Showing posts from February, 2015

Senior Computing

While helping one of our senior patrons use a library computer, I was pleased to share the specialized resources that Birmingham Public Library provides about computers, the Internet, and social media sites.

My staff and I are always happy to assist the seniors in our community to use our computers and we encourage them to expand their learning experience by taking advantage of the variety of books and recordings available. These include: Computers for Seniors by Nancy Muir; Computing for Seniors in Easy Steps by Sue Price, and My Facebook for Seniors by Michael Miller. In large print we have: Basic Computers for Beginners and E-Mail for Beginners, both by Web Wise Seniors. Some of these books come with DVDs or CDs with sample forms and software.

I can also recommend DVDs that feature basic introductions to computers for seniors or anyone who is new to computers or the Internet. Some examples are: Help! For the Computer Shy : How to Use Internet Explorer 8 for Seniors by Michael G…

The Shooting & Ride in the Whirlwind: Two Underground Westerns from the Sixties

In the mid sixties, a pair of westerns as unorthodox asThe Shootingand Ride in the Whirlwindcould only have emerged from the low-budget fringes of Hollywood.

The films were produced by Roger Corman and are a considered a pair since they were shot back-to-back in the deserts of Utah in 1965 by two of Corman's most promising protegees: filmmaker Monte Hellman and actor/writer Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson and Hellman had previously teamed up on a pair of low-budget war films shot in the Philippines for Corman.

Jack Nicholson is the biggest name to "graduate" from Roger Corman's low-budget, b-movie "film school" production company. (Other graduates include James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Fonda, and Ron Howard.)  Nicholson wrote and starred in Ride in the Whirlwindand had a supporting role in The Shootingwhich were made two years prior to his major breakthrough role in Easy Rider(1967).

Ride in the Whirlwind was not Nicholson's firs…

From Page to Stage: Robin Hood – A Reader’s Theater Workshop for Children

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL), in partnership with the Birmingham Children’s Theatre (BCT) and Junior League of Birmingham (JLB), would like to invite you to attend From Page to Stage: Robin Hood — A Readers’ Theater Workshop for Children.

In anticipation of the upcoming BCT performance of Robin Hood, BPL will be hosting free workshops at several of its area libraries. Children, aged 7 to 12, will learn how storybook characters come alive through the magic of theater. JLB members will coach the children and introduce them to similar literature located in their local library. Each child will receive two free tickets (one child and one adult ticket) to the BCT Robin Hood production in April 2015.

Things are not so great in Nottingham. The Sherriff, simply put, is nothing but a bully, taking advantage of the townspeople, leaving them with little money to survive. Enter Robin Hood, champion of the less fortunate, to help right the Sherriff’s wrongs. Join familiar characters like…

How to Patent Your Invention

Do you have a great new invention? Are you unsure whether or not you’re the first one to think of it? If so, join us from 6:00-7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in the Regional Library Computer Center. We’ll be talking about patents and how to perform a basic search using databases from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There are actually three different types of patents: design, plant, and utility. Utility patents are what most people think of when they hear the word “patent” and according to the USPTO, 90% of all patents granted today are utility patents.

The Birmingham Public Library is the only public library in Alabama to be named a Patent and Trademark Resource Center. This means that the staff have been specially trained to help inventors and entrepreneurs begin their patent search. Because patents are only granted to, “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” a thorough searc…

March 2 Marks Return of Spring/Summer Hours for Seven Birmingham Public Libraries

Seven libraries within the Birmingham Public Library system will return to spring/summer hours beginning Monday, March 2.

The neighborhood libraries are: East Ensley, Ensley, Inglenook, North Avondale, Powderly, Woodlawn, and Wylam. The new hours will be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., and 1:00-6:00 p.m. Wednesday hours will be 1:00-6:00 p.m. They are closed on the weekends.

Hours for all other libraries within the Birmingham system will not change. For a complete list of hours for all locations, please visit

View TEDxBirmingham at the Central Library

Mountains. Large, majestic, immovable. Or are they? At TEDxBirmingham 2015, we’ll hear ideas from a dozen speakers who refuse to surrender to the mountain in front of them. The day will challenge your mind and spirit. Afterwards, attendees will be encouraged to take ideas home with them to create transformation in their communities through action.

