Thursday, April 30, 2015

She Walks the Walk for March of Dimes Babies

BPL's March of Dimes team captain, Diana Prince

For the past three years, Diana Prince has made certain Birmingham Public Library (BPL) staff know a thing or two about the March of Dimes. With more than 60,000 new births in Alabama each year, at least 1,800 babies are born with a birth defect and premature births are high. Diana knows this and she puts every bit of effort into raising awareness and raising funds to help. Her willingness to coordinate staff giving is no easy task, yet she puts her heart into it and helps to cultivate funds for a worthy cause.

As a City of Birmingham department, the library continues to rank among the top three departments when it comes to giving. In February, Diana and her library “valentine elves” put together 19 gift baskets for the annual March of Dimes auction. The library’s baskets brought in a total of $1,650, the third highest total among all City of Birmingham departments. The library raised a grand total of $3, 707 this year, $2,437 in 2014, and $2,914 in 2013.

On Saturday, April 25, Diana made certain BPL was represented in the annual walk in Birmingham. With a theme focused on “We Walk Because We Care,” Diana cared enough to finish the two mile walk in record time. She truly walks the walk and talks the talk for the March of Dimes.

Diana Prince works at the Central Library where she serves as receptionist for the Administrative Office. She has been employed by BPL since 2010.

Throw a Party…But Plan a Wedding

A few weeks ago one of my cousins got married. So, I started thinking about the popularity of spring and summer weddings and how much work goes into the planning and execution of a successful wedding ceremony. This in turn, made me think about wedding planners and the job they do. Did you know that there is a certification for wedding planners? Here is a list of resources to help you become a wedding planner or to help you plan your own wedding.

Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette
The Everything Mother of the Bride Book: A survival Guide for Mom
How to Start a Home-Based Wedding Planning Business
The Knot Little Books of Big Wedding Ideas
Plan the Perfect Wedding on a Small Budget
A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration
The Wedding A to Z: Everything You Need to Know—*and Stuff You Never Thought to Ask
Wedding Planning for Dummies
Wedding Planning: The Complete Guide to Wedding Planning
Weddings: From Snapshots to Great Shots

Inside Weddings: Plan Your Wedding from the Dress to the Cake
Martha's Complete Weddings
Martha's Wedding Ideas
Say Yes to the Dress. Season 3: Viewer Favorites

Better Homes and Gardens Weddings – This site has great tips that should enable you to stick to your budget. I really enjoyed the article “15 Secrets from a Wedding Planner.”

little wedding guide - This is a very comprehensive site. Good advice is given about how to choose a dress, should you or shouldn’t you hire a wedding planner, the reception etc… Even though they don’t have a good list of vendors in Alabama, I would definitely use this as a resource for planning a wedding.

mywedding – I found this website to be very interesting. It is free and it has various tools for creating a free wedding website where you can post your wedding pictures, create your registry, and keep a guestbook and contacts. You can also use their wedding check list and budget planner. You can look at their ideas, contact a vendor, and look at honeymoon destinations. I liked the layout of the website. In order to log onto mywedding, you must have Facebook account.

For those of you who are tying the knot or helping someone else do so, I hope these resources enable you plan a wedding to remember.

Maya Jones
West End Library

Bards & Brews Open Mic Poetry Event Takes Place May 1 at Central Library

A performer at the April Bards & Brews at Central Library

Birmingham Public Library’s popular Bards & Brews poetry performance/beer tasting series takes place Friday, May 1, 6:30 p.m., at the Central Library. Usually held the first Friday of each month, the open mic May event features beer provided by Straight to Ale of Huntsville—The J. Clyde will handle the pouring. The event is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Admission is free and open to the public; however, attendees must be at least 18 to enter and 21 to participate—ID is required.

The festivities start at 6:30 p.m. with live music, beer tasting, and light refreshments. The poetry begins to flow at 7:00 p.m. with Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins serving as our host.

The June Bards & Brews will be an Open Mic on June 5 at the Avondale Regional Library. For more information call 205-226-3670, email, or visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun

Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun
By Tim Hollis

Now that spring has come and summer is approaching, some of us who are “of a certain age” generally indulge in a few moments of nostalgia about family vacations. Remember getting up at 3:00 a.m. for the long drive in the cool of the night? The only air conditioning in the car was the good old 4-60 system: four windows rolled down at sixty miles an hour. Come to think of it, a lot of the cars didn’t have seat belts, either. Heaven knows how we lived to grow up. We kids stood on the seats and climbed around in the car, craning our necks to see roadside attractions like the giant dinosaur at a Sinclair Oil service station, the teepees of a Wigwam Village Motel—“Travel the Wigwam Way”—or yet another barn roof encouraging us to See Rock City. On some of the older state highways you might even spot the remains of a Burma-Shave sign.

Tim Hollis has captured all the nostalgia of the pre-Interstate Highway era in Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun. Hollis begins with a chapter exploring the origins of the Deep South as a vacation spot, before the automobile even existed as the travel vehicle of choice:
 . . . it was actually the railroad, not the automobile, that first established the South as a popular vacation destination. The 1880s saw many of the era’s Northern millionaires discovering that the South was a comparatively warm and balmy alternative to shivering away the winter months in their frozen native habitat . . . When the automobile came down the road in the early years of the twentieth century, all of a sudden highway travel became something of a fad.
It is this fad with all its manifestations, from the ludicrous to the lovely, that Hollis examines with deep affection and a refreshing lack of condescension. As he notes, the driving force behind many of the roadside attractions was money, but the alligator farms, amusement parks, museums of oddities—remember Ripley’s Believe It or Not?—themed restaurants and giant neon signs left those of us who grew up traveling in that era with memories that money just can’t buy. If there’s any downside to this book, it’s that it may cause you to sigh and shake your head, sorry that those days are gone and troubled by a craving for some Stuckey’s candy. Fortunately, Stuckey’s is still with us. As for all the tourist spots that no longer exist save as fond memories, we can still revisit them in Dixie Before Disney. Thanks, Tim.

