Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BPL Wins $95,000 Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham Grant to Expand Teen Engineering to More Branches

Dr. Abidin Yildirim, director of outreach and STEM Coordinator for the UAB School
of Engineering, and college mentors work with teens on a structured STEM activity at the 
Central Library.

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) has received a $95,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to expand Teens Engineer BHM, a pilot afterschool program that partners engineering school mentors from UAB with teens at three Birmingham city libraries: Central, Southside, and Woodlawn. The grant will be used to expand the program from three to five libraries over the next two years.

The Community Foundation announced the grant and other recipients on May 26 at the link below:

Teens Engineer Birmingham, a UAB School of Engineering outreach effort through the Birmingham Public Library, began as a pilot program at the Central Library in 2015. Last year, it was expanded to Southside and Woodlawn Branch Libraries after BPL won a $50,000 2015 Community Impact Grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund.

Mentors from the UAB School of Engineering, led by Department Outreach Coordinator and STEM Instructor Dr. Abidin Yildirim, provide weekly STEM-based robotics programming for afterschool students at the Central, Woodlawn and Southside Libraries. Student participants come from home schools as well as Phillips Academy, Woodlawn, and Ramsay high schools in Birmingham, all within walking distance of the libraries. The $95,000 grant from the Community Foundation will be used to buy laptops, software, tools, safety equipment, and to fund stipends for the UAB engineering students mentoring the teens at the five libraries across the city.

“We are excited, our teens and parents are excited, and our UAB mentors and partners in the UAB School of Engineering are overjoyed to have the support of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham,” said Lance Simpson, department head of BPL’s The Learning Center. “The program is all about providing knowledgeable mentors to work one-on=one with our teens and sharing their passion for engineering, and the teens have loved it.”

Lance Simpson at a 2015 Makey Makey Tech Workshop at the Avondale Regional Branch
Library. See photos of Teens Engineer BHM programs at BPL Flickr.

Since its inception, the teens participating in the afterschool engineering program have gained valuable knowledge from building and programming robots to just getting to talk and work with UAB mentors, he said.

“We can't wait to see what the next two years will bring,” Simpson said. “We are so grateful to the UAB Benevolent Fund for their initial faith and support in our pilot project, and now to the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham for their support in the next phase.”

“A special thanks to Lance Simpson and Melvia Walton for the hard work and tireless effort they put forth to write the grant,” said Sandi Lee, interim director of BPL. ”Lance gave a stellar presentation to the eight member visiting team from the CFGB in the Learning Lab. The grant will be used to expand programs to libraries in each of our five regions, ensuring that teens across the city will have access over the next two years. This is a great win for the citizens of Birmingham and the young patrons of BPL who will participate.”

When the UAB Benevolent Fund announced BPL as the recipient of its $50,000 grant a year ago, Yildirim said it can open opportunities for the Birmingham teen participants in engineering and other STEM programs. Read more about the UAB grant at the link below:

Summer and Fall 2017 Schedule Set for SCORE Steps to Starting Your Business Seminars at Birmingham Public Library

What: Steps to Starting Your Business seminar
When: Monday, June 5, 2017
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Details: Registration is required

The Birmingham Public Library, in conjunction with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development, will again be hosting the monthly seminar Steps to Starting Your Business, from June to November 2017. The seminar is scheduled to be held on the following Mondays from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium, which is located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library: June 5, July 10, September 11, October 2, and November 6. No seminar will be held during the month of August.

Each seminar will cover the same topics, but those who are interested are welcome to attend more than one day. Topics covered will include crafting a vision statement, identifying sources of funding, determining the legal structure of your business, devising a business plan, and investigating sources of business and economic information. Please register for the seminars by contacting Andy Mayo in the Economic Development Office at or 205-254-2774.

Seminar presenters will be veteran mentors from the local chapter of SCORE. SCORE is a national nonprofit association consisting of volunteers with business skills and experience who want to share their knowledge with prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners. For over 50 years, SCORE mentors have helped millions of Americans start and grow their own businesses.

For further information about the seminars or about resources available at the Birmingham Public Library relating to small business development, please contact Jim Murray in the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department at or by phoning 205-226-3691.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Southern History Book(s) of the Month: Gumbo Love and Lulu's Kitchen

by Mary Anne Ellis, Librarian, Southern History Department, Central Library

Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life
Lucy Buffett

Lulu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life
Lucy Buffett
(Previously published as Crazy Sista Cooking)

It’s a Book of the Month double feature! Now that we’re nearing the end of May, people start (or have already been) thinking about vacation time, beach destinations, and great summer food. These two books by Lucy “LuLu” Buffett are bound to get you in the summertime state of mind with their mouth-watering recipes, tips for the good life—Gulf Coast style—and tidbits of personal history. In Gumbo Love, Buffett recounts how cooking was an activity that caught and kept her attention in a way that school had been unable to do:
I was always turning in assignments late or under the wire. It was more fun to dream, play make-believe, hang out with friends, or listen to music . . . There is now a diagnosis and treatment for my “scatterbrained” habits, but back in the day, when life was happening faster than my little limbs could carry me, I found a kind of solace in the summers I spent in Pascagoula, Mississippi, at the Formica-topped counter of my grandmother’s modest kitchen. Every day I would watch her cook up a massive meal and on most Fridays, a big pot of gumbo. It was the only place where I could “sit still.”
Both books are, as you might expect, loaded with tips about cooking gumbo, including the importance of a good roux as the base, and it’s not a dish for someone who’s in a hurry. LuLu’s Kitchen asserts that “Cooking gumbo can (and should) take all day.” And how do you know when to add the “Holy Trinity” of bell pepper, onion, and celery? “Baby, take it to the edge!”

