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Showing posts from August, 2016

Accelerated Searching for Accelerated Readers: Read the Books Database

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Librarians know kids are back in school when we begin hearing these questions:

“I've got to read a book from this list…”

“My child needs a level 3.5 book from the Accelerated Reader list…”

“I need a book worth at least 4 points…”

Yes, the Accelerated Reader (AR) programs have begun in Birmingham City Schools. So, how can parents (and students and teachers) figure out which AR books are available at their neighborhood library?

It’s easier than you think. The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) subscribes to Read the Books. This online database includes the Birmingham City Schools’ Accelerated Reader (AR) lists. You can access each school’s AR book list from the BPL website. Then you can sort books by title, author, points, and grade level. Best of all, the books are linked to BPL's online catalog. Simply click on the title you want, and it takes you to the BPL catalog where you can locate and reserve the book you want. What a timesaver!

Fontaine Alison
Five Points West Regional B…

Money Matters – Risk and Protection Workshop Scheduled for September 7, 2016

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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

Dates/Workshops
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

Registration Open For September 2016 Classes

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Registration is now open for staff and the public for the September 2016 class schedule. During this month, we include a variety of topics including computer skills, career search, genealogy, and finance. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central Library. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. You will receive an e-mail confirming your registration for classes. You may also call to confirm your registration.

To register for any class, please email us at cenrtc@bham.lib.al.us or call 205-226-3681. You may also download and print a pdf copy of the September 2016 class schedule to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the September 2016 class schedule can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Southern History Book of the Month: Forgotten Tales of Alabama

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Forgotten Tales of Alabama
Kelly Kazek
Illustrations by Kyle McQueen

It’s back to school season, and that made me think of how I used to feel when it was time to go back after a summer neatly bookended by Vacation Bible School in early June and a two-week trip to Magnolia Springs every August. I remember that Alabama history was part of the curriculum in fourth and ninth grades, and I can also remember not especially liking it. But if I’d had Kelly Kazek’s Forgotten Tales of Alabama to read, I might have felt differently. This little book is a wonderful compendium of the humorous, the memorable, and the just plain weird sites, people, and incidents in the history of Alabama. It lends itself very well to browsing and here are some samples of the Alabama lore you’ll find in it:

The Wolf Woman of Mobile
When Fish Fell on Chilatchee
World’s Largest Cake Baked in Fort Payne
Nation’s Last River Postal Route
The Mystery Graves of North Alabama

Here’s an excerpt about one colorful character …

2016 Olympic Games

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I was surprised to learn that my sports-loving coworker has not been watching the Olympics.  I have been bingeing on Olympic events since the opening ceremony.  I love having the freedom to watch on the different NBC networks, the NBC Sports app, as well as nbcolympics.com.  I know NBC has received some criticism for including athlete profiles and commentary with their network coverage, but with all the viewing options, it is possible to watch just about every event you want to see.  Not to mention the great scheduling information, highlights, and full event replays available on the website and app. Considering the amount of coverage the Olympics is receiving, you are probably up-to-date on the results. For those of you who didn't follow the games or actively avoided the coverage, here are a few highlights: 
Michael Phelps won his 23rd gold medal (five in Rio) and tied for a silver medal in the 100m Butterfly, bringing his Olympic medal total to 28.  He is unquestionably the most d…

DNA and Genealogy

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“So I traded in my lederhosen for a kilt” is the classic line uttered by Kyle Merker while wearing a kilt in the Ancestry.com commercial advertising their DNA family history service. Almost every night, there is a TV commercial for DNA and genetic genealogy, and everyone wants their DNA tested to help unravel the mysteries of their family tree. Many people have questions about the terminology, the types of tests, and what you can learn about your ancestors from DNA testing.

The Southern History Department has the answer with our two Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshops this fall. This month, we will be offering Jump Into the Gene Pool: Genetics and Your Family History on Saturday, August 27, at 10:00 a.m., at the North Birmingham Regional Branch Library. In this workshop, 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. You can call us at 205-226-366…

A Contrast in Philosophy

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You may have read or seen Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man book and movie. But did you know that there is a book about the subject from a woman’s perspective? Why Do I Have to Think Like A Man? by Shanae Hall takes on the same issues as Harvey’s book but with completely opposite thoughts and advice. Hall, a former NFL wife even throws in a bonus chapter to counter Harvey’s new book, Straight Talk, No Chaser.

