Showing posts from September, 2015

BPL Lending Mobile Wi-Fi HotSpots

Mobile Wi-Fi HotSpot devices that allow you to connect a mobile-enabled device—such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet—to the Internet are now available for checkout at the following Birmingham Public Library branches: Avondale, Central, Five Points West, North Birmingham, and Springville Road. The HotSpots are portable, so you can connect your device almost wherever you are, like at home, in the park, or on vacation.

The National League of Cities explains the importance of this service. "These lending programs perform a critical role: in addition to providing basic broadband access to low-income residents, they allow patrons to access free e-books and other digital library resources, and they enable users to complete online job applications and perform other critical web-based processes at home. Outreach efforts are also aimed at the elderly and disabled, who often need access to healthcare information."

For more information about checking out a Mobile HotSpot, visit or cal…

Book Review: Goya

Robert Hughes

If you’ve only read, or watched, one art critic, there’s a good chance it’s Robert Hughes. Hughes is hugely entertaining. His Shock of the New, a grand sweeping historical commentary about modern art, was a best seller and became a PBS mini-series. He wrote similarly grand histories of Australia (The Fatal Shore) and Barcelona (Barcelona). With Goya Hughes focuses his wide ranging vision on a single artist, Jose de Goya y Lucientes, a regular guy we come to love and admire as we read, but whom we also come to recognize as a titan of western art.

Goya was a working artist in a hard scrabble Spain of the late 1700s and early 1800s. His father was a gilder, who applied gold leaf, and as such Goya had some connection to professional artists. He apprenticed himself to a painter and worked his way up, taking commissions from the church and the wealthy just to get himself known, starting as a regular guy. What is striking is that his painting technique and style emerge ful…

Southern History Book of the Month: Understanding Colonial Handwriting

Understanding Colonial Handwriting
Harriet Stryker-Rodda

Does anyone remember penmanship lessons in elementary school? I can recall having to sit in a certain position, holding the pen just so, shaping the Palmer Method letters . . . then thankfully abandoning the whole process the minute class was over and going back to my usual chicken scratch. Deciphering another person’s handwriting can be a challenge even in this century, but genealogical researchers can encounter real difficulties when they examine documents from centuries past. The letters of the alphabet, no matter how carefully shaped, can often be completely different from the current versions. This is when researchers can be grateful for a brief but helpful guide like Understanding Colonial Handwriting when consulting original documents. As Stryker-Rodda points out, more and more material is available online but as transcription errors creep in over time, it becomes necessary to check the original source for accurate infor…

Lines of Scrimmage Author Scott Pleasant to Visit Central Library on September 29

Author Scott Pleasant will discuss his book Lines of Scrimmage: A Story of Football, Race, and Redemption in the Story Castle at the Central Library on Tuesday, September 29, at 6:00 p.m.

Lines of Scrimmage tells the story of football in Conway, South Carolina, where fans fill the stands on fall Fridays to cheer on their local high school team. In 1989, with returning starter Carlos Hunt at quarterback, hopes were high that the beloved Tigers would win their first state championship. But during spring practice, Coach Chuck Jordan (who is white) benched Hunt (who is black) in favor of Mickey Wilson, an inexperienced white player. Seeing this demotion of the black quarterback as an example of the racism prevalent in football generally and in Conway specifically, 31 of the team's 37 black players—under the guidance of H. H. Singleton, pastor of Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church and president of the local NAACP—boycotted the team in protest.

The season-long strike severed the town …

Children's Graphic Novel Review: Awkward (Ages 10 and Up)

Svetlana Chmakova

Peppi just moved to town and she’s starting at a new middle school. She knows that she can survive as long as she follows two cardinal rules: don’t get noticed by the mean kids and join a group of kids with similar interests. It seems pretty simple, but as you can imagine, it’s anything but. On her first day, Peppi trips on her own feet and falls in front of everyone in the hall. Now she’s on the mean kids’ radar! She reacts fast and does something that she will be ashamed of for weeks to come. She shoves the only kid who stops to help her, Jamie, a member of the Science Club.

Peppi finds friends when she joins the Art Club and the mean kids leave her alone, but she is haunted by the way she treated Jamie. She is so ashamed that she doesn’t know how to apologize! It doesn’t help matters that the Art Club and Science Club are bitter rivals. To make matters more awkward, Peppi bombs her science homework and her teacher makes Jamie tutor her. Still, she is too …

Teen Book Review: Erebos

Ursula Poznanski

While at school, Nick is approached by a classmate offering the latest fantasy role-playing game. It’s called Erebos, and it allows you to design your own character, join in group quests, and fight in battles in a lush fantasy setting. At first, he thinks it’s your average, run of the mill game—but soon, he’s hooked, obsessively gaming late into the night, plotting ways to gain new experience levels. When his character, Sarius, is mortally wounded in battle, all seems lost—until a sinister authority figure, the Messenger, offers his help. The Messenger promises to heal Sarius, on the condition that Nick performs a series of menial tasks—not within the game, but outside in the real world. At first, Nick thinks it’s harmless stuff. One day he’s instructed to leave an unmarked package under a bridge, the next day he’s told to take pictures of two strangers in their car. When one of his delivered packages turns out to contain something highly illegal, N…

Author of Book on Secret WWII Internment Camp to Speak, Hold Book Signing

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host a talk and book signing by Jan Jarboe Russell, author of the New York Times bestseller The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II. The book was published this year to wide critical acclaim. The event will take place on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.,in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library.

