Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Birmingham Public Library Will Not Host Local Authors Expo in 2017

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will not be holding its annual Local Authors Expo and Book Fair in 2017, BPL Interim Director Sandi Lee announced today.

The popular event, which features 100 authors from across metro Birmingham as well as writing workshops, has been hosted by the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library each February in the Central Library for a decade. Lee said BPL is tabling the Local Authors Expo this year, and is planning to retool the event in the future.

"We are exploring other avenues to highlight our local authors in bigger and better ways," Lee said. "We are looking forward to working with the authors and our communities to showcase the writing talent in the Birmingham area."

Monday, January 30, 2017

Use It or Lose It—Practice a Foreign Language (or American Sign Language) with Other People

by Kelly Laney, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

On Tuesday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m., there will be an organizational meeting for a new program at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library. We hope to put together small groups of people who want to practice a foreign language (or ASL) either with native speakers for whom English is a second language, or with other people who also want to learn. At the first meeting we will see who wants to practice which languages and set up times convenient for each language group to meet at the library for conversational practice sessions. We will also demonstrate the Mango Languages database.

Depending on the number of language groups and the interest shown, a monthly meeting for all participants may be organized to assess progress, share tips, work out glitches, and make sure all necessary resources are available. No prior experience or instruction in a foreign language is required; basic instructional materials will be available for checkout. Registration is not required, but it would be helpful for us to gauge interest in which languages to study so necessary materials can be on hand that evening. Register online or contact Kelly Laney at 205-226-4083. The program is free and open to everyone who is interested in learning how to communicate (or communicate better) in a new language. Light refreshments will be served.

How to Use the Mango Languages Database
  1. To preview the database, go to www.bplonline.org
  2. Click on “Databases” and use the drop down arrow beside “Database Quick Links” to scroll down to Mango Languages. 
  3.  Click on “Go.” If you are outside of a library, you will need your library card to log in for remote access. 
  4.  You can explore the database as a guest or create an account (at no charge to library cardholders when you register through our website) to begin learning immediately.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bards & Brews Fundraiser to Be Held at Central Library on February 3

What: Bards & Brews All Star Show
When:  Friday, February 3, 2017
Where: Central Library, Fiction Department, 1st floor
Details: Music by Clutch starts at 6:30 p.m.; poetry performances begin at 7: 00 p.m.

The future of Bards & Brews, the Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular spoken word poetry and beer tasting event, is in jeopardy due to lack of funding, and the public is being asked to help.

A dedicated group of BPL staff and community supporters are working to keep Bards & Brews alive and vital. The Central Library will host a special All Star Bards & Brews featuring previous slam winners and crowd favorites on February 3 in which attendees will be asked to pay-what-they-can to enter. The library is planning another Bards & Brews fundraising event at an off-site location later in 2017. More details on that event will be announced at a later date.

Craft beer has been donated by Grayton Beer Company of Florida. Donations via cash, check, or credit card will be accepted throughout the evening and online at www.bplonline.org/about/contributions/.

Poets performing will be as follows: Blaque Diamond, BStucc, Jahman Hill, Jerri Hardesty, JP Da Poet, Lee Green, Michael Harriot, Mojo Mama, Quang Do, Shaun Judah, Shaunteka, Southern Boy Buff, and Voice Porter.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. with live music by Clutch, beer tasting, and light refreshments. The poetry will begin to flow at 7:00 p.m. with Brian "Voice Porter" Hawkins serving as host. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and 21 to participate—ID is required.

For more information about Bards & Brews, call Brandon C. Smith at 205-591-4944 or e-mail him at bcsmith@bham.lib.al.us.

Here are the three main challenges the Bards & Brews program is facing in 2017, as highlighted at the following link: http://bplolinenews.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-future-of-bards-brews.html.
  1. Last year, the Alabama State Legislature passed a bill (a.k.a. the growler bill) that limited beer donations by Alabama's breweries. BPL has depended on beer donations for the Bards & Brews events for the past six years. Purchasing the beer, which will be necessary going forward, substantially increases the event expenses. Funds for beer will have to be donated, since it is not possible for the library to use taxpayer money to purchase alcohol.
  2. The grant cycle for this program has run its course. The year 2017 is the sixth year of Bards & Brews, and grant funding for the current version of the program has ended.
  3. The Birmingham Public Library has had to re-prioritize budgeting for programs and there is not enough money to continue Bards & Brews without public and/or private support.

Another Perspective: Artwork by E. Bruce Phillips, Jr. Exhibit at Central Library January 27-February 26, 2017

What: Another Perspective: Artwork by E. Bruce Phillips, Jr. exhibit
When: January 27-February 26, 2017, during library hours
Where: Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
Details: Opening reception scheduled for Saturday, February 11, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Fourth Floor Gallery. Free and open to the public.

E. Bruce Phillips’ work is an exploration of the connection between humans and the environment as reflected in man-made structures. He is known for use of circles, straight lines, and what Phillips calls his own “curvilinear markings” as a form of artistic expression. Color and texture, the richness of architecture and spatial relationships, and the marriage of precise perspective with the mystery of abstract add layers of complexity that are inherent to our relationship with our physical surroundings.