Both books allow for some out-of-the-box thinking and ideas and both give a lot of insight as to how to handle the “war of the sexes” on an intellectual level.

Hugh Hardy
Powderly Branch Library

Book Review: Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres

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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
Henry Adams

Henry Adams was the grandson of President John Quincy Adams. He became the preeminent American historian of his day and was friends with some of America’s most distinguished men: Henry James and Theodore Roosevelt’s great Secretary of State John Hay. Adams and Hay shared a home across the park from the White House, designed by the great Henry Richardson. Adams had been personal secretary to his father, the US Ambassador to Great Britain, at the same time that Hay had been Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary during the Civil War. On retirement Adams wrote his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, which posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize in 1919. Many have named it the best American book of the twentieth century. During the later years of his retirement, Adams also wrote and self-published one hundred copies of Mont-Saint- Michel and Chartres, intended as a gift to his friends. The American Institute of Architecture prevailed upon him to …

Birmingham Public Library and Local Daughters of the American Revolution to Offer Family Bible Records Preservation Workshop on August 21

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The Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s Southern History Department has partnered with Lily of the Cahaba Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to offer a Family Bible Records Preservation workshop on Sunday, August 21, 2:30-4:30 p.m. The event will be held on the first floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library/Southern History Department/Central Library.

The goal of the event is to preserve the genealogical or family history records that are recorded in family Bibles. Digital images of the appropriate pages will be made without damage or pressure applied to the Bibles using new digital technology to protect the books. The images will be submitted to the genealogical library of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and BPL so that these records are not lost.

The Bible remains with the owner and digital images will be provided at no charge to those who bring Bible records for preservation. The goal is to preserve these…

North Avondale Library Hosts Workshops in Partnership with Hands on Youth Activities, Inc.

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Smiles filled the room at the North Avondale Branch Library as participants showed off the wreaths they made during a workshop taught by Birmingham’s Juliette Watts.

When the class had begun an hour earlier, not everyone was on the same page, including two sisters who struggled to work together in building their wreath. But Watts encouraged the girls, and soon they too created a beautiful wreath to take home and proudly show their mother.

“I get so much joy out of using my love of the arts to develop discipline and teach these kids to work together,” said Watts, who founded Hands On Youth Activities Inc. in 1999.

During June and July, Watts hosted three free workshops at the North Avondale Library, teaching kids to make wreaths and decorative flip-flops. Kids and adults also learned to sew squares for a community quilt project.


Watts is among community organizations, nonprofits, schools, and businesses across the Birmingham metro area that partner with the Birmingham Public Libra…

Avondale Regional Branch Library Hosting Free Ukulele Workshop on August 20

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Want to learn how to strum a ukulele? Then mark your calendars for Saturday, August 20,9:30 a.m., at the Avondale Regional Branch Library. The library is hosting Ukulele 101, a free workshop.

Designed for the absolute beginner, this 45-minute introduction will be enough to get even the most novice guitarist strumming on the ukulele, said Eve Parker, a storyteller in the Avondale Library Youth Department.

Participants can check out one of Avondale Library’s 13 ukuleles available for the public, or bring their own. Class size is limited, so register in advance by calling 205-226-4003. Parker said the class is in response to public demand after an April Ukulele 101 workshop drew 13 patrons. She hopes to schedule more ukulele workshops this fall.

Parker, who plays the banjo, guitar, and ukulele, came up with the ukulele lending program idea in August 2015 after reading about a library in Portland, Maine, that had made the popular little guitar available for checkout to its patrons. Avo…

Fold3: Our Newest Genealogy Database

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Did you serve in the military, or maybe one of your relatives? Military records are a great place to learn about an individual’s military service and can provide genealogical information. Many genealogical lineage societies, such as the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, are tied to an ancestor’s military service. Fold3 Library Edition is our newest genealogy database that provides convenient access to U.S. military records, including the stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served.

Coverage includes Revolutionary War, Civil War, War of 1812, Mexican American and early Indian Wars, World Wars I and II, Korean and Vietnam Wars, recent wars, and international records. Fold3 combines official military records with deep first-person content, including bios, photos, letters, and more. Besides military records, Fold3 contains African American, Native American, naturalization/immigration, and Holocaust records. Users can search by name, location, m…

James Spann of ABC 33/40 Shares Tips on Weather, Tornado Safety at Springville Road Library

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When it comes to general knowledge about weather and how to protect yourself from tornadoes and lightning, James Spann is a walking encyclopedia.