For more nostalgia:
Birmingham Rewound

U.S. Highways

Gulf Shores (pre-condo era)

Fifties Web (Take a look at Vintage Cars for some serious tailfins and chrome)

Florida Past

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department

Downloadable eBook and Audiobook Workshop at Wylam Library

Wylam Library is hosting the "Downloadable eBook and Audiobook Workshop" on May 13 at 10:00 a.m. Kathy Burts from the Central Library will be helping us demonstrate how easy it is to download eBooks and audiobooks using OverDrive. If you have a tablet or other device, bring it.  If you have been thinking about purchasing a device, we will be happy to answer your questions and help you select what will best suit your needs.  Call 785-0349 for more information.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Yay for Art!

Birmingham Museum of Art's artist-in-residence,
Toby Richardson

I always get excited when kids are offered an opportunity to express themselves artistically. Kids benefit from art in so many ways.

On Tuesday, May 5, at 4:00 p.m., Toby Richards from the Birmingham Museum of Art will visit North Avondale Library to talk about different types of art. Kids will spend time learning and will get the chance to create an art project directed by Richardson.

Hey kids, join us and let’s have some fun at the library!

Saundra Ross
North Avondale Library

Monday, April 27, 2015

Beach Reads

With all these April showers, it's probably hard to think about going to the beach.  Before you know it, though, you'll wake up, and it will be Memorial Day.  Publishers know this, so they are releasing new titles for you to enjoy as you lounge on the beach.  Many authors who are known for their summer-themed novels have new books coming out in May.  Get the sunscreen, the cooler, and the bathing suits ready so you can relax with these beach reads.  Title descriptions are from the publisher.

Beach Town by Mary Kay AndrewsBeach Town  by Mary Kay Andrews  (5/19)
Greer Hennessy is a struggling movie location scout. Her last location shoot ended in disaster when a film crew destroyed property on an avocado grove. Now Greer has been given one more chance. She zeroes in on a sleepy Florida panhandle town. Greer slips into town and is ecstatic to find the last unspoilt patch of the Florida gulf coast. However, she finds a formidable obstacle in the town mayor, Eben Thinadeaux. Eben is a born-again environmentalist who's seen huge damage done to the town by a huge paper company ... and Eben has no intention of letting anybody screw with his town again. The only problem is that he finds Greer way too attractive for his own good, and knows that her motivation is in direct conflict with his.

The Summer's End by Mary Alice Monroe
The Summer's End  by Mary Alice Monroe  (5/19)
It is summer’s end and Sea Breeze, the family’s beloved estate on Sullivan’s Island, must be sold. It is an emotional time of transition as Mamaw and the three sisters each must face loss and find a new place in the world.  Harper, the youngest sister, arrived at Sea Breeze intending to stay only a weekend, but a rift with her wealthy, influential mother left her without direction or a home. During this remarkable summer, free from her mother’s tyranny and with the help of her half sisters, Harper discovered her talents and independent spirit.  But summer is ending, and the fate of Sea Breeze hinges on Harper’s courage to decide the course of her own life. To do so she must release her insecurities and recognize her newfound strengths.

The Rocks by Peter Nichols
The Rocks  by Peter Nichols  (5/26)
Set against dramatic Mediterranean Sea views and lush olive groves, The Rocks opens with a confrontation and a secret: What was the mysterious, catastrophic event that drove two honeymooners apart so suddenly and absolutely in 1948 that they never spoke again despite living on the same island for sixty more years? And how did their history shape the Romeo and Juliet–like romance of their (unrelated) children decades later? Centered around a popular seaside resort club and its community, The Rocks is a double love story that begins with a mystery, then moves backward in time, era by era, to unravel what really happened decades earlier.

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer
The Guest Cottage  by Nancy Thayer  (5/12)
Sophie Anderson has always known what to do. When her husband announces that he’s leaving her for another woman, Sophie realizes she has no idea what’s next. Impulsively renting a guest cottage on Nantucket, Sophie rounds up her kids and leaves Boston for a quiet family vacation, minus one.  Also minus one is Trevor Black, who has recently lost his wife.  Hoping a quiet summer on the Nantucket coast will help him reconnect with his son, Trevor rents a guest house on the beautiful island.  When Sophie and Trevor realize they’ve mistakenly rented the same house, the two agree to share the house. But as the summer unfolds and the families grow close, Sophie and Trevor must ask themselves if the guest cottage is all they want to share.

What Should I Read Next?

I am a Youth Librarian for the Birmingham Public Library and I love my job! While my work holds lots of exciting challenges, one of the special perks is reading the new books that are added to the collection. We are five months into 2015 and it is already promising to be a notable year in the world of children’s book publishing. Here are just a few of my personal favorites, so far:

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne – When her dog disappears into the gutter of the book, Bella calls for help. But when the helpers disappear too, Bella realizes it will take more than a tug on the leash to put things right.

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman – When her parents find a baby wolf on their doorstep and decide to raise him as their own, Dot is certain he will eat them all up until a surprising encounter with a bear brings them closer together.

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton – Four friends creep through the woods, and what do they spot? An exquisite bird high in a tree! “Hello birdie,” waves one. “Shh! We have a plan,” hush the others. They stealthily make their advance, nets in the air. Ready one, ready two, ready three, and go! But as one comically foiled plan follows another, it soon becomes clear that their quiet, observant companion, hand outstretched, has a far better idea.

I Don’t Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty – A frog who yearns to be any animal that’s cute and warm discovers that being wet, slimy, and full of bugs has its advantages.

Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale – The houses of all Three (not so) Little Pigs were broken into and ransacked, and the Pigs are squealing for justice. So Prince Tyrone, ruler of Fairylandia, drags in the obvious suspect: Wolfgang. The lone wolf has big teeth, sharp claws, no alibi – and a single day to find the real culprit and clear his big bad name. When Wolf (reluctantly) teams up with the fourth Little Pig to crack the case, the Big Bad Detective Agency – and an adventure way funnier than your average fairy tale- is born!

Still looking for more good reads? Drop by the Avondale Library Youth Department for additional installments of “What Should I Read Next.”

Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Helping a Patron With an Auto Repair Question

This question concerned an Oldsmobile 307 engine which was in a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne. My patron needed to know which way the horseshoe-shaped piston was supposed to be inserted—with the bottom of the horseshoe pointing up or pointing down. Of course, I immediately went to the ChiltonLibrary in the databases, but the diagram that came up showed a round piston. We went to Google Images and found a picture that showed him exactly what he needed to know.

I've found that when a schematic or diagram for any kind of engine (especially small engines that aren't covered in Chilton) is wanted, Google Images can be a great tool for finding it. Had this failed, I would have tried to do a search through one or more of the Oldsmobile online forums to see if this question had been addressed by someone previously.

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Library

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

“Everything Going On in This Library”: Thoughts after National Library Week

At the East Ensley branch, we recently had the pleasure of issuing a library card to a young woman who has only been in Birmingham for about a month. She moved here from Minnesota and has a job with the Birmingham Zoo. As we chatted while she filled out her application, she admitted that Alabama was different from what she had been expecting—think Deliverance—and that she was really enjoying herself here. But what struck me was that she thought getting a library card was one of the most important things to do after relocating and that she found time to do it so soon after her arrival. Anyone who has made a major relocation knows how a thousand errands clamor for your attention, yet she took the time to get her library card.

One gentleman came in to deal with some fines on his card, telling us, “I need my library card. I value my library card!”

But what made me smile the most was the teen who came in and saw our table with the lemonade and cookies last Wednesday. When she asked what it was for, I told her that it was National Library Week and the treats were to show our patrons that we appreciate their business. She gave me a big grin and said, “You’ve got EVERYTHING going on in this library!”

Visit your library. See some of the “everything” we have going on!

Mary Anne Ellis
East Ensley Library

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Solo: My Adventures in the Air

Solo: My Adventures in the Air
Clyde Edgerton

While going through a box of books donated to the library recently, this title caught my eye. I had read one of Clyde Edgerton’s other books, the novel Where Trouble Sleeps, and enjoyed it immensely. Edgerton is a North Carolina native who has a knack for presenting small towns in the South and the natives thereof in all their quirky majesty.

In Solo, Edgerton presents his lifelong love affair with flight, starting from his fascination with airplanes as a small boy, continuing through his days as a teenage cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, and progressing through his career as a Vietnam-era pilot to his recent “retiree” years. Although at first glance this might appear to be a war story, it is not that at all. Edgerton discusses his fears and foibles, faced by almost all young novice pilots and how he learned from experiences that could have proven fatal. He describes the difference between the single engine “tail-dragger” Cessna’s and Pipers and the increasingly faster and more powerful trainers and jets he learns to fly as his Air Force career progresses.

But then, after he has seemingly reached the apex of flying supersonic fighter aircraft, he has an almost spiritual experience and is channeled into once again flying a “low and slow” machine as a forward air control or FAC pilot. These men performed the extremely dangerous and crucial role of helping protect the troops on the ground by communicating with them to coordinate aerial bombing when needed. Sometimes this was the only thing that prevented numbers of soldiers from being overrun and killed or captured. As he flies mission after mission, and some of his comrades are killed or wounded or transfer to other roles such as flying for the CIA, Edgerton begins to simply hope to survive his tour and get back home. He explains that he did not take satisfaction or glory in the deaths of those he marked for rocket or bomb attacks and wishes he had not been a part of it. But it was a time when most young men answered their country’s call, for right or wrong.

After the end of the war, Edgerton gives up flying for a while as he concentrates on building a career in the civilian world. But as the years go by, he finds that he misses flying as both a hobby and a possible business venture and details his return to flying for pleasure and the simple joys of knowing how to land on a plowed field and take off again if necessary. His stories of various misadventures will be a guidebook for anyone who wishes to become a pilot, if not for business, then just for the sheer pleasure of soaring through the sky. If you enjoy reading about flying or airplanes, you will enjoy this book. And don’t throw away those gently used, recent books you have no further use for— consider donating them to your local library. This book is already in our collection but will be passed on to someone else to inspire them.

Jonathan Newman
Avondale Library

Monday, April 20, 2015

Free Skills and Drills Football Clinic for Birmingham's Youth

The Birmingham Public Library is excited to host UNMASK! with the Cotchery Foundation. Jerricho Cotchery, one of Birmingham’s native sons, has teamed up with the library to host yet another amazing series of events for the 2015 Teen Summer Reading Program, UNMASK!

Born in 1982, Cotchery grew up to be an incredible athlete. He excelled at Phillips High School in Birmingham and attended North Carolina State University. The New York Jets drafted him in 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers added him to their roster in 2010, and in 2014 he joined the Carolina Panthers.

Named for the famous Biblical city, Jerricho is deeply committed to his faith and to community outreach. He was moved to start the Cotchery Foundation in January 2007 as a result of his own personal memories and experiences growing up. He and his foundation have set out to "show that anyone can do extraordinary things if they have the desire and passion." Cotchery has made it his mission to show that any individual can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

For the past eight years, The Cotchery Foundation has hosted a FREE Skills and Drills Football Clinic with Jerricho Cotchery. In 2009, The Foundation asked the Birmingham Public Library to join them to enrich the experience. In order to register for the 2015 Skills and Drills Football Clinic, youth from 11-17 must be an active participant in the Score Big with UNMASK! component of the UNMASK! summer reading program. Seven points are necessary to qualify. Youth may score points by registering for the program (1 point), reading an entire magazine (3 points), and reading an entire book (6 points). UNMASK! registration and Skills and Drills Clinic forms are available at all Birmingham Public Library locations. The completed registration forms must be returned to the library by June 5. At least two hundred participants will be selected to attend the 2015 Skills and Drills Football Clinic on June 20, 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Legion Field. Those selected will be notified by June 12.

