Thursday, June 30, 2016

Who Uses Microfilm Anyway?

As you read that title, you may be asking yourself these questions: “What is microfilm?” or “The library still has microfilm as I haven’t used that since I was in elementary school?"

A reel of microfilm

Microfilm is the most popular type of microforms. It is created as a camera takes a picture of an item, reduces the size of the image, and it is printed on film. This film is considered a preservation standard, and it will last 500 years. Birmingham Public Library (BPL) has an amazing microforms collection totaling 700,000 items, and you may be thinking that no one uses this obsolete medium anymore. Patrons use on average over 700 items a month, and this is the only way patrons can access older editions of local newspapers. The Microforms and Government Documents staff created an obituary index to help patrons locate the obituary of a deceased ancestor, as most of the Birmingham newspapers are not indexed until the 1970s. Each month they add new entries, and it is an ongoing project. BPL’s obituary index averages over 9,000 hits a month.

Digital Microfilm Scanner
New Viewscan III digital microfilm scanner

Over time with high use, our equipment used to read and print microforms has become worn out, and we applied for a major grant from the Alabama Public Library Service, which administers Alabama’s allocation of federal money received through the Library and Science and Technology Act. With the grant money, we purchased three Viewscan III digital microfilm scanners. The image quality is unparalleled, and you can touch up images to make them even better. Besides printing, you can save your images to a flash drive in the following formats: JPEG, PDF, TIFF, and PNG. The answer to the question about who uses microfilm is our patrons. Come and try out the new digital microfilm scanners today!

Laura Gentry
Southern History Department
Central Library

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

New Urban Fiction

Urban Fiction has become one of the most requested genres at the library.  Raw, gritty, urban stories featuring tough African American characters trying to survive by any means necessary.  The novels are like hip-hop songs in prose form.  If you can’t wait to get your hands on the latest titles, here’s a sample of new summer releases.  Descriptions are from the publisher.

I Can Touch the Bottom
I Can Touch the Bottom  by Michel Moore 
When he is released on parole, Stackz wants nothing more than to mind his own business and rebuild his empire. However, when he is forced to kill again, he links up with Ava, an eyewitness to the scene unfolding before the slaughter of her sister's boyfriend. Having one major thing in common murder the pair becomes inseparable, hoping love can conquer all. Their belief that they can live a happily-ever-after existence is soon shattered when his victim's crew wants the ultimate revenge:  They want Stackz's life, and they'll take Ava's as well if she gets in the way.

The Cartel 6: The Demise
The Cartel 6: The Demise  by Ashley & JaQuavis 
Las Vegas. A city built on obscene wealth and corrupt deals, cunning entrepreneurs, and the ruthless mob. The Cartel's plan to open a casino will rake in cash, but comes with great sacrifice. The stakes have never been this high, and rules of the game have never been this hard to manipulate. And when one dead girl, one scorned wife, and one hole in the desert launch a chain of catastrophic events, The Cartel is sent on a downward spiral as they battle the Arabian mob and fight traitors within their circle. Will the Cartel prevail...or fall victim to the city's black cloud? And if there's one rule in the town of Vegas, it's that when the dust settles, there can only be one winner.

Carl Weber's Kingpins: Oklahoma City
Carl Weber’s Kingpins: Oklahoma City  by Clifford Johnson
The Kingpins of Oklahoma City, one from the north side and one from the south side, push pounds of weed, gallons of PCP, and kilos of cocaine through the corridors of the OKC, using very different methods to keep their people in line. King is the leader of the north side crew. Along with his protégé, Tippi, he runs his crew with deadly force. Each member knows there is no room for error when it comes to getting money on the north side. Flamboyant, the leader of the south side crew, is the opposite. His crew is tight out of loyalty, not fear.  Everything goes awry when Flamboyant’s woman, Shayla, becomes torn between her current man and the one who used to rule her universe—King.

Power Couple
Beyoncé and Jay-Z; Brad and Angelina; and Kanye and Kim. Though “power couple” is a fairly new term, there is nothing new about the world’s fascination with famous pairings. Curiosities about coupled super achievers date back as far as Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. Now, celebrity chef Cori Brown and her former NFL star husband Maverick join the pantheon of power couples in this steamy contemporary romance from bestselling author Allison Hobbs. When Cori, a media darling, finds herself embroiled in sex scandal, her loyal fans and the tabloids viciously turn on her. Even her pro football player husband isn’t safe, and Maverick finds himself being dragged through the mud along with her.

Powderly Library Proud to House Bloody Sunday Commemorative Painting

DNA Ingrained by Steven R. Skipper

The Powderly Branch Library is very proud to have a limited edition print of Steven R. Skipper's DNA Ingrained displayed in its meeting room. Skipper visited the Powderly Library on October 16, 2015, to donate the framed print. The painting includes scenes of the attack on civil rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and it also pays tribute to other heroes in the civil rights movement.

After the movie Selma was nominated for an Academy Award, Skipper did some research and discovered that there was no art work honoring the marchers on Bloody Sunday. With this in mind, he wanted to pay honor to the marchers, and thus the painting was created. The title of the painting means “the DNA of our ancestors is ingrained in the concrete on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.” This is a beautiful painting with a deep, historical meaning.

Hugh Hardy
Powderly Branch Library

Recognize and Prevent Heat Exhaustion/Stroke with These Tips

Summer is upon us all again. As we all have just experienced the summer solstice and the beginning of summer’s heat, a few tips and warning signs to keep in mind when out in the sun.

From the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when the body suffers from extreme heat, damage may occur to the brain or other vital organs. Individuals who are more susceptible to heat are the elderly, youth (0-4 years old), those who are overweight, those who have a fever, those who are dehydrated, those who have heart disease, those who have mental illness, those who have poor circulation, those who have sunburn, and those who use prescription drugs or alcohol.

Illnesses that are related to heat are the following:
Heatstroke: a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes; symptoms include dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; and dizziness.

Heat exhaustion: an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse.

Heat cramps: muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise.

Heat rash: skin irritation from excessive sweating.

What you should do when these happen:

If you exhibit the following symptoms:
  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
You are exhibiting the signs of heat exhaustion.

Then you should do the following:
  • Move to a cooler location
  • Lie down and loosen your clothing
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible
  • Sip water
If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.

If you exhibit the following symptoms:
  • High body temperature (above 103° F)*
  • 104° F taken rectally is the most accurate.
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Possible unconsciousness
You are exhibiting signs of heat stroke.

Then you should do the following:
  • Call 911 immediately – THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
  • Move the person to a cooler environment
  • Reduce the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or even a bath
  • Do NOT give fluids

Hopefully, none of us will experience these illnesses, but if you do, you know what to do now.

For more information on medically-related information, please consult Birmingham Public Library’s health-related databases at or visit your local branch.

