Showing posts from March, 2015

Easter in 1915

What was Easter like 100 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama? The Southern History Department has created a digital exhibit featuring advertisements to give you an idea of what people were purchasing during the Easter shopping season. The advertisements range from fashion, flowers, candy, and of course, the fixings for Easter dinner.

In the upcoming months, we plan to highlight the major new stories, human interest stories, sports, advertisements, and other unique items found in Alabama newspapers. Perspective is everything, and we will feature content from defunct and almost forgotten newspapers, like The Ensley Enterprise, to the city’s most well-known newspaper, The Birmingham News. Take a look and tell us what you think.

Career Counselor Jack Norris To Conduct Job Searching Tips Program at Central Library, March 31

Local career counselor, Jack Norris, will be presenting a "Job Searching Tips" program on Tuesday, March, 31, 1:30 p.m., in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) at the Central Library:

This program covers a variety of topics related to the job search process, including resume building; interviewing skills; networking; and, most important, keeping a positive attitude! Following the presentation, Mr. Norris will entertain questions from the attendees and will be available to provide individual consultation to address particular concerns.

The program is free, but pre-registration is encouraged. To register, please contact the library’s Public Computer Services Department by phone at 226-3680 or by email at You may also go to to register.

Jim Murray
Business, Science and Technology Department

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama

If I had to compile a list of the most-consulted books in the Southern History Department,
The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama would be near the top of the list and might even take up two or three slots. This is one in the series of Heritage Books for the counties of Alabama and it is an invaluable source of information for genealogists and historians. The text includes local history from the formation of Jefferson County to the time of the book’s publication and contains historical sketches of many small communities, churches, cemeteries, schools, historic homes, and landmarks, along with a family name index that makes this source a gold mine for genealogists in search of their Jefferson County ancestors.

Here is a sample of subjects from the Table of Contents:

History of Jefferson County, AlabamaMilitary HistoryTransportationCities, Towns and communitiesHeritage of HomesSpiritual HeritageCemeteriesEducational HeritageIndustryBusinessesMedical HeritageGovernmental, Public and …

It’s All in the Family

While I was preparing to participate in a Black History program at my church, the program director suggested that participants might want to talk about a noteworthy family member. It was during this search for a subject that I rediscovered the story of my great-great-great Uncle Euriah (E.W.) Simpkins.

From the 1930s to the 1960s in South Carolina, public libraries were not accessible to African-Americans because of segregation. In order to have access to library service, Willie Lee Buffington, a white Methodist Minister, and Euriah W. Simpkins, a black school teacher and principal, came up with the idea of Faith Cabin Libraries. Buffington asked people from all over the country to donate books for over 30 years to create a series of log cabin libraries for African-Americans to use. They became known collectively as “Faith Cabin Libraries.”

Willie Lee Buffington was born in 1908 in Saluda, South Carolina. His parents were poor. When Willie Lee was nine he met Euriah Simpkins, a …

BPL Young Professional Board is Accepting Applications

How can you expand your professional network, enjoy special social events, and support a worthy organization at the same time? Join the Birmingham Public Library's Young Professionals group!

The BPL YPs support the literary culture of the Birmingham region and are committed to making the library the center of lifelong learning for the city. The group hosts lectures, special collection tours, and other social events; volunteer time and skills; and work to increase public awareness and access to the Library’s resources.

Young Professional groups are a popular way to broaden your skill and experience in the business world while supporting a worthy organization. The BPL invites you to become member of its YP team. Take advantage of its leadership, volunteer, and networking opportunities while helping to sustain the largest cultural organization in Birmingham and Jefferson County.

The BPL YPs are committed to making the library and its 19 locations the center of lifelong learning for …

Wylam's DVD Guru

Wylam Branch Library is very fortunate to have Ms. Patricia on our staff. Her job is to keep our library materials in order, but we have discovered she has a gift for helping patrons pick out DVDs. In fact, she is so good, we now display her selections. Here are her current picks. If you would like recommendations tailored just for you, come by Wylam Library after 3:00 p.m. and Ms. Patricia will be happy to assist you.

Fruitvale Station 
The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008, and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: Being a better son to his mother, being a better partner to his girlfriend, and being a better father to T, their beautiful four-year-old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy.

Into the Storm
This sequel to the award-winning film The Gathering Storm offers an intima…

Curl Up with a Book Anywhere You Happen to Be

While I was having my car serviced, the technician took pains to show me that there was a television in the waiting room to alleviate my boredom, but I said, “No thanks, I have a book on my phone.” Of course, I wound up having to explain that, and it went something like this:

Not only are there free apps like OverDrive and Kindle that can turn your smart phone into an e-reader, but you can check out downloadable books for free from the library. That’s right—the apps and the books are free! All you need is a library card.

The library’s OverDrive website is easy to navigate and has plenty of help and support to get you started, including how-to videos. You just need your library card number to sign in, and then you can check out and download up to 10 e-books or audiobooks at a time. And when your loan period is over, the books just go away, so you don’t even have to worry about late fees.

