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Showing posts from June, 2017

Book Review: The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

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by Lorraine Walker, Librarian, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple
Jeff Guinn

“Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” is a phrase that usually means don’t believe everything that you’re told. However, in the case of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, its meaning is literal.

On November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones instructed all members living in the Jonestown, Guyana, compound to commit an act of "revolutionary suicide" by drinking poisoned punch. In all, 918 people died that day, nearly a third were children.

The Jonestown Massacre was the most deadly single non-natural disaster in U.S. history until the September 11 attack.

The Jonestown Massacre also remains the only time in history in which a U.S. congressman (Leo Ryan) was killed in the line of duty.

Author Jeff Guinn, author of the bestseller Mansion, has delivered the ultimate resource of the subject. It reads like the best fiction thriller you have ever…

Southern History Book of the Month: Gone with the Wind: David O. Selznick’s Production of Margaret Mitchell’s Story of the Old South

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

Gone with the Wind: David O. Selznick’s Production of Margaret Mitchell’s Story of the Old South

On June 30, 1936, Gone with the Wind was published and the life of the author, an Atlanta reporter named Margaret Mitchell, would never be the same again. Her epic novel became a bestseller and won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. But what was uppermost in the minds of many of the fans was . . . who will be cast in the movie? The search for Scarlett that culminated in the casting of Vivien Leigh is a well-known piece of cinematic legend. After many delays the film finally premiered in Atlanta in December of 1939, accompanied by a lush and colorful program filled with information about the film and the stars, including personal takes from the actors that give fascinating insights into the process of bringing the novel to the big screen. For many members of the reading public, Clark Gable simply was Rhett Butler an…

Society of Alabama Archivists and Birmingham Public Library Call for Nominations for Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award

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by Jim Baggett, Head, Archives and Manuscripts Department

The Awards Committee of the Society of Alabama Archivists calls for nominations for the 2017 Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award. Named for Marvin Whiting, the Birmingham Public Library's first archivist and a pioneer in the professionalization of archives in Alabama, this award recognizes individuals, organizations, or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the preservation and dissemination of local history in Alabama. The award recognizes the preservation of historic documents and oral history but not buildings, historic sites, or artifacts. The Birmingham Public Library co-sponsors the award.

The award was created in 2012 and the past recipients are Ed Bridges, retired director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History; Elizabeth Wells, former head of Special Collections at Samford University; Coll’ette King of the Mobile County Probate Court; Bobby Joe Seals of the Shelby County Museum and Archives;…

Book Review: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation

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by Tressa Fancher, Library Assistant III, Web Services, Central Library

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation
Miles Hyman

Shirley Jackson has been one of my favorite dark fiction writers ever since her classic short story "The Lottery" was assigned reading in 7th grade lit class and that ending caught my young self quite by surprise. And while there's not much new to say about it that hasn't already been said in scholarly articles and English essays it seems, I was psyched when I learned that it was being turned into a graphic novel by Jackson's grandson and couldn't wait to experience it in a new light.

For those who don't know the "most famous short story ever written," "The Lottery" was published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker magazine. It depicts a small, rural community that continues on with a traditional, brutal lottery that dates so far back, the origin is a mystery to som…

Summer Reading for the Super Busy Family

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by Ellen Griffin Shade, Circulation Manager, Avondale Regional Branch Library


Summer can be such a busy and exciting time—swimming, camps, vacation, summer reading events at the library. In fact, summer can be so busy that reading can get lost in the shuffle.

Here are some strategies to keep reading a part of your busy family life:

Multi-tasking Mom (and Dad) – Make time for reading for yourself! Parents who read have kids who read. Check out a few paperbacks to read at the beach. And if you don’t have time for the traditional beach read, try multitasking—download an audiobook from Hoopla or Overdrive to your smartphone and listen while you drive, watch the kids, or cook dinner.

Reading routines – Bedtime stories are a perfect example of including reading in your daily routine. Try asking the kids to read you a story for a change. You can also incorporate reading into other routines. Try reading bath-, beach- or water-themed books during bath time. Do you enjoy family movie nigh…

Children's Book Review: Iron Hearted Violet

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

Iron Hearted Violet
Kelly Barnhill

Violet is the only child of the royal family and she’s not your typical princess. She’s clever, daring, willful, and strong but she’s very plain. Unkind people might even call her ugly. Luckily, she’s not the sort of princess who would be bothered by her appearance. Well, not very bothered. She is more interested in exploring the kingdom with her friend, Demetrius, and listening to tales by the court storyteller. She loves stories. That is, until she and Demetrius find themselves at the center of a tale about the last surviving dragon and a plan to revive an evil deity who will lay waste to her kingdom and the whole world. That’s quite a lot for a young princess and her friend to take on! Violet grows to become her own hero in this fantasy world as she learns, once and for all, that a true princess is measured by her bravery, intelligence, and character and not by …

