Tuesday, March 31, 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.

Fleck's Easter Egg Dyes

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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

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 cenrtc@bham.lib.al.us. You may also go to www.rlccbpl.wordpress.com 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, Alabama
  • Military History
  • Transportation
  • Cities, Towns and communities
  • Heritage of Homes
  • Spiritual Heritage
  • Cemeteries
  • Educational Heritage
  • Industry
  • Businesses
  • Medical Heritage
  • Governmental, Public and Service Agencies
  • Clubs and Organizations
  • Landmarks, Historic Sites and Markers
  • Entertainment and Leisure
  • Lifestyles
  • Families
  • Tributes, Memorials, and Business Histories
  • Index

There are also many photos to accompany the text and for some researchers this may be the best opportunity to find out how an ancestor looked or what the old family church was like before its modern additions.

Since Jefferson County, Alabama, is one of the most heavily-researched areas of BPL’s Southern History collection, this book sees a lot of use. But don’t worry—because of its popularity we have more than one copy available. If Jefferson County research is on your list of things to do, taking a look at The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama deserves a place at the top of your list.

For more on the Heritage Books series:

For more Southern History resources on Alabama counties:

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department

It’s All in the Family

Euriah Simpkins, age 50

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 and Simpkins

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 black school teacher and principal who would play an influential part in Buffington’s life. Simpkins was walking by while Buffington was making mud pies. When one of his pies broke, he started to cry. Simpkins spoke to him kindly and told him to “be a man.” This started a wonderful friendship that would last for many years. Simpkins gave Buffington books to read and encouraged him to go to college. Some accounts even say that Simpkins sent Buffington $1 a month while he was in high school and college.

When Euriah Simpkins dedicated a new black school in 1931 in Edgefield, South Carolina, Buffington was astonished that there were no books for the students. After thinking about the situation, Buffington wrote five ministers whose names were listed in a Sunday school publication and asked them each for a book. Only one minister answered, Reverend L. H. King of St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Harlem, New York. Reverend King sent 1,000 books that were taken up by his congregation.

Simpkins on site of construction of the first Faith Cabin Library

Faith Cabin Library, Saluda, South Carolina

The new school in Edgefield now had more books than it needed, so Buffington and Simpkins called a community meeting to ask if the local black community wanted to build a library. Of course they wanted a library. Donors of both races provided materials and the African-American community provided the labor. They built the new library near Saluda, South Carolina. The library received attention in magazine articles and people began to send more books and another library was started in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, approximately 10 miles away from Saluda.

Dedication of the Ridge Spring Faith Cabin Library

Buffington continued to create libraries for blacks until the 1960s. His friend and mentor Euriah W. Simpkins died on July 7, 1944. Euriah helped plant the seed for the Faith Cabin Libraries in South Carolina. My mother, Anita Jones, and cousin Reverend Joseph Walker remember the reverence with which their grandmother Florence Bates Clark and great uncle Michael Bates spoke about their uncle “Eury.”

While I was doing research on Uncle Eury, some of the resources I used were available through the Birmingham Public Library and others were available through the Internet:

Ancestry Library Edition – This database can only be used in Birmingham Public Library. I found the death certificate for Euriah (E.W. Simpkins) and his brother-in-law and my great-great grandfather, Moses Bates.

Genealogy Resources – A great page that has various genealogy resources that are available at Birmingham Public Library as well as information on how to start doing genealogical research.

Introduction to Genealogy Classes – Take a look at these classes offered by the Southern History Department at the Central Library.

South Carolina Archive and History Foundation – I used this website to look for Rosenwald Schools in Saluda County. I found E.W. Simpkins mentioned as teacher at the Plum Branch School.

Willie Lee Buffington Digital Library – Go to “Titles” and have a look at the primary source documents in the University of South Carolina South Caroliniana library's Willie Lee Buffington manuscript collection.