The Train to Crystal City recounts the dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved American internment camp in Texas during World War II, where thousands of families—many U.S. citizens—were incarcerated.

During World War II, between 1942 and 1945, secret government trains delivered over 6,000 civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German,…

Jesse “Speeks,” a Documentary about a Young Man with Autism, Will be Screened at the Central Library on Monday, September 28

The Central Library will host a screening of the short documentary film Jesse “Speeks" on Monday, September 28, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium. The idea for the 13-minute documentary began when writer and filmmaker Sonya Mitchell noticed a young man, Jesse Miller, joyously greeting all of the people he encountered at the Trussville YMCA. Intrigued by his behavior, Ms. Mitchell later learned that Jesse suffers from autism, a brain disorder that makes communicating and socializing with others difficult. Although originally intended to be a story about one exceptional autistic person, the documentary evolved into an awareness piece about autism. The documentary premiered at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival in August 2014.

What exactly is autism? Described by the Autism Society of Alabama’s website, autism is a “brain disorder affecting communication and social interactions.” The signs often include repetitive behavior, impairments in communication both verb…

Birmingham Citizens Encouraged to Sign Up for Library Cards as Part of Outside the Lines Promotion

In 2014, more than 175 libraries and organizations from across the United States and Canada helped shift perceptions of libraries by participating in Outside the Lines, a week-long celebration of the creativity and innovation happening in libraries. This year, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) system’s 19 libraries are among hundreds participating in the 2015 Outside the Lines campaign to showcase the relevance and important roles libraries play throughout the city of Birmingham.

BPL and the national Outside the Lines campaign launched Sunday, September 13, and concludes on Saturday, September 19. Citizens of Birmingham are encouraged to sign up for library cards at each of the 19 libraries in the city, said Angela Fisher Hall, director of the Birmingham Public Library system.

Building upon the success of the initiative’s inaugural year, Outside the Lines aims to reintroduce libraries in Birmingham and across the U.S. and Canada, and how they continue to be dynamic centers for en…

Registration Open For October 2015 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the October 2015 Classes.  During this month, we include our popular computer classes, as well as a variety of personal development classes.  All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

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.

To register for any class, please email us at or call 205-226-3681.   You may also download and print a pdf copy of the October 2015 Class Scheduleto bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the October 2015 Class Schedule pdf can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Postcards from Miss Iwate #2

Here I am at the Meiji Jingu gate. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dating back to 1920! I'm giving thanks to my ancestors for my safe arrival.

It is amazing how fast the trip was - the flight took about 12 hours! It took me 15 days to get from Yokohama to San Francisco via Honolulu back in 1927!

Miss Iwate

Learn more about the project!

From Page to Stage: The Reluctant Dragon – A Reader’s Theater Workshop for Children

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

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

We’ve all heard the classic tale; an evil dragon takes captive a damsel in distress while a brave knight is forced to fight him in a blaze of fire and storm but what if there’s more to it than that? The Reluctant Dragon is a whimsical and imaginative tale …

Adult Crafters at Springville Road Library Donate Hand-Sewn Quilt to Benefit Adult Programs; 2nd Annual Craft Fair Set for October 11

Members of the Coffee, Conversation, and Crafts (CCC) group at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library have donated their materials, time, and talent to hand-quilt a beautiful full-size quilt. Members of the group are accepting donations of $1 (or 6 for $5) for the drawing on November 23. You do not have to be present to win. ALL proceeds will go to support adult programs at the Springville Road Library.

It all started with a beautiful piece of fabric printed with the colorful Dresden Plates design. The quilters in the group didn’t want to cut it up, but they thought it was big enough and pretty enough to make a quilt to fit a full size bed. Someone donated batting, another brought some backing, and another brought in her floor frame.

Quilting needles, thread, thimbles, scissors, and pins soon arrived, and before long, the group was happily quilting and chatting while they worked. Those who were new to quilting were shown how to “rock” the needles to pick up multiple …

I Just Scraped the Surface

Last month I reported on the wealth of music CDs in the Arts, Literature and Sports Department of the Central Library in a blog article called “Big Range of CDs at the Library.” Big range was an understatement. It’s a very wide range indeed, the Big Kahuna of the free CD world. Here are a few more CDs submitted, as Rod Serling would put it, for your approval.