If you did not make a reservation to attend TEDxBirmingham 2015 at the Alys Stephens Center, there is still hope for you to view the program. On Saturday, February 28, 2015, the Birmingham Public Library will host a live-stream viewing party for TEDxBirmingham 2015. The general public is invited to see the broadcast, free of charge, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., on the second floor of the East Building at the Central Library. Watching TEDxBirmingham 2015 on a large TV monitor in the Youth Department’s Story Castle gives viewers an opportunity to discretely come and go as they please, in an area arranged to accommodate 50 people. The room …

Library Board Meeting Delayed Until Thursday Morning at 10:30 a.m.

The Birmingham Public Library Board meeting that was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. tomorrow has been delayed until 10:30 a.m.  Board meetings are held in the Board Room located on the 4th floor of the Central Library.

All locations of BPL are still scheduled to open to the public at 11 a .m. tomorrow morning.

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries & Their Residents

Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries & Their Residents
Douglas Keister

One evening a few years ago, I was on the way to visit some friends. As I drove along the winding county road to their home, I caught sight of something I had never known was there before: a small cemetery. I braked to take a closer look and wondered why I had never noticed it, but I drew the line at getting out and walking over to examine the old grave markers; dusk was gathering and I remember thinking that this is how horror movies begin.

If you’re the sort of person who would have gotten out of the car and gone running to have a look at the tombstones, you’ll want to get your hands on Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries & Their Residents. This is a book to warm the hearts of genealogists, cemetery preservation societies, and anyone else who is just plain fascinated with the history and lore of cemeteries. Keister treats us to an in-depth look at several quintessentially S…

Role Reversal - Caregiving for Aging Parents

More Americans are living well beyond their 70s, and adult children are left in a position where they have to be caregivers for their aging parents. Experts agree that the dynamic of age in America has shifted dramatically over the last 60 to 80 years and its impact on the family can often create an uncommon situation. Dealing with this situation can be a challenge. An enormous amount of strength and energy is needed to adequately support aging parents because caregiving can be challenging.

It's easy to get burned out with the responsibility, especially when only one sibling steps up to the plate to help care for parents: doctor’s appointments, taking care of finances, healthcare,
not to mention the trips to the grocery store take a toll both mentally and physically. Becoming a caregiver can easily become a full-time job and is often overwhelming, stressful, and frustrating. Trying to reduce your stress level will make you a better caregiver.

Here are some tips to help you…

Free Online Learning

There's no better time than now to learn a new skill or take an educational course of personal interest to you.  Well, I would like to introduce several free online learning websites.  Yes, that's right.  You can choose courses and learn skills all for free.  Also, learn at your own pace and connect with fellow learners and instructors.  What an opportunity!

Coursera: Free Online Courses
This educational website offers courses online to anyone for free.  You may choose from hundreds (currently 955) of courses created by the top educational institutions.  The courses cover a broad range of subjects including biology, computer sciences, physics, health, math, education, social sciences and teacher professional development. You may learn for fun or earn a verified certificate.

This educational site teaches you to code interactively for free.  You may choose to learn HTML & CSS, Python, Ruby or Javascript, as well as other programming languages.  You ca…

Registration Open For March RLCC Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the March 2015 Regional Library Computer Center Classes. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.
To register for a class: ((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)
Complete name, address and phone information. PLEASE PRINT.Place a check mark in the check box next to the class(es) you would like to attend.Return the entire form to a staff person in the Public Computer Services department.You may also send an email to or use the online form to register.

Got Sugar? Help Control Your Diabetes With Free Classes

Medicare recipients with diabetes or pre-diabetes, family members, and caregivers are invited to attend free diabetes education classes at the East Ensley Library.

The classes will discuss diabetes and its risks, healthy eating and exercise, talking with your health care team, and managing medications. The classes run are on Tuesdays at 3:00 p.m. from March 3 to April 7.

Pre-registration is required. To register for the classes or for more information call toll free 800-760-4550 ext. 3508 or email

Refreshments will be provided. We hope to see you there.

Interested in the Communities’ Thoughts on Improving Health in Jefferson County?

The Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) coordinated a community health assessment and strategic planning process for Jefferson County in an initiative called Community Matters 20/20: Assessment, Visioning and Planning for a Healthy Jefferson County, Alabama. The work of Community Matters has culminated in the Community Health Assessment and the Community Health Improvement Plan with its associated Jefferson County, Alabama Work Plan. The Community Health Assessment for Jefferson County, Alabama provides a robust overview of the challenges and needs facing Jefferson County residents while also outlining the strengths and resources available to aid us in facing those challenges. The Community Health Improvement Plan and Jefferson County, Alabama Work Plan will serve as the county’s guide to health improvement for the next five years (November 2014 through November 2019).