Samuel Rumore
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Birmingham Public Library Storytellers Entertaining Hundreds of Children This Summer

Fontaine Alison and Candice Hardy perform in Take Me Out to the Game

Storytellers play a vital role at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) throughout the year, spreading the joy of reading to thousands of kids at schools, churches, and in many of the 19 libraries across the city. They are very active at many of BPL’s 500-plus summer reading programs this year.

On June 21 at the Wylam Branch Library during a program called Take Me Out to the Game, Five Points West Regional Branch Library storytellers Candice Hardy and Fontaine Alison entertained kids from Faith Chapel Christian Center summer camp as they told the story of an alligator who wanted to join fellow animals in a game of baseball. With Alison holding an "alligator" and campers playing the role of animals such as a skunk and parrot, Hardy recited a tale of a baseball game like no other, soliciting laughs.

At Southside Branch Library on June 3 and June 17 respectively, Avondale storyteller Cassandra Scott (Ms. Cas) generated laughter from toddlers attending a program called On Your Mark, Get Set…Whee, while Eve Parker (Mrs. Eve) shared her version of wacky tales that have made her popular in a presentation called On Your Mark, Get Set…Wacky!

Ms. Cas entertaining children with On Your Mark, Get Set...Whee

BPL Northern region storyteller Myra Gentry entertained kids at the Pratt City Branch Library on Tuesday, June 28, at a program called Ready, Set, Read and Laugh. Meanwhile, Marie Nash, the storyteller for the North Avondale Branch Library, provides storytime for the North Avondale and Kingston communities, reading to kids at area schools, churches, and daycares, said branch manager Saundra Ross.

Hardy, a full-time storyteller and library assistant at the Five Points West Regional Branch Library since 2011, said she gets a joy out of sharing stories with kids in Birmingham. Besides participating in various summer reading programs, Hardy will be busy over the next few weeks entertaining kids at the following activities: Family Movie Night at the Five Points West Library on June 28, and July 12 and 26; a Family Night program on July 19; In the Zone Five Points West on June 28 and July 12, In the Zone Wylam on July 5, In the Zone Smithfield on July 6, and In the Zone West End on July 7.

All programs provided (free of charge) are 30-45 minutes long outside the movie night, and include interactive stories and songs for all ages. “These interactive storytimes were designed to create overall crowd participation and to encourage leisure readers,” Hardy said. “We love what we do here at Five Points West.”

Here is a listing of remaining storytime programs for kids taking place for the remainder of BPL Summer Reading. See the full schedule online at

Avondale Regional Branch Library
Time for Tales – Thursday mornings through July 14 at 9:30 a.m.; 24-hour advance registration required. Preschool storytime with stories, songs and fun. Groups welcome.

Tot Time with Mrs. Eve – Monday mornings at 10:30 a.m.; 24-hour advance registration required. Storytime designed for 2-4 year olds with a parent or caregiver; no groups. Includes stories, songs, and crafts.

On Your Mark, Get Set…Wacky – June 29 at 2:00 p.m.;  24-hour advance registration required. An action-packed afternoon of wacky stories and fun with Mrs. Eve doing the telling.

On Your Mark, Get Set…Whee! – July 6 at 2:00 p.m.; 24-hour advance registration required. Join Ms. Cas for a delightful, super, spectacular, fantastic, astonishing, awesome-filled afternoon of adventure, stories, and fun.

Family Nights – held every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.; 24-hour advance registration required. July 5 is a talent show, July 12 a final party.

Central Library
Action Storytime – July 11 at 10:00 a.m. Action-packed storytime that exercises minds and bodies for the summer.

East Lake Library
Elephant and Piggy Adventures – June 30, 10:00 a.m. Come see your favorite characters from Mo Willems’ beloved series. Gerald and Piggie are sure to tickle your funny bone with silliness galore.

Five Points West Regional Branch Library
In the Zone – July 12 at 10:00 a.m. Get your head “In the Zone” for these exciting sports stories.

North Birmingham Regional Branch Library
Minions of Reasons to Read – July 7 at 10:30 a.m. The life of a Minion. The North Birmingham storytellers have the scoop on one particular minion that you need to meet. Bananas, stories, bananas, music, bananas, fun? Hoopla!

Powderly Branch Library
In the Zone – July 18 at 10:00 a.m. Get your head “In the Zone” for these exciting sports stories.

Smithfield Branch Library
In the Zone – July 6 at 10:00 a.m. Get your head “In the Zone” for these exciting sports stories.

Springville Road Regional Branch Library
If You ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t – June 29 at 10:00 a.m. Never make the mistake of bringing an alligator for show and tell at your school. Join us for an alligator-themed storytime complete with stories, songs, and crafts.

West End Branch Library
In the Zone – July 7 at 11:00 a.m. Get your head “In the Zone” for these exciting sports stories.

Wylam Branch Library
In the Zone – July 5 at 10:00 a.m. Get your head “In the Zone” for these exciting sports stories.

Southern History Book of the Month: House Detective: A Guide to Researching Birmingham Buildings

House Detective: A Guide to Researching Birmingham Buildings
Ann McCorquodale Burkhardt
Edited by Alice Meriwether Bowsher

So you’ve bought a historic house—or one you think is historic. It’s old. It has interesting architecture. It’s chock-full of “vintage” details and the neighbors talk about the people who used to live there, all the way back to your great-grandparents’ time. You decide you want to find out more about the history of your house or possibly obtain a historical plaque or marker for it. But how do you start? With House Detective!

For such a small book (less than 60 pages), House Detective is full of information about how to research your home’s history and is one of the Southern History Department’s most frequently-consulted sources. It began as a brief work assignment for Burkhardt:
. . . Go downtown, look through the holdings of the library, the courthouse, and City Hall, and determine which records would be useful in researching Birmingham buildings and neighborhoods. Then-BHS [Birmingham Historical Society] Executive Director Alice Bowsher envisioned a two-to-three page summary of my findings. What in fact resulted was this book.
House Detective works well as what I like to call a “browse” book. After you read the introductory material, you can skip around and read the chapters out of order, then zero in on the ones that seem most pertinent to your research. You may or may not be interested in some of the recommended sources, and others may look like they have just what you need. Ask yourself some questions about what you’re trying to find out or prove or accomplish. Figure out how much time you want to spend. It may take more time than you planned, but you could discover some wonderful details in the process.

Some of the information sources covered in the book include probate court records, property tax records, the special collections of the Birmingham Public Library, and City Council records. Here’s an example of a mechanic’s lien from the Property sources chapter:
If you are so lucky to find a mechanic’s lien on your property, the record could be a gold mine, as it can provide a construction date for the house and a detailed inventory of items purchased for it.

Example: A 1914 lien claimed on the property of Mr. B______ by Bynum Hardward Co. listed over 50 items purchased for his new apartment building, a few of which were:

29 windows 30x30 11/1check
2 pr . Sliding Door Astragals
4 Mirror Doors
8 Sash/1 light Florentine glass
Details like these can flesh out your research and give you a better picture of the original structure and appearance of your house, which may have undergone some changes over the years.

