail docket that records the arrest of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights demonstrators, bomb fragments from the 1962 bombing of Bethel Baptist Church, and an early copy of the "Letter from Birmingham Jail," said Jim Baggett, head of the Archives and Manuscripts Department in Central Library.

Baggett talked to the Oakwood students and teachers about BPL’s civil rights documents, and took a photo o…

Central Library to Host Small Business Seminars in January, February, and March 2016

The Birmingham Public Library, in conjunction with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development, will be hosting a free seminar, Steps to Starting Your Business, on the first Monday of January, February, and March 2016 (January 4, February 1, and March 7). The seminars will be held from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. on each day in the Arrington Auditorium, which is located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library. Each seminar will cover the same topics, but those who are interested are welcome to attend more than one day. Topics covered will include crafting a vision statement, identifying sources of funding, determining the legal structure of your business, devising a business plan, and investigating sources of business and economic information. Please register for the seminars by contacting Valencia S. Fisher in the Economic Development Office at or by phoning (205) 254-2799.


BPL Teens Engineer Birmingham Program Wins $50,000 UAB Benevolent Fund Grant

The BPL Teens Engineer Birmingham, a program of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL), has received a $50,000 grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund grant program. The money will be used to expand BPL’s afterschool robotics program for teens.

Lance Simpson, system teen librarian for the Birmingham Public Library, said the grant will help expand the BPL’s teen engineering program, enabling it to serve more young people in Birmingham. Simpson and Carrie Campbell, grants and special projects librarian, submitted the grant application on behalf of BPL.

“We are incredibly excited for a chance to work with UAB to provide engineering programs after school for so many of our teens,” Simpson said. “We are grateful for the confidence of the faculty and staff at UAB in selecting us for this great honor, and to the UAB Benevolent Fund for supporting us in this endeavor to best serve the teens of Birmingham.”

The UAB School of Engineering has been partnering with BPL’s Central Library in 2015, coordina…

The ALS Cornucopia Never Flags

Central Library’s Arts, Literature and Sports Department has an amazing collection of music CDs, as you may know if you’ve been reading my ongoing series of blog articles. So here’s more from that bumpy, horn-shaped font of all musical knowledge.

Satyagraha / Philip Glass, 1985
A 3-CD long opera in Sanskrit based on the early life of Mohandas Gandhi featuring characters that influenced and whom Gandhi influenced, namely MLK. The words are derived from the Hindu religious text the Bhagavad Gita. Sounds like an unlikely opera, right? I thought so, too, when I first heard about it. How was I to know that I would find it as accessible as most any opera music I’d ever heard? Like my norm, I don’t usually follow the libretto (which oddly enough sounds vaguely Italian), preferring to let the music-flowing, meditative, rapturous, full of lovely droning—put me in emotional states associated with those adjectives. Who could have guessed that a story about holding onto truth and passive resistan…

You Deserve A Break Today!

Are the holidays (or the news) stressing you out? Take a break at your local library. Your library can be an oasis of calm during your busy day, and can also provide a wealth of information if your brain is stymied for seasonal creativity. If you're truly Type A, browse our shelves for instructions for homemade gifts, decorations, and recipes, or shop the Friends bookstore at the Central Library.

Less driven but still weary? Give yourself the gift of a few minutes just for you. Flip through a magazine, pick out some fun and relaxing fiction, take a puzzle break, or do some online browsing. Get that "shopping endorphin rush" by selecting and carrying as many items as you like to the "check out"; bag 'em up and take home armloads at no cost to you! Your library card is a guilty pleasure—without the guilt! Come check us out today! Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to all!

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Southern History Book of the Month: Christmas in Birmingham

Christmas in Birmingham
Tim Hollis

If you grew up in Birmingham you may remember when Christmastime meant lights twinkling all over Linn Park—but it was Woodrow Wilson Park then, and the downtown area was a wonderland to any child for whom Christmas still seemed eons away, even in the middle of December. If you’d like to re-live those days, take a look at Tim Hollis’ new book, Christmas in Birmingham. You can take another walk through the Enchanted Forest at Pizitz, which played a part in the yearly battle for customers between Pizitz and Loveman’s. Join the crowds for Birmingham’s Christmas Parade and travel back in time to when Drennen meant a department store and not a car dealership—though a strangely prescient advertisement from around 1900 depicts Santa driving in an automobile instead of a sleigh. Or some of you may remember Eastwood Mall and St. Nick’s arrival by helicopter.

Christmas in Birmingham is packed like Santa’s enormous bag with fascinating details of a time when Chr…

Popular Coloring for Adults Returns to Central Library on Tuesday, December 15

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is bringing back its popular Coloring for Adults workshop—this time an expanded edition to meet demand.