Phillips’ newer works include photography which seeks to capture the distinctive style and architecture in downtown Montreal or New Orleans, the gritty crumbling buildings and bridges of American industrial cities, and the amazing topography thousands of miles above Barbados. While evoking an emotional response, Phillips’ work also creates an opportunity for people to share perspectives and ideas.

Before becoming an art professor at Tuskegee University, Phillips held positions as director of the Chastain Arts Center & Gallery in Atlanta, associate professor of art at the Atlanta Metropolitan College, and director of community outreach at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Read more about Phillips’ work at http://www.ebrucephillipsjr.com/about.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Gift of a DNA Genealogy Test Kit

Big 3 DNA Genealogy Logos

This past holiday season was filled with TV commercials advertising DNA genealogy testing kits from FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe. You might have received a DNA genealogy testing kit as a Christmas present, and it started you thinking about your family and their heritage. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone to guide you on navigating DNA genealogy testing services and share about their real life experiences?

Beyond the Basics of Genealogy
Paul Boncella of the Southern History Department will explore the offerings of the three major DNA genealogy testing services (FamilyTreeDNAAncestryDNA, and 23andMe) this Saturday, January 28, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., in the Arrington Auditorium. He will teach you how to make full use of their websites and make the most of your DNA test results. This is the first Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop of 2017 and is appropriate for anyone thinking about testing their DNA for genealogical purposes or those who have already tested their DNA using one of these three testing services.

DNA Genealogical Testing Services will be on Saturday, January 28, 2017, 10:00-11:30 a.m., in the Arrington Auditorium at the Central Library.  Registration is requested. To register, please call the Southern History Department at 205-226-3665, e-mail us at askgenlocal@bham.lib.al.us, or register online.

Mark your calendars for the upcoming 2017 Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshops!
  • Digital Dixie 2 – Saturday, March 4 @10:00 a.m. Do you have ancestors from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, or Texas? In this class, you will discover digital genealogy resources that you never knew existed from these Southern states and learn search strategies to find untapped information and locate your ancestor. 

  • Making Your Sweet Home among Maps: How to Read and Interpret Maps of the Southeastern United States – Saturday, April 8 @10:00 a.m. Do old maps enchant or intimidate you? Do the symbols intrigue or confuse you? This hands-on workshop explores the symbols and mapping conventions used on 19th and early 20th century maps to tell the story of the development of the Southeast. Students will learn how to interpret and analyze information contained on old maps as well as look for hidden meaning behind what was mapped and what was left off the map. 

  • One for the Record Books: The English Census – Saturday, June 24 @10:00 a.m. Searching for English ancestors? Genealogists know that census records are crucial to family history research, but there are some important differences between the U.S. Federal Census and its English cousin. This workshop will show you how to navigate this important information source.

Money Matters – Where to Invest Your College Money Workshop Scheduled for February 1 at the Central Library

What: Where to Invest Your College Money workshop
When: Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC), 4th floor

Upcoming Dates/Workshops
3/1/2017 – Your Credit Report
4/5/2017 – Saving Through Tax Refunds
5/3/2017 – Five Keys to Investing Success
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Place: Central Library, Regional Library Computer Center

I think everyone would agree that getting accepted into the college of your choice is a thrilling event and a cause for great celebration. Unfortunately, having to face up to the task of paying for college is not nearly as joyous. According to the College Board, the average annual cost, including room and board, of attending a public university during the current school year of 2016-2017 is $20,092. That, of course, seems like nothing compared to the cost to attend a private university, which is $45,365. What’s even more frightening is that if you calculate college costs to continue to increase at the rather modest rate of 5% per year, then a student who is born this year and enters a public university in 2035 can expect to pay $48,353.79 during his/her freshman year and a total $208,410.89 for the entire four year undergraduate degree program. Figures like those will keep even the most financially competent parents up at night wondering how their child will afford college.

With higher education costs running so high, how can you possibly cover the expenses? Most families end up paying for college using a variety of sources including current income, accumulated savings, and student aid. A less popular but potentially very beneficial way of improving your financial capability is through investing. The problem with investing, however, is that it can be a very risky venture and most people do not possess the expertise to manage that risk appropriately. Of course, gaining knowledge is the crucial first step in developing an expertise in anything.

So, if you are interested in learning more about investing as a means of achieving your higher education goals, then plan on attending the Money Matters program, Where to Invest Your College Money on February 1, 2017, at the Central Library. The program presenters will be representatives from UAB’s Regions Institute for Financial Education.

Money Matters is a partnership between the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and UAB’s Regions Institute for Financial Education to help promote a better understanding of personal finance. Money Matters programs are offered the first Wednesday of every month at the Central Library. For more information about the 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 jmurray@bham.lib.al.us or by calling 205-226-3691.

Free Tax Prep Assistance and Forms at Birmingham Public Library

stock image of tax form

Check back for updates.

Note: Currently the Government Documents Department at the Central Library has federal forms and booklets for 1040A and 1040Z; and just forms for 1040. Alabama state forms and booklets are expected to arrive in February. 

