Showing posts from July, 2015

Southern History Book of the Month: Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee

Well, Harper Lee is back—though for millions of readers like me, she never left. Ever since my first reading of To Kill a Mockingbird I’ve daydreamed about what other work she might give us and could never quite resign myself to her status as a “one good novel” writer. When the news broke about Go Set a Watchman I cautiously filed it under the heading Too Good to Be True until the story was confirmed and a publication date was set.

Warning: I’ve tried to keep this post free of major spoilers, but if you want to read the novel without knowing anything in advance, then proceed at your own risk!

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch is on the train from New York, headed to Maycomb, Alabama, for her annual visit home. Not two pages into the novel, she manages to get herself folded into the wall inside the pull-down bed and has to be rescued by the porter—a scene that made me grin, but also kept resonating with me throughout the story as she returns to small-town society…

Get Prizes for Something You're Already Doing!

After helping a patron locate a book she wanted, I asked if she’d like to sign up for Summer Reading for adults. “Oh, no! I’m too busy!” Other patrons have answered the same question with “Isn’t that just for children?” or “What books do I have to read?” I hope to clear up what Summer Reading is all about and why everybody should sign up at their local library!

Summer Reading encourages everyone to read. Babies can be signed up and have books read to them. Toddlers can read picture books. Older children can read chapter books. Teens and adults can choose anything they like to read (e-books and audiobooks count for everyone, too). Libraries want families to read, to be aware of all the materials and programs at their local libraries, and to become part of the library community.

That’s why librarians plan programs to entertain and inform patrons of all ages. For younger
readers there are goals to be met to qualify for prizes, and the more books they read, the more prizes…

Some Library Services Never Close

As the weather has warmed up, I’ve noticed more and more patrons hanging out in the library’s parking lot after the building has closed for the day. They are on their phones and tablets, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi service that each Birmingham Public Library branch offers. I’ve even seen people take out a lawn chair and get really comfortable while searching the Internet. It made me start to think about how Birmingham Public Library offers services to our patrons, even when we’re not open during business hours.

We have our catalog, which allows patrons to search for materials, put a hold request on them, and pick up that item at any location that they wish to. Have a paper that’s coming due tomorrow and you’re still looking for research? Enjoy access to one of our many databases available to you day or night as long as you have a library card. Got a new favorite song that you want to hear all the time? Download the song to your phone or device via Freegal. Your library …

No Yard? No Problem! Container Gardening Is the Way to Go

Have you ever wanted beautiful plants in the summer but dislike the heat and outdoors? One solution is to begin your gardening journey by creating container gardens. They provide flowers, fresh vegetables, and herbs as well as providing an attractive landscape. Whether your space is tight, you don’t have time, or you’re new to gardening, container gardening is simple and will add an attractive feature to any environment.

Listed below are library resources and websites to assist you in planting your container garden.

Container Gardening: A Sunset Outdoor Design & Build Guide
Tips for Container Gardening: 300 Great Ideas for Growing Flowers, Vegetables & Herbs
Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Container Gardening
Plant by Numbers: 50 Houseplant Combinations to Decorate Your Space
Continuous Container Gardens 

Better Homes and Gardens
Southern Living

Yolanda Hardy
Smithfield Branch Library

Pick Up Some Popcorn along with Your Entertainment at the Powderly Branch Library

There are a lot of good movies out this summer and the theaters are packed each and every night. But don't forget about the library when you're thinking about the evening's entertainment. The Birmingham Public Library is offering some of the hottest new DVD releases of the year. On the list are the extremely popular Fifty Shades of Grey to the humorous Hot Tub Time Machine 2. My personal favorites, though, are the action movies which include Kingsman: The Secret ServiceRun All Night, and The Equalizer.

If you’re out in the Powderly area and need a good movie/book combination and wouldn't mind a free pack of popcorn, please pay us a visit. Our combo packages are fantastic and will be well worth your time. Make it a movie night!