There is also a long list of resources available in our Birmingham Public Library collections. These include (but are not limited to) the old Birmingham City Directories in the Southern History Department, the Board of Equalization Records in the Archives Department, old newspaper records in the Microforms room, as well as various periodicals and books—such as House Detective, which is available at some of the municipal libraries of Jefferson County as well. Since this book was first published in 1988, some of the library departments have slightly different names now, but any member of our staff will be glad to help you find the area you need. If you’re curious about the history of your house, stop in for a look at House Detective.

And don’t miss the upcoming presentation from our Archives Department:
Every House Has a History: Researching Birmingham Area Houses, Buildings, and Churches

For more information on Birmingham area house and building research:
Jefferson County Historical Commission: The Historic Marker Program

Birmingham Historical Society

A Guide to Architectural Styles featuring Birmingham Homes

Landscape of Transformations: architecture and Birmingham, Alabama

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tickets Still Available at All Birmingham Public Library Locations for Free June 24 Teen Tailgate Party for Ages 11-17

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is excited to host Score Big with the Cotchery Foundation, a summer reading tailgate party at the Central Library.

Jerricho Cotchery, a graduate of Phillips High School in Birmingham and veteran NFL receiver, has teamed up with BPL to host yet another amazing series of events promoting the 2016 BPL Summer Reading program. Qualified "Get In The Game, Read” participants age 11-17 will have the opportunity to attend a free teen tailgate party at the Central Library on Friday, June 24, 2016, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Teens can pick up free tickets in advance at any of Birmingham’s 19 library locations.

Cotchery, who turned 34 on June 16, will speak at the Five Points West Regional Branch Library at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, June 24. Since being drafted into the NFL in 2004, Cotchery has played with the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and most recently with the Carolina Panthers, who appeared in the 2016 Super Bowl. His 200 career receptions and 15 games with 100-plus receiving yards broke two school records at North Carolina State previously held by NFL receiver Torry Holt.

Series Review: The Sunday Philosophy Club

The Sunday Philosophy Club Series
Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel Dalhousie is a piece of work, a happy, complex, intelligent, and amusing piece of work, the narrator and protagonist of Alexander McCall Smith’s ten book (and counting) series, The Sunday Philosophy Club. As with McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series (see this recent blog piece) we are in contemporary, bourgeois Edinburgh, but, in this case, on the south side of town, near the university, and it takes place entirely from one person’s point of view: Isabel’s.

Isabel Dalhousie is the editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics. She’s a philosopher and most of the internal dialog of these books is Isabel’s internal debate about right action in her daily life, applied ethics. She struggles with temptation to fall short of her standards, particularly the temptation to shade the truth or to wish ill of other people. The Sunday Philosophy Club is a gentle satire of high-minded Edinburgh and its vaunted intellectual traditions.

Isabel is generous and has a reputation for helping people. She has a fine home, an income that is more than sufficient, a housekeeper, the caustic Grace, and many friends. People know that, if asked, Isabel will help them untangle their problems, so we are unexpectedly drawn into fascinating corners of Scottish life and geography as she hunts the truth. She is aided by her finely honed sense of other people’s emotions and honesty. In addition to Grace, the cast of continuing characters includes her aptly named niece Cat, Cat’s troubled young assistant Eddie, and one of Cat’s ex-boyfriends, Jamie, a professional bassoonist for whom Isabel harbors a secret love.

The Sunday Philosophy Club series is, at heart, about human happiness. If one earnestly applied the best thoughts of the ages to one’s personal decisions and interactions with other people, would not happiness be likely to follow? In the case of Isabel Dalhousie and her happy readers, the answer is yes.

If you have never read McCall Smith, this is a great place to start. I blended my experience with audio and traditional reading. Even if you are into reading and not so much into listening, sample the audio for a priceless narration and be prepared to hear yourself laugh out loud. Snippets and individual titles can fare well as stand-alones, but the best way to enjoy this is to read (or listen, or both) to these titles in order.

Enjoy and laugh!

The Sunday Philosophy Club Series
1. The Sunday Philosophy Club
2. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
3. The Right Attitude to Rain
4. The Careful Use of Compliments
5. The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday
6. The Lost Art of Gratitude
7. The Charming Quirks of Others
8. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth
9. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds
10. The Novel Habits of Happiness

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

UAB’s Regions Institute for Financial Education to Offer Money Matters Workshop Series at Central Library on First Wednesdays Beginning July 6, 2016

It’s never too late to start building a better understanding of your personal finances and begin developing a plan for the future. To assist you in this endeavor, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is partnering with the staff of the Regions Institute for Financial Education at UAB to offer a series of Money Matters workshops at the Central Library on the first Wednesday of each month from July 2016 to May 2017. Please join us on the dates below to take part in discussions about a variety of money management issues and learn ways to achieve your economic goals.

When: First Wednesday of the month
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Place: Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Building/Richard Arrington Auditorium

7/6/2016 – Income, Savings, and Assets
8/3/2016 – Your Spending, Your Savings, Your Future
9/7/2016 – Risk and Protection
10/5/2016 – Family Money Skills
11/2/2016 – What Every Woman Should Know About Money
12/7/2016 – Protecting Yourself Against Targeted Fraud
1/4/2017 – Dealing With Debt
2/1/2017 – Where to Invest Your College Money
3/1/2017 – Your Credit Report
4/5/2017 – Saving Through Tax Refunds
5/3/2017 – Five Keys to Investing Success

For more information about the workshop series and other financial literacy resources available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by e-mail at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life
Steve Martin

This one came to me by an odd route. I’m not a typical Steve Martin fan. Though I adore his seventies stand-up and SNL appearances, I’ve deliberately missed most of his movie career (there are some winning exceptions) and don’t get his New Yorker humor pieces (though I have to admit I don’t respond to most written New Yorker humor). But it may have been Martin’s connection that prompted the magazine to run an excerpt from Born Standing Up, Martin’s memoir of his slow road to comedy success. That I did like. Nine years later (I told you this was circuitous) I bought a cheap copy of the book and quickly started reading it. It far exceeded my expectations. Soon I was marking favorite lines and making margin notes. I was mesmerized. There wasn’t a wasted sentence.