As a service to the community, the Birmingham Public Library provides some copies of current federal and Alabama tax forms, instructions, and publications. The following forms/booklets are available at most library locations: Federal—1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms only; State—40 and 40NR forms and instruction booklets. Please call the library location to make sure that the form(s) you need is available. All other forms and instructions can be found online at IRS.gov.

Federal Forms
IRS forms and publications
Request IRS forms by mail

State Forms
Alabama Department of Revenue

General Resources
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - This governmental site has United States federal income tax forms, information, and tips. Includes warnings about tax frauds and scams, information about filling online, and the ability to track the status of your refund.

Yahoo! Finance: Tax Center - Tax forms, estimators, calculators, preparation, guides, tips, terms, calendars, rates, rules, news, and state tax profiles. Includes a basic "Beginner's Guide" for those new to preparing U.S. taxes.

Free File Home: Your Link to Free Online Filing - This IRS site is about Free File, an "online tax preparation and electronic filing through a partnership agreement between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, LLC. In other words, you can e-file... free." This site explains eligibility requirements for this free service, steps to get started, and a list of related FAQs.

Free Tax Return Preparation For You by Volunteers - Information about the Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program, which offer free tax help if you qualify. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, many sites also offer free electronic filing (e-filing).

Free Tax Prep Assistance at Birmingham Public Library

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation help to anyone and if you’re 50 and older, and can’t afford a tax preparation service, we were made especially for you. We understand that retirement or other life changes may mean your taxes are a little more complicated now. With the help of our team of IRS-certified volunteers we make it easy for you. For information on scheduling an appointment and what documents you need to bring with you, visit http://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/info-01-2011/important-tax-documents.html.

Avondale Regional Branch Library (Register online through the BPL event calendar or call 205-226-4000 for an appointment after January 27)
February 1-April 14
Wednesdays, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Fridays, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Impact America provides free tax preparation services for households earning up to $53,000 with one or more children in the home, or $20,000 without children in the home. You must call 1-888-99-TAX-AL (1-888-998-2925) for an appointment; no walk-ins will be assisted. For information on scheduling an appointment and what documents you need to bring with you, visit http://impactamerica.com/free-tax-services/. Services are provided by IRS-certified Volunteer Tax Preparers from local colleges in the cities where our tax sites are located. Impact Alabama is sponsored by SaveFirst.

Smithfield Branch Library
January 28-April 18

January and February
Mondays and Tuesdays, 12:00-8:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
March and April
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Springville Road Regional Branch Library 
January 24-February 25
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays

West End Branch Library
January 20-March 4
Mondays, 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Fridays, 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Woodlawn Branch Library
January 25-⁠March 4
Wednesdays, 12:00-6:00 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays, 12:00-6:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Southern History Book of the Month: Dead Towns of Alabama

by Mary Anne Ellis, Southern History Department, Central Library

Dead Towns of Alabama
W. Stuart Harris

Despite the gloomy-sounding title, W. Stuart Harris’ Dead Towns of Alabama is a lively history of our state’s villages, forts, and other communities that have been depopulated through various circumstances such as war, forced relocation of their inhabitants, natural disasters, financial crashes, or simply the inevitable march of time. The book was originally issued for the American Bicentennial observances in 1976 under the auspices of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, and now that celebrations of the upcoming Alabama Bicentennial are about to begin, this is an excellent time to take a look through Dead Towns. It lends itself well to browsing; you can open it just about anywhere for a brief history of a vanished community.

Take the mysterious Maubila (also spelled Mabila or Mavila), where the Hernando DeSoto expedition met in battle with Chief Tuscaloosa:
The site of one of the most exciting encounters in Alabama history, the Battle of Maubila, is unknown. Although historians and archaeologists have searched for it for well over a century, Maubila continues to elude them and remains as mysterious as ever . . . The final report of the United States DeSoto Commission, submitted to Congress in 1939, conceded that the elusive site was probably somewhere in southern Marengo County.
However, the ruling of the Commission has not stifled speculation on the exact site of Maubila, with other guesses placing it in Clarke, Wilcox, or Greene County. It’s enough to bring out the Indiana Jones in just about any armchair archaeologist.

Another section is dedicated to communities around Alabama forts, and any child who took Alabama history is likely to recall the bloodcurdling story of the Fort Mims Massacre. But there were also two Fort Deposits—a surprise to me, since I’d only heard of one. I had also never heard of Fort Easley, which was apparently evacuated as a direct response to the events at Fort Mims.

In the list of Colonial, Territorial, and State towns that are no longer occupied, we have—surprise!—Birmingham. But this Birmingham was located in Jackson County and was created in 1845. Without a railroad system nearby, the community declined after the Civil War. Or there’s Cahaba/Cahawba, the first state capital of Alabama, though I couldn’t help thinking of it as “the town that couldn’t catch a break” as I read the entry. Flooding of the Cahaba River and the economic changes brought about by the Civil War forced this original state capital into obscurity: "Just before the turn of the century, a former slave purchased most of the town site for $500, and the abandoned homes and buildings were razed for building materials and transported by steamboats to Selma and Mobile."