Help Raise Some Dough for the Birmingham Public Library

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Help support the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) while enjoying some pizza at Slice Pizza & Brew in Birmingham's Lakeview District. How it works:


Present this FREE Dough Raising ticket—available at all BPL locations and at Slice Pizza the day of the event; or show the online ticket to Slice staff—when you dine in or carry out on Tuesday, June 27.Slice will donate 10% of total sales (excluding alcohol) to help fund educational programming at BPL's 19 locations spread across Birmingham's 99 neighborhoods.

BPL Hosting Free Exercise Classes as Part of 2017 Summer Reading Activities

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Birmingham Public Library storyteller Candice Hardy is showing patrons how to motivate their minds and get in shape through simple physical exercises. Hardy, who works out of the Five Points West Regional Branch Library, is teaching several free classes called Build a Better You and Workout Wednesday with Ms. Candice as part of BPL's 2017 Summer Reading. Hardy's classes are a spin-off of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s popular “Let’s Move” campaign. In her classes, Hardy talks about the importance of exercise, meditation, and methods to develop a healthier attitude/lifestyle.

Here are Hardy's remaining summer reading exercise classes for June and July:
Tuesday, June 27, at 10:00 a.m. – Wylam Branch Library
Wednesday, June 28, at 10:00 a.m. – Smithfield Branch Library
Thursday, June 29, at 1:30 p.m. – Powderly Branch Library
Thursday, July 6, at 11:00 a.m. - West End Branch Library
Tuesday, July 11, at 10:00 a.m.- Five Points West Regional Branch Library
Wednesday, J…

Build a Better City at Inglenook Library

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by Karnecia Williams, Branch Head, Inglenook Branch Library


In honor of the national summer reading theme, Build a Better World, on June 26, the Inglenook Branch Library will conduct a children’s program titled Build a Better City. Children will be provided shoeboxes and other material to make their city what they want it to be. They’ll be asked about what their vision for their city is to stimulate creativity and expose and provide an understanding on how a city is operated. How will it be governed? What methods of transportation will be available? What kinds of restaurants, if any, will they have? All of these questions will be asked to also motivate kids to think critically.

If you are interested in having your child participate, please contact the Inglenook Library at 205-849-8739. Build a Better City, Build a Better World one imagination at a time.

Get Your Jig On: Irish Dance for Kids

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by Jim Baggett, Department Head, Archives and Manuscripts Department

It’s happened to us all. You see Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, leaping about the stage and think, I could do that. Well, now you can (sort of).
The Birmingham Public Library Archives, in cooperation with Pinson Public Library, Avondale Regional Branch Library, Springville Road Regional Branch Library, and Homewood Public Library will offer Get Your Jig On, free 30-minute Irish dance classes for kids.

Irish dance is both ancient and universal. Many dances performed today date back hundreds of years and Irish dancers throughout the world perform many of the same dance steps. Join us to learn about the culture of Irish dance and learn some new steps.

Teachers: Jane Ann Baggett and Lilla Carroll from the Westwood Irish Dance School. Jane Ann and Lila, who participate in Irish dance competitions throughout the Southeast and Midwest, are both students in the creative writing program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts

BPL Hosting Free Yoga Classes for Adults and Teens as Part of Summer Reading

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Marie Blair, a recently retired school librarian, is teaching several free classes called Build a Better You with Gentle Yoga as part of BPL's 2017 Adult Summer Reading. Blair's classes include Tai Chi, gentle yoga postures, poetry, and humor in her classes. Blair invites both newcomers and patrons experienced in yoga to participate in her workshops and get their body in shape by developing strength, flexibility, and balance inch by inch.


Here are some of Blair's upcoming yoga workshops:
Friday, June 23, 10:00 a.m., at Smithfield Branch Library
Friday, June 30, 10:00 a.m., "Yoga for Seniors" at Springville Road Regional Branch Library
Thursday, July 6, 2:30-3:30 p.m., at Southside Branch Library
Friday, July 7, 10:00 a.m., at Ensley Branch Library
Monday, July 10, 10:00 a.m., at Woodlawn Branch Library

For more details on these and other summer reading programs visit the BPL events calendar.

2017 Summer Reading for Adults Includes New Citizen's Story, Yoga, Crafts Programs

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An Iraqi native will share her journey from the Middle East to becoming a U.S. citizen on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 10:00 a.m., at the Springville Road Regional Branch Library.