However, the dishes in these books are not just for summer. Check out Cousin Mark’s Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Gumbo and the menu for Traditional UnChristmas Dinner in LuLu’s Kitchen. Or take a look at the Classic Southern Pound Cake with Strawberries in Gumbo Love, which might also pair well with Easy-Peasy Chocolate Sauce. Cake like that would fetch me any time of the year.

But more than anything else, what caught my attention about these books is the attitude that cooking is fun, an adventure to be approached with excitement. As Buffett points out in one of her “Ten Ingredients for a Bright Life and a Happy Kitchen” in Gumbo Love: "The worst that can happen is you have to throw it away and go out to eat instead—but don’t hold yourself to outrageous standards. Just be you. Cook what you love! Then others will love what you cook."

So kick off your summer with some reading that will put you in that Gulf Coast mood no matter where you live. Put on some music—maybe even by Lucy’s brother, Jimmy—and get ready for some great eating, LuLu style!

For further information:
LuLu’s at Gulf Shores Alabama
Lucy’s Summer Seafood Gumbo (includes roux instructions)
Another roux recipe
A short history of gumbo
Stars Fell on Alabama” (Jimmy Buffett recording)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bards & Brews to Take Place During the June Art Crawl at the Pizitz

Bards & Brews will have a change of scenery for June with our debut performance at the Birmingham Art Crawl on Thursday, June 1, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

The monthly spoken-word poetry program will be open air and open mic outside the Pizitz Food Hall at the corner of 19th Street and Second Ave North.

As you check out the amazing visual artists of the Magic City, join us for an unforgettable night featuring many of Birmingham's best poets sharing their work against the backdrop of the city's evening lights.

We are also giving away two $25 gift certificates to Eli's Jerusalem Grill during the event. One will be given away via an Instagram contest and the other via a trivia question at 8:00 p.m. during the event. See the library's post on Instagram for details on how to enter via the app.

This is an open mic event, which means that anyone willing to sign the list can get on the microphone to perform their work or the work of another poet. We are always encouraging new performers to get on the mic at Bards & Brews.

Regular performer Lee J. Green recalls his first couple of times on the microphone at Bards & Brews: "At first it was a little bit scary. You are doing something that is your own and you are performing in front of people.  How will they react?  Everybody was so warm and has been so warm every time that I have gone up there or anyone else has gone up there. It has been such a great experience."

As always, admission is free. So bring yourself, your friends, and your poetry to share and support some great local artists in the process.

The public can make donations to support Bards & Brews online or send a check via mail to Birmingham Public Library, Development Department, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203. For more information about Bards & Brews, call Brandon C. Smith of the Eastwood Branch Library at 205-591-4944 or email him at Follow Bards & Brews on Facebook and look for more news on fundraising efforts on the BPL website.

Join The Afterthoughts, Springville Road Library’s Nonfiction Book Club

by Kelly Laney, Adult Services Librarian, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Do you sometimes read nonfiction and think, Wow, I’d love to talk to someone about this topic? The Springville Road Library has a program just for you. The Afterthoughts Book Group chooses a different topic every month, and then everyone in the group reads one or more books or articles on that subject. We get together on the third Tuesday of every month at 2:00 p.m. to share what we’ve read and then branch out and talk about the subject in general. Most of the time you’ll be interested enough in hearing about another book to want to read it, too. Past topics have included "New Technologies," "Royalty," "Biographies," "Espionage and Spies," "Animal Stories," "Solar System and UFOs," and "Gangsters, Molls, and Thugs."

Our topic for June’s meeting is "History of Civilization through Architecture and Archaeology," so any book dealing with any human civilization that discusses buildings or archaeological digs counts. So far we have someone doing Colonial Williamsburg, ancient Egypt, life in the Middle Ages, and Celtic civilization. You can be sure there will be a lively discussion as we hear about the way different people lived and make comparisons.

If you like book clubs but prefer one that meets at night, check out The Reading Roadies. This is a (mostly) fiction book club that meets on the third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. June’s selection is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. We try to pick books we would not normally select in order to stretch our reading horizons. This year we are reading books by Jodi Picoult, Gustave Flaubert, Michael Crichton, Ian McEwan, Joanne Harris, and Catriona McPherson.