These are only a few of the “ghost towns” that live again in the pages of this guide, which includes a listing of the towns by county. I was interested to see that at least one of these former communities is right along my daily drive to work. You may discover some interesting traces of the past in your own back yard as well. If you’d like to brush up on your Alabama history, this is an entertaining place to begin.

For more information:

The Battle of Mabila

The Search for Mabila: The Decisive Battle between Hernando de Soto and Chief Tascalusa


Old Cahawba Archaeological Site

Fort Mims

Birmingham, As It Was, in Jackson County, Alabama

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Road to Super Bowl LI

Super Bowl LI logo

Super Bowl LI is almost here.  We will find out tomorrow who will be competing for the NFL’s ultimate prize.  In the AFC, we have the usual suspects: New England and Pittsburgh.  The NFC is another story.  It’s no surprise that Green Bay “ran the table” and found their way into the NFC Championship game, but I don’t think many people counted on the Atlanta Falcons to make it.  Last year, the Carolina Panthers had an unbelievable run to the Super Bowl and expectations were high that they would produce another good season.  It didn’t happen this year.  Despite their struggles in the playoffs in the past, the Atlanta Falcons find themselves at home playing for a chance to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in almost 20 years.

The Dallas Cowboys had a fairy tale season.  They had the best record in the NFC (13-3) which provided them with a bye week and home-field advantage for the playoffs.  Led by two Pro Bowl rookies, running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys were on pace to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 90s.  In an epic battle at AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys fell short to the Green Bay Packers, 34-31.  Super Bowl LI will be played in Houston, so fans were hoping that Dallas and/or the Houston Texans would be able to play in their home state.  The Texans made it to the divisional round with a win over the Oakland Raiders, 27-14, but the New England Patriots proved to be too much defeating the Texans, 34-16.  

No matter how you feel about the New England Patriots, you have to respect their success.  Tom Brady served a four-game suspension this season for the Deflategate saga and the Patriots still managed to finish the season with the best record in the NFL (14-2).  A patron asked me before the season how they would fare without Brady and I told him that even if they lost all four of those games, New England still had the potential to finish 12-4 with Brady in the game.  It turns out that New England only lost one of the first four to Buffalo and their second loss with Brady at quarterback happened against Seattle.  With Pittsburgh playing on the road, I have to believe that the Patriots are headed to another Super Bowl.  I desperately want the Atlanta Falcons to win the NFC Championship game, particularly at home, but Aaron Rodgers has that “look in his eye” and it will be a tall task for Atlanta, especially considering what happened in Dallas.

Both games will be exciting and I can’t wait to see who emerges.  It has been a great football season and I hate to see it come to an end.  Enjoy the games.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Registration Open For February 2017 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the February 2017 Classes. During this month, we include classes on a variety of topics including computer skills, career guidance, and genealogy. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) 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 email 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 February 2017 Class Schedule flyer to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the February 2017 Class Schedule can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Get Organized in 2017

by Karnecia Williams, Inglenook Branch Library

Raising children who are involved in sports can be one of the most enjoyable yet demanding aspects of parenthood. Parents are often left exhausted after washing smelly clothes several times a week, ensuring that their children attend practices, and traveling to games that are sometimes a little farther away than their taste. They accomplish all of their children’s sports needs while also helping them manage school. This is only one example of how busy our lives can be especially when we are caring for others. Well, as in anything involving multiple tasks, organization is a necessity. Fortunately, there are a plethora of resources available at the Birmingham Public Library that can not only help sports parents maintain their sanity and streamline their tasks, but others who are busy in other ways. Check out the books below!

The Smart But Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain's Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and Home by Peg Dawson, Richard Guare

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin

The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People: The Tweets of Steve Martin

Organized Living by Dawna Walter with Helen Chislett

Organize & Create Discipline by Justin Klosky

Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time by Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, with John Hanc

Book Review: The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright

by Richard Grooms, Fiction Department, Central Library

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright
Jean Nathan

It’s a commonplace that it’s more interesting to read about dysfunctional families than well-adjusted ones. And it’s especially true that it’s less embarrassing and squeamish to read when the biographer is tactful, judicious, and sympathetic. Jean Nathan manages all this with The Secret Life. As with the Maylses’ Grey Gardens documentary about the Beale sisters, Big and Little Edie, Nathan’s book doesn’t make you feel like she’s exploitative or that you’re a voyeur. Reading about overbearing Edie (yes, Dare’s mother is also a called Edie), sheltered daughter Dare, and fragile brother Blaine is a route to understanding and compassion, not ridicule. The author threads a very difficult needle. This is a roundabout way of saying that you can have your cake and eat it too.