Maya Jones
West End Library

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

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 the city.  The group hosts special library tours, dinners, fundraisers, and other fun social events.Your obligation will include a modest annual financial contribution of $250 as well as a commitment of attending six board meetings and volunteering ten hours per year.

While City of Birmingham provides the Library's basic operating expenses, 96% of its programming for children and adults is supported by the fundraising efforts of the BPL Foundation. The BPL YP's are a vitial part of this support organization, and the funds raised by them will provide direct aid to essential programs and materials—youth and adult summer reading, early literacy programming, and book purchasing for example—that serve two million visitors in the Birmingham area each year.

For information on how to nominate someone or apply, please visit the Library’s website at www.bplonline.org/yp or call Brandon Smith at 205-591-4944. There will be a tour of the library's special collections on May 19th for those interested in joining the board.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

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 intimate look at the making of a nation's hero, when Churchill was at his most commanding and effective. It shows how his prowess as a great wartime leader ultimately undermined his political career and threatened his marriage.

Eleven-year-old Woody dreams of a better life, as well as his absent mother. He looks to his uncle, Vincent, as the father he never had. A street hustler and former drug dealer, Vincent's fresh off an eight-year stint in prison and wants a new direction. When Vincent passes his nephew's school one day, he offers to show the boy how a man handles his business. Woody jumps at the chance, but soon his uncle's past life comes back to the forefront.

Malcolm X 
Born Malcolm Little, his minister father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. He became a gangster, and while in jail discovered the Nation of Islam writings of Elijah Muhammad. After getting out of jail, he preaches the teachings, but later on goes on a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca. There he converts to the original Islamic religion and becomes a Sunni Muslim. He changes his name to El-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz and stops his anti-white teachings, having discovered the error of his mistakes. He is later assassinated and dies a Muslim martyr.

During a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the government to transfer $150 million into an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every twenty minutes.

Tyler Perry’s Temptation
An explosive romance about forbidden desires. The provocative story of Judith, an ambitious married woman whose temptation by a handsome billionaire leads to betrayal, recklessness and forever alters the course of her life.

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 having your car repaired, you have everything you need to curl up with a good book wherever you are.

I never thought I’d enjoy reading a book on my phone, but now I love it. I hate to be stuck without something to read, and now I never am. I have access to a whole library right in my pocket.

Ellen Griffin Shade
Avondale Library

Friday, March 20, 2015

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 saying, “I ain’t going yet” to his grave. He climbs the rail and stands in the pen, saying nothing but saying everything to the horse. It twists an ear his way. It listens to his body speak.

It’s no mystery who this man is: a cowboy, suede chaps and all. The iconic image of the cowboy is both historical and romantic. It’s as much a part of America’s history as it is a part of Americans’ wistful dreams. The cowboy is raw-hide tough and respected for it; he won’t take any bull—sometimes literally. Who hasn't wanted to be the one riding off into the sunset, gun holstered at the hip?

Celebrating the cowboy (or cowgirl) in all of us, here is a compilation of various Wild West materials in the Arts/Literature/Sports (ALS) department that will get you yee-hawing before you know it.

The Top Shooter’s Guide to Cowboy Action Shooting
Taking Up Riding as an Adult
Line Dancing (Instructional DVD)
Will Rodgers Rope Tricks

The West of Buffalo Bill: Frontier Art, Indian Crafts, Memorabilia, from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center
The West of the Imagination
Indians: The Great Photographs That Reveal North American Indian Life, 1847-1929, From the Unique Collection of the Smithsonian Institution
Singing in the Saddle : The History of the Singing Cowboy
For a Cowboy Has to Sing : A Collection of Sixty Romantic Cowboy and Western Songs, Covering the Fifty-year Golden Era of Popular Standards Between 1905 and 1957 (Score)