Though Steve Martin has been a big success for four decades, it took him fourteen years to get there. He sacrificed a lot for stand-up-college, close family connections, community of almost any sort. There are many things here that surprised me about Martin. Because I knew almost nothing about his early life, I unconsciously assumed it was like…well, I don’t know what, but not what it turned out to be. His parents were from Waco, Texas, his mom a strict Baptist and the whole family was emotionally blocked and terrible at communicating. Martin threw himself into learning magic tricks, spent as much time away from home as possible, and left for good the moment he made enough money to squeak by. For a while he dated fellow actor Stormie Sherk, who would become in another incarnation the well-known Christian author Stormie O’Martian. He had a chance encounter with Diane Arbus, also before she was famous. A huge break happened when he got a job writing for the Smothers Brothers. But the network soon cancelled their highly popular show because it was too controversial and Martin was once again out of the mainstream. He spent many more years doing stand-up again, fairly content if not exactly happy because relative poverty allowed him to explore, innovate, and experiment. He mixed up all the skills he had—acting, comedy, writing, juggling, magic tricks and so in ways that often confounded audiences. It took him forever, he says, to realize that he’d get nowhere if he wasn’t original. But even originality wasn’t a ticket to financial security. He was plagued with recurring panic attacks, felt he had no great showbiz skills because he couldn’t sing or dance. But, like Andy Kaufman, Martin was, in the late sixties and early seventies, way ahead of his time, so much so even he wasn’t quite aware of it. (Martin himself doesn’t say he was ahead of his time: this is a modest book, modestly written). Also like Kaufman, Martin made fun of what he saw as showbiz norms such as slickness, shallowness, smarminess, and even competence. Like Kaufman, this was lost on much, if not most, of his public. He promised himself that he’d quit if he hadn’t made it by age 30.

Throughout the accounts of alienation and struggle there is sharp, well-detailed writing and a type of Martin humor new to me—often restrained, literary, but not pristine. And still funny, very funny. Martin on the fifties: “Eddie, I discerned, was living with a woman not his wife, the 1955 equivalent of devil worship.” As for the sixties, “… we were now living in the Age of Aquarius, an age when, at least astrologically, the world would be taken over by macramé.” Every so often, Martin drops us a reminder of why he left home in the first place. While dating Mitzi Trumbo, daughter of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, he discovers that he’s “never been in a house where conversations were held during dinner.” The life of the artist was often difficult, but at least it was alive.

It’s interesting that the man who’s made such a career playing crass and shameless characters has produced a book that is so carefully written, so unsentimental, so unself-congratulatory. It’s almost an anti-star book when you compare it to the run of the mill How I Made It accounts. The only place where I detect Martin doing something close to bragging is when he reminds us how The Jerk was universally panned upon release but has since won critical favor. Taking him up on the dare, I watched it for the first time and found it largely mediocre. But it does have a few brilliant scenes.

So why did he give up the biggest stand-up career in history? In addition to the severe limits it put on his family and social life, there were other good reasons. Because he was exhausted. Because he couldn’t do anything subtle in front of 25,000 people. Because his public expected the old bits and he wanted to innovate instead. And, finally, he discovered that you hunt for fame, then you find it, then it hunts you.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Monday, June 20, 2016

NFL Receiver Jerricho Cotchery to Host Teen Summer Reading Tailgate Party at Central Library, June 24

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is excited to host Score Big with the Cotchery Foundation, a summer reading tailgate party at the Central Library.

Jerricho Cotchery, a graduate of Phillips High School in Birmingham and veteran NFL receiver, has teamed up with BPL to host yet another amazing series of events promoting the 2016 BPL Summer Reading program. Qualified "Get In The Game, Read” participants will have the opportunity to attend a free teen tailgate party at the Central Library on Friday, June 24, 2016, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Teens can pick up free tickets in advance at any of Birmingham’s 19 library locations.

Cotchery, who turns 34 on June 16, will speak at the Five Points West Regional Branch Library at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, June 24. Since being drafted into the NFL in 2004, Cotchery has played with the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and most recently with the Carolina Panthers, who appeared in the 2016 Super Bowl. His 200 career receptions and 15 games with 100-plus receiving yards broke two school records at North Carolina State previously held by NFL receiver Torry Holt.

Here is a link to BPL's summer reading events schedule that lists over 500 programs from free dance lessons to science camps and painting:

Last summer, 18,418 BPL patrons attended 558 programs and read more than 52,000 books.

Registration is under way now, with forms available in any of the 19 BPL locations and online at You can view the entire event calendar at the link below:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Birmingham Public Library=Innovative

Innovative is a positive word that is used to describe new ideas or methods, and many people think that is one of the characteristics of a leader. Birmingham Public Library is innovative.  To illustrate my point, let’s compare the Birmingham Public Library 100 years ago to today with two examples.

The “Beach Read”
BPL Loans Books for Summer1916: What happened if you wanted to take a book on your summer vacation in 1916? Back then, it was not easy to renew a book over the phone due to the outrageous long distance charges. Returning it through the mail was risky as it could arrive late, become overdue, or get lost in the mail. The library found the solution by granting summer vacation loans. Books could be checked out from June 1st through September 30th without worrying about renewals or overdue fines.

Today: You can request a book from any of the 40 public libraries in Jefferson County and have it sent to the library closest to you. The book can be checked out for 21 days and can be renewed online. Besides physical books, you can also download e-books to your device for both online and offline reading. This is great if you headed to the beach and forgot something to read. Plus, you can also download audio books for that long drive. We even have a curated collection of “beach reads”. Would you like to learn how to download and read e-book or listen to audio book for free on your device? We have classes to teach you how, and here's the schedule.

Device Training Downloadables
  • June 21, 2 pm, Powderly Library 
  • June 24, 10 am, East Lake Library 
  • June 27, 11 am, North Birmingham Library 
  • June 28, 12 pm, West End Library 
  • July 12, 2:15 pm, Central Library 

Piano Rolls Circulate At BPL
1916: The Birmingham Public Library circulated piano rolls. Having read in a magazine about libraries that loaned music scores, piano rolls, and one which even had a soundproof room so patrons could play the music before checking it out, the library director decided to circulate piano rolls and solicited donations from local music companies. The Starr Piano Company started the collection with a donation of 150 piano rolls. Each patron could check out three rolls and keep them for a week. Some of the popular songs included: "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away," "My Old Kentucky Home," and "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground." The collection became so popular they added more piano rolls to include songs like "Sewanee River" and, of course, "Dixie."

Today: The Birmingham Public Library still loans music, but instead of piano rolls, you can checkout CDs. With the rise of MP3s, Birmingham Public Library subscribes to Freegal, which allows patrons to download three songs a week for free and keep them for life. You must have an active library card and be resident of Birmingham to use the Freegal database. BPL continues to be an innovator. If you want to learn more about life in Birmingham 100 years ago, visit our “Birmingham in 1916” digital exhibit, and make plans to attend our “Life in 1916” program.

Birmingham in 1916

Life in 1916 
What was life like in Birmingham 100 years ago in 1916? Get a glimpse into the past as the Southern History Department takes you on a journey through the news, stories, and advertisements gleaned from Birmingham newspapers for the year 1916.
  • Monday, June 20, 2:00 pm, West End Library 
  • Monday, July 11, 2:15 pm, Southside Library 
  • Wednesday, July 13, 2:00 pm, Central Library, Arrington Auditorium 
  • Monday, July 18, 2:00 pm, North Avondale Library 
Laura M. Gentry 
Central Branch 
Southern History Department

North Avondale Library Shows Support for Woodlawn High Track Star Headed to National Competition

Jayla Kirkland, left, in photo with North Avondale Library Manager Saundra Ross, center, and track coach Myra Hawkins, right, hold some of the cards North Avondale patrons created to show support as she heads to national competition in North Carolina Friday. Photo by Bruce Nix. 