Dare Wright was one of the most popular children’s book authors of the fifties and sixties. Even so, I’d never heard of her until I came upon this book. But it wasn’t out of an interest in children’s lit that I read The Secret Life, but out of my fascination with isolated families. Whether it’s the separatist Orthodox Lykov family who left humanity behind to seek religious freedom in Siberia, or the Running With Scissors and Glass Castle families, I have a passionate interest in families that do what they want and say to hell with the world. How do you raise a drawbridge, metaphorical or not, between you and the world, when the world doesn’t recognize or even want that drawbridge? The Wrights managed to isolate themselves even though they spent much of their lives living in separate states. None of them really assimilated. They all were subject to their family’s special pathology: an extreme resistance to, and denial of, aging. Mother Edie’s talent for self-deception laid the pattern for Dare. Dare was unsatisfied with stints in acting and modeling, and she kept all men at arm’s length. Work, life, love—none of them worked for Dare. Edie didn’t think any man was good enough for Dare, and Dare submitted to this belief. But even a highly sheltered person needed income, and Dare found it in writing for children. She never stopped obsessively playing with her dolls, and she was able to use this drive in her book The Lonely Doll, a sort of text narrative with movie stills that was embraced by children all over the world. Dare used her own dolls to cast the book and the personal stamp worked. In this and subsequent doll-populated books, she worked out her psychodramas in a way she couldn’t in life. She had a new career. What could have been cutesy became, according to Nathan, “almost noir.” Themes of control, punishment, and exile run through the books. Later, when values such as children’s rights and self-esteem became the norm, readers and publishers deserted the Wright books, which in a new day seemed too severe.

As adults, Edie, Dare, and Blaine dressed as children, played with toys and indulged in candy, usually when alone or with each other. Dare and Edie shared the same bed when they visited each other, but not in a sexual way. Family friends, of course, were baffled by Wright norms. One man who dated (or “dated”) Dare was Tony Palermo. Palermo resented the controlling presence of Edie, but couldn’t fathom another obstacle, Edith, Dare’s favorite doll. One time Palermo visited Dare at her New York apartment. “You didn’t say hello to Edith,” Dare chided, as though Tony had rudely neglected to acknowledge a human presence. “It scared the hell out of me,” he recalled. The bizarre mode continues for all of the Wrights, but Dare’s situation is the strangest of all. She remained the perfect, perfectly beautiful, untouchable girl, unreconciled and irreconcilable to the world.

In time a famous doll company made a simulated Lonely Doll. It was exhibited in the Soviet Union where the doll “was considered representative of American culture to be included.” If only the Russians knew. But of course they couldn’t, any more than anyone could have until Nathan came along. It’s one of an abundance of ironies here.

Dare and Edie grew even closer after Edie moved to New York and eventually merge. Edie starts answering Dare’s mail, drives off all of Dare’s suitors and most of her friends. The hothouse becomes more of a hothouse. It’s sad, almost unbelievable, occasionally shocking, and occasionally even funny. Like a David Lynch movie, you don’t always know when to recoil, when to laugh. You sometimes want to do both at once. But I of course ended up sympathizing with Dare. Like a doomed heroine in a fairy story, I found myself wanting to save her but, after reading about all those who tried and failed to do just that, I just retreated to sympathy and sadness. You can’t help but grasp the poignancy and intractability of it all. Jean Nathan deserves to be commended.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Boom! Train Explosion in Woodlawn area of Birmingham

Explosion on Birmingham Train

Have you ever heard a loud noise and wondered what is the world could have made that sound? Today, we head online to social media and media outlets as the news is almost instant. One hundred years ago in 1917, that was not the case, and the citizens of Birmingham had to wait until the next morning to read in the newspaper what really happened.

On January 7, 1917, readers of The Birmingham Age-Herald and The Birmingham News discovered that there had been an explosion on Birmingham special train of the Southern Railway near Woodlawn. Ambulances rushed to Terminal Station, and carried the wounded to local hospitals. The explosion killed 3 people and injured 15 people. The explosion was not an accident, but a deliberate act perpetrated by Louis Walton.

Train Wreckage
How did this happen? Passenger Louis Walton carried a small bag into the train’s lavatory, and the lavatory was the site of the explosion. Several witnesses on the train saw Walton with a glass bottle possibly containing nitroglycerin. Shattered windows and a bulge in the rear end of the train car were the only outwardly visible evidence of the explosion. Because the train car had been made of steel, it helped minimize the damage and loss of life. Twisted walls, overturned seats, and blown fragments lined the inside of the train car. One of the saddest stories was of J.D. Russum of West End. Previous injuries had left him crippled and without the use of his legs. As a result of the train accident, he had his right ear blown off, his head gnashed, and a large splinter in his side, and his right leg fractured, but he miraculously survived the accident.

What was Walton’s motive for blowing up the train? In 1915, Walton’s business partner, Mr. O. Barton, was found shot to death, and Walton was put on trial for his murder. The motive was to collect insurance money resulting from the death of his business partner. The courts indicted Walton for murder twice, but the two trials ended up as mistrials. However, public opinion was against Walton as many people believed that he has shot his business partner for the insurance money.

The explosion was planned as Walton had taken out multiple insurance policies the week before his train trip. Walton left behind a wife, and the insurance settlement would have left her a very wealthy woman. Insurance policies pay out double the amount for an accidental death on a train, and Walton’s wife might have received over $60,000 with this double indemnity clause. However, insurance policies do not pay out if a death is ruled a suicide. Walton’s plan unraveled, as later that week, the coroner ruled Walton’s death a suicide.