Please call Kelly Laney at the Springville Road Library at 205-226-4083 for more information. Reading Roadies will meet next on June 19 at 6:30 p.m.; The Afterthoughts will meet on June 20 at 2:00 p.m. Visit the BPL event calendar for upcoming Springville Road Library programs.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Card-Making Classes For Adults & Teens

Card-Making at Central Library
Youth Department Storycastle
Monday, June 12, 2017
2:00-3:30 p.m.

Do you love the look of homemade greeting cards? Are you looking for a way to explore design and express your creativity? Well, look no further.  Join us for a fun and creative class as we make simple yet pretty homemade cards. We’ll have fun combining various papers, colors and designs to make unique creations. We are teaching card-making skills at Central Library and various BPL branches. Join us this summer to make a personalized card for a family member or friend.

Please see our schedule listed below for more information.

Registration required. Limit 12 participants.

Note: Teens are welcome with adult supervision in class.


For more information about the card-making classes at BPL branches, call the library branch manager. To register for the Central Library card-making class, contact Leslie Deason at (205) 226-3677 or email her at


Card-Making Classes For Adults (Teens welcome with an adult)

Date                            Time                Library
June 5              10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.       North Birmingham
June 6              10-11:30 a.m.              Powderly
June 9              10-11:30 a.m.              Springville Road
June 12             2-3:30 p.m.                 Central Library Youth Department Storycastle
June 13            2-3:30 p.m.                  Southside
June 14            10-11:30 a.m.              Wylam
July 12             2-3:30 p.m.                  Avondale
July 24             3-4:30 p.m.                  Woodlawn

Gentle Yoga Class

Gentle Yoga Class
Monday, June 19, 2017
11:00-12:30 p.m.
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place
Youth Department Storycastle

Are you interested in a gentle exercise class that will calm your mind and heal your spirit?

Join us for a relaxing session of gentle yoga. Yoga can relieve stress and calm the mind. Yoga instructor, Marie Blair, will focus on what's going right with the body helping adults develop strength, flexibility and balance inch by inch. To register, please email us at

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Resegregation of Schools, 2017

by Barbara Hutto, Government Documents

Becoming Less Separate?
With the proliferation of U.S. charter schools, school redistricting, and dialogue about school vouchers, the question surfaces: Is this the resegregation of schools in the U.S.? Over sixty years after 
Court order of desegregation of U.S. schools, why is this discussion still relevant?

A quote from Natalie Y. Moore, author of The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, sums up the concern of many. “If we’re going to effectively address race relations, we have to address our separateness.”

Simply Google the term “resegregation” and you get over 97,000 hits. Books, newspaper, professional and academic articles abound on resegregation for those who are interested. Listed below are just a few of the library's books and government documents on the topic.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Teams on a Collision Course

Cleveland CavaliersGolden State Warriors

We are one round away from the NBA Finals.  Throughout the playoffs, fans and commentators alike have been talking about the inevitability of a rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.  The other teams in the playoffs have disagreed, but none have been able, so far, to prevent this rematch from happening.  As of today, the Golden State Warriors are 11-0 in the playoffs and one game away from a 3rd straight trip to the Finals.  In the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 10-0 in the playoffs and will play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight.  They are two games away from their 3rd straight appearance in the NBA Finals. 

As you can see, both Cleveland and Golden State swept the first two rounds of their respective playoff series.  To be fair, each team was tested and there were some very close games resulting in their victories.  However, their ability to recover from deficits (25 points for Cleveland against Indiana, 25 points for Golden State against San Antonio) to win games is extremely deflating to their opponents.  Not to mention games in which they simply dominate their opponents (Cleveland’s 44-point victory over Boston, Golden State’s 36-point victory over San Antonio).  The inability of other teams to sustain big leads and come away with a victory has made it seem impossible to beat Cleveland and Golden State.

That's why a rematch seems like a foregone conclusion. These teams are rolling through the early rounds of the playoffs because they want to play each other again.  They are watching each other’s games to look for signs of weakness.  Each team has proven that they can beat the other in the Finals (Golden State, 2015; Cleveland, 2016) and they want an opportunity to break the tie.  The media has been playing up this rivalry since the beginning of the season.  As a basketball fan, I have been hoping for this.  Rivalry games are the best and the quality of play will be phenomenal.  At this pace, we will probably know in the next couple of days if we are in for Round 3, winner-takes-all, Golden State vs. Cleveland in the NBA Finals.  The NBA Finals begin June 1st.  Will you be watching?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Registration Open for July 2017 Summer Adult Central Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the July 2017 Summer Adult Central Classes . During this month, we include classes on a variety of topics including computer skills and career guidance. 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 or call 205-226-3681. You may also download and print a pdf copy of the July 2017 Summer Adult Central Classes to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the July 2017 Summer Adult Central Classes (pdf file) can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Registration Open for June 2017 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the June 2017 Summer Adult Central Classes. During this month, we include classes on a variety of topics including computer skills and career guidance. 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 or call 205-226-3681. You may also download and print a pdf copy of the June 2017 Summer Adult Central Classes to bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the June 2017 Summer Adult Central Classes (pdf file) can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Alice Paul Comes to Birmingham

Alice Paul, The Birmingham Age-Herald
Alice Paul is one of those overlooked figures in history. Her name belongs with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as an advocate for women’s suffrage. In May 1917, Alice Paul came to Birmingham, stayed in the Tutwiler Hotel, and made a speech that incited controversy among the citizens of Birmingham.