New and Upcoming DVD Releases
American Sniper
Black or White

Boy Next Door

Fifty Shades of Grey 
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Run All Night

Still Alice
Wedding Ringer
More new DVDs

Hugh Hardy
Powderly Branch Library

15th Annual Math and Science Day, July 25

The 15th Annual Math and Science Fun Day will be held Saturday, July 25, 2015, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., at the Five Points West Regional Branch Library. This year’s theme is Science Then! Science Now! which will trace how science concepts have changed over the centuries and how these changes affect our society and the world.

The program is free to all ages and allows youngsters to get involved in kid-friendly, scientifically based, hands-on activities. The event will feature knowledgeable and fun presenters. Parents are encouraged to remain with their children.

Families will explore household products with magical properties, examine the origin of motion pictures, view early telephones, trace how automobiles demanded the invention of the traffic light, and get the inside scoop on motorcycle engines. Participants will have the opportunity to weave a yarn craft and compare it with spun nylon products, design their own amazing Styrofoam millinery, examine why the Stetson hat was popu…

Meet Local Artist Matthew Mayes at the Opening Reception for Layers of Meaning Exhibit

The opening reception for Birmingham artist Matthews Mayes' exhibit, Layers of Meaning: Paintings by Matthew Mayes, will be held on Sunday, July 19, 2015, 2:30-5:00 p.m., in the Central Library's Boardroom adjacent to the Fourth Floor Gallery. The exhibit will be on display through September 4, 2015.

Born in Florence, Alabama, Matthew Mayes is self-taught with over 12 years of experience as a professional artist. He currently resides in Birmingham with his partner Brian and their son Noah. Mayes began painting as a child after watching the television program Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Mayes experienced a number of stints with hospitalization and home schooling due to illness and needed an outlet for his creativity—art was his answer and it gave his life meaning

"Once, I believed that love, food, and music were the core passions that transcended all race, creed, and color. Now, I know that art encompasses all," he states. Regarding his creative process, Mayes obs…

Back By Individual Demand

Now is a time when, not only is it hard to see many movies once, it’s hard to get through movie trailers. But there are rare movies that are worth seeing many times, movies that it’s hard, if not impossible, to exhaust. Here’s a few. The cast of dozens who follow this column will know, but if you’re new to this, each entry is followed by an estimate of how many times I’ve seen the movie. And roll…

Kwaidan (1965) - Not a movie, but four. Four short films on supernatural themes based on the Japanese folktales collected by Lafcadio Hearn. All are powerful and resonant, but the standout is Hoichi The Earless, in which a monk-musician is commanded by ghosts to sing of the deeds they committed when they were human. Hoichi’s fellow monks paint scriptures all over his body to protect him from ghostly harm, but fail to include his ears. The ghosts appear ritualistically and frequently, but they never lose their quality of otherness and strangeness. In A Cup Of Tea, a man drinks another person’s…

Looking for the Watchman, the Book Event of the Year

Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee

Isaiah 21:6
For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, Set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

Nelle Harper Lee was born in 1926 in the small town of Monroeville, Alabama. She was reared by her attorney father who also published the local newspaper. From an early age she developed an appreciation for the written word and also became an astute observer of the good, the bad, and the ugly found in the small southern town of her era.

Thirty-four years later (1960), when her now famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird was first published, her editor warned her not to be disappointed if it only sold a modest amount. The print-run was only two thousand. It became an instant bestseller, and since its print debut, it has never run out of print with recent tallies showing more than 40 million copies sold in more than 40 languages. It regularly appears on many high school reading lists, yet oddly has been frequently challenged by many would-be censors. Perhaps the most…

Serena Williams: Best of All Time?

Serena Williams, at thirty-three years old, has accomplished a feat that few professional tennis players have ever achieved.Beginning with last year’s U.S. Open Championship, she has won all four of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments (U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon).The tennis world is calling it the Serena Slam.  If she wins this year’s U.S. Open Championship, she will complete a calendar-year grand slam, making her only the fourth woman ever to do so.