In addition to being eligible for the Skills and Drills Football Clinic, all those who UNMASK! are invited to a FREE Teen Tailgate Party at Birmingham Public Library on June 19, 2015. The celebration will take place on the first floor of the Central Library, located at 2100 Park Place, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. There will be music, dancing, photo-ops with Jerricho, food, and lots of fun. Tickets are required and are available at all BPL locations.

Registration for UNMASK! with the Cotchery Foundation opens May 1. Visit any Birmingham Public Library location for registration materials and additional information.

Extraordinary Performances by Teen Poets Amaze Audience

2015 WORD UP! winners are (from left to right) Trinity Packer, Third Place
Winner; Whitney McWilliams, Second Place Winner; and Miaya Webster,
First Place Winner

Sixteen young poets, representing high schools from throughout Jefferson County, gave heartfelt performances during the 2015 WORD UP! poetry competition. Over 100 people were in attendance. They clapped and gave “shout outs” to show their appreciation for the extraordinary performances.

WORD UP! is a poetry slam for high school students enrolled in schools—or home schooled—in Jefferson County. Sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) System and Real Life Poets (RLP), the event was held on Saturday, April 11, at 3:00 p.m. in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium of BPL’s Central Library. Students in grades 9 through 12 wrote and performed an original work of poetry inspired by a theme selected by the WORD UP! planning committee. The theme for this year’s WORD UP! was “Survive.” Each participating high school held a preliminary contest, and the winners from each school competed in the final WORD UP! competition. The contestants competed for cash prizes and were rated on content and performance by a panel of three judges.

Miaya Webster, a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA), took the first place trophy and a $300 cash prize; second place winner Whitney McWilliams, also of ASFA, received $200; and third place winner, Trinity Packer of Shades Valley High School, received $150. Miaya was the second place winner at last year’s WORD UP! and took third place in 2013. Jim Reed served as the emcee of WORD UP!. The judges were Will Gillette (first place winner of 2010 WORD UP!); Tomika Glenn (performance poet who has been the top winner at the BPL’s Bards and Brews slams); and Sharrif Simmons (local performance artist, songwriter, and activist who has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and has toured extensively in Europe).

In all, ten high schools were represented at this year’s slam. The schools included Birmingham’s Wenonah; Jefferson County’s Center Point, Clay-Chalkville, and Shades Valley; Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA); Bessemer; Hewitt-Trussville; Holy Family Cristo Rey; Homewood and Mountain Brook. For those students determined to go even further, BPL and RLP will help sponsor a spoken-word team to compete in this year’s Brave New Voices (BNV) International Youth Poetry Competition in Atlanta, Georgia. BNV is the worldwide standard in spoken word poetry competitions for teens since 1998. In 2013, BNV was held in Chicago and for the first time in the history of the festival, a small but dedicated group of Birmingham-area teens who called themselves Team #KnowDisclaimer competed. They did well enough to go on to the semi-finals—a feat almost unheard of by first time teams. The teens’ perseverance and talents, along with the help and encouragement of BPL and RLP, made this successful bid possible.

Word UP! 2015 is made possible in part by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For additional information, visit the WORD UP! webpage at

Friday, April 17, 2015

Programs on Investment Research Scheduled for April 20 and 21 at Central Library

Money Smart Week 2015 offers free events throughout Alabama focused on financial education for all ages and walks of life. The Birmingham Public Library will host two events: How to Use Mergent and Morningstar Databases for Business and Investing Research and How to Get Started with Investing.

How to Use Mergent and Morningstar Databases for Business and Investing Research is scheduled for April 20, 2015, at 2:30 p.m. in the Regional Library Computer Center/Central Library/Linn-Henley building/4th floor. This program will provide novice and experience investors information on how to select and monitor their investments using Mergent and Morningstar. It will also cover how to research a company before purchasing their stock.

How to Get Started with Investing is scheduled for April 21, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. in the Regional Library Computer Center/Central Library/Linn-Henley building/4th floor. Dr. Stephanie Yates, Director of UAB’s Institute of Financial Literacy, will describe the fundamental principle of investment and how a better understanding of these principles can lead to investment success.

In preparation for Money Smart Week, the Business, Science, and Technology Department has also put together a Subject Resource Page on personal finance for your convenience. The information provided is a sampling of books, databases, and websites covering a variety of money management topics including budgeting, credit repair, home buying and selling, insurance, investment, retirement, etc. This subject guide can be accessed from your home, on your mobile phone, or tablet at

When considering your personal financial goals, the Birmingham Public Library is a good place to go for free and authoritative resources on all aspects of personal finance. Stop by to check out some of the amazing resources we have to offer!

Are Libraries Still Relevant? A Case Study of the Southern History Department

Some people think libraries are no longer relevant and just a place to store old books that no one reads. We don't think so.  Other people agree and have cited the Southern History Department's Beyond the Basics of Genealogy program as an example of how libraries are a community asset.   We want to prove that libraries are relevant by giving you a “behind the scenes” glimpse of what happens in the Southern History Department. This department houses a non-circulating collection that covers each facet of Southern culture, genealogy, and local history. In this department alone, our patrons use over 1,500 books, make over 2,500 copies, and ask over 700 reference questions each month. Yet, most people do not know about the other things the Southern History Department does to serve the community.