Who was Alice Paul, and why is her visit to Birmingham important? Alice Paul was the leader of the National Women’s Party and campaigned for a federal amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would grant women nationwide the right to vote. Previous suffrage movements had concentrated on a state by state approach in which each individual state would vote to grant the right to vote to women. Paul was not content to wait patiently for each state to grant women the right to vote, and believed that the support of President Woodrow Wilson was necessary to make Congress ratify a suffrage amendment.

In January 1917, Alice Paul organized the first ever picket of the White House by the National Women's Party, and suffragists served as “silent sentinels” picketing the White House gates in the midst of threats, verbal abuse, and physical violence from onlookers. Their banners read: “Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for their Liberty?” As time passed, their banners became more damaging towards Wilson and even used his own words against him to support suffrage. At the United States entered World War I, many Americans felt that the act of picketing the White House was a sign of disloyalty in a time of a war.

"Silent Sentinel." Courtesy of The Library of Congress
"Silent Sentinel." Courtesy of National Archives

In May 1917, Alice Paul visited Birmingham at the request of Pattie Ruffner Jacobs, who led Birmingham’s suffrage efforts. When asked about the National Women's Party's position regarding the war, Paul stated, "Every individual is free to act as she sees fits, regarding all matters pertaining to the war; we sponsor only one issue: suffrage." Some citizens of Birmingham felt that women’s suffrage was a distraction to the war efforts, and opposed Paul’s presence in the city.
Paul gave her speech at The Tutwiler Hotel and continued organizing pickets of the White House.

By the summer of 1917, Washington D.C.’s police started arresting the suffragists under the guise of “obstruction of traffic.” When the suffragists refused to pay their fines, they ended up in jail. Alice Paul was arrested on October 20, 1917, and sent to the Occoquan Workhouse, which was known for its horrible condition and improper treatment of prisoners. To draw attention to the cause, Paul went on a hunger strike, and the guards ended up force feeding her and the other suffragists who followed suit. Newspapers reported the mistreatment of Paul and other suffragists, and public outcry urged the release of Paul and other suffragists. They were released at the end of November 1917.

In January 1918, President Wilson announced his support of the suffrage amendment; one year after Paul first organized the pickets of the White House. Congress passed the 19th amendment in 1919. However, it did not become law until three-fourths of the states ratified the amendment. Like the majority of Southern states, Alabama’s legislature rejected the 19th amendment in September 1919, but Tennessee’s ratification in August 1920 made the 19th Amendment law and gave women the right to vote. Alice Paul continued to fight for women’s rights through authoring the original Equal Rights Amendment (1923) and the inclusion of sex as protected category under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

For those who would like to read a biography of this remarkable woman, check out Alice Paul: Claiming Power. If you are more inclined to watch a movie, Iron Jawed Angels is a moving film that vividly depicts the triumphs and tragedies experienced by Alice Paul and the suffragists in their quest for the right to vote.

Enjoyed this story? Follow the Southern History Department on Facebook as we explore 100 years ago in Birmingham during the year 1917 each Thursday as part of Throwback Thursday.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Review: In Search of Lost Time: The Guermantes Way

by David Blake, Department Head, Fiction Department, Central Library

In Search of Lost Time: The Guermantes Way
Marcel Proust

Self-possession is a particularly French trait. One speaks differently with those who hold different positions in society, if one speaks at all. For speaking, or even being introduced to another, has social consequences. Society, the very highest of Belle Époque Paris, at last, joins romantic love as a major subject in this third volume of In Search of Lost Time. Our narrator, still an adolescent, has an obsessive love for the Duchesse de Guermantes whose noble ancestors’ likenesses he contemplated in the centuries-old stained glass windows of the ancient church he attended as a boy. The narrator longs to be introduced to the Duchesse. He stalks her on the streets of the aristocratic Faubourg St Germain as she makes her social rounds, tips his hat when she passes, but she does not acknowledge him.

The French have another exceptional trait. They place the highest value on brilliant conversation, wit, an expressive ease, which, based on the evidence of his remarkable writing, a young Marcel must have possessed in abundance. Still a youth, he is accepted in society at an age unimaginable to us here, today, and becomes an intimate of the Guermantes, Duke and Duchesse, and of their friends who own the most ancient names of France.

Proust holds the reader rapt for scores of pages as he discusses the conversation and social relations of a single party or dinner. He is unsparing but non-judgmental as he relates the silliness and vanity of the speech and conduct of social eminences, which he nonetheless values for the remnants of venerable manners that might have graced the seventeenth century court of the Sun King. In this and many other ways, Proust’s grand theme of time is evidenced in The Guermantes Way.