That's Black Entertainment: Celebrating Legendary Black Westerns (DVD)
The 100 Greatest Western Movies of All Time: Including Five You've Never Heard Of
I Was That Masked Man (Memoir of Clayton Moore, the actor who portrayed the Lone Ranger)
John Wayne: Bigger Than Life (DVD)

Cowboy Poetry Matters
The Next Rodeo: New and Selected Essays
Horses That Buck: The Story of Champion Bronc Rider Bill Smith
How to Write Western Novels

Cowboy High Style: Thomas Molesworth to the New West
Beading in the Native American Tradition
Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures

Bethany Mitchell

Explorations of Our Galactic Home

Carl Sagan, 1934-1996

“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. Whether you’re a novice backyard astronomer or an advanced stargazer, the Birmingham Public Library has the resources you need when it comes to the cosmos.

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Journey, is a 1980 thirteen-part miniseries wherein Sagan himself walks us through the story of the universe, from the smallest atoms to the biggest celestial bodies. His book by the simple title of Cosmos, published in 1985, reiterates much and expounds on topics of the miniseries.

Or you may be familiar with the sequel to Sagan’s series: the 2014 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and recently aired on Fox. Building on the foundation of Sagan’s, it comes with the added bonus of corrected and newly-discovered information about our universal home.

Maybe you’re interested in seeing what NASA (or other countries’) astronauts are up to for another astounding glimpse of life outside of Earth. One of the more fascinating aspects of the modern age is the ability for astronauts to tweet from outer space itself, something I certainly never imagined as a possibility when I was a child on the heels of the Challenger disaster.

From the black-and-white depictions of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon to astronauts tweeting pictures of the Earth from miles and miles away (in color!, and often with the hashtag #earthart), space knowledge and travel has come light-years since we first began our search thousands of years ago. Come and see us. BPL has everything you need to get started on your own personal cosmic journey (found mostly in the 520s).

The New Astronomy Guide: Stargazing in the Digital Age 
The Handy Astronomy Answer Book
Celestial Geometry: Understanding the Astronomical Meanings of Ancient Sites 
Hubble: The Mirror on the Universe 
Cosmos [by Carl Sagan, with reflections by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and foreword by Ann Druyan]

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey 
How the Universe Works, season 1(2011)
How the Universe Works, season 2 (2014)

Social Media
NASA’s APOD - website
NASA’s APOD (Astronomy Pic of the Day) - Twitter
Sky & Telescope - Twitter
NASA Astronauts - Twitter
Terry W. Virts (American astronaut aboard the ISS) - Twitter
Sam Cristoforetti (Italian astronaut aboard the ISS) - Twitter
Reid Wiseman (American astronaut, recently returned from ISS) - Twitter

“If I finish a book a week, I will read only a few thousand books in my lifetime, about a tenth of a percent of the contents of the greatest libraries of our time. The trick is to know which books to read.”
- Carl Sagan

Lynda Tidmore
Business, Science & Technology/Social Sciences
Central Library

Thursday, March 19, 2015

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!

Lynn Piper
Five Points West Library

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

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 Kids by Amie Jane Leavitt
The All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
The Edible Balcony: Growing Fresh Produce in Small Spaces by Alex Mitchell
Edible Spots & Pots: Small-Space Gardens for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers, Raised Beds, and More by Stacey Hirvela
Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 Recipes Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips by Willi Galloway
Grow It, Cook It edited by Deborah Lock
Kitchen Gardening for Beginners by Simon Akeroyd

Teresa Ceravolo
Southside Library

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 believed to be in private collections. Miss Iwate, however, has always called the Birmingham Public Library home. From her exquisitely detailed kimono to her delicate china tea set, Miss Iwate is indeed a treasure.

Tea SetMiss Iwate in Trunk
For more information about Miss Iwate and her belongings, visit our online exhibit. Due to her age and fragile condition, she is seldom on display. Through a special arrangement with the Library at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, we are happy to offer this rare chance for people to see Miss Iwate and hear her story.

I Want My Hour Back!!!