JCDH would like to express its sincere appreciation to the more than 1,000 people who contributed to the…

Expo Was A Great Place to Find Literary Gifts with Local Flavor

Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) Tenth Annual Local Authors Expo was an event showcasing Alabama authors and their books. This year’s gathering took place at the Central Library on Saturday, February 7, 2015, and also provided a program for children. Nearly 100 authors from across the state, many who are self-published, as well as authors from throughout the Southern Region with ties to Alabama, were on hand for the day-long literary marketplace. The goal of the Expo is to increase awareness of authors in the state and provide a forum for them to connect with community members and library patrons.

As visitors made their way through the Expo, sessions took place in other areas of the library with useful information for new and seasoned authors. Birmingham attorney, author, and blogger Keith Lee of the Hamer Law Group offered easy-to-understand advice on topics ranging from copyright and trademark law to the pitfalls self-publishing or working with a book publisher. Lee writes a wee…

Spotlight on West End Library's “Website of the Week”

West End Branch has a Facebook page and every week we spotlight a “website of the week.” These are sites that I’ve found that are interesting, informational, or just fun. Here’s a list of websites spotlighted in the past and some interesting new ones.

Alabama DMV Driving Tests
Practice tests and FAQ for the Alabama Driving Test.

Alabama Public Radio
I love listening to a Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air. This is also a great source for local and national news.

Alabama Public Television
Season 5 of Downton Abbey isn’t finished, yet. Catch up on this seasons episodes.
This website will help you find out if you are registered to vote, where you vote and the dates for upcoming elections.

Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies
Website for a breast cancer support organization for women of color.

Buy your favorite sports team’s jerseys, tees, and accessories.

Free OCR (Optical Character Recognition)
This worked well for me and my needs. If you have a document in .pdf forma…

Didn’t We Almost Have It All? : Remembering the Late Whitney Houston as Daughter Bobbi on Life Support

“Didn't we almost have it all / The night we held on till the morning / You know you'll never love that way again / Didn't we almost have it all”

The wistful lyrics of Whitney Houston’s 1987 billboard song strike a new chord in view of current events. Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, is indeed trying to hold on until the morning.

Authorities found Brown face-down in a bathtub on January 31. Since then, Brown has remained on life support, unconscious through the third anniversary of her mother’s death on February 11 in sadly similar circumstances. As Houston famously once sang, things have gotten “so emotional,” and rightly so.

With so much uncertainty, one may find comfort in the beauty of the past. Celebrate Houston’s life—and Brown’s fight—and read about what friends, family, and key writers in the pop-culture industry have to say about Houston’s legacy:

Whitney Houston! : The Spectacular Rise and Tragic Fall of the Woman Whose Voice Inspired a Generation by Ma…

Discovering New African-American Fiction

In order not to mislead anyone, let me first state that by “new,” I mean a title you haven’t read before. The sources I mention will include newly-released titles, but you will also find older titles that may interest you.Most people have favorite authors and types of fiction they like to read (e.g. suspense, romance), but it’s nice to have a resource to discover additional authors and titles that may fit your interests.Here are a few places to look.

Goodreads – I describe Goodreads as Facebook for people who love to read.You can connect with friends, find out what they’re reading, list what you are currently reading, review and rate titles, etc.There are also some great ways to use Goodreads without being a member.You can use it to find authors similar to those you like as well as browse their many lists of books to find something to read.
Find Similar Authors
Type the author’s name.In the list of the author's books, click the author's name under a book title to bring up the aut…

Blame Someone Else Day

Blame Someone Else Day falls on the first Friday the 13th of every year. In 2015 it will be celebrated on February 13. Blame Someone Else Day is the day when you’re not to blame for anything; 24-hours of pointing your finger at someone else. History dates this momentous day to Anne Moeller of Clio, Michigan. According to legend, she started the trend in 1982 as an excuse for not keeping her appointments. According to the story, Anne’s alarm clock did not go off and she overslept. Her afternoon tardiness was quickly blamed on something else. If you find yourself celebrating this day and pointing your finger at someone else, we have some suggested reading just for you. However, if you find this day to be unappealing and not worth your time don’t blame me, someone else told me to write this.