With no further data, anthropologists could create extensive scientific descriptions of the folkways and kinship patterns of Belle Epoque Paris, based only upon In Search of Lost Time. As with the other volumes of this grand work, brutal psychological introspection is intertwined with kaleidoscopic visual imagery. Proust’s eye for women’s fashion is much demonstrated in The Guermantes Way.

Check it out.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Summer Reading Registration Under Way at the Birmingham Public Library 

If you are looking for fun, free activities this summer, the Birmingham Public Library's 2017 summer reading schedule has plenty of activities to keep you busy.

Build a Better World is the theme for this year's Summer Reading program, with more than 500 free activities for kids, teens, and adults taking place in June and July in 19 library locations across Birmingham. Patrons of all ages can participate in fun and learning focused on creating, repurposing, and building.

Through books, activities, and guest presenters, participants will discover new ways of looking at the world around them. Programs will include a Ronald McDonald's Magic Show (June 14) and Birmingham Fire Department Show & Tell (June 21) at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library; weekly Family Nights on Tuesdays at the Avondale Regional Branch Library that include Shark Week, Talent Show, Legos, and a carnival; Irish Folk Dancing at several locations, M.A.D. Skillz Dance lessons and Drum Circles at several libraries, painting for all ages, and more.

Prizes will be awarded at each of the Birmingham Public Library's 19 locations. The more books you read between May 15 and August 31, the greater your chances of winning! See details on how to register online at any of the 19 BPL locations

Book Review: Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City

by David Ryan, Librarian, Business, Science and Technology Department

Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City
Paul Strathern

Growing up, I loved reading tales of the Italian Renaissance. The beautiful city of Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance, figured prominently in these stories. The authors I read painted the city as a place of winding, dark alleys where assassins in the pay of the great city-state families practiced their nefarious trade. Inside the marbled, domed churches artists like Sandro Botticelli produced some of the most breathtaking art Europe had ever seen. On the outskirts of the city were beautiful fields of golden grain where mercenary generals, or condottiere, led troops in brilliant military maneuvers which resulted in stunning victories, but few fatalities. Paul Strathern in Death in Florence disabuses me of some of my childhood romantic misconceptions, and by focusing on the intertwined lives of Lorenzo d’ Medici, known as the Magnificent, and "the little friar" Savonarola, reveals the Italian Renaissance as byzantine, lethal, and morally corrupting.

Strathern begins his story with Lorenzo Il Magnifico (1449-1492) on his deathbed. Lorenzo the Magnificent deserved his sobriquet. He had steered the city of Florence through so many diplomatic crises that Pope Innocent VIII called him "the needle of the Italian compass." Perhaps of more importance, he had created an atmosphere in Florence where not just the arts, but religious and secular culture could flourish side by side. Where would his death lead? Would Florence take a leap backward, or continue to embrace an open environment where the sacred and the profane could co-exist peacefully? Lorenzo had already drawn in his mind a vision of Florence that would live generations after his death. It began with his son, Piero de Medici, inheriting control of Florence, the Medici banking and trading empire that stretched across Europe, and even wearing the red hat of a Cardinal.

On the other side of the spiritual scales was Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), a Dominican friar who preached to the poor and saw visions, or revelations as he called them, revealing that God would soon “scourge the world.” From contemporary accounts we know that Savonarola was a sincerely pious man who regularly fasted, prayed, and followed the strict life of his order. This was not a man who sought worldly power. At least not initially, but Florence had a way of changing people. Soon Savonarola found himself at the center of a political fight between the wealthy families of Italy, a corrupt Pope, an emperor, kings, and the many Florentine social classes. Some of these figures began to appear in his sermons, and these “sermons were based on the Old Testament and featured an angry God” preparing vengeance for the wealthy and corrupt of Florence.

This book is an historical snapshot of the spiritual versus the temporal, idealism against naked power, and “the clash between materialism and fundamentalism.” On a human level, it is the story of a monk’s fight to remain pure and spread the word of God—“Savonarola’s stated aim was to return the Church to the physical poverty and utter spiritual devotion of its origins.” Lorenzo Medici, on the other hand, schemed for his family to rule Florence, Italy, and possibly the Church, indefinitely. The city of Florence could be as beautiful as a painting by Botticelli, or as ugly as a fiery execution, but only one image could rule its soul at a time.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Opening Reception for Exhibit Sewn and Thrown: Traditional Quilts and Folk Pottery from Alabama’s Black Belt

Quilts by Marlene Bennett, Boykin, Alabama, 2015

What: Sewn and Thrown: Traditional Quilts and Folk Pottery from Alabama’s Black Belt exhibit
When: May 11-June 25, 2017
Where: First floor exhibit cases and Fourth Floor Gallery at the Central Library
Details: Exhibits will be available during library hours. Opening reception Saturday, May 13, 2017, 3:00-5:00 p.m., Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery

Featuring quilts by master artists from Gee’s Bend and works by Miller’s Pottery of Brent and Ham Pottery of Selma, the Sewn and Thrown: Traditional Quilts and Folk Pottery from Alabama’s Black Belt exhibit will present two living traditions of the region.