Staff and patrons of North Avondale Branch Library are rallying to show their support for a Woodlawn High School track start headed to a national competition to defend her titles.

On Friday, June 17, Jayla Kirkland will leave for North Carolina for the New Balance Nationals, where she will defend her first-place titles in the 100- and 200-meter dash races she won last year. Later this month, Jayla will fly to Clovis, California to compete in the World Junior Trials. If she makes the World Junior team, Jayla will compete in a world event in Poland this July.

After hearing that Jayla was training next door at Hayes K-8, North Avondale Library Manager Saundra Ross said staff and patrons got together to show their support. Students created a huge support Kayla card and a book display of track books in honor of Jayla. Ross urged the public to stop by the library to sign the card, which will be given to Jayla.

Last year, Jayla brought home the bronze after competing in the World Junior Championship track meet in South America. Birmingham citizens can help Jayla as she eyes an even bigger prize at the Poland track meet.

Jayla, who has won recognition as Alabama’s fastest female high school sprinter, needs additional financial support to help reach her dreams. She has set up an account at for donations.

Learn more about Jayla here:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Central Library to Host Google Workshop for Small Business Owners on June 29

Did you know that 97% of consumers look for local goods and services online?

Only 37% of businesses have claimed a local business listing on a search engine.

    The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development are partnering with Google and Zeekee, a local internet marketing firm, to offer a workshop aimed at helping put every business in Birmingham on the map—including yours—for FREE.

    If you are a current business owner and you want to gain control of the information Google displays about your business in Google Search and Google Maps, then this workshop is for you. A Google Trusted Photographer and Trusted Verifier will be present to help your business get online and allow you to choose what people see when they “google” you.

    Space for the workshop is limited, so please register with Valencia S. Fisher in the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development at as early as possible to reserve a spot.


    :            Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    TIME:             12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
    LOCATION:  Central Library, Arrington Auditorium

    For more information about the workshop and other resources for small business development available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

    Let’s Put Birmingham on the Map!  

    Tuesday, June 14, 2016

    Reduced Hours at Springville Road Regional Branch Library

    Due to air conditioning failure in the main part of the Springville Road Regional Branch Library, the hours of operation have been adjusted as follows:

    Monday-Saturday 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
    Sunday - Closed

    This schedule will be in place until repairs have been made.

    If you have reserves to pick up at Springville Road and cannot get in during these temporary hours, please call the Circulation Desk at 226-4081 and the library will route them to the library of your choice. Your holds will not be cancelled during this period.

    The library's evening programs have been postponed, but hopefully these can be rescheduled to take place before the end of the summer.

    We sincerely regret the inconvenience this has caused our loyal patrons and we hope to be back to normal hours very soon. In the meantime, you can keep up with the latest news by visiting the Springville Road Library (Birmingham Public Library System) Facebook page.

    Sunday, June 12, 2016

    Avondale Library Presents: On Your Mark, Get Set…Fables!

    And they’re off! Join Lee Bryan, That Puppet Guy, for another exciting day at the races as "The Tortoise and the Hare" weaves its way through the tales of "The Lion and the Mouse" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."  It’s a night of Aesop’s fantastic fables fun you won’t soon forget. Tuesday, June 28, 6:30 p.m., Avondale Regional Branch Library.

    Saturday, June 11, 2016

    Birmingham City Council 2016-17 Budget Tour Hearings Begin June 14 at Central Library

    Do you want to know what is included in the proposed 2016-17 City of Birmingham budget? The Birmingham City Council is holding hearings across the city to educate citizens.

    The Council Connecting Community Citizens tour begins Tuesday, June 14, at 6:00 p.m., at the Central Library/Arrington Auditorium.

    The other three dates on the tour are as follows:

    • Thursday, June 16, 6:00 p.m., at Parkway Christian Fellowship, 9753 Parkway East
    • Monday, June 20, 6:00 p.m., at New Hope Baptist Church, 1740 Cleburn Avenue
    • Tuesday, June 21, 6:00 p.m., at Brownsville Heights Event Center, 9225 Airport Road

    For more details, go to

    Birmingham Public Library Summer Reading for Adults: Belly Dance Lessons, Knitting, and Quilting

    Instructor Russell Lee at Springville Road Library's It's So Easy to Exercise! class

    If you are an adult looking for fun, free activities this summer, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s 2016 summer reading schedule has plenty of activities to keep you busy.

    Although most of the over 500 programs and workshops are geared towards teens and children, adults have plenty of opportunities to exercise their mind, from participating in book clubs to learning how to quilt or knit. Registration is under way now, with forms available in all 19 libraries across Birmingham or online at

    Want to try belly dancing? Then attend Belly Dancing for Beginners, a class on the ancient dance being offered at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library on June 24 and July 22. Need to get in shape? Certified fitness instructor Russell Lee is offering several free exercise classes at libraries across the city.

    Interested in learning the basics of the Japanese art of paper folding? Register for a class being taught June 18 at the Central Library by calling 205-226-3670. Have a desire to learn the art of painting? Birmingham artist Cherie Hunt will provide simple instructions on how to draw your own canvas masterpiece at Get in the Game – Paint, a program that begins Tuesday, June 21, at the Central Library. Register by calling 205-226-3680.

    Below is a listing of BPL adult summer reading programs available in Birmingham:

    It's So Easy to Exercise! – Join us for a sample of a low impact/chair exercise program designed for cardiovascular activity, strength training, and flexibility techniques. Certified fitness instructor Russell Lee will also include a brief talk on general exercise safety. Participants will need to furnish their own exercise mat and towel. Proper and suitable attire and athletic shoes for exercise is recommended.

    Central Library – Saturday, June 11, 10:00 a.m.
    North Birmingham Regional Branch Library – June 13, 11:00 a.m.
    Southside Branch Library – June 14, 10:30 a.m.
    Powderly Branch Library – June 17, 10:00 a.m.
    Inglenook Branch Library – June 21, 10:00 a.m.
    Five Points West Regional Branch Library – June 22, 10:30 a.m.
    Smithfield Branch Library – June 23, 10:00 a.m.
    Titusville Branch Library – June 27, 11:00 a.m.

    Knitting Basics for Adults – Learn the basics of knitting. From a simple cast-on to knitting and purling. Knitting needles and yarn will be provided. (Note: Supplies must be returned at the end of class.) Attendees may bring their own supplies if desired.

    Southside Branch Library – June 15, 10:00 a.m.
    East Lake Branch Library – June 22, 10:00 a.m.
    Central Branch Library – June 28, 2:00 p.m.
    Powderly Branch Library – June 29, 2:00 p.m.

    Origami 101 Class – Learn the basics of the Japanese art of paper folding. All supplies will be provided. Class size is limited to 10 people. Register by calling 205-226-3670.