Daylight Saving Time

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)

(a) AMENDMENT.—Section 3(a) of the Uniform Time Act of 1966
(15 U.S.C. 260a(a)) is amended—
(1) by striking ‘‘first Sunday of April’’ and inserting ‘‘second
Sunday of March’’; and
(2) by striking ‘‘last Sunday of October’’ and inserting ‘‘first
Sunday of November’’.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—Subsection (a) shall take effect 1 year
after the date of enactment of this Act or March 1, 2007, whichever
is later.
(c) REPORT TO CONGRESS.—Not later than 9 months after the
effective date stated in subsection (b), the Secretary shall report
to Congress on the impact of this section on energy consumption
in the United States.
(d) RIGHT TO REVERT.—Congress retains the right to revert
the Daylight Saving Time back to the 2005 time schedules once
the Department study is complete. 

Old Indian Quote

Apparently, since we are still doing this, the Secretary reported back that it is having a positive impact on energy consumption in the United States.  Let us hope so, since losing a precious hour of sleep and waiting nearly 8 months to get it back is not high on my list of priorities. Pardon me, I had to yawn.  There are many things to love about March: college basketball, the beginning of spring (especially in the north), St. Patrick’s Day, and spring break, to name a few.  As you enjoy your daylight to get those extra outdoor activities in, think kindly on those of us who are walking around in a daze searching for our hour.  

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 the New York City Police Department’s intelligence unit. Some readers may applaud this unit’s actions, some may shrug when they learn what the police did, and others may question the very existence of such a unit in a civilian police department.

In August of 2008 Najibullah Zazi, a failed college student, Zarein Ahmedzay a New York taxi driver and Adis Medunjanin a security guard traveled to Pakistan in search of a terrorist training camp. What still shocks me about this story is that Zazi and his two friends were able to simply waltz into Pakistan and sign up for an al-Qaeda terrorist camp. In a matter of mere weeks the trio had learned the rudiments of bomb making, hand to hand combat and use of the ubiquitous AK-47. The three young men were now prepared to return to America and avenge what they saw as illegal drone attacks in Afghanistan and illegal detentions at Abu Ghraib prison.

In September of 2009, in Aurora, Colorado, Najibullah Zazi, began to cook up two pounds of triacetone triperoxide (also known as TATP in terrorist circles, but the formula is so unstable that bomb makers refer to it as ‘Mother of Satan’). After loading the explosive into a rented red Impala, Zazi began his trip to New York City. His goal was to build three suicide vests to carry the TATP. Once constructed, he and his two friends would don the vests and board New York City subway trains 3, 4, and 5. When the doors closed, they would detonate their vests. The resulting carnage would be catastrophic. In addition to the irreplaceable lives lost, New Yorkers’ confidence in their subway system would be forever broken.

The story of these three young men’s murderous intent would by itself make for an intriguing read, but the authors incorporate the efforts of the controversial Intelligence unit of the NYPD to foil the attack into the narrative. This unit was patterned after the CIA and performed a similar function; they gathered information on possible terrorists. The difference being that the Intelligence unit, known simply as Intel, focused on terrorists targeting New York City. Their laudable goal was to thwart another 9/11. However, to some critics in the intelligence community, their methods were controversial. Deputy Commissioner David Cohen, head of Intel, developed several innovative methods unavailable to the FBI or CIA to gather information on New York City’s citizens in order to protect New York City’s citizens. His ultimate goal was of course to save lives. He felt the most efficient way to accomplish this was “…to know whether you were going to be a terrorist before you knew yourself.”

One of Cohen’s innovations was called raking. Rakers were young, Middle Eastern Americans fresh out of the Police Academy. After graduation they were sent into Muslim neighborhoods to “gauge sentiment.” They did not wear police uniforms. They blended in, talking to Muslims in grocery stores, mosques, barber shops, restaurants, or travel agencies about the latest news from the Middle East. At the end of the working day these policemen filed reports on every conversation. Was the shop owner critical of American policy? Was the Imam angry over the U.S. military’s latest drone strike? Was the college student exhibiting too much interest in an Al-Jazeera report discussing Guantanamo Bay detentions? Every comment was written down and stored for future analysis.