Allen Ham
Acclaimed nationally and internationally, the Gee’s Bend quilters are continuing the tradition through their families and community. Sixteen quilts by different women, some of whom will be exhibiting for the first time, will represent the amazing colors and innovative techniques often associated with the textiles produced by several generations over the years.

Folk potter Steve Miller and his cousin Allen Ham grew up working alongside Steve’s father, Eric Miller, in the workplace and shop on Highway 5 in Bibb County. Featured in documentary films, books, and articles, they represent a business dating to the 1850s that began on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. Today, they use local clay to make and produce glazed stoneware, utilitarian items, face jugs, and other works of art that are sought after by collectors.

For more information about regional quilting and pottery, visit the Alabama Folklife Association website.

Talk is Priceless, Not Cheap, at Wylam Book Club

by Selina Johnson, Branch Manager, Wylam Branch Library

Everyone interprets the books that they read differently, and with that comes the beauty of being a part of a book club. Book club members get lost in the characters and the story that is being told, but they may not see the characters and the story in the same way. The sharing of those varied perspectives makes for a solid and interesting group. This is why the Wylam Book Club is a staple program at the Wylam Library.

If you visit the Wylam Library on the third Wednesday of any given month at 11:00 a.m., you will find an engaged and boisterous group of book club members who are making their opinions known about the latest read of the month. Our book club is a real community. The members have formed a bond and are now a group of friends.

Book club members are offered a variety of reading experiences, from suspense to romance to the downright strange. The members have thoroughly enjoyed the books that have been selected for the meetings thus far. They discover new authors, partake of refreshments, and enjoy time at the library.

Some may say talk is cheap, but I can attest that book club talk is priceless.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: The Godfather

by Richard Grooms, Librarian, Fiction Department, Central Library

The Godfather
Mario Puzo

I read this novel because I’d seen the movie of the same name many times and wanted to further explore this sinister mafia world. But you need have no interest in the movie (or the sequels) to like this. It’s a world unto itself. The story has a powerful drive and captures you fully. Don Corleone, his family, and his henchmen command a world of lived-in evil. It’s oddly invigorating to journey in this world, knowing somewhere back in your head it’s not real and you can go back to the relatively ethical real world at any time. That is, you can leave if you can stop reading, which a lot harder than you’d think.

The main reason I read this is I wanted to know more about the characters than the first movie covered. It of course provided this depth, as well as introducing me to characters that didn’t appear in that movie. It’s also fun to pull out the novel after I’ve watched the movie, skip to a certain section and read the novel counterpart to a favorite scene or two. I’m sure that on some level these and other parts of the novel have altered the way I watch the movie, but I’m not very aware of this. But the novel re-reading does fuel my drive to re-watch the movie. This never gets confusing, it just gets richer. These feedback loops keep doing their work and I keep feeding them. I don’t ever get enough of The Godfather (book or film); I just get enough for now.

The Ensley Reading Gems

by Alisha Johnson, Branch Manager, Enlsey Branch Library

In August of 2016 the Ensley Branch Library came up with the idea of having an adult book club and the response has been great! Our name, the Ensley Reading Gems, was determined by the staff members and is facilitated by a staff member as well. Initially, the book club started out with a 12-month list of books to read and a number of questions to answer, but the meeting has quickly morphed into something a little bit different but just as enjoyable.

The members of the book club meet on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 10:00 a.m. and most times enjoy light refreshments during the discussion. Since the club has matured, the members choose the books that they would like to read and they feel free to bring in their own refreshments. We have a hearty discussion on questions from the books and many times the conversation matures into real-world issues and the like. We have a great time in this book club and encourage others to join in on the fun!

Keep up with Ensley Library's programs with the BPL event calendar.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Patents as Genealogy Resources

by Mary Beth Newbill, Southern History and Government Documents

We typically think of patents as a way of legally protecting the rights of inventors and entrepreneurs, but have you ever realized that historical patents could be valuable to genealogists? Knowing if you have an ancestor who was granted a patent could help you gain insight into their work and educational background, or just give you another piece of the genealogical puzzle.

Bell Toy Patent
Example of name change and street address
Since patents typically list the inventor's hometown, they can tell you where your ancestor was living at the time he or she received their patent. If they received multiple patents and moved around, you might be able to track their movements through their patents. Patents can also indicate citizenship in other countries and name changes, either through the courts or through marriage. Inventors all over the world filed for U.S. patents, so even if your ancestor lived in another country you might still find them listed on a patent.