Enjoyed this story of Birmingham’s history? The Southern History Department will share a story, picture, or advertisement each Thursday from 1917 for Throwback Thursday on its Facebook page. Like the Southern History Department on Facebook, so you will not miss any of the stories of what life was like in Birmingham 100 years ago.

Book Review: The Education of Henry Adams

by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library

The Education of Henry Adams
Henry Adams

You may have heard of the film trivia game, “seven degrees of separation which references Kevin Bacon.” Henry Adams is the "Kevin Bacon” of the history of the United States. He led a remarkable life and was connected through friendship and family relation to our most important historical figures from the Revolutionary era (through his grandfather John Quincy Adams) to the Kennedy administration (through his friendship with a young Eleanor Roosevelt). But The Education of Henry Adams is not a tell-all series of anecdotes about the scores of interesting people he met and knew. Rather, it is an introspective look at the useful and difficult self-education that emerged from his dealings with the important figures of his era, roughly the last half of the nineteenth century.

The heart of this autobiography is the decade of young Henry Adams’ unpaid service as personal secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams, Lincoln’s Ambassador to Great Britain, on one of the most important diplomatic missions in US history. Their task was to maintain the neutrality of the British in the Civil War despite the British desire to recognize the Confederacy, buy cotton from them and sell them weapons, which would have reversed the outcome of the Civil War had Adams failed. But this book is not a blow-by-blow recounting of the success of their mission. Rather, Adams, with the hindsight of fifty years of access to historical records, discusses the many ways the American legation—and the British leadership, Palmerston, Gladstone, and Foreign Secretary Lord Russell—all of these brilliant accomplished leaders were almost always entirely wrong about each other’s positions and intentions. Adams describes a real-world education gained from a high stakes endeavor.

During his work in London, young Adams was approached by Charles Darwin and asked to write a paper introducing Darwin’s evolutionary theories to American readers. Later, although he did not have a degree in history, Harvard asked him to become a professor of Medieval history, about which he was ignorant. But he created the seminar method of conducting classes (still widely used) so that he and his students could study together. He was friends with Clarence King, father of the US Geological Survey, and travelled with him into a West still wild with buffalo herds and hostile natives. His closest friendship was with John Hay, Lincoln’s personal secretary, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of State. Together, they commissioned the great architect H. H. Richardson to build a pair of adjoining houses on Lafayette Park, across from the White House, where they wrote volumes of US history. Some of the best writing is about Adams' youth where he lived on his grandfather’s farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, sill an outpost of 18th century New England puritanism.

The Education of Henry Adams was originally self-published and only distributed to close friends and only reached the public after his death. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, and is widely regarded as the finest American autobiography. Adams was close friends with Henry James, and as with James, his elegant sentences require close attention from the reader, who will often encounter untranslated French or Latin passages, as well. It is a companion piece to his Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, also an American classic. Adams' intent is to compare the religious and intellectual unity of the Medieval era with his time’s expanding multiplicity, driven by the historical forces of science and technology, discussed at length. He is concerned about the education of young leaders for the coming century which he believes will be defined by complexity and change.

The Education of Henry Adams demands much from its readers. He assumes a familiarity with the ideas and personages of his time. Many passages are intellectually challenging and require reflection. But the reader is rewarded with a deeper understanding of an important part of the history we all share. And Adams is very good company.

Play the Martin Luther King, Jr. Trivia Game at Five Points West Library

Do you know what Martin Luther King Jr.'s original first name is?

Test your knowledge on the foremost modern American  civil rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in our trivia contest.

There are two ways to play:

Visit the Five Points West Regional Branch Library branch to experience a trivia tour! Answer the trivia questions correctly and enter to win a prize.

Or you can visit the Five Points West Library Facebook page and enter daily for a chance to win a prize online.

There will be two prizes awarded, one for online patrons and one for the trivia tour in the library. The drawing will be held Friday, January 20, 2017.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham Bar Foundation to Host Student Mock Trial Program

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and the Birmingham Bar Foundation, in conjunction with the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of Alabama, are joining forces to host the Spring 2017 Student Mock Trial Program.

The program is designed to introduce 30 students from grades six through 12 to the critical thinking, technology, and advocacy skills utilized in trial practice, said Lance Simpson, teen librarian for BPL. After learning and developing these skills, the program will culminate in a mock trial conducted in a courtroom. During the trial, program participants will assume the roles of lawyers, witnesses, and judge.

“We are excited to announce a new mock trial program for middle and high school students that will take place at our Central Library,” Simpson said. “We will have an informal meeting to provide an introduction to the program for interested students and parents on Thursday, January 19, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.”

All of the Student Mock Trial Program classes will be held in the Teen Zone Learning Lab on the second floor of the Central Library. Classes will be taught by distinguished Birmingham area attorneys, Simpson said. Classes will run weekly from Thursday, January 19 through Thursday, March 16.

“We will meet after school at 3:30 p.m. each week, and will generally finish up around 5 p.m.,” Simpson said. “Teens will have the opportunity to study the justice system in depth, not only learning laws and legal procedures, but practicing their own skills in a mock trial in an actual courtroom.”