    Central Library – June 18, 2:00 p.m.
    North Avondale Branch Library – July 7, 10:00 a.m.

    Urban Fiction – Urban fiction has become one of the most popular genres for our library patrons. BPL staff will provide an overview of the genre, discuss urban fiction publishers, authors, and series, and reveal ways to discover new authors you may like.

    North Birmingham Regional Branch Library – July 7, 11:00 a.m.

    Coloring for Adults – Summer is the perfect time to discover something new, have fun, and relax. Join us to explore your creative side and discover the benefits of coloring. We supply the coloring sheets, color pencils, and crayons. Come by for a fun and creative experience. We hope you will join us.

    North Birmingham Regional Branch Library – June 20, 10:00 a.m.
    Woodlawn Branch Library – July 18, 2:00 p.m.

    Get in the Game...Paint – Local artist Cherie Hunt will provide step-by-step instructions for participants to complete their very own canvas masterpiece. Limited space; registration required at 205-226-3680. Youth Department/Story Castle.

    Central Library – June 21, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

    Gifts of a Wordsmith – Free adult poetry workshop. East Building/First Floor Conference Room.

    Central Library – July 5, 6:00-7:45 p.m.

    Handle with Care: Preserving Your Family Papers and Photographs – There are many basic and inexpensive things you can do to ensure that your family letters, scrapbooks, and photographs are preserved for the future. This talk introduces the fundamentals of home archiving.

    Central Library – June 14, 10:30 a.m.
    Southside Branch Library – July 6, 10:00 a.m.
    Powderly Branch Library – July 12, 1:30 p.m.

    Device Training – Downloadables – Summer is the ideal time to explore an interesting subject or learn something new. Would you like to learn how to download and read e-books or listen to audiobooks for free on your device? Library staff can teach you how. Bring your own device or you can use the various devices we will bring. We hope you will join us to see what the library has to offer. (Note: We will only be using devices that have Internet capabilities and do not need to be hooked up to a computer.)

    Powderly Branch Library – June 21, 2:00 p.m.
    East Lake Branch Library – June 24, 10:00 a.m.
    North Birmingham Regional Branch Library – June 27, 11:00 a.m.
    West End Branch Library – June 28, 12:00 p.m.
    Central Library – July 12, 2:15 p.m.

    Every House Has a History: Researching Birmingham Area Houses, Buildings, and Churches – Jefferson County enjoys a rich architectural heritage. This talk will introduce you to sources available at the Birmingham Public Library Archives to help you locate vintage photos of your house, building, or church, determine the age of the structure, and learn who has lived or worked there.

    Titusville Branch Library – July 7, 2:00 p.m.
    Central Library – July, 18, 10:30 a.m.

    Explore the Past with the Birmingham Public Library’s African-American History Online
    Our database, African-American History Online, covers a multitude of topics associated with the African American experience. This fascinating resource uses primary documents, slideshows and videos, maps, and biographies to paint a complete picture of African Americans yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Topics covered include the African diaspora, slavery and emancipation, civil rights, sports, politics, science, commerce, religion, and much more.

    West End Branch Library – June 14, 2:00 p.m.
    Central Library – June 22, 2:00 p.m.
    Woodlawn Library – July 19, 2:00 p.m.

    Let's Talk About It: Oral History (Beyond the Basics of Genealogy) – Relatives and family friends are important sources of information. Whom do you want to talk with (everyone) and what do you want to ask (everything)? Join us in this introduction to oral history. Learn how to gather information from those who have difficulty remembering or are troubled by the past and reluctant to share it. Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshops are free of charge, but registration is requested. To register, contact the Southern History Department at 205-226-3665 or Linn-Henley Research Library/Arrington Auditorium.

    Central Library – July 16, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

    Life in 1916 – What was life like in Birmingham 100 years ago in 1916? Get a glimpse into the past as the Southern History Department takes you on a journey through the news, stories, and advertisements gleaned from Birmingham newspapers for the year 1916.

    West End Branch Library – June 20, 2:00 p.m.
    Southside Branch Library – July 11, 2:15 p.m.
    Central Library – July 13, 2:00 p.m.
    North Avondale Branch Library – July 18, 2:00 p.m.

    Friday, June 10, 2016

    Panel Discussion on Reducing Violence in Birmingham to Take Place June 18 at Central Library

    The Central Library will host a panel discussion addressing how to curb homicides in Birmingham on Saturday, June 18, 2016. The event will feature a talk and book signing by victims’ advocate/community activist Carolyn Johnson, author of When Your Child Is Murdered.

    The panel discussion will take place from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on June 18 in the Arrington Auditorium of the Linn-Henley Research Library. Johnson will then sell autographed copies of her new book after the program between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

    A Bessemer native and graduate of Miles College, Johnson is employed in Birmingham's Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI) program. Since her oldest son Rodreckus, 20, was murdered on November 22, 2003, Johnson has worked tirelessly to help make Birmingham’s streets safer.

    Rodreckus left home to attend a birthday party at an acquaintance's house, and was fatally shot while parking his car after a group of boys fighting engaged in a shootout. Nearly 13 years later, Rodreckus’ murder remains unsolved.

    When Your Child Is Murdered details how Johnson used her devastation and pain as a catalyst to actively fight to reduce youth violence. She is convinced that the problem of drugs, gangs, and violence can’t be simply wished away. On August 30, 2004, she founded and organized the Parents Against Violence (PAV) Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to educating youth and parents about the consequences of using violence, and enforcing community awareness of unsolved homicides.

    Johnson’s advocacy work was instrumental in the establishment of a cold-case unit within the Birmingham Police Department in 2005. She organized the first Survivors of Murdered Loved Ones luncheon in Birmingham to pay tribute to victims of homicide and to bring awareness to youth violence, and founded the People Supporting People to provide grief support and comfort to individuals and families victimized by violence. Johnson formed Parents in Action, a mobilized community group that educates parents and youth about the negative effects of violence, and organized the annual Save Our Youth day to encourage students to refrain from violence, stay in school, and to engage in positive activities during school summer break.

    Johnson organized the Sisters Leadership Program to educate, mentor, and empower girls ages 12-18, enabling many of the girls to later achieve promising careers. She also formed the “Who Killed My Child” and the “It Ain’t Snitching If It Happens to You” billboard campaign to bring awareness to unsolved homicides in 2006, a program that has helped police settle several unsolved cases.

    For her dedication and hard work, Johnson has been recognized by several organizations, including the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board (CAB), the National Criminal Justice Department, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Birmingham Community, Police and Revitalization, City of Birmingham Office of the Mayor. She was awarded the Outstanding Leadership and Community Service by the NAACP, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award by Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 2006, and awarded the Alabama Black Achievers Award by the Oliver Robinson Foundation. She is a 2008 graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy.