Another group within Intel was the Mosque Crawlers. These were informants who took the place of actual electronic listening devices. The FBI had vehemently refused to bug houses of worship stating, “We do collect domestic intelligence. But mosques are buildings. Mosques don’t conspire. Mosques don’t blow things up.” So Intel instead wired their informants and sent them inside the mosques in order to hear the worshipers’ conversations.

I’m not spoiling the book by telling you the attack failed; no American could forget a day so horrible as to rival 9/11. I am suggesting you read the book to discover why the attack failed, the fate of the jihadist, and whether the FBI, CIA, or Intel was responsible for preventing the attack. I believe Apuzzo and Goldman would suggest that you read their book then ask yourself what you’re willing to change in your daily life to prevent the next 9/11.

David Ryan
Business, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Registration Open For April Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the Central Library April 2015 Classes. The classes offered in the month of April will feature a Money Smart Week presentation with Dr. Stephanie Yates and Job Searching Tips with local career counselor, Jack Norris.

All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES due to limited seating. 

To register for classes, go to https://rlccbpl.wordpress.com/computer-class-schedule/ or pick up a copy of the April 2015 Class Schedule at your local Birmingham Public Library branch. Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. Call or email to confirm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

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 meditation on human nature in which one humorous situation flows into another offhandedly, as if life were a series of smiles.”

You’ll certainly learn from the movie that there’s more to ramen than that stuff in a styrofoam cup you gobbled down in your dorm room.

Try your hand at making the perfect bowl of ramen or other delectable Japanese dishes with the help of these cookbooks:

At home with Japanese cooking 

Everyday Harumi : simple Japanese food for family & friends 

Harumi's Japanese cooking 

The Japanese kitchen : 250 recipes in a traditional spirit 

Japanese soul cooking : ramen, tonkatsu, tempura, and more from the streets and kitchens of Tokyo and beyond

Simple Asian meals : irresistibly satisfying and healthy dishes for the busy cook

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 cenrtc@bham.lib.al.us. You may also go to www.rlccbpl.wordpress.com to register.

Jim Murray
Business, Science and Technology Department

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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 get any better, tragedy strikes. In an instant, Jake’s family is forced to deal with the most difficult time of their lives. Will they rise to the challenge?

This is a short novel and fast read by celebrated children’s novelist, Patricia MacLachlan, but it packs an emotional punch with straightforward storytelling that evokes the sense of wonder and raw emotion present in childhood memories. The language is simple and accessible. It’s a title that an elementary school student will have no problem understanding and an adult reader won’t feel like the author is talking down to her audience. This is a story about the importance of family relationships and dealing with grief. It is not a light read. I recommend this title for readers of all ages, elementary school to adult. However, I think that younger readers might need an adult on hand so they can talk about the ending. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, this book is a real tearjerker.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

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 still new. Traffic laws barely existed and traffic signals meant different things in different places. Sometimes green lights meant go, but elsewhere they meant stop, something Fitzgerald’s tragic hero never got. Cocktails ruled in the way pot and acid ruled the oddly similar but downscale scene in mid-sixties New York and San Francisco. Prohibition and illegality just added zest and glamor to drunken excess. Zelda more than once stripped naked to liven up a gathering. The Fitzgeralds were often in the press for their wild cavorting and Fitzgerald was hailed as the bard of his age, as he is today.