Zimbabwe: The Soul Of Mbira
Not only one of the best CDs from Africa ever, but one of the best world music CDs of all time. I’ve been listening to it since the seventies. The mbira, or thumb piano, is a time-honored Sub-Saharan musical instrument. It’s handheld, played with your fingers which hit metal strips that are situated over a wooden sounding board. Other instruments accompany it on the disc. The cover photo of a mbira suggests a row of forks lined up side by side; the metal strips of the instrument look like the main body of forks. The mbira’s sound is rhythmical and celestial. In fact, if there’s any justice, angels will …

Joe Minter: Yard Art, Folk Art at Smithfield Branch Library

Joe Wade Minter Sr., born March 28, 1943, is a retired construction worker and a folk artist who has a half acre art garden titled “African Village," located on a vacant lot adjacent to his home at 912 Nassau Street near Shadow Lawn Memorial Park in the Woodland Park neighborhood. Over the years Minter has graciously donated his unique masterpieces to be displayed at Smithfield Branch Library. His most recent dotation is a design saluting Mr. Otis Jones, noted library patron and community activist.

Listed below are resources that capture the life and work of the artist:

Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the Southedited by Paul Arnett, William Arnett

History Refused to Die: The Enduring Legacy of African American Art in Alabama by Horace Randall Williams, Karen Wilkin, Sharon Holland

"African Village in America,", September 10, 2015

Michael Tortorello"Scrap-Iron Elegy,&qu…

Watercolor Society of Alabama Annual Members Showcase Opens September 20 at Central Library

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is preparing to host the 2015 Watercolor Society of Alabama Annual Members Showcase. One of the many exhibitions the Central Library mounts each year, this display will feature nearly 60 aqua media works from artists across the state. The exhibition will open Sunday, September 20, and continue through Friday, October 30, 2015. It will be open for public viewing during the regular business hours in the Central Library's Fourth Floor Gallery.

An award ceremony and opening reception will be held on Sunday, September 20, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For information about the exhibition at BPL, please call 205-226-3670 or send e-mails to

Don Taylor of Panama City, Florida, is the awards juror. Taylor is past president of the Southern Watercolor Society 2006-2009 and past member of the Board of Directors at the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida. His paintings have …

Celebrating the Queen of Crime

September 15 marks the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth, and the occasion is the subject of celebration online and around the world. Agatha Christie didn’t invent the detective novel, but she made the genre her own. Dame Christie wrote more than 70 detective novels and short fiction, and created two of mystery readers’ most beloved sleuths: Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, with his luxuriant mustache and his “little gray cells”; and Miss Jane Marple, the sharp-eyed queen of the cozy mystery. Christie’s classic And Then There Were None remains the best-selling crime novel of all time, selling more than 100 million copies worldwide.

Christie herself is the most widely published novelist of all time, in any genre or language—her combined works have sold more than 2 billion copies worldwide. She is, in fact, outsold by only Shakespeare and the Bible. Christie was a renowned and record-breaking playwright as well. Her play The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952 and ran…

New Computer Class: Using

The Birmingham Public Library is known for its robust offering of computer skills classes, and patrons desire new topics to help them continue on the path of lifelong learning. This September, one of our new classes is Using, which is a free genealogy website that connects you to resources to research your family history. In this class, you will learn how to locate genealogy resources, build your own family tree, and so much more. One of our favorite features is the memories page in which you can tell the story of your family using stories, photos, and audio. Here is a snapshot of Erik Erikson’s memory page, and you can create one similar to this for your family. 

Using will take place on Tuesday, September 15, from 9:15-10:15 a.m., in the Regional Learning Computer Center (RLCC) on the 4th floor of the Linn Henley building at Central Library. Our September classes cover a wide variety of topics including patent basics, blogging, researching …

Quiet Passage, Big Secret: The Train to Crystal City: A Journey with Jan Jarboe Russell

Smoke billows out the train’s stack, smothering a big Texas sky. The freight cars jolt, grind, and then squeal to a stop at the station. It’s 1942 in Crystal City, Texas, and the hundreds of Japanese, German, and Italian immigrant passengers that have just arrived aren’t clutching their children’s shoulders in anticipation of new prospects. They are, in fact, newly defined prisoners of war. Prisoners soon to be traded for better esteemed Americans behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany. Swap an immigrant and his American-born child for a diplomat, or maybe a doctor. Welcome to the “Quiet Passage,” a bleak moment of U.S. history during the darkest of times, World War II.