Books and Life Inspire Library Storytellers

Release of Harper Lee’s new book reminds us that stories can have a lifelong impact on readers and listeners—sources for the stories come from many people, places, and adventures.
Practically each week, in libraries throughout the city of Birmingham, families gather in small spaces to enjoy stories led by seasoned library storytellers. The major objective, states Eve Parker, "is to catch them in the cradle and hopefully create lifelong library users." Just as Harper Lee referenced memories of growing up in small-town Alabama to create a following of worldwide readers with her book To Kill A Mockingbird, library storytellers use music, tales passed on by grandparents, and their favorite books to create an imaginary world filled with colorful characters, all designed to teach, inspire, and create enduring remembrances for listeners.

"I begin each Tot Time with the Bean Bag Rock," Parker said. "The song encourages gross body movement, listening skills…

DO Drink the Water

During the hot summer months of June, July, and August, it is vitally important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. You may have to force yourself sometimes to do it, like I do, but make drinking water a normal part of your daily routine. It is recommended that the average adult drink 8 to 10 eight ounce glasses of water a day. There are several positive benefits of drinking water. Here are the top 10 health benefits of drinking an adequate amount of water:
Increases Energy & Relieves Fatigue – Drinking water helps you think, focus and concentrate better and be more alert. As an added bonus, your energy levels are also boosted.Promotes Weight Loss – Drinking plenty of water reduces food intake if consumed prior to meals. It reduces hunger, raises your metabolism and has zero calories.Flushes Out Toxins – Water gets rid of waste through sweat and urination which reduces the risk of kidney stones and UTI’s (urinary tract infections).Improves Skin Complexion – Drinking water …

Registration Open For August 2015 Computer Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the August 2015 Classes. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES. To register for a class: ((Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. You will receive an email confirming your registration for classes.  You may also call to confirm your registration) Complete name, address and phone information. PLEASE PRINT.Place a check mark in the check box next to the class(es) you would like to attend.Return the entire form to a staff person in the Public Computer Services Department.You may also send an email to or use the online form to register.

Bards & Brews at the Gardens - July 10th

The July Bards & Brews Slam will return to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Sign Ups and music by Josh Wheeler beginning at 6:30pm
Poetry starts at 7pm
Beer provided by Cahaba Brewing Company.
The event will be held in the main building of the Gardens, in the Auditorium.

$5 to Slam, Free to attend.
$200 first place, $100 second place.
18 to attend, 21 to drink.

More info:

Children's Book Review: Doll Bones

Doll Bones
Holly Black

Zach, Alice, and Poppy are best friends, on the cusp of adolescence. They meet every day after school at Poppy’s house to continue an ongoing roleplaying game with their action figures. Poppy provides a rich storyline while the other kids' action figures play as characters in her world (think a homemade version of Dungeons and Dragons). The storyline revolves around The Queen, a creepy antique porcelain doll that Poppy’s mother has locked in a glass display cabinet. When his father throws away his toys in a misguided attempt at tough love, Zach ends the game abruptly. He is devastated by the betrayal and embarrassed to tell his friends why he can’t play anymore. Desperate, Poppy “liberates” The Queen to entice Zach to play with them again. This is when things get weird. After she is set free, The Queen comes to Poppy in a dream and tells her that she is made from the remains of a little girl named Eleanor. She threatens to haunt Poppy forever if she doesn’t…

Book Review: Manet Paints Monet: A Summer in Argenteuil

Manet Paints Monet: A Summer in Argenteuil
Willibald Sauerlander

Esteemed German art historian, Willibald Sauerlander, an academic with a list of learned papers literally as long as one’s arm, has written a highly accessible book about a shared passage in the lives of two beloved French painters, Edouard Manet and Claude Monet. Having fought for the Paris Commune and the subsequent massacre of the Communards, Manet’s painting had taken a dark turn but next he was drawn to the bright “plein air” painting that was to become known as impressionism. The “plein air” painters had left their studios to paint outside capturing the ephemeral light and color of the natural world directly as they reveled in the moment. Manet was an established studio painter with a mature style, nonetheless, in 1874 he sought out the younger Claude Monet to learn a new way of painting by moving to the village where Monet lived, Argenteuil. There they painted side by side, even painting one another. Manet is cele…