Due to limited space, advanced registration for the program is required. For more information, call Simpson at 205-226-3655 or e-mail him at lmsimpson@bham.lib.al.us. You may register online through the BPL event calendar.

Schedule for Spring 2017 Student Mock Trial Program 
The eight-week program begins Thursday, January 19, 2017, ends Thursday, March 16, 2017, and will be held every Thursday from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Each session will be taught by distinguished and experienced trial attorneys. The sessions will include:

Week 1. Introduction to the Program & QA (less than one hour)
Week 2. Overview of the Criminal Justice System
Week 3. Case Analysis and Brainstorming
Week 4. Opening Statements & Evidence
Week 5. Witness Examinations
Week 6. Closing Arguments
Week 7. Courtroom Technology & Preparation for the Mock Trial
Week 8. Preparation for Mock Trial
Week 9. Mock Trial

During the first week, all participants and community members are welcome to attend a brief overview of the program and its goals. The second week’s program will provide an overview of the criminal justice system. During weeks three through seven, the participants will be given an introductory presentation by distinguished local attorneys on necessary trial skills. At the conclusion of the presentation, the participants will be placed into small learning groups and each participant will be given individual instruction on the trial skill and an opportunity to practice the skill.

During the final week of the program, the participants will utilize the skills they have been taught in the preceding weeks by assuming the roles of participants in a trial and arguing a case before a jury.

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Birmingham City Councilor Lashunda Scales donates $25,000 to Springville Road Library

Sandi Lee (left) and the BPL Board of Trustees

Birmingham City Councilor Lashunda Scales has donated $25,000 to the Springville Road Regional Branch Library as part of her District 1 Holiday Gala held recently at Huffman High School.

The check from Scales was among several she presented to neighborhood groups, schools, police, and others located in the eastern Birmingham District 1 community Scales represents on the City Council. Birmingham Public Library Interim Director Sandi Lee and BPL Board of Trustees members Willie Davis and Georgia Blair were present to accept the check.

Lee said she is appreciative of Scales’ longtime support of the Springville Road Library. Scales District 1 Holiday Gala is among several community events she hosts in District 1 throughout the year to serve the citizens of her district.

"On behalf of Birmingham City Council District One, it is my honor to invest $25,000 to the Springville Road Library to provide additional resources and tools to better enhance the educational prosperity of all of our citizens," said Councilor Scales in a statement.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

MLK Lecture “A Conversation on Islam in America” to Be Held January 15 at Central Library

What: Begin the Day: The 14th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture – "The First Step: A Conversation on Islam in America"
When: Sunday, January 15, 2017, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Details: Free and open to the public

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is partnering with the Birmingham Islamic Society to host an in-depth discussion on what it is like to be a follower of Islam in the United States. “The First Step: A Conversation on Islam in America” is the topic of BPL’s 14th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture on January 15 at the Central Library.

The MLK Memorial Lecture will feature four young people from Birmingham’s Islamic community sharing their experiences and answering questions about their lives and their faith, said Jim Baggett, head of BPL’s Archives & Manuscripts Department. The Birmingham Public Library has been hosting the MLK Lecture every weekend of the MLK holiday since 2002. Past speakers have included scholars discussing the civil rights movement, community leaders, and activists talking about issues such as human trafficking.

“With this program we have looked at civil rights as well as human rights,” Baggett said. “That led us this year to look at an issue important in this area and around the world—Islamophobia.”

Baggett said BPL decided to explore being Islam in America early last year, before it became an issue in the presidential election. Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, said the topic is timely since many followers of the Islamic faith are worried about the negative rhetoric about Muslims common in the U.S. right now.

Taufique and Baggett both said they hope the MLK Lecture sparks a positive conversation on Islam here in Alabama among attendees. Baggett said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, though known mostly for his fight for civil rights in Birmingham and elsewhere, was also active in the fight for human rights. He referred to King’s famous quote, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

“The first step for people who want to understand each other is to talk and ask questions,” Baggett said. “We hope people will attend the MLK Lecture with an open mind about Islam in America and join the conversation.”

Taufique said the Birmingham Islamic Society is proud to partner with BPL on the MLK Lecture. The organization provides resources for Muslims and educates the community about the Islamic faith in metro Birmingham and across central Alabama.

“We do a lot of outreach to the community so that we become the voice who speaks for Islam rather than politics and television,” Taufique said. “We’ve got great interfaith partners who support us. When the Birmingham Public Library approached us about this, we were so fortunate to have been invited and to have someone help us make our voices heard. One of the things that is lacking is conversation and dialogue. This provides an opportunity to talk to each other.”

Baggett said BPL has been planning this program for a year. Their original concept was to invite a scholar to discuss Islam in America. But in recent months we evolved and wanted it to be more of a conversation. We wanted it to involve young people in many communities in the Birmingham area. We hope it will encourage a dialogue and hopefully some understanding.”

Taufique said it is important to address the issue of Islam in America head-on by having an open dialogue. He hopes “this conversation is not going to only bring people who are like-minded, but people who are diverse in their thinking together.”

“People who really think Islam is part of the problem can get to know their neighbors, know the girls and boys who go to school with their children, who play basketball with their children,” Taufique said. “Once we personalize ourselves in the position of others, we can truly develop a better understanding of each other.”