Everyone’s news came from the papers and from the start Fitzgerald was hailed for writing straight out of the headlines of his day. This book covers the crucial years of 1922 and 1923 when the Fitzgeralds were living in Great Neck on the north shore of Long Island, a millionaire’s playground with skyscrapers in view on the horizon. Fitzgerald was gathering material for his great novel set in the same locale but re-named West, and East, Egg. Churchwell has read the newspapers of these days and correlated them with the Fitzgerald’s diaries and correspondence, and those of the great writers among their friends. The headlines of those years told sensational stories that were re-worked into many parts of The Great Gatsby—in particular the Hall-Mills murders just outside of New York in New Jersey. We follow the development of that case as we follow the daily lives of Scott and Zelda, and the formation of the great novel in Fitzgerald’s mind. Our news of them comes from Scott and Zelda’s diaries, and also from the letters and memoirs of their writer friends: Ring Lardner, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Wilson, and Sherwood Anderson.

Churchwell directly addresses the question, “Was Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald himself?” in the following way:

“Both Fitzgerald and Carraway tended toward judgmentalism, but, correlatively toward idolatry. Both were susceptible to glamor, and both were anxious about its capacity to corrupt. Both enjoyed material luxury but were also moralists who worried about its spiritual poverty. And both moved to Long Island in 1922, where they would live through an extraordinary sequence of events. Not the same events, not identical, but their symmetry tilts toward the feeling of a design. For those who could sense the design as well as Fitzgerald, symmetry begins to shade toward prophecy. Art, cannot, perhaps, impose order on life – but it teaches us to admire even the unruliest of revelations.”

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Monday, March 09, 2015

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

President Obama speaking
President Obama in the front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge

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.

BPL's Olivia and Fontaine Alison
BPL's Olivia and Fontaine Alison
The mood was congenial, lit with excitement and anticipation. Folks of all ages and races from near and far shuffled along together toward the security scanners. I talked to people from Beloit and Orrville (communities near Selma) and others from Chicago and Washington, DC. The positive, patient attitude of attendees brought to mind lines from a favorite Langston Hughes poem, “Daybreak in Alabama:”

And I'm gonna put white hands 
And black hands and brown and yellow hands 
And red clay earth hands in it 
Touching everybody with kind fingers 
And touching each other natural as dew 

Marching across the bridge in 2015
A symbolic march across the bridge in 2015
The city of Selma managed the event fairly well, but inevitably there were frustrations: contradictory information about security regulations (would I have to pitch the precious snacks in my fanny pack?) and crowds of people cutting ahead in line (while sheriffs shrugged their shoulders—Nothin’ we can do, ma’am). As the wait dragged on without any clear updates from authorities, folks grumbled but resigned themselves to wait…the only other option was to leave and miss out. Later, thinking about those minor irritations brought home to me the far more serious and dangerous obstacles faced by those who gathered in Selma in 1965. On that fateful day in 1965, around 600 peaceful Civil Rights activists marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were met with state troopers armed with clubs and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Many marchers were injured during the protest march, and it became known as “Bloody Sunday”. How brave they were.

Bloody Sunday in 1965
Bloody Sunday in 1965
President Obama’s rousing speech was worth the wait. I left Selma with a joyous feeling of community and with pride in the progress of the last 50 years. But the President’s message reminded us that there is still work to do in overcoming the racial divide symbolized by the Edmund Pettus Bridge:

 …the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. 

One way to do this work is to learn more about history and pass the knowledge on to others. The Tutwiler Collection of Southern History and Literature includes some of the best resources in the country. We invite you visit us and explore:
  • Learn about your own history with our genealogical resources and workshops
  • Learn about your local history in books, newspaper clippings, and archived documents about Birmingham, Selma, and Alabama
  • Learn about your country’s history through our impressive collection of civil rights materials. 
Come in and learn more about history: yours, mine, and ours.

Fontaine Alison 
Southern History Department
Central Library

Photo Credits:
President Obama in front of Edmund Pettus Bridge- Justin Sullivan/Getty
Symbolic Walk- Bill Frakes/Associated Press
Bloody Sunday- Library of Congress

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