It’s Not My Fault by Nancy Carlson
The Berenstain Bears and the Blame Game by Stan & Jan Berenstain
It Was Jake!by Anita Jeram
It Wasn’t My Fault by Helen Lester
Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It by…

Book Review: On Such a Full Sea

On Such a Full Sea
Chang-Rae Lee

If we can be forgiven a small spoiler, neither the ocean nor the sea is anywhere to be found in this book, On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-Rae Lee, acclaimed for his earlier novels Native Speaker and The Surrendered. We are in the world of metaphor, and although On Such a Full Sea is certainly science fiction, it will appeal mostly to readers of literary fiction. The characters are not readily identified as good or bad. They move through this future world making choices, timidly or with daring, and we see ourselves in their uncertainty.

Most uncertain is the voice of the narrator, who is wrong or simpleminded about as often as a Greek chorus. Like a Greek chorus, he or she, we don’t know, we do trust as giving voice to the consensus view of the community. That community in the not-too-distant-but-believable future feels stiflingly conformist, but maybe a bit too familiar. The novel is about that conformist society’s reaction to a very young woman, Fan, wh…

How to Patent Your Invention

Do you have a great new invention? Are you unsure whether or not you’re the first one to think of it? If so, join us at 2:30 p.m. on February 16, 2015, in the Regional Library Computer Center. We’ll be talking about patents and how to perform a basic search using databases from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There are actually three different types of patents: design, plant, and utility. Utility patents are what most people think of when they hear the word “patent” and according to the USPTO, 90% of all patents granted today are utility patents.

The Birmingham Public Library is the only public library in Alabama to be named a Patent and Trademark Resource Center. This means that the staff have been specially trained to help inventors and entrepreneurs begin their patent search. Because patents are only granted to, “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” a thorough search of all exi…

Children's Book Review: The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas
John Stephens

I love to read fantasy books when I can snuggle under a warm blanket and drink hot chocolate. February’s cold and gloomy days can always be brightened with a bit of whimsy. This month, I chose to read The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens. It satisfied my craving for magic and inspired me to keep reading through to the sequel, The Fire Chronicle. I must admit, this book begins like many other novels in the genre, with orphans.…Or at least with kids who are believed to be orphans. Emma, Kate, and Michael have spent most of their lives bring bounced around from orphanage to orphanage, but they thwart every attempt families make to adopt them. That’s because they know that their parents are not dead.

The beginning of this novel shows them being ejected from one of the most derelict orphanages they’ve ever visited, The Edgar Allen Poe Home for Incorrigible and Hopeless Orphans. After getting kicked out of a joint like that, the only institution that will tak…

Black History Month Highlight: Early Black Inventors

Garrett Morgan, inventor of a breathing device or “safety hood,” had to hire a white man to introduce it at public demonstrations while he wore the hood, but the early black inventors largely ignored any discrimination and continued to invent “useful devices.”

The first black to be granted a patent was Thomas Jennings, a free black in New York, in approximately 1832. The patent was for a dry cleaning process.

A very prolific black inventor was George Washington Carver. He discovered 300 uses for peanut butter, but he applied for only three patents: one for cosmetics and plant products and two for paints and stains.

Madam C.J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove is perhaps the most famous and successful black female inventor. Sales of her hair care products made her the first American black female millionaire. Also, Marjorie Stewart Joyner invented the “permanent wave machine” and a “scalp protector.” She sold the rights of both patents to Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.

Among his man…

Book Review: Heirs To Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into The Disappearing Religions Of The Middle East

Heirs To Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into The Disappearing Religions Of The Middle East
Gerard Russell

Gerard Russell, who is British, spent many years working in his country’s diplomatic corps. While there, he got some good advice at the embassy from a supervisor: Make yourself scarce, get out, and mix with the people. That plus his inherent interest in religions, Classics, and history stood Russell in good stead. He met members of many little-known faiths most Westerners never have, or will ever have the chance to, and has written about them marvelously in his new book. The religions covered are: Mandaeans, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, Druze, Samaritans, Copts, and Kalasha (my spell-checker didn’t recognize several of these faiths). I like nothing more than to read about obscure religions, and I drew a blank with the Kalasha. Turns out I’d read a few pages about them in a book about far-flung Pakistan twenty years ago. These really are little-known religions. There haven’t been books on …

Searching for Psychiatric Services? Helpful Resource Available for All Alabamians

The recent announcement about Alabama Psychiatric Services closing its doors this week has left many in the state anxious about finding help with mental illness for themselves or loved ones. As happens too often in healthcare access, those in need of help in the cities will likely find replacement providers while rural residents may have a harder time finding a new psychiatrist without travelling some distance. The fact that Alabama already has a shortage of psychiatrists doesn't help matters. However, the Alabama Psychiatric Physicians Association and its members are working to address the needs of the 28,000 Alabama Psychiatric Services patients before the service closes on February 13.