Birmingham Cultural Alliance Partnership (BCAP): This award-winning, collaborative after-school program that has served more than 1,650 low-income middle school students and their families. With eight cultural partners, BCAP provides high-quality, hands-on cultural enrichment activities that enhance academic achievement by reinforcing classroom instruction and facilitating parental involvement and family learning. BCAP partners have included the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham City School system, as well as the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham Public Library, McWane Science Center, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, Southern Museum of Flight, and Vulcan Park & Museum. BPL has been a partner since the beginning in 2001 with the Southern History Department leading the library’s efforts for four weeks of after-school programming at two middle schools. We do a variety of programs focusing on family history, local history, African American history, poetry, and debate. Additionally, we bring in a few alumni of the Birmingham City Schools to speak about their experiences in school and life.
Mr. Jess Lanier at BCAP

Alabama Library Association (ALLA) - Mary Beth Newbill was part of a panel entitled "Your Tax Dollars at Work: Interesting, Helpful, and Essential Websites from the Federal Government" at the annual convention in Point Clear, Alabama. She presented on useful genealogy websites, such as the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database. By presenting to other librarians on resources they can use at their home library, this indirectly helps library patrons all across the state.
Alabama Library Association 2015

Digitorium: Mary Beth Newbill and Laura Gentry presented at The University of Alabama's Digitorium, This conference is for digital humanities, and they were part of a panel on "Strategies for Creating Digital Exhibits and Analyzing Archival Materials". Their presentation was entitled, "Digital Exhibits: Finding a Platform that Fits for the Birmingham Public Library".
Digitorium 2015

Digitorium 2015

Other things we have done this month and some of our ongoing activities:
  • Applied for a grant for new microfilm equipment and an overhead book scanner 
  • Taught our Introduction to Genealogy class 
  • Created a digital exhibit on Easter in 1915 
  • Mended books 
  • Conservation and mending of maps 
  • Ordered new books 
  • Answered reference questions in-person, by phone, and by e-mail 
  • Indexed books, newspapers, and periodicals 
  • Created blog posts and social media 
  • Booked upcoming speaking engagements and workshops
What’s ahead on our calendar for the rest of April

Southern History Department
Central Branch
Birmingham Public Library

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Teen Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

Hazel Grace Lancaster is a smart, snarky young woman who disdains convention, yet loves binge-watching popular TV shows. She’s also permanently attached to an oxygen tank, thanks to the Stage IV thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs when she was 14. In most instances, she’d probably be dead by now, but a recently developed miracle-drug has managed to slow down the tumor-growth in her lungs, thus extending her life for a couple of years. Now just 16, she’s already out of school with her GED, and her social circle is limited to a handful of people, including her parents, a friend from junior high, and regulars from a tedious support group that her parents force her to attend. Fortunately for Hazel, though, the support group is where she meets Augustus Waters, a one-legged survivor of osteosarcoma who, like Hazel, refuses to let cancer define him. The two quickly become close friends, and—over time—something more. John Green’s novel is not only a great, tragicomic love story, but also a monumental salute to the spirit of the terminally ill teenager. Recommended for Ages 14-Up.

Liz Winn
Central Library

Get To Know the BPL Young Professional Board Members: Leah Bigbee

What is your full name, age, and occupation? 

Leah Bigbee, 26, Employer Relations & Marketing Coordinator at UAB.

Why did you get involved with the BPL YP board?

I believe in free and open access to knowledge and learning for all and I believe in the power and necessity of libraries.

As young professionals, I believe we have a civic responsibility to our city and that means supporting the library's efforts to best serve the Birmingham community.

Which is your favorite (or most frequented) library branch of the Birmingham Public Library system? 


Would you rather read on an e-reader or a book?

I prefer traditional books; it’s a welcome reprieve from the digital overload of daily life.

What is your favorite website or form of social media.

Twitter, Medium, and NPR are my must-haves.

What is your favorite place to eat in Birmingham?

Golden Temple in Five Points.

What book would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?

I would love to go hiking and adventuring in Iceland.

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

Donna Tartt, Louise Erdrich, and James Joyce are among my very favorites.

What is your wish for the city of Birmingham?

A collaborative focus and action oriented effort from citizens on equal access for all residents to essential services like education, transit, sidewalks, and libraries.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Registration Open For May Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the May 2015 Computer 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)
  1. Complete name, address and phone information. PLEASE PRINT.
  2. Place a check mark in the check box next to the class(es) you would like to attend.
  3. Return the entire form to a staff person in the Public Computer Services department.
  4. You may also send an email to or use the online form to register.
May 2015 Classes

New System Teen Librarian Promotes Blending Technology and Art

BPL welcomes new System Teen Librarian, Lance Simpson, to its staff. Lance’s areas of interest and expertise are informal learning environments that focus on the blending of technology and art programming for teens. He's an advocate for the connected learning movement, which focuses on providing experiential learning opportunities for teens that are based in 21st century models for education.

Since starting with BPL in December 2014, Lance has worked with a team of BPL staff members to apply for grants that will fund new learning tools and programming that include 3D printing, sound and video editing, the learning of computer coding languages, and more.

Currently, Lance provides a weekly technology program at the Central Library where, on Mondays, teens have disassembled and rebuilt computers, installed new operating systems, and will soon be working as inventors to design new and exciting input devices for computers using anything that will conduct electricity including bananas, aluminum foil, speaker wire, and even each other.

With the need for more Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering (STEM) educational opportunities for teens continuing to rise, Lance hopes to make the library a place where those needs can be met through citywide partnerships with STEM and Maker focused organizations, and by providing unique programs that allow teens to create and explore.

Lance is very excited to be working with the awesome staff and teens at BPL, and is looking forward to an exciting first year!

Young Writers in Birmingham Final Celebration at Inglenook Library

On April 8, 2015, the Inglenook Library hosted a Writing Celebration as the culmination of the writing project that took place at Inglenook K8 School with the 4th grade class. Over 75 people, including Birmingham City Schools interim superintendent, Dr. Spencer Horn, attended.