On August 10, the popular meteorologist for ABC 33/40 in Birmingham delivered an hour-long Weather 101 conversation before nearly 50 people at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library. Using a combination of informational slides and jokes, Spann explained how clouds are formed, what causes tornadoes, and shared wisdom and safety tips. He also urged parents to purchase a $30 weather radio to help protect their family when dangerous weather approaches.


Spann has been a television weather anchor for 38 years. He has received numerous national awards, including National Broadcaster of the Year from the National Weather Association in September 2012 for "his passionate dedication to serving the Central Alabama community with critical weather information for over 30 years, especially during the deadly April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak” in…

Central Library to Host Two Google Workshop Sessions for Small Business Owners on August 24

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

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

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.

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and the City’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. For your convenience, two sessions of the workshop will held on August 24. The same information will be covered in each session, so you only need to attend one.

Date: Wednesday August 24, 2016
Times: 9:30-11:00 a.m. and 12:…

Meteorologist James Spann to Talk Weather at Springville Road Library on August 10

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James Spann, a popular meteorologist for ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, will be sharing weather wisdom and safety tips for young patrons at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 10.

All public citizens are invited to attend, but the program is geared towards kids who are interested in meteorology, weather watching, and weather safety. For more details, call Mollie McFarland of the Springville Road Library at 205-226-4081.

Book Review: The Sex Lives Of Cannibals

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The Sex Lives Of Cannibals
J. Maarten Troost

The title’s about the only thing about this book that doesn’t work. Sex Lives isn’t a shocking expose of native practices, nor is it an ironic takeoff on those glory years of travel exploitation, the twenties through the sixties. So a cynical marketing ploy on the part of the publisher seems to be what we have left.

Sex Lives succeeds despite its title. Maarten Troost graduated in the nineties without any marketable skills, so he jumped at the chance to follow his girlfriend Sylvia, who’d gotten a job with a humanitarian concern on Tarawa, an island in the South Pacific country Kiribati. For a couple of days I was wondering why on earth I was reading about one of the hottest places in the world in the middle of an unrelenting heat wave in Birmingham until I realized that Tarawa makes Birmingham look like Minneapolis. In the nineties Tarawa was a forlorn, overpopulated, poverty-paralyzed, trash-strewn dump. Most Westerners who came to live th…

Birmingham Public Library Board Awards Two New Innovative Cool Award Recipients

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Two efforts spearheaded by staff at the Eastwood Branch Library and the Southern History Department in the Linn-Henley Research Library are the latest recipients of grants from the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) Board of Trustees.

The BPL Board’s Innovative Cool Award program was established in April to encourage staffers to develop engaging new programs to generate enthusiasm and value for their library patrons. The $50 awards funding the programs are designed to encourage staff and librarians “to promote the library’s mission of lifelong learning and cultural enrichment,” said Dora Sims, chair of the BPL Board Advocacy Committee.

The two winners were recognized during the BPL board meeting on Tuesday, August 9, at 4:30 p.m. Here is background on the two new award recipients:


Make Your Own Halloween Mask Party, submitted by Claire Stanton, a library assistant III at the Eastwood Branch Library. “We are excited and are confident the children will have a lot of fun making their own …

Leaving Gee's Bend Author Meets a Fan at the Five Points West Library

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Whew! I survived my first summer reading season. If you don’t work in a library youth department, you have no idea how busy these last two months have been. (Imagine performing in all three rings of a three-ring circus!) But for all the frenzy and long hours, the effort was definitely worth it. It’s the little moments that best prove the point.

To capture those moments, I began posting photos of “Today’s Featured Reader” on our Five Points West Regional Branch Library (FPW) Facebook page. There was young Elliott, a snaggletoothed 5-year-old thrilled with his first library card. And Joi, who read every book in the Dork Diaries series and offered her recommendations to fellow readers. One dedicated mother read over 150 books with her toddler between June and July. What a lucky little girl.



I was even amused by kids who tried to bluff their way to a prize. Daniel, a regular at FPW, would claim to have read a book after 15 minutes paging through it. Our compromise: he would read aloud t…

Voting: Our Constitutional Right

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Since we’ve just finished watching the Democratic and Republican conventions, I thought that voting resources would be a timely topic. Don’t forget that this is a presidential election year and here are a few web resources to make things easier for you as you exercise your constitutional right as a citizen.

AlabamaVotes is a wonderful website set up by the office of the Alabama Secretary of State. You can find out immediately if you are registered to vote, your polling place, print out a voter registration form, find out about absentee voting, military and overseas voting, upcoming elections, candidates, sample ballots, etc.