The Coloring for Adults Holiday Program will take place Tuesday, December 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., in the Youth Department’s Story Castle at Central Library. The program offers a relaxing, beneficial activity for adults that proved popular during its debut in early November, drawing a bigger-than-expected crowd despite rainy weather, said Karyn Davis-West, public coordinator for the Birmingham Public Library.

Free colored pencils, coloring sheets, crayons, and light refreshments will be provided. The program comes as industry leader Crayola has launched Crayola Color Escapes, a line of adult coloring kits featuring 11 by 17-inch black and white illustrations by artist Claudia Nice, plus a collection of colored pencils and colored markers. The Crayola line also features 8 by 10-inch coloring books for $10 featuring themed illustrations (Folk A…

Postcards from Miss Iwate #5

There is so much wonderful food in Japan!
Ramen is yummy and popular here- it's much better than the instant ramen college students eat!

Sushi is also yummy! Sushi means sticky rice garnished with raw fish, vegetables, or eggs.

There are even sushi bars with conveyor belts!
Suzuko Iwate

A Librarian's Guide to Holiday Decorating

Holiday decorating is a big deal.  There are TV shows about it, countless books about it, many stores that focus entirely on Christmas, and we pay to drive through holiday festivals of light.  We are only a few weeks away from Christmas and since I don’t put up a lot of decorations, I thought I would give you, the reading public, some advice on holiday decorating. 
Tip 1.  Take a minimalist approach – A friend of mine has adult children with their own families, so he doesn’t spend a lot of time decorating for Christmas.  His decorations are a tabletop Santa and some Christmas lights he wraps around his artificial ficus tree. His traumatic experience trying to wrap garland around the columns of his house when his children were young may have influenced this new approach.  Don’t feel selfish if you are decorating in a simple fashion.  All that matters is that you’re satisfied with it. If friends and family want you to have more, tell them to come decorate.
Tip. 2  Don’t forget about dol…

From Christmas Card to Christmas Classic

In 1943, author and editor Philip Van Doren Stern completed a short story that had come to him in a dream. Unable to find a publisher but wanting to share it, he had it printed into booklets and mailed it out as a Christmas card to his friends.

This little story, which he called "The Greatest Gift," eventually found its way to Frank Capra and became the basis for the classic film It's a Wonderful Life. Capra declared it was the story he had been waiting for all his life.

It’s a Wonderful Life opened to mixed reviews and flopped at the box office, but was later nominated for five academy awards, including Best Picture. The film was largely forgotten until decades later when, although not originally considered a Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life became a television staple of the Christmas season in the late 1970s and gradually came to be regarded as a beloved Christmas classic.

The American Film Institute recognized It’s a Wonderful Life as one of the 100 greates…

Jefferson County Public Library Association Recognizes Three BPL Library Champions

The Jefferson County Public Library Association (JCPLA) Library Champion Awards were presented at the JCPLA Holiday Luncheon on December 1, 2015. The Library Champion Award is presented annually by JCPLA. The award recognizes an individual or organization who has made a significant contribution(s) to libraries and/or librarianship in Jefferson County, Alabama. Three people who have supported the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) through the years were recognized as our 2015 Library Champions.

Carmelo Aliano

Carmelo Alinano is a faithful member of the Wylam community who regularly attends Wylam Neighborhood Association meetings. He has championed the library for many years. A new library building is underway because of Aliano's diligent work in getting the city council, particularly the councilors from District 9, Roderick Royal and Marcus Lundy, to campaign for funding. Without Aliano's persistence, the new building would not yet be out to bid. The Wylam community will greatly …

Downsizing the Family Home—What to Save, What to Let Go

The nest is empty. You know those silver-plated serving dishes that you received as wedding presents eons ago: the round platter, the tea tray, and the chafing dish? There is no point in keeping those pieces any longer. You don't use them and you’re moving from a 3,500-square-foot house to a 1,700-square-foot apartment. You must downsize! In this case, take the advice from Disney's Frozen; Let it go. Sell those unused items and get some cash. But before you start financing that favorite vacation from the profits, take off the rose-colored glasses. There's just not as much value in things as we think; not even if that silver platter has feet.

In downsizing you need to shrug off any hurt feelings if your children don't want your items. They do not want grandma's china (it can't go in the dishwasher), and people are eating out more.

In conclusion, downsizing can be frustrating, but just remember: Johnny is settled in his apartment, Angela is happily married,…

BPL Neighborhood Libraries Closing Early Wednesday for Annual Planning Day

The Birmingham Public Library System’s seven neighborhood libraries will be closing early to the public on Wednesday, December 2, as part of their annual planning day for Youth Services.