The very first patent was issued in 1790 (signed by President George Washington) and, as of today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued over 9,500,000 patents. Several resources exist that can help you determine if your ancestor received a patent and allow you to locate and view it.
First U.S. Patent
First patent issue in 1790 and signed by George Washington

Recently issued patents (1976 – present) are easy to search online at the USPTO's website. Patents issued before 1976 can be searched online, but it's more difficult and requires knowing either the patent number, classification number, or date of issue. Most genealogists probably do not have this information and need to search by the name of their ancestor. Since we're not doing the type of patent search (also called a prior art search) necessary in order to apply for a patent of our own, we can take a few shortcuts. Probably the easiest method is to use Google Patents. It's just like searching in Google except you're searching their database of U.S. patents. It's a friendly, familiar interface and you can search by keyword, name, date, location, etc.
Washing machine
Washing machine from 1870

Patents can be a great addition to your genealogy research. Thanks to our ability to search them online, take a few minutes and see if your ancestors were ever granted a patent. As a Patent and Trademark Resource Center, the Birmingham Public Library is happy to assist you in your search for historical patents. For further reading on using patents for genealogy, check out the links below:

Southern History Department Hosting Several Genealogy Workshops in May

The Southern History Department, housed in the Linn-Henley Research Library in downtown Birmingham, has announced its May 2017 class schedule.

Workshops are free of charge, but registration is requested. Register online through the BPL events calendar at Like Southern History Department on Facebook at

If you desire to learn more about how to research your family tree, mark your calendar for the following programs below:

Thursday, May 11, 10:00-11:00 a.m., Powderly Branch Library
From Cards to Computers: Planning a Research Visit
Finding the resources you need is one of the most important parts of genealogy research. In this class, you will learn the best methods to locate resources quickly, narrow your search, and maximize your time in a library.

Sunday, May 21, 2:30-3:30 p.m., Southern History Department, Linn-Henley Research Library
Introduction to Genealogy
Want to learn how to do genealogical research? Come to this introductory class that will help get you started on your genealogical journey.

Mark your calendars for the remaining 2017 Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop schedule:

Saturday, June 24, 10:00 a.m.
One for the Record Books: The English Census 
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.

Saturday, August 12, 10:00 a.m.
Mind Your Own (Family) Business
Did your ancestors own a pharmacy, furniture shop, or other business? Many genealogists know that their ancestors owned or started a business. This workshop will show you how to use city directories, government websites, newspapers, and other sources to learn more about the history of the family business or the company your ancestors worked for.

Saturday, September 9, 10:00 a.m.
Family Tree DNA Services and Website
Explore the offerings of Family Tree DNA, a company that offers hundreds of different DNA tests and that supports them with the most detailed website in the industry.

Saturday, September 23, 10:00 a.m. 
Participants will be introduced to the Library Edition database in which you can research your family history as well as learn how to search this database to locate your ancestors.

Saturday, October 28, 10:00 a.m.
Google Your Peeps
What do you want to know about your ancestors? Everything. The Internet is a great tool for genealogy, but are you using it to its full potential? This workshop will teach you how to create a research template and look for details that will help you discover more about your ancestors using search engines, genealogy databases, and a few other, perhaps surprising websites.

Friday, May 05, 2017

From the Archives: He Calls Me by Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty

by Jim Baggett, Department Head, Archives & Manuscripts Department, Central Library

He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty
S. Jonathan Bass

In the latest book researched in the Birmingham Public Library Archives, Dr. S. Jonathan Bass of Samford University explores the timely topic of race, violence, and law enforcement. Published by Liveright, an imprint of W. W. Norton, the book traces the story of Caliph Washington, an African American teenager who lived in 1950s Bessemer, Alabama. Wrongfully convicted of killing a police officer, Washington came within minutes of being executed before he was finally exonerated and released from prison.

He Calls Me By Lightning is one of more than 400 books published using the collections of the Birmingham Public Library Archives, including five recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and one recipient of the National Book Award. Documentary films and television series researched in the Archives have appeared on most major television networks and include recipients of the Academy Award, the Peabody, and the Emmy. Exhibits researched in the Archives may be found at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and other locations.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Springville Road Library Stitched Art Drawing Winner Announced

Adult Department librarian Kelly Laney (right) and Mable Rodgers 

Mable Rodgers is the winner of the Springville Road Regional Branch Library’s stitched art drawing. Kelly Laney, adult services librarian, presented the hand-stitched, framed art to Rodgers on Wednesday, May 4.

The art piece was created by a Birmingham area artist who is a member of the library’s Coffee, Conversation and Crafts (CCC) adult program and donated to Springville Road Library to raise money for its adult programs. CCC members sold tickets that raised $143 for the library, Laney said.

The drawing was held during the May 1 CCC program in which members stitched art, made quilts, scarves, stuffed animals, and other items. CCC meets every Monday at 11:00 a.m. at the Springville Road Library. For more information, call Laney at 205-226-4083 or email her at Search upcoming CCC programs on the BPL events calendar.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Children's Book Review: Pax

by Mollie McFarland, Children's Librarian, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Sara Pennypacker

Peter's best friend is a fox named Pax. After the death of his mother, Peter discovered the orphaned kit in the woods near his home. The two became as close as brothers as they grew up and learned to cope with the loss of their respective parents. However, a big change is in store. War is brewing and Peter's father is leaving to fight in the military. Now, Peter's only caregiver is his strict and humorless grandfather. A man who would not consent letting Peter keep his pet. Before Peter embarks on the long journey to his grandfather's house, he is forced to release Pax into the wild. Pax is totally unprepared to live on his own and Peter is driven hundreds of miles away against his will. Before a day passes at his grandfather's house, Peter embarks on an impossible journey to reunite with Pax. Alternating chapters show the boy and fox's point of view as they struggle through dangers, injuries, and setbacks to reunite, against all odds.