(left to right) Dr. Spencer Horn (Birmingham City Schools interim
superintendent), Dr. Jayln Wells (UAB professor and director of UAB
Writing Center), Mario Lumzy (Inglenook K8 School principal), and
Karnecia Williams (Inglenook Library branch manager)

The writing project, termed Young Writers in Birmingham, consist of a partnership between Inglenook K8 School, UAB Writing Center, and Inglenook Library. Dr. Jacyln Wells, UAB professor and director of UAB Writing Center, and her students conducted four weeks of writing workshops by providing students with a list of topics to write on including things that they like most about Inglenook K8 School. Mario Lumzy, principal of Inglenook School, and 4th grade teachers facilitated the workshops and provided needed assistance. Writings were refined as the weeks proceeded and five of the students’ writings were chosen to be published in a beautiful and organized newsletter that was designed by Dr. Wells and her students. The newsletter, titled Take a Look at Inglenook, highlights the activities at Inglenook School as well as the events and resources at the Inglenook Library.

Students whose writings were published - (front, left to right) Jamarion
Carter, Rahkena Nall, Keyairuh Bennett, Marquis Kennan 
(back, left to right) Jalen Henley, Mario Lumzy (Inglenook K8 School principal),
and Dr. Spencer Horn (Birmingham City Schools interim superintendent)

Stop by the Inglenook Library to take a look at the Inglenook K8 School newsletter and check out the other resources that are available.

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Library

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exhibit at Birmingham Public Library Sure to Delight Crossword Puzzle Fans

Cover of one of Shelton's crossword books
Attention, crossword puzzle fans! An exhibit of unique crossword puzzles, Ever a Cross Word, is currently on display at the Central Library of the Birmingham Public Library in the First Floor Gallery. Created by Bob Shelton, who has been a crossword puzzle aficionado for most of his adult life, the exhibit features some thirty panels of 1) the most unique puzzles he has ever solved and 2) the best puzzles he has created. Each panel is 16” x 20", color coded and enlarged for easy viewing. He has targeted libraries as the most suitable venue for their showing. The exhibit can be viewed during regular library hours in the First Floor Gallery until May 29, 2015. Also on display are eight books of crosswords that Shelton created containing what he terms “new theme” puzzles. They are new in that, unlike standard crossword “themes” with a handful of related material, most of these clues refer to the titled theme.

Shelton described in a statement how his obsession took hold and blossomed:

“My interest in crossword puzzles began in junior high school. I would cut out the daily puzzle from the morning newspaper and take it to work during study hall… After many years I discovered there were actual books full of these creatures, and to this day I solve crosswords constantly: New York Times, LA Times, USA Today, etc.

One day during a dreary faculty meeting I began making a simple grid and trying out basic words that would cross-reference easily. I then began collecting sample empty puzzle grids of 15 x 15 squares. I found an article on the subject that had been reprinted in the National Crossword Aptitude test puzzle that encouraged the solver to complete it in fifteen minutes. I completed the puzzle in eight minutes, and figured I was fairly adept. The cross-relationship of solving others’ material and making my own gradually took hold. I sent a few to the New York Times, but Mr. Shortz felt my clues were too direct (note: Will Shortz is the puzzle director for the New York Times.) As their puzzles were noted for vague and misdirected clues, I was not surprised. I became more interested in the quality of the ANSWERS rather than the nature of the CLUES.

In constructing early puzzles, I realized I wanted a special aspect to be present. It came in the form of the titled THEME of each: all of the ones I had worked included only a handful of entries related to the selected theme. I would strive for at least half the entries to connect. The result was NEW THEME PUZZLES, and to this date I have published eight books of such. Movie titles, movie lines, actors, famous quotes, authors, books, sports & athletes, famous places—the font of raw material was endless. Due to the breadth of such thematic coverage, I encourage the use of internet resources in solving.

Shelton was a longtime Professor of Art at Birmingham-Southern College and retired in 2005. Among his many achievements, Shelton has had numerous selections of his artwork in juried exhibitions and many cash and purchase awards. He has had gallery exhibitions in New York City. Several corporations have commissioned his work. He wrote two textbooks—based on his development of film courses—which were published by Mellen Press of New York.

Celebrate National Library Week @ the Birmingham Public Library, April 12-18

Ever since April 1958 the American Library Association has sponsored the National Library Week to call attention to the great impact libraries have on individuals and organizations in our society. Not only does it honor libraries and librarians but it also honors the many patrons (customers, if you will) who support these institutions that offer a plethora of knowledge and information that uplifts the user at no personal expense other than the small portion of their tax dollars that help support it.

The mission of the Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for life long learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment.

Our focus is truly on you and we invite you to celebrate with us this week (and every week) by visiting us in person and/or online.

Walk through the doors of any of our 19 locations and expect world class service and amazing resources. If for some reason what you need is not there, take advantage of the county-wide courier service that will bring materials you reserve to a public library convenient to you. And remember, the 19 Birmingham Public Libraries cooperate with 20 other nearby libraries under the umbrella of the Public Libraries of Jefferson County. Materials can be shifted about for your convenience and your library card is valid at all locations. Birmingham and Jefferson County are undeniably blessed with outstanding library services. Take advantage.

The Infinity of Knowledge, Prague Municipal Library
Photo: David Blake

You can even visit the Birmingham Public Library without even leaving your armchair. Simply visit us at Here you will find access to the county-wide Catalog where you can search for materials and reserve them. You can manage your own library account and even set up a chart of your reading history.

Other resources are available on our home page as well.

BPL subscribes to databases that offer scholarly articles not available on the Internet at large. These subscription rates would be prohibitive to many individuals but are free to our library members and most of these are available from your home. BPL’s signature Digital Library offers digitized photographs and documents from our outstanding Archives Department. This collection will continue to grow, but already much is available including items pertaining Birmingham’s presence in the Civil Rights Movement and more.

Want to study another language? Try Mango. You don’t have to pay for a subscription; the library already does. Tap in et bonne chance.