The BPL locations closing at noon for the day instead of reopening at their regular 1:00 p.m. after lunch times are:

East Ensley Branch LibraryEnsley Branch Library Inglenook Branch LibraryNorth Avondale Branch Library Powderly Branch Library Woodlawn Branch Library Wylam Branch Library
The BPL locations will reopen during regular business hours on Thursday, December 3.

Dolores Hydock to Perform "A Christmas Memory," December 6

The Christmas season doesn’t really begin until you have experienced Birmingham storyteller Dolores Hydock’s incredible one-woman performance of "A Christmas Memory," Truman Capote's poignant reminiscence of his boyhood in rural Alabama. Dolores will perform this holiday classic on Sunday, December 6, at 2:30 p.m., in the Arrington Auditorium at the Central Library.

There is always a full house for this performance, so come early and enjoy refreshments.

Book Review: Captain Alatriste, the Adventures of Captain Alatriste

Captain Alatriste, the Adventures of Captain Alatriste
Arturo Perez-Reverte

If you enjoy adventure in exotic times and places, and writing that makes you smile with appreciation, Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte has written a series of books about a Castilian soldier in the heart of Spain’s worldwide empire in the Golden Age. Captain Aristide “was not the most honest and pious of men, but he was courageous.” Indeed, on one of the first pages of the book Perez-Reverte tells us what the story is to be about in one of his rolling sentences that can carry the reader far as well as the drive of the narrative:
… the story I am going to tell you must have taken place around sixteen hundred and twenty something. It is the adventure of two masked men and two Englishmen, which caused not a little talk at court, and in which the captain not only came close to losing the patched up hide he had managed to save in Flanders, and in battling Turkish and Barbary corsairs, but also made himself a pa…

Southern History Book of the Month: "The Thanksgiving Visitor"

"The Thanksgiving Visitor"
Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s most famous short story is probably “A Christmas Memory,” but Buddy and his “friend” and cousin Miss Sook also appear in the story “The Thanksgiving Visitor,” in which Buddy has to contend with that childhood nightmare many of us know too well: the school bully.
Talk about mean! Odd Henderson was the meanest human creature in my experience.

And I’m speaking of a twelve-year-old boy, not some grownup who has had time to ripen a naturally evil disposition . . . he took after the rest of the Hendersons. The whole family . . . was a shiftless, surly bunch, every one of them ready to do you a bad turn; Odd wasn’t the worst of the lot, and brother, that is saying something. My first contact with this story was when I was in elementary school and heard it read aloud. My sympathies were entirely with Buddy, and so I missed the way in which Capote expertly weaves into the text all the circumstances that keep Odd Henderson from b…

Birmingham City Council President Austin Observes STEM Technology Program at the Central Library

Touring the STEM technology program at the Central Library on November 17 brought home fond memories for Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin.

In the early 2000s, Austin and his father, Rev. Gerald Austin, ran a summer technology program called Stars Tech Camp. After observing and talking to the students who were making tracks for their electronic trains, Austin came away impressed.

“Our Stars Tech Camp was very similar to this—skill building, tech training, achieving results, and self-sufficiency,” Austin said. “We did exactly what you are doing here at the library—exposing kids to opportunities like this they may not otherwise get to do.”

Thanks to a $10,000 grant received in October from the Best Buy Foundation, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is planning to add new services in its STEM-focused afterschool program at the Central Library. The money will be used to purchase microcomputers, robotics kits, and an array of other technological tools to facilitate tea…

Book Review: Dispatches From Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta

Dispatches From Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta
Richard Grant

Richard Grant is an author with that instinct for travel and adventure that characterizes the English. One of his previous books, God’s Middle Finger, is about travelling the Sierra Madre in Mexico with all its attendant dangers due to corrupt police, bandits, narcotraficantes, and dangerous flora and fauna. This time, he and his girlfriend move from the cultured environs of New York City to the languid backwoods of the Mississippi Delta. Moving into a dilapidated farmhouse in tiny Pluto, Mississippi, they soon meet a cast of eccentric characters, among them a 90-year-old blues singer, a homicidal doctor, catfish farmers, a retired CIA agent/diplomat, and owners of tiny and obscure cafes, blues houses, and barbecue joints. Pluto, population unknown but very small, is in Holmes County, smack in the middle of nowhere, 90 miles or more from Greenwood, Vicksburg, and Jackson, Mississippi.