In addition, Health InfoNet of Alabama can help residents locate counseling and psychiatric services by using the Alabama health services directory on the site. Here's how (you may click on any of the links to get to the information directly):

1. Go to the site located at http://www.healthinf…

Cherry Blossom Festival

2015 Cherry Blossom Festival The Birmingham Public Library is partnering with the Japan American Society of Alabama to offer programs for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

If a trip to our nation’s capital for the March Cherry Blossom Festival is not on your calendar, make plans to join the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) for an early start on the celebration. Once again partnering with the Japan American Society of Alabama (JASA) and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, BPL is planning several programs—including a Haiku contest, a special edition of the signature Bards & Brews event, a film screening, and a main event at the Gardens—in support of the annual observance. All programs are free and open to the public.

A very popular feature of the programming is an online haiku contest for teens and adults residing in Alabama which begins on February 22 and runs through March 14. With separate competitions for teens and adults, winners will be picked at the end of each week and will be…

Update on Tax Forms and Booklets Available at BPL

For many years the Birmingham Public Library has participated in the IRS' Tax Forms Outlet Program (TFOP). Thanks to TFOP, taxpayers could pick up many of the forms and instruction booklets they needed to file their taxes at their local branch library. Recently the library received a message from the Program. In essence, it says that due to budget restrictions, only the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms will be available in paper format at the library. State 40 and 40NR forms and instruction booklets are available at most library locations. All other forms and instruction booklets can be found online at

Here is a link to the full message.

Taxpayers would be wise to see this as another sign of how much of the business of our lives now must be conducted online. Fortunately, the library offers classes for anyone who wants to improve his or her computer skills.  Class listings can be found at  Use …

“The Most Famous Person Nobody Knows”: Celebrating the Life of an African American Novelist and Poet

Margaret Walker has been described as the “most famous person nobody knows,” and if people recognize the name, they probably do not know much about this African American novelist and poet. Margaret Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1915. Both of her parents were teachers and valued education more than anything else. Margaret earned her doctorate from the University of Iowa and spent her career teaching at Jackson State University.

In term of her literary career, she was part of the South Side Writer’s Group whose members include Richard Wright, Arna Bontemps, Fenton Johnson, Theodore Ward, and Frank Marshall Davis. Margaret wrote Richard Wright, Daemonic Geniusin which she details their friendship and literary collaborations. Her most famous novel, Jubilee(1966), tells the story of Vyry, the daughter of a white plantation owner and his slave mistress during the antebellum era, the Civil War, and Reconstruction and is based on the life of her great grandmother. Although an…

Celebrate Black History Month with the Inglenook Library

Help the Inglenook Library celebrate Black History Month through a series of informative and enjoyable programs. Attendees will create vision boards to outline their dreams as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did, play trivia games, give back to the community by Reading Forward The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 book, and then watch the movie based on the book. See below for detailed descriptions.

I Have a Dream Vision Board Project
Monday, February 9, 3:15 - 4:15 p.m.
Participants will create vision boards that outline their dreams. Ideal for families.

Black Inventors Trivia
Monday, February 16, 3:30 p.m.
Participants will be tested on their knowledge of black inventors. The winner will receive a prize.

Read it Forward with The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963
Monday, February 23, 3:30 p.m.
Stop by the Inglenook Library to get your free copy of The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, an award-winning book by Christopher Paul Curtis. Once you finish reading the book, look for the Read it Forward t…

Renasant Bank Workshop on Contract vs. Full Time Employees Scheduled for February 12

Renasant Bank is reaching out to help small businesses succeed with a free six-part entrepreneurial success series. Series topics include Financial Management, Networking and Relationship Building, Social Media, Tax Information, Business Plan Components, Human Resources and Access to Capital.

Renasant staff and local experts are leading these valuable learning sessions throughout the Birmingham and Shelby County communities. The event is co-sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library System and Trudy Phillips Consulting. Complementary refreshments will be served.

Tracey Morant Adams, Senior Vice President Small Business and Community Development Director said of the series, ‘This free series is part of Renasant Bank’s continuing commitment to further the success of small business owners and entrepreneurs in our area. We are pleased to provide valuable tools and insight to help our local community businesses thrive and flourish.”

To register for any of the sessions, please visit: http:/…