Then whenever you’re stuck with unexpected downtime, like waiting in a doctor’s office or havin…

Cowboy Culture: Exploring the Wild West in ALS

The straight line of this guy’s nose ain’t really straight; he’s been fightin’ real trouble a long time. He hooks that nice stitched boot against the round corral’s bottom rail, leaning into its sunned glare. Those heels have nudged many a horse through rushing water. Kicked sometimes, too, if that’s what it took to get listened to.

He’d always be listened to. You know that by the way he looks out at that Quarter Horse churning in the pen, its head swinging side and back, fast as a fist. Can’t see the man’s eyes—the shade of his hat keeps throwin’ angles down over them. But that’s not the way to tell about a person. Nah. It’s more the way a man’s held up. Even if he been beaten down all his life, some won’t admit they’re losing. It’s them you like to be around. It’s ‘cause you can pretend maybe you’re winnin’ too.

This one’s got his neck stretched tall from the shoulders. Them shoulders are spaced out wide, one from the other. Means he’s got something to say to the ground. It’s him s…

Explorations of Our Galactic Home

“Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.”
- Carl Sagan

Most people are passingly familiar with Star Trek or, at the very least, with Mr. Spock—the pointy-eared, green-blooded Vulcan whose catchphrase is “Live long and prosper.” Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought Spock to life, passed away February 27 and with him, a legacy of kindness and humanity like few others. His fights for equal pay for fellow Star Trek castmates as well as lending his voice to the cause of diversity within the cast made for an impressive life, both behind and on the screen.

With his passing, I felt inspired to learn more about our galaxy. In the words of Carl Sagan, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” Studying the stars is a way to study where we came from and what makes us all up, the things that sew together the universe as we know it. Whethe…

Spring Break Activities at Five Points West Library

Spring break is coming, and if you are not going out of town, the Five Points West Regional Library has some special activities to make your break special.

For middle school girls on Tuesday, March 31, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., we will have a program called "Girl Code" on writing computer code. A catered lunch will be provided. This same program will be offered to high school girls on Wednesday, April 1, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.  To attend, please call 226-4017 to register.

On Monday, March 30, to Thursday, April 2, at noon, we will have a series of spring break programs. Monday will be “Be Crafty"; Tuesday will be “Dance with Candice”; Wednesday will be “Magic with Larry Moore”; and Thursday will be “Movie and Popcorn” with a newly released movie about an orphan who gets adopted by a millionaire. The library will be closed Friday, April 3 through Sunday, April 5, for Easter weekend.

So come join our spring break fun at the Five Points West Regional Library!�������������������…

Cultivate and Cook

The recent warm dry days energized me to visit a garden center and buy a few herbs for my patio garden. The garden center was filled with folks asking for advice and searching for the freshest plants and the perfect seeds. According to the 2000 Census, about 61% of U.S. households do some form of home garden activity. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet peppers are the most popular vegetables found in home gardens. Home gardening positively impacts our world. It is a great way to connect with nature, exercise, and grow fresh food for the family table. At the garden center there were a number of families with children who were also excited about planting seeds for their home garden. Standing in line with my purchases, I was able to talk with other gardeners about materials available at the Birmingham Public Library that would help answer questions and inspire folks to new gardening heights.

Here are a few suggestions:
A Backyard Vegetable Garden for Kidsby Amie Jane Leavitt
The All New Sq…

Miss Iwate at the Botanical Gardens

This Saturday, March 21 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. the library’s very own Miss Iwate will be on display at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Every year the Japan-America Society of Alabama hosts a Cherry Blossom Festival (also called a Sakura Festival) at the Gardens. This year, part of the festivities includes a display in the Garden Center of Japanese artifacts. Miss Iwate will be among them. She was given to the people of Alabama from the Iwate Prefecture, Japan in 1928 as part of a doll exchange designed to improve relations between the two countries. Over 17,000 American dolls (also known as Blue-eyed Dolls) were given to the children of Japan. In return, 58 Friendship Dolls (representing the prefectures and major cities of Japan) were given to the United States. The dolls were crafted by master doll makers and each one is a work of art. Each doll was equipped with her own furniture, shoes, and other accessories. Over the years, several of the dolls have gone missing or are be…

I Want My Hour Back!!!

I took an informal poll (a representative sample of five people) and discovered that most people think Daylight Saving Time is nonsense.  Even those who like the extra hour of daylight wish the clocks would stay the same year-round.  Why must I continue to have my normal sleep pattern interrupted so that everyone can have an extra hour of daylight in the evening?I was particularly interested to know why Daylight Saving Time now extends from March thru November instead of April thru October.  The official answer is to save energy.Feel free to do your own historical research, but the United States Congress made the last changes to Daylight Saving Time through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Energy Policy Act is not what I consider light reading and Daylight Saving Time only garnered a paragraph.