Learn How to Deal with and Prevent Bullying

Bullying is a serious matter especially for those who have to endure it. It can affect victims’ self-esteems, performances, and can even lead them to suicide. Though school-aged kids are more prone to bully and being bullied, bullying can take place anywhere and within any age group. defines a bully as an overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. Although this definition, as many others, uses weaker people to describe those who are being bullied, the weaker people, particularly in terms of emotional wellbeing, are those who do the bullying. Many times, bullies face the same issues as their victims; however help is available for both groups. Following are books available at Birmingham Public Library and online resources to provide an understanding of what bullying is, the effects, and how to it can be prevented and solved.

8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools
The Bullying Antidote: Superpower Your Kids…

A Sensitive Portrait of the April 27th Storms

What Stands in the Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley
Kim Cross 

During a three-day period in late April 2011, a string of tornadoes tore across the Southeast and killed over 300 people. In this chilling chronicle of the disaster, the author pours her heart into describing the devastation wrought by the storms, and in the process, shows how so many lives were changed, some beyond all recognition. While there are some descriptions of death here that are rather graphic, the author refuses to cross the line into sensationalism, and instead focuses on the overall emotional effect these tornadoes had on the region. The work ends on a note that is sobering, but cautiously optimistic, making it a suitable read for those looking to commemorate victims of the April 27th storms.

Liz Winn
Central Library

Beat the Heat and Learn Something at the Same Time!

Everyone who has spent summers in the South knows that July can be a scorcher when it comes to temperatures. The Southern History Department invites you to enjoy the cool air conditioning on the 1st floor of the Linn Henley building for our Introduction to Genealogy classes. We will teach this class on Tuesday, July 7th at 11:30 am and again on Sunday, July 19th at 2:30 pm. In this class, the staff from Southern History Department covers such topics as vital records, courthouse and church records, the Federal Census, and much more. Emerge from this class refreshed after spending an hour in air conditioning as well as having learned how to get started with genealogy.

We will also be teaching Introduction to Genealogy at Trussville Public Library on Thursday, July 9th at noon. Come in from the heat, bring your lunch, and enjoy the provided drinks and dessert while learning at the same time. For more information and to register, call the Trussville Public Library at 655-2022 ext 3.…

Matthew Mayes' Exhibition a Kaleidoscopic Vision

Alabama native uses bold color, texture, and depth to give layers of meaning.

To Create. To Desire. To Grow. To Nurture. To Dream. To Inspire. These words are not a slogan; they are the titles of paintings . . . paintings that fluidly progress in color, brushstroke by brushstroke. From July 9, 2015 through September 4, 2015, the Birmingham Public Library will showcase the work of local artist Matthew Mayes in the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery. Arresting acrylic paintings bold in color, texture, and depth make up the exhibition Layers of Meaning: Paintings by Matthew Mayes.

The public is invited to meet the artist at the opening reception on Sunday, July 19, 2015, from 2:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., in the Central Library's Boardroom adjacent to the gallery. Visitors will see why Mayes considers his work to be "studies in color perception, definition, and composition."


Born in Florence, Alabama, Matthew Mayes is self-taught with over 12 years of e…

Sneaky Summer Reading Strategies

My kids love books and reading (which isn’t surprising since they have a librarian for a mom), but they have so many thing competing for their attention in summer that reading can slip to the back burner. Here are some kid-tested tricks to sneak reading into your summer:

Bath-time books – We did this a lot when my boys were small. Both of my sons went through phases when they had a hard time sitting still for stories. It occurred to me that bath time could be a great opportunity since the kids weren’t going anywhere while they were happily playing in the tub. Bath, beach and water themed books make it even more fun.Backseat buddies – I keep books in the backseat of the car for the kids. This gives them a way to entertain themselves while being chauffeured around. Sometimes my oldest reads me a story while I’m driving.If you can’t beat them, join them – If your kids would rather watch TV or a video, roll with it. Turn on the closed captions so they can read along. Hearing the …