Author Jan Jarboe Russell opens the door to this secret passage in her New York Times bestselling book, The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II. And Russell’s got her own train to catch; next stop, Birmingham. Join Russell …

Library Hires New PR Director and Circulation Manager for Regional Branch Library

Just in time for several upcoming annual events, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) has hired a new public relations director, as well as a circulation manager, for one of its larger regional libraries. Additionally, three full-time employees have been hired in other positions throughout the system.

Roy L. Williams is a 27-year veteran journalist who now serves as public relations director for the BPL system. Prior to his selection for this position, Roy spent the previous six months with Starnes Publishing as a community reporter for the Hoover Sun and 280 Living. A native of Jacksonville, Alabama, and a graduate of Jacksonville State University, Roy received a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in communications. He began his early career at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia, in January 1988 until joining the Birmingham News in December 1989. Roy's journalism honors include several Associated Press awards for reporting in Georgia and Alabama. Roy bu…

Birmingham Public Library & All Hands Productions Presents The Reluctant Dragon

The Birmingham Public Library Youth Services Group is proud to host the 18th annual Children’s Event featuring David Stephens and All Hands Productions. From September 21-24, Stephens will present the puppet production, The Reluctant Dragon, at 12 BPL locations. The schedule is listed below.

Friendship and understanding are at the heart of this tale about a princess and a dragon who chance to meet inside the palace walls. When seen as a threat by the king, the renowned dragon slayer is instructed to fight the dragon. Loosely based on the book by Kenneth Grahame, All Hands Productions’ version of The Reluctant Dragon utilizes colorful moving-mouth hand puppets and rod puppets to tell this engaging story. The production is suitable for audiences of all ages.

David Stephens is the creator of All Hands Productions, a puppet company, that for over a decade has been dedicated to developing and presenting quality puppet theatre for audiences of all ages. His work has received a UNIMa-USA (…

Popular Software Tools -- LearningExpress Library

Would you like to enhance your computer skills, but don't have time to attend a class?  Maybe you could attend a class, but there are no free classes available on your topic.  You can learn a variety of software programs at your own pace using LearningExpress Library.  This database offers a variety of popular software tutorials at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels.  Among the available software tutorials are Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Microsoft (2007, 2010, 2013) Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, as well as Windows 7, 8 and Mac OS X.  If you registered for your library card at a Birmingham Public Library location, the software tutorials can be accessed from home using your library card. You can also access the tutorials from home if you set up your LearningExpress Library account at a BPL location.  Choose LearningExpress Library, then type in your name and library card number.  Once you enter the database, click on register to create a u…

Tea, Anyone?

My mother retired this year and has told me that she values experiences now and doesn’t want or need to accumulate a lot of “stuff.” So early this month, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her response was, “I want an English style tea in a real tea room.” You have to understand that my mother and I love British mysteries, dramas, and comedies, and tea is featured in many of them. I think this, and her love of Downton Abbey, made her want this experience.

So, being a dutiful daughter, I got out my tablet and started looking for places that served traditional English tea in the Birmingham area. I found the TownHouse Tea Shoppe only 30 minutes away in Mt. Laurel and called for a reservation for three (we wanted to take a friend with us). Tea is by reservation only in the summer on Thursdays through Saturdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

The owners, Rebekah Mills and Darlene Self, were very kind and gracious and explained the menu. The basic tea was $18.95 per person and inc…

Postcards from Miss Iwate #1

拝 啓

Everyone, while I'm going back to Japan, I'm going to be sending you virtual postcards from my trip. The above says haikei - that's how we start letters in Japan. It's like saying "Dear."

I've been living at the Birmingham Public Library for 87 years. That's a long time, so I'm going back to Japan to get a makeover!

Mr. Masaru Aoki from the Yoshitoku Doll Company in Tokyo came to get me, and he will be taking good care of me on the trip.

I'll be sending new postcards from different places in Japan each week here on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr!

Here I am looking out the window of an airplane as I begin my journey!

敬 具
(Keigu - with respect,)

Miss Iwate

Read and Romp Birmingham Scheduled for September 12 at Learning Tree Park

Attention families with children ages 3-5! It’s time for Read and Romp Birmingham! Come and celebrate an exciting and FREE literacy event for families with small children. Join us on Saturday, September 12, from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., at Learning Tree Park (beside Five Points West Regional Branch Library).

Kids are invited to join us for fun, learning-based activities inspired by children’s books. Each station will be staffed by organizations and businesses that are child-focused, providing families an opportunity to learn about activities that will enhance the development of their children. This year we have some amazing organizations that will be manning our stations. Among those are the Birmingham ZooArtPlayBirmingham Museum of ArtAlabama Public Television. the Birmingham Public Library (of course!), and many more!

The Birmingham Public Library is a lead partner at Read and Romp Birmingham and will have fun, engaging activities centered around the book I Stink by Kate McMulla…