For more information about the MLK Lecture, call Jim Baggett at 205-226-3631 or e-mail him at jbaggett@bham.lib.al.us.

Birmingham Mayor to Give State of the City 2017 Address at Pratt City Library on January 10

Birmingham Mayor William Bell will give his annual State of the City address on Tuesday, January 10, first before a downtown business group luncheon and again during an evening address at the Pratt City Branch Library.

Bell will speak at the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham’s weekly luncheon taking place on Tuesday, January 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at the Harbert Center. That luncheon is for members only and their guests.

The public, however, is welcome to attend Bell’s State of the City address between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 10, at the Pratt City Branch Library.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Future of Bards & Brews

It is a new year and time for another Bards & Brews.

Except, the library is facing new challenges this year and we are unable to have a Bards & Brews this month.

Here are the three main challenges the Bards & Brews program is facing in 2017:

1) Last year the state legislature passed a bill (aka the growler bill) that included language that put a big limitation on beer donations by Alabama's breweries. In order to continue serving beer at these events, we are going to have to actually purchase the beer—and it is not possible for us to use library (aka taxpayer) money to purchase beer.

2) The grant cycle for this program has run its course. 2017 is the sixth year of Bards & Brews and our grant funding has essentially disappeared since the program is no longer a novel idea.

3) The Birmingham Public Library has had to re-prioritize budgeting for programs and there is no money for us to pay our servers, provide refreshments, cash prizes for slam winners, and so forth.

Now having said all of that, we want you to know that there is a dedicated group of BPL staff and community supporters who are working to keep Bards & Brews alive and vital.

The program will have some changes ahead and we are going to be asking for your help.

We will have a Bards & Brews in February.

It will be an All Star Bards & Brews with previous slam winners and crowd favorites performing. There will be beer (donated by Grayton Beer Company out of Florida) and light refreshments and there will be a great band performing.

And we will be asking for your support. More details and some big announcements are coming.

So stay tuned!

From Page to Stage: Einstein is a Dummy – A Reader’s Theater Workshop for Children

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

In anticipation of the upcoming BCT performance of Einstein is a Dummy, BPL will be hosting free workshops at several of its area libraries. Children, aged 5 to 12, will learn how stories come alive through the magic of theater. JLB members will coach the children and introduce them to similar literature located in their local library. Each child will receive two free tickets (one child and one adult ticket) to the BCT Einstein is a Dummy production in January and February 2017.

As an adult, Albert Einstein changed our view of the universe. But as a boy, he struggled with the same issues any 12-year-old might—keeping up with violin lessons, impressing the girl next door, and, oh yeah, comprehending the fundamental relationship of space and time to the speed of light, of course.

This uplifting play about a fictional day in young Einstein's life confirms that each of us is both ordinary and special. With an engaging, original score, a healthy dose of imagination and the help of a mysterious cat, Einstein Is a Dummy reveals life's atomic possibilities.

Workshop space is limited, so register a child for the workshop online through the BPL calendar or call your participating library. Libraries and dates are as follows:

Avondale: Sunday, January 22, 2:30 p.m. (includes special visit by the JLB Yummy Truck)
East Lake: Saturday, January 21, 2:30 p.m.
Five Points West: Sunday, January 22, 2:30 p.m.
Pratt City: Saturday, January 21, 2:30 p.m.
Southside: Saturday, January 28, 2:30 p.m.
Springville Road: Sunday, January 29, 2:30 p.m. (includes special visit by the JLB Yummy Truck)
West End: Saturday, January 28, 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Hoopla Digital Library Available at BPL

Bringing you hundreds of thousands of movies, full music albums, audiobooks, and more, hoopla is a revolutionary digital service made possible by your local library. From Hollywood blockbusters to best selling artists and authors—not just the hits, but the niche and hard-to-find as well—you’ll soon discover that hoopla provides you the freedom you've been searching for to experience, explore, and enjoy what you want, when you want, and where you want. Simple to access and use, without the hassle of having to return the items you've borrowed, all you need is your library card, a web browser, smart phone, or tablet to get started. The freedom you want is here, now. Sign up today.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Birmingham Public Library Receives Donation of 106 Books in Honor of Homicide Victims

BPL Interim Director Sandi Lee (2nd from left), Jefferson County DA Charles
Henderson (3rd from right), and Jefferson County Millennial Democrats

The Jefferson County Millennial Democrats has donated 106 children’s books to the Birmingham Public Library in honor of homicide victims killed in the city in 2016.

Each of the 106 books has a victim’s name inscribed inside the front cover in memory of 104 people and two unborn babies who were victims of a homicide last year. The donations were made during a dedication ceremony held Sunday, January 1, 2017, at the West End Branch Library.

At the ceremony, Le'Darius Hilliard, president of the Jefferson County Millennial Democrats, said he "hopes to bring light" to senseless violence in Birmingham through the book donation. Birmingham Public Library representatives and Jefferson County District Attorney Charles Henderson attended the dedication, in which Hilliard said he hopes the books encourage children to pursue education vs. violent behavior.

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