This is a story about love, war, loyalty, duty, friendship, and loss. It's full of heavy topics that imbue the reader with a sense of grave importance. Though it is a middle grade book, it will resonate with older readers. Many characters suffer injustices and injuries that open way for discussions about PTSD, grief, disability, and war. Don't get me wrong! This is an inspiring story about independence and strength too. But it is tempered with a harsh dose of reality that is often absent in books for young readers. The destruction of the natural world is in plain view as the story illustrates the horrors of war from the perspective of wild animals.

This book is full of lessons and realities that are certain to leave an impression on readers for years to come. Boy and fox rise to meet the challenge, but their growth is hard won. This is not a book that is soon forgotten. It will leave a stamp on your heart much like Where the Red Fern Grows, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Shiloh.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Selected BPL Branches to Celebrate World Turtle Day, May 9-24

by Mollie McFarland, Children's Librarian, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

"Shellebrate" World Turtle Day at your local library in May! Jumanji the Russian tortoise will make an appearance at selected Birmingham Public Library locations as we talk about the difference between turtles and tortoises and the impact each have on their local ecosystems. A craft and movie will follow each presentation.

A special trio of turtles from Pet Supplies Plus will visit the Springville Road Regional Branch Library's program on May 9 to show off their skills on land and water. Learn about their natural habitat, diet, and personality.

Schedule of programs:
May 9, 4:00 p.m., Springville Road Library
May 10, 3:30 p.m., Avondale Library
May 22, 10:30 a.m., Smithfield Branch Library
May 22, 4:00 p.m., Woodlawn Branch Library
May 23, 3:15 p.m., East Lake Branch Library
May 24, 3:30 p.m., Inglenook Branch Library

Monday, May 01, 2017

Bards & Brews Open Mic Poetry Event Scheduled for May 5 at Central Library

Bards & Brews poet Jahman Hill at the All Star Show

What: Bards & Brews open mic spoken word poetry/beer tasting
When: Friday, May 5, 2017. Music by HidNTrackz begins at 6:30 p.m., spoken word poetry at 7:00 p.m
Where: Central Library
How to Donate:  Call Olivia Alison at 205-226-3613. Donations are being accepted at the door, online at or by mail at Birmingham Public Library, Development Department, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203

If you’re looking for something fun to do to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, make plans to be at the Central Library in downtown Birmingham for Bards & Brews, the Birmingham Public Library’s popular spoken word poetry-beer tasting event on Friday, May 5, 2017.

This event will be open mic, allowing both novice and veteran poets to sign up to share their spoken word talent. Beer tasting will be available courtesy of Avondale Brewing Company. The J. Clyde will be serving the beer. Hip-hop artist HidNTrackz will provide musical entertainment beginning at 6:30 p.m., with poetry beginning to flow at 7:00 p.m. with poet Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins serving as host.

The public can make donations to support Bards & Brews at, or send donations to Birmingham Public Library, Development Department, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203.

For more information about Bards & Brews, call Brandon C. Smith of the Eastwood Branch Library at 205-591-4944 or email him at Follow Bards & Brews on Facebook and look for more news on fundraising efforts on the BPL website at

Local Author Art Black to Give Talk on Birmingham Barons Book, Showdown at Rickwood, May 2

What: Author talk and book signing with Art Black, author of Showdown at Rickwood
When: Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Details: Free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase. Jim Reed, owner and proprietor of Reed Books, will offer introductory remarks.

Before major league baseball came south, the Dixie Series was the crowning event of the summer for Birmingham sports enthusiasts. Pitting the champions of the Southern Association and the Texas League, the series produced many memorable moments during its heyday from 1920 to 1958. For fans of the Birmingham Barons, however, the contest of 1931 was the most memorable of all.

The dramatic 1931 Dixie Series between the Birmingham Barons and the Houston Buffaloes serves as the backdrop of the newly published book Showdown at Rickwood. Written by local author Art Black, the book focuses not only baseball culture in the Magic City, but explores as well the social and economic climate of the Birmingham district as it was evolving into a major industrial center during the early decades of the 20th century. Through World War I, the Roaring Twenties, and the onset of the Great Depression, Birmingham and its citizens weathered the turbulence of national and international events. In the midst of this unrest, many found respite in the calming rhythms of the national pastime.

Please join us on Tuesday, May 2, at the Birmingham Public Library’s Central location to welcome the publication of Showdown at Rickwood and meet the book’s author, Art Black. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jim Murray at 205-226-3691 or

The Birmingham Bound author series recognizes authors who researched their books utilizing the resources available at the Birmingham Public Library. Historians, journalists, and other writers from around the world have produced hundreds of books using the Library’s collections and these books include five recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

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