    In 2011, the Birmingham City Council and the Central Park Neighborhood Association commemorated the life of Rodreckus, placing a street marker at the corner of Avenue R and 46th Street in his memory. Johnson is featured in two powerful documentaries with UAB: Voices of Youth Violence and a recent film, Wildfire. She is the feature of the award-winning documentary Not My Son, which was created and produced by the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

    Southern History Department Hosting Summer Reading Workshops on Genealogy, Life in 1916

    The Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s Southern History Department is hosting a variety of programs as part of 2016 summer reading activities, including programs on genealogy and a look back via old newspaper clippings of what life was like in Birmingham a century ago during the year 1916. The Southern History Department, located on the first floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, has one of the world’s largest databases of genealogy records in the country. The department gets visitors from across the globe doing research.

    More than 500 activities and workshops—from device training to exercising, from engineering camps for teens to knitting for adults—are being offered at 19 libraries across the city of Birmingham between now and the end of July. Registration forms are available in any of the 19 BPL locations or online at

    You can view the entire event calendar of programs taking place in June and July for adults, teens, and children at the link below:

    Here is a listing of Southern History Department activities planned as part of Summer Reading, along with other programs taking place later this year:

    Life in 1916
    This Southern History Department program will allow library patrons to journey back to what life was like in Birmingham 100 years ago in 1916. Besides the June 6 program, other dates for this program will be:
    Monday, June 20, 2:00 p.m., West End Branch Library
    Monday, July 11, 2:15 p.m., Southside Branch Library
    Wednesday, July 13, 2:00 p.m., Central Library, Arrington Auditorium
    Monday, July 18, 2:00 p.m., North Avondale Regional Branch Library

    Introduction to Genealogy
    Want to learn how to do genealogical research? This introduction class will help you get started. No registration is required.
    Tuesday, June 21, 11:30 a.m., Central Library, Southern History Department
    Sunday, July 10, 2:30 p.m., Central Library, Southern History Department
    Tuesday, July 12, 2:00 p.m., Springville Road Regional Branch Library
    Tuesday, July 19, 11:30 a.m., Central Library, Southern History Department

    Upcoming Beyond the Basics of Genealogy programs:

    Let's Talk about It: Oral History
    Saturday, July 16, 10:00 a.m., Central Library, Southern History Department
    Relatives and family friends are important sources of information. Learn how to gather information from those who have difficulty remembering or are troubled by the past and are reluctant to share it.

    Jump Into the Gene Pool: Genetics and Your Family History
    Saturday, August 27, 10:00 a.m., Central Library, Southern History Department
    Discover how genetic research can help you explore your family history. Find out what a gene sample can tell you about what parts of the world your ancestors came from and more.

    Genetic Genealogy Strategies for African-American and Native American Research
    Saturday, October 1, 10:00 a.m., Central Library, Southern History Department
    There is no magic in genetic genealogy and no special tests for African American and Native American research, but there are choices you can make that may enable you to confirm and to go beyond the evidence of the paper trail.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2016

    Try Origami for Your Health or for a Good Time

    Origami 101 (for teens and adults)
    Saturday, June 18, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
    Central Library, 2100 Park Place
    Reservations required; call 226-3670

    Rainbow Origami Crane Troops by smilingpanda
    Origami, the art of paper folding, is more than a cheap way to amuse yourself and the kids on a rainy day. It also has proven health benefits that are more fun (and less expensive) than going to physical therapy or lying on the psychiatrist’s couch. And you’ll have something tangible to show for your efforts.

    For many people, origami is a way to relax; a way to forget the day’s stresses. But health professionals have increasingly discovered that folding paper can help those with medical conditions. For patients who have injured their hands or have had hand surgery, folding paper helps improve hand dexterity and builds muscles. And it’s more enjoyable than most traditional physical therapy techniques.

    Some mental health professionals “prescribe” origami to those suffering from conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, and depression. Also, people who have an addiction find that origami gives them a way to focus their energies.

    On Saturday, June 18, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., the library is offering a free basic origami workshop for teens and adults at the downtown Birmingham Public Library in the Story Castle on the second floor. So come and see for yourself if origami is beneficial for you. Or just come for a good time. 

    The library has many origami resources for all levels of skill. Here's a sampling:

    Origami & Other Paper Creations / Ghylenn Descamps
    Star Wars Origami: 36 Amazing Paper-Folding Projects from a Galaxy Far, Far Away / Chris Alexander

    Certified Fitness Instructor Russell Lee Offering Free Exercise Classes as Part of BPL's Summer Reading

    If you want to get in shape this summer, take advantage of some free exercise classes being offered at several Birmingham Public Library (BPL) locations during June and July as part of its 2016 summer reading activities. The classes will be taught by certified fitness instructor Russell Lee, who will also give a brief talk on general exercise safety.

    The classes are free of charge. Attendees are urged to bring their own exercise mat and towel. Wear suitable attire and tennis shoes.

    The objective of the classes, offered for both teens and adults: Promote exercise and help people to realize how essential it is, regardless of age.

    A little exercise on a regular basis goes a long way,” Lee said. “Something is better than nothing.”

    Exercise With Russell Lee program dates, libraries, and times:

    • June 9 - Springville Road Library, 10:00 a.m. (adults)
    • June 11 - Central Library, 10:00 a.m. (adults)
    • June 13 - North Birmingham Library, 11:00 a.m. (adults)
    • June 14 - Southside Library, 10:30 a.m. (teens and adults)
    • June 17 - Powderly Library, 10:00 a.m. (seniors)
    • June 21 - Inglenook Library, 10:00 a.m. (teens and adults)
    • June 22 - Five Points West Library, 10:30 a.m. (adults)
    • June 23 - Smithfield Library, 10:00 a.m. (adults)
    • June 27 - Titusville Library, 11:00 a.m. (adults)
    • June 28 - Smithfield Library, 10:00 a.m. (teens)
    • June 29 - Springville Road Library, 10:00 a.m. (teens)
    • June 30 - Wylam Library, 2:00 p.m. (teens)
    • July 5 - West End Library, 10:00 a.m. (teens)
    • July 6 - East Lake Library, 10:00 a.m. (teens)
    • July 6, Five Points West, 2:00 p.m. (teens)
    • July 14 - Powderly Library, 1:30 p.m. (teens)

    Tuesday, June 07, 2016

    Get in the Game – Paint!

    We're having a paint party!  Please join us for what promises to be a fun and creative evening. Have you always wanted to transform a blank canvas into a work of art?  Do you love to be creative and have fun with paint?  Well, we have a class for you!

    Local artist Cherie Hunt will provide step-by-step instructions for participants to complete their very own canvas masterpiece. Limited to 25 participants. This is an adult program.  Please call 205-226-3680 to register.

    Registration required. Get in the Game – Paint! Tuesday, June 21, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
    Birmingham Public Library, Central Library, Youth Department Story Castle.