Energy Policy Act of 2005(Title I, Subtitle A, Sec. 110)
SEC. 110. DAYLIGHT SAVINGS. (a) AMENDMENT.—Section 3(a) of the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S.C. 260a(a)) is amended— (1) by striking…

Book Review: Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America

Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America
Matt Apuzzo

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Who watches the watchers?

It’s become a cliché in our country that 9/11 changed everything, but the reality is that the catastrophic attack that took nearly 3,000 lives did indeed change much of our daily life. Some of these changes are obvious, such as the added precautions we are now obliged to take when boarding a plane. Other changes are so subtle we may not even notice them.

In Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America , Pulitzer Prize winners journalists Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman detail the attempted 2009 bombing attack on the New York City subway system and how it was investigated by the CIA, FBI, and the New York city Police Department. However, in the process of detailing this attempted crime, the terrorists, and their methods, the authors also reveal the activities of…

Registration Open For April Classes


Screening of "Japanese noodle Western" on March 15

Screening of Tampopo
Sunday, March 15, 3 pm
Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place
Arrington Auditorium

On Sunday, March 15, BPL will host a screening of Tampopo, ironically billed as  “a Japanese noodle Western”. Goro, a truck driver, strides into a small ramen shop like a cowboy in a Clint Eastwood Western. The ramen is terrible, and he tells the owner Tampopo, a young widow, that they are going to find the perfect ramen recipe and revamp her shop. Intertwined with the main story are various vignettes about the relationship of love and food, including a gangster who uses food to heat up his sex life and a dying woman who sits up from her deathbed to cook one last meal for her family.

Matt Levey, Professor of Asian History at Birmingham-Southern College, will serve as facilitator.

Roger Ebert said of the film," ‘Tampopo’ " is one of those utterly original movies that seems to exist in no known category. Like the French comedies of Jacques Tati, it's a bemused me…

Job Searching Tips with Jack Norris Will Be Held Twice in March

Local career counselor, Jack Norris, will be presenting his "Job Searching Tips" program twice in March in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) at the Central Library:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.

This program covers a variety of topics related to the job search process, including resume building; interviewing skills; networking; and, most important, keeping a positive attitude! Following the presentation, Mr. Norris will entertain questions from the attendees and will be available to provide individual consultation to address particular concerns.

The program is free, but pre-registration is encouraged. To register, please contact the library’s Public Computer Services Department by phone at 226-3680 or by email at You may also go to to register.

Jim Murray
Business, Science and Technology Department

Children's Book Review: Edward’s Eyes

Edward's Eyes
Patricia MacLachlan

Jake is the youngest kid in a pretty big family. He has a large, close-knit gang of siblings and cool parents to spend his time with. His days are filled with music and laughter and love. During the warm months the kids spend all their time playing baseball, it’s a family obsession. When Jake’s brother Edward is born, nothing will ever be the same. Edward becomes Jake’s personal responsibility, one that he is honored to have. Jake teaches him all the important stuff: how to use the toilet, how to read, how to play baseball. Edward turns out to be the perfect kid. He’s a gifted pitcher with eyes that can focus with laser-like precision, master of the knuckleball, wise beyond his years, and he is most certainly destined for greatness. Jake’s story is memories of Edward and their idyllic childhood. When the family finds that they are expecting another child, Edward is overjoyed. He can’t wait to be a big brother too. When it seems like life couldn’t…

Book Review: Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby
Sarah Bartlett Churchwell

Sarah Churchwell, author of Careless People, is a writer’s writer and F. Scott Fitzgerald is her writer. If you love Scott and Zelda, the jazz age, and The Great Gatsby and want to know more, Churchwell will take you to the center of the scene where the Fitzgeralds romped, New York and the south of France in the early twenties. The gossip is juicy. Careless People is literary criticism and the scandalous tales are wound together with thoughtful analysis, but the gossip is juicy, nonetheless. Fitzgerald has always been understood as a writer of his time and place, with characters drawn from people he knew and settings based on places he knew. Churchwell takes a fresh look at Scott and Zelda at the center of the scene that inspired Fitzgerald’s great novel.

In the early twenties Jazz was new and the word jazz was still associated with sex. Radio was new. Mass ownership of automobiles was st…

Visiting Selma, Seeing President Obama, and Remembering the Civil Rights Movement

This past Saturday, March 7, I was among the thousands who traveled to Selma, my hometown, to hear President Obama’s address honoring the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. On March 7, 1965, peaceful demonstrators in Selma were beaten by law enforcement officers intent on stopping their march to Montgomery. The demonstrators were marching to demand their right to vote. As a result of their bravery, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965. I was too young to be involved in the original march, but this year, I was determined to be there. After all, I do work in the Southern History Department, so it seemed especially appropriate to witness this historic event. My sister and BPL’s Director of Development, Olivia Alison, also joined me on the adventure. So, at 8:00 on Saturday morning, we found the end of a four-block-long line and began the wait.

The mood was congenial, lit with excitement and anticipation. Folks of all ages an…