We have downloadables galore. We have audio and e-books available from our partnership with OverDrive. TumbleBookLibrary is available on our website and offers e-books for kids. Music lovers will want to embrace Freegal and you can even access some of your favorite magazines on Flipster.

Fans of social media should take to our homepage and discover the Birmingham Public Library’s presence in a larger world. Check out our links to the BPL Blog, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook,, and of course be sure to “Like" us.

Display window at Central Library for National Library Week 

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, April 15. All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will be celebrating with cookies and lemonade from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. We hope to see you there.

The theme for National Library Week 2015 is:

Unlimited Possibilities


Your Library

Find out for yourself. Check us out.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Monday, April 13, 2015

$5 Fines Coupon Offered During National Library Week to Show Our Appreciation

Celebrate National Library Week with a $5 coupon. National Library Week is April 12-18, 2015. This coupon good for up to $5 off your overdue charges. If you have ever researched a paper, checked out a bestseller, or attended a special program, you know what a great resource your library is.

Friday, April 10, 2015

National Siblings Day

Carla Perkins (r), children's librarian at the Avondale
and her sister, Janine Langston, librarian and
coordinator of 
BPL's western region

I am blessed to have a sister who is truly one of my best friends. I’m not saying we haven’t had our share of spats as all siblings do, but I can honestly say there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t love her. I have so many wonderful childhood memories that it is impossible to know where to begin: eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts in our footie pajamas, snuggling close to Mama in the big bed as she read us bedtime stories, riding the ocean waves on an inner tube with Dad, and the list goes on. Weather you find yourself blessed or tortured by a brother and/or sister, April 10, National Siblings Day, is the day to let them know how you feel. If you don’t have siblings or find yourself unable to see them today, find someone who is like a brother or sister and celebrate. Siblings Day can be observed in many ways including sending a card, going someplace special, or reading a good book. Sis, I love you and this day is for you!

Siblings Bibliography
The New Small Person by Lauren Child
Brothers and Sisters: Family Poems by Eloise Greenfield
Julius, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes
Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
What Sisters Do Best: (and) What Brothers Do Best by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Heavy Rotation

I’ve written two previous blogs on this site about my favorite repeat-viewing movies, "Movies Built To Last" and "Can’t Wear ‘Em Out." But I still had to leave off titles that are just as vital to me as those I already covered. Like the previous films, these are the ones I turn to when I don’t want to see anything new and do want to see something reliable, that holds up very well, that will reveal new facets and depth, that’s still fun. Cinematic comfort food, if you will. I will. Here goes something. Like last time, I’ve put the number of times I estimate I've seen the movie at the end of each entry.

Excalibur (1981). John Boorman dared to direct a straight King Arthur movie only six years after Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Naturally he had to avoid all the lead weight that movie satirized so well. He did that and infinitely more. It’s a revelatory take on the Grail legend and hasn’t dated one whit since its release. It didn’t have a large budget or any of the special effects we take for granted now, but it still looks ravishing. It focused on script and acting like these projects should but seldom do. The performances are top-caliber British. Nicol Williamson as Merlin is traditional and a fine critique of traditionalism. Nigel Terry as Arthur shows grand breadth. Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart perform some of the first roles that got them noted as film actors. The Wagner soundtrack converted me to Wagner. One critic called it glorious and it is. I can’t understand why this film isn’t more popular. About 8 times.

Black Narcissus (1947). Powell and Pressburger’s masterpiece is about a group of nuns sent to staff a remote Himalayan convent. The monastery there failed. We don’t know why. Can the nuns do better? Deborah Kerr plays the head sister who has to make this work and it’s the best thing she ever did. The nuns move in. The wind howls. The village nearby presses in. Nothing can be done, it seems, without local help, especially from a handsome jack-of-all-trades. In the convent, discipline can’t be maintained. There is enormous tension between repression and expression. Who could guess that a G-rated movie about convented nuns could be one of the sexiest movies ever? The psychological terrain is strictly hothouse. Very little is shown, much is implied. The story arc is exhilarating and tempestuous. Beautifully photographed with fantastically rich color that you’d expect from this duo. About 5 times.

Fellini Satyricon (1969). By this time in his career, Fellini’s name had become so well known that his movie titles in America started off with it. And by this time, he was pulling out all the stops on his cinema organ. Designs were fantastical. So were stories. Everything was shot in the studio so that the master could have no checks on his visions. Danilo Donati’s sets and costumes on Satyricon were incredible, taking full advantage of late-sixties freedoms (they don’t look dated). Almost any still from this movie could work as a painting. Some have called it excessive, but you have to open the floodgates to do justice to imperial Rome at its most opulent and decadent. Based on the ancient novel by Petronius, the story follows the picaresque adventures of two friends/rivals as they tour this hallucinatory world, a world that is seductive as well as repellent. It’s finally unknowable in the best sort of way, proud in its ancientness. About 6 times.

Koyaanisqatsi (1982). When I saw this on its initial release, I went with two friends. One fell asleep almost immediately, the other after a few minutes. It galvanized me, though, seducing me and winning me over. No telling how it’ll affect you. Eighty-six minutes of images and soundtrack. Godfrey Reggio, the director, said the intent was to make a movie where the visuals and the soundtrack were equally important. There’s no plot, story, dialogue, script, intended message. Not a drama, not a documentary, either. Deliberately open-ended, a code for viewers to unlock however they wish. The first time a full-bore experimental film made it to the mainstream audience, or something like it. Images are slowed down to various speeds and speeded up likewise for maximum effect. Philip Glass’s hieratic, relentless music inspired the act of picture-making and was in turn inspired by it. All this created a sound-image marriage unlike anything that has ever existed in cinema. This coupling, and the perfect Ron Fricke editing that was also a part of the indivisible whole, make for an experience (and it is an experience first and foremost) that is by turns hallucinatory, celebratory, elegiac, rollercoaster. Many people watch it over and over again. When it was out of print it fetched crazy prices. No problem with access now. Jump in—don’t just watch it. About 10 times.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department

Birmingham Public Library to Host Two Money Smart Week Events, April 20 and 21

Money Smart Week 2015 offers free events throughout Alabama focused on financial education for all ages and walks of life. The Birmingham Public Library will host two events: "How to Use Mergent and Morningstar Databases for Business and Investing Research" and "How to Get Started with Investing."