    Monday, June 06, 2016

    Book Review: The Road to Little Dribbling

    The Road to Little Dribbling
    Bill Bryson

    There’s a reason I’ve blogged about more of Bill Bryson books than anyone else’s. He’s a particular pleasure to read, he’s funny (sometimes laugh-out-loud funny), he digs up facts no one else seems able to uncover, and he almost never writes a dull sentence. This adds up to a critical mass that says, “You gotta tell a lot of people about this book.”

    So his latest was a shoo-in. In it, the American born, longtime UK resident travels around his adopted home, seeing the what and how of change that’s worth writing up since he did a similar thing twenty years ago in Notes From A Small Island (yes, I recommend it).

    This time around Bryson is older, crankier, more confrontational, and more fun to read. He does solid prep research but occasionally slips in his judgements. For instance, in a section where he convincingly goes on about how physically attractive Britain is, he clumsily asserts that “almost none of it [was] undertaken with aesthetics in mind.” This doesn’t succeed, as I think it was intended to, as a witty undertow barb. Instead it succeeds in clobbering the previous hosanna. Bryson, who otherwise has praise for immigrants, leaves the Natural History Museum because it is full of “unpleasant” foreigners. For Bryson, crankiness is sometimes the enemy of sense.

    But these are small complaints when you consider the overall impact of the book. With all of the author’s books, there are many bits I want to share. Here are a few appetizers that will probably lead you to the main course:

    • Eating whelks is “like finding a golf ball, removing the cover, and eating what remains.”
    • Sign at a train station: “Irk Valley Junction To Oldham Mumps.”
    • “Calke Abbey has never been an abbey—the family that owned it just called it that to make it sound more interesting.”
    • A very influential academic study demonstrated that, “if you are truly stupid you not only do things stupidly but are in all likelihood too stupid to realize how stupidly you are doing them.” This study, Bryson feels, helps to explain why Brits mess things up.
    • A British government employee, researching a geography question for Bryson, admits that the government’s official total of 1,330 islands in Britain wasn’t “anywhere near right.” Bryson concludes: “I think it’s rather charming that Britain doesn’t quite know how much of itself there is.” (That “rather charming” shows that Bryson has been in Britain a long time.)
    • France invaded Wales in 1797 in order to get them to help with the revolution back home. The invasion was led by an American.
    • Brits are dedicated nature-watchers. There’s even a “Slime Mold Recording Scheme, whose manager—I’m so pleased to tell you this—lives in Mold, England.”
    • If you travel on Scottish trains, you have the option of eating haggis, neeps, and tatties.
    • The history of the [Scottish] Highlands is “five hundred years of cruelty and bloodshed followed by two hundred years of way too much bagpipe music.”
    • “All known archaeological sites in Britain would require no less than 11,500 years of your time” if you were to visit them.

    Along the way you’ll learn about Basil Brown, a farmworker “with no archaeological training… [who] found the greatest haul of treasure ever discovered in Britain.” He was never recognized for this. And how two cotton mills in the Peak District, seldom visited by tourists, established the modern factory system. And many more absorbing and alarming accounts.

    If all this isn’t enough to get you going on The Road (Last Chance Gas), there are many funny instances of Bryson encountering indifferent-to-rude shopkeepers that recall Monty Python and how they basically made a career of sending up such places. Though “black taxicabs, double-decker buses, pub signs, Victorian lampposts, red mailboxes and phone booths” are nearly all gone, the country remains sensible, reasonable, and “grown up,” with a high degree of “life satisfaction.” That puts shopkeepers into perspective. By the way, there’s no such place as Little Dribbling—it’s a comment on the plethora of silly place names in Britain.

    Richard Grooms
    Fiction Department
    Central Library

    Knit Away Stress with Adult, Teen Knitting Groups in June

    A gladiator hat available on Etsy
    Many knitters are now making extra cash selling
    their unique creations online on websites like Etsy.
    The word “knit” comes from the Old English word “cnyttan,” which means “to tie in a knot.” In modern English, the verb “knit” not only refers to this specific way of crafting, but it also can mean “to unite or cause to unite.”

    If you feel like your life’s one big knot, this process of rhythmically looping yarn has been proven scientifically to help you unravel the stresses of the day. So get ready to unwind and feel connected with others who are eager to learn a new craft at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL).

    Learn the basics of knitting in BPL's "Learn to Knit" beginner classes for both adults and teens. Choose a time and location convenient to you and call the library to reserve your spot.

    Needles and yarn will be provided, but participants may not take needles home.
    Wednesday, June 8 ~ 10 a.m. ~~ Ensley (785-2625)
    Tuesday, June 21~ 2 p.m. ~~ Titusville (322-1140)

    Participants must bring their own needles and yarn.
    Wednesday, June 15 ~ 10 a.m. ~~ Southside (933-7776)
    Wednesday, June 22 ~ 10 a.m. ~~ East Lake (836-3341)
    Tuesday, June 28 ~ 2 p.m. ~~ Central (226-3670)
    Wednesday, June 29 ~ 2 p.m. ~~ Powderly (925-6178)

    Space is limited, so please reserve your spot in advance. For more information, visit

    Hand-knit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beanies from Etsy
    These hand-knit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beanies are for sale on Etsy. Cowabunga!

    The Research

    Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Ryan Gosling, and even the royal Kate Middleton are famous self-proclaimed knitters. But if you couldn't care less about celebs or royalty, here are some scientifically-tested facts about knitting’s health benefits to get you purling yarn for a healthier you.

    1) Elevates mood and alleviates depression. In a survey published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 3,500 knitters were asked to describe their mood before knitting. Thirty-four percent reported feeling “happy” and 23 percent reported being “a little sad” to “very sad.” When asked to report their mood after knitting, less than one percent remained sad and 81 percent described themselves as “a little happy” to “very happy.”

    2) Relieves stress. The rhythmic nature of knitting keeps the mind absorbed in a healthy way, thus providing an escape from stressful thoughts but allowing for internal reflection. The therapeutic effects of knitting may be related to similar effects achieved through meditation.

    3) Enhances dexterity. Knitting is a great workout for the fingers, hands, and forearms. Moving the joints of the fingers forces fluid to move in and out of the surrounding cartilage thus keeping the joints well-hydrated and reducing the risk of arthritis.

    4) Improves self-esteem. Crafting gives us a creative and productive outlet. The process of visioning, making, and completing a project boosts our sense of self-worth and encourages us to connect with others.

    5) Boosts mental power. One study shows that practicing crafts reduces your chance of developing mild cognitive impairment by as much as 50 percent. Similarly, a French study found that elderly people involved in crafts, specifically knitting, are less likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

    The Books

    Check out these knitting books from BPL for inspiration on your next project. Happy knitting!

    Bethany Mitchell and Haruyo Miyagawa
    Arts, Literature and Sports Department

    Merriam-Webster's "Words at Play: Knitting Words"
    "Health Benefits for Those who Stick with Their Knitting"
    "A Knit a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: 5 Health Benefits of Crafting"
    "The Truth About Knitting and Crochet...They are Good for You!"

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