Moving to the Delta …

Painting @ UAB: The Students of Gary Chapman Exhibit to Kick Off Sunday, November 15

Gary Chapman has mentored and taught hundreds of students over 26 years as an art professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Some of his art students’ best work will be featured for the first time in an exhibit at the Birmingham Public Library. The special exhibit, Painting @ UAB: The Students of Gary Chapman, debuts in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Central Library on November 15 and runs through December 31.

The public is invited to meet the artists at an opening reception on Sunday, November 15, from 2:30 until 5:00 p.m., in the Central Library’s Boardroom adjacent to the gallery. The reception is free of charge.

This exhibit will highlight the diverse work being created at UAB in the Painting Studio, under the guidance of Chapman. Chapman said the exhibit includes the work of 11 students, some current juniors and seniors, as well as past graduates who have moved on to professional careers.

While Chapman teaches a highly structured, somewhat traditional beginn…

Young Leadership at Inglenook Library

During Inglenook Library’s Young Leadership program—a reading program intended to cultivate leadership skills in children and give them a sense of empowerment and community by having a participant in the group read a book aloud, ask questions based on the book, and facilitate a craft—something amazing happened. A young lady read Taye Digg’s Chocolate Me and a discussion about being happy with one’s self and being emerged. The children gave testimonies in how they’ve struggled with self-acceptance and how they’ve come to be happy with their skin complexions and even imperfections albeit name calling and teasing. The discussion lasted for some time as children fed off of each other’s responses. One young lady was so excited that she said that she is going to convince her mother to bring her to the library every Monday, which is the day the program is held.

This program gives children a voice and a platform to discuss and target issues prevalent in their lives through books expressing t…

Coloring for Adults Holiday Program

Join us for a Holiday Session of our popular Coloring For Adults Program.

Coloring is a relaxing and beneficial activity for adults. We supply coloring sheets, coloring supplies and light refreshments. Come by and have a fun evening!

Date: Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Place: Birmingham Public Library, Storycastle in the Central Youth Department

Call 205-226-3680 for more information.

15 Reasons We’re Thankful for Books

As a librarian, to say I am thankful for books goes without saying. Be it hardback or paperback, audio CD or downloadable, there is nothing like a good book to sweep you off your feet. Recently, while conducting an online search of the word “Thanksgiving,” I came across an article that was simply too apropos not to share with my fellow book/library lovers.

"15 Reasons We're Thankful for Books"
by Ginni Chen
"The Reading Life"
Barnes &Noble

We’re all a little quirky on Turkey Day. Some of us are Tofurky enthusiasts, while others are devotees of deep-fried turducken. Some of us are Turkey Trot running champs and others live for football on the flat screen. Thanksgiving is one of the few traditional holidays that celebrates our diversity as a cultural melting pot, which basically means you can take the holiday and run with it however you like. Industrial Revolution–themed Friendsgiving? Go for it. Around the World in 80 Turkey Dishes potluck? Sure, why not!

BPL Databases—Finding Treasure in Plain Sight

Have you ever been walking along and suddenly looked down to find money on the ground in front of you? Remember that feeling of elation and happy surprise? Isn’t it wonderful to find something valuable that costs you nothing?

Want that feeling right now? Here’s just how to do that:

Go to

Look at the black bar across the top, find Databases, and left-click on the word one time.

The second line under Databases reads Database Quick Links. It has a drop-down menu. Left-click once on the down arrow.

This will open an entire world of free, accurate, and current information to you. You’ll see an alphabetical listing of almost 200 destinations. Some of these are digital collections of photos. Some are subscription databases that the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) pays for so you get them free. Some are websites that librarians have vetted for authentic, accurate, and current information. Most of them can be accessed from any Internet with your library card. A f…

Edward LaMonte to Visit BPL to Discuss Book on Former Birmingham Mayors Vann and Arrington, November 15

Join us at the Central Library on Sunday, November 15, at 3:00 p.m. for an author talk and book signing by Birmingham historian Edward LaMonte. LaMonte will speak and sign copies of his new book, Change and Continuity: The Administrations of David Vann and Richard Arrington, Jr.

In Change and Continuity LaMonte explores this critical time in Birmingham’s history and shares his personal insight as a friend and colleague of both Vann and Arrington. The mayoral administrations of David Vann and Richard Arrington Jr. spanned six terms, from 1975 to 1999. During those years Birmingham, Alabama, transitioned from a city dependent on heavy manufacturing, especially iron and to steel, to a city with a more varied economic base focused on finance and healthcare. The city grew physically and changed demographically as many whites left the city and Birmingham became a majority black community.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase for $15. Refreshments will be provided.

For more in…