Federal Voting Assistance Program provides voting information and assistance to overseas military personnel, their families, and overseas United States citizens.

Kids Voting USA is a voter education website targeting children. They have curriculum for grades K-12 which encourages mock election participation and family voter participation activities. Because Al…

Book Review: The Oracle of Oil

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The Oracle of Oil
Mason Inman

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."
Mark 6:4

In 1956 geophysicist M. King Hubbert delivered a paper to the American Petroleum Institute (API) in San Antonio, Texas. His presentation was titled “Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.” Many of the professional geophysicists, engineers, and energy specialists gathered were expecting a mundane paper comparing the exploration and production costs of nuclear energy to more traditional fuels such as oil. Those members of the audience who had been following the controversial and groundbreaking career of Hubbert were expecting anything but the mundane.

In fact, Hubbert’s paper did shock the industry, as well as his bosses at Shell. Using bell curves and mountains of data gathered from foreign governments and competing companies, Hubbert predicted that global oil would reach “peak production” between 1965 and 1970. In other words, the end of cheap oil …

Exhibit Featuring Ten Alabama Artists Ends August 26

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What:Ten Alabama Artists: All Media Exhibition When: Now until Friday, August 26, 2016
Where: Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, Alabama 35203
Admission: Free. For more information call (205) 226-3670

Don’t miss the exhibit Ten Alabama Artists: All Media Exhibit currently on display at the downtown Birmingham Public Library in the Fourth Floor Gallery. The exhibit ends Friday, August 26. The featured artists are all members of the Watercolor Society of Alabama (WSA). However, watercolors are not the only media to be featured in the show. The artists show their prowess in a variety of media including oils, acrylic, collage, watercolor, ceramics, mixed media, hand-painted lithography, and calligraphy.
The exhibit is curated by Jaceena Shepard of Town Creek, Alabama, a well-known practicing artist, exhibition curator, and art teacher. "These ten artists are enthusiastically creative. Their work is inspiring because it tells a story, makes us smile, ask…

Central Library Hosting 7 Ways to Secure Your Business Data Seminar on August 8

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The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host several small business seminars through November 2016 that will take place at the Central Library. The small business seminars are being offered by BPL in partnership with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development.

Seminar presenters will be veteran mentors from the Birmingham chapter of SCORE, a national nonprofit comprised of volunteers willing to share their business knowledge and experience with prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners. For over 50 years, SCORE mentors have helped millions of business owners start or grow their business.

7 Ways to Secure Your Business Data is presented by Sawyer Solutions, a Pelham-based information technology company. The seminar is scheduled on Monday, August 8, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library.

The seminar is free but advance registration is required. To register, go to the Birmin…

2016 Summer Reading Season Nearing Conclusion

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The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is entering the closing days of its 2016 summer reading schedule. Since late May, over 500 programs and workshops for teens, children, and adults have given thousands of metro Birmingham library patrons opportunities to exercise their mind and enjoy their passion for reading.

Programs have included non-book activities such as Belly Dancing for Beginners—a class on the ancient dance at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library, free exercise classes at libraries across Birmingham led by certified fitness instructor Russell Lee, and workshops by Haruyo Miyagawa on both knitting and the Japanese art of paper folding.

Teens and adults have learned dance moves led by Winston Strickland of M.A.D. SKILLZ DANCE CO., and youngsters with curiosity for chemical reactions learned what happens when you mix Diet Coke with Mentos candies. UAB’s ET (Enabling Technologies Laboratory) provided insight on what goes into designing video games by leading a program c…

A Matter of State Pride – Springville Road Library Welcomes Coach Bobby Johns

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Bobby Johns was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2010
If you live in this state, you can expect to talk football at some point in the year, and at certain times of the year, you can’t reasonably expect to talk anything else. Understatement of the century: Alabama is known for having great football teams. Sooner or later, you’re going to run up against someone from outside this state who is going to want to discuss the (unofficial) state religion. Now, if you’re a super fan of longstanding, you can carry this off without a hitch, rattling off the pros and cons of split wings, pistol versus shotgun formations, forward versus lateral passes, and why the Wildcat is either God’s gift to the game or a sneaky, dirty trick play. However, if you simply love football season and enjoy watching your chosen warriors destroy somebody else’s, you may not know a tailback from a defensive end. In other words, you are likely to get caught in the embarrassing position…