"How to Use Mergent and Morningstar Databases for Business and Investing Research" is scheduled for April 20, 2015, at 2:30 p.m. in the Regional Library Computer Center/Central Library/Linn-Henley building/4th floor. This program will provide novice and experience investors information on how to select and monitor their investments using Mergent and Morningstar. It will also cover how to research a company before purchasing their stock.

"How to Get Started with Investing" is scheduled for April 21, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. in the Regional Library Computer Center/Central Library/Linn-Henley building/4th floor. Dr. Stephanie Yates, Director of UAB’s Institute of Financial Literacy, will describe the fundamental principle of investment and how a better understanding of these principles can lead to investment success.

In preparation for Money Smart Week, the Business, Science, and Technology Department has also put together a Subject Resource Page on personal finance for your convenience. The information provided is a sampling of books, databases, and websites covering a variety of money management topics including budgeting, credit repair, home buying and selling, insurance, investment, retirement, etc. This subject guide can be accessed from your home, on your mobile phone, or tablet at

When considering your personal financial goals, the Birmingham Public Library is a good place to go for free and authoritative resources on all aspects of personal finance. Stop by to check out some of the amazing resources we have to offer!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

One of Birmingham’s Gospel Pioneers Joins The Heavenly Choir

Evelyn Starks Hardy
Photo: Beverly Taylor/The Birmingham News
I was introduced to Ms. Evelyn Starks Hardy in the 1990s by a mutual friend. To know her was to love her. She shared many stories about her career as the pianist, arranger, and organizer of one of the most famous female gospel pioneer groups, The Original Gospel Harmonettes.

Evelyn Virginia Starks was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on December 15, 1922. She started playing piano at an early age. In her early years she was invited to play piano in 1940 for the National Baptist Convention Choir in Birmingham. It was here that some of her recent friends from high school, all of whom had recently graduated, decided to form a gospel group.

They called themselves the Harmoneers and its original members included Mildred Miller, Odessa Edwards, Evelyn Starks, and Willie Mae Newberry. Later Vera Kolb joined the group and Ms. Starks recruited Dorothy McGriff in 1947, who later became known as Dorothy Love Coates.

The name was changed to The Gospel Harmonettes and the group recorded for RCA in 1949 and Specialty Records in 1951. The Gospel Harmonettes was one of the first all-women gospel singing groups to sign a national recording contract. They toured the country with Sam Cooke, and also had their own radio program in Birmingham that was sponsored by a funeral home. In the early 1950s Ms. Coates became the lead singer of the group, which had been renamed The Original Gospel Harmonettes.

Dorothy Love Coates gave the group an extra push with her powerful preaching-style singing. She wrote and recorded more than 300 songs, including “Get Away Jordan” and “That’s Enough.” Many of her songs were later recorded by other singers, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Mahalia Jackson, to name a few.

Hardy stopped traveling with the group in 1953 after 15 years of serving as pianist. She recruited Herbert”Pee Wee” Pickard as her replacement. Hardy left to focus on teaching school and later became an assistant principal and worked in the Birmingham City School System for 40 years. Hardy was a Miles college graduate and also had a master’s degree from UAB.
The Original Harmonettes - (top) Dorothy Love
Coates, (middle) Mildred Howard, Vera Kolb, 
Willie May Newberry, Evelyn Hardy, Odessa
Edwards, (seated) Herbert "Pee Wee" Pickard

In the early 1960s Reverend John T. Porter, then pastor of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, recruited her as a musician for the church. In 1977 Porter asked Hardy to start a men’s choir for Brotherhood Sunday. She started The Men of Distinction Male Chorus in 1978, and they are still going strong as one of the best male choruses in the state under the leadership of Mr. Vedric Shelby, who was the successor after her retirement.

If you have seen the movie Ghost, you more than likely heard Hardy playing piano on the song “No Hiding Place.” She co-arranged the song with Dorothy Love Coates, who sang the lead.

Just last year I had the opportunity to be in the company of Ms. Hardy at a small gathering of musicians and friends. Her steps were a little slower but she was still as charming and down to earth as anyone. She blessed our souls with a rendition of one of the great songs of the church, “Peace Be Still.” Her fingers had lost none of the mastery of tickling the ivories as only she could. I often play recordings of The Original Gospel Harmonettes to listen to some of my favorite old school gospel numbers: “That’s Enough,” “Get Away Jordan,” “No Hiding Place,” and “I’m Just Holding On.”

Ms. Hardy, the last surviving member of The Original Gospel Harmonettes, passed away Thursday, April 02, 2015, at her home. Yes I will miss her but I cherish so many memories of being in her presence over the years. I am so glad in later years she wrote a book, The Sweetest Harmony, written with Nathan Hale Turner Jr., that tells the Harmonettes' story of being gospel pioneers. She will truly once again be singing up there around God’s throne with her sisters, “The Gospel Harmonettes.” I will say goodbye to this icon and friend on April 8 at her home-going service at the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church.

Russell Lee
Arts/Literature/Sports Department
Central Library

Garrison, Greg. "Pioneering pianist for Gospel Harmonettes, Evelyn Hardy, dies." The Birmingham News 2 April 2015: Web. 7 April 2015

Sims, Bob. "Birmingham's Evelyn Starks Hardy recalls the sweet harmony of The Original Gospel Harmonettes." The Birmingham News 15 August 2009: Web. 7 April 2015

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