In a program called A New Citizen's Story: A View of Unity, Khloud Jawad will discuss being brought up in the Middle East, her imprisonment for her religious beliefs, and what it means to her to be a U.S. citizen. Her talk is a part of BPL’s 2017 Summer Reading activities. Khloud will also give a Q & A talk on Friday, June 23, 10:00 a.m., at Springville Road Library.

2017 Summer Reading is sponsored in part by the Alabama Power Foundation, which has supported BPL for nine years. BPL also appreciates the in-kind contributions of Rally's, Barnes & Noble, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the City of Birmingham Division of Youth Services. The 2017 Summer Reading theme is “Build a Better World.” Through books, activities, and guest presenters, participants will discover new ways of looking at the w…

BPL Hosting Ballard House Conversation Project Signups June 19-24

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The Ballard House Project, Inc. is partnering with the Birmingham Public Library as it seeks people willing to share personal stories about Birmingham’s historic past.

The Central Library and four regional libraries across the city will host sign-ups for residents willing to participate beginning Monday, June 19, through Friday, 24, 2017.

“We are gathering people across the metro area to record community conversations about Birmingham’s historic past,” said Majella Hamilton of the Ballard House Project. “Our community was built with the hard work, sacrifice, and legacy of people from all walks of life and backgrounds. It’s time we learn more about them.”

The sign-up schedule is as follows:
Monday, June 19, North Birmingham Regional Branch Library, 4:00-7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, June 20, Five Points West Regional Branch Library, 4:00-7:00 p.m.
Thursday, June 22, Springville Road Regional Branch Library, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Friday, June 23, Central Library, 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 24, Avo…

One for the Record Books: The English Census

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Searching for English ancestors? If you answered yes, make plans to attend One for the Record Books: The English Census on Saturday, June 24, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., in the Arrington Auditorium.

"If you trace your family history far enough in this country, the time comes when you have to look in other countries. Lots of people in this part of the U.S. have English ancestors,” said Mary Anne Ellis, a librarian in the Birmingham Public Library’s Southern History Department and the instructor for this Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop.

You might have been asked if you have “crossed the pond” in your genealogy research. The phrase “crossing the pond” means that you have completed your research in the United States and are now looking for ancestors in Europe. Genealogists know that moving to another country can mean starting over in discovering how to use standard and incredibly crucial sources like the census. There are some important differences between the U.S. Federal Censu…

Department of Defense Pocket Guides

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by Mary Beth Newbill, Head of Government Documents and Southern History Department

American soldiers deployed overseas would often find themselves in countries that were unfamiliar to them and whose history and customs they had no knowledge of. In order to help service men and women become more comfortable in their new homes, the Department of Defense published a series of "pocket guides." Measuring 5 ½" x 4 ¼", these little guides are packed with information.

The library has about 40 of these pocket guides and they can be found in the Government Documents Department. The collection includes guides from Alaska and Hawaii that were published in 1956, three years before both territories were granted statehood. Especially interesting is the guide for Vietnam, published in 1971 when the Vietnam War was far from being resolved. Other guides include Germany, Italy, Greece, French Morocco, the Middle East, Korea, and the Arctic, to name a few.



Mostly published in the 1950…

New Urban Fiction

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It has been a while since I've blogged about Urban Fiction.  The genre is still as hot as the weather outdoors.  A lot of new titles have been released just in time for summer.  Here is a sample of titles released in May and June.  Descriptions are from the publisher.


Watch Out for the Big Girls 3  by J.M. Benjamin
Starrshma Fields is officially back on the scene, with the intent of returning to the head of the Double Gs organization with a new game plan. After a close call, she is all too eager to put into motion the plan she conjured up while in custody at the Clark County Jail. However, she is clueless as to all that has been going on while she's been out of the loop.  Queen Fem is uneasy behind the mess that her protege has brought to the doorstep of the organization that she founded. It has been a long time since she has had to make a tough decision, but she feels her hand is being forced. She is unsure whether the Double Gs need to be under new leadership, and wh…

Raptors Program at Springville Road on June 23

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by Samuel Rumore, Circulation Manager, Springville Road Regional Branch Library


On Friday, June 23, 2017, the Springville Road Regional Branch Library will have a Raptor 101 program at 4:00 p.m. The program is free and open to all ages, but registration is required. Register online through the BPL events calendar or call the Springville Road Youth Department at 205-226-4085.

The Alabama Wildlife Center out of Pelham, Alabama, will provide raptors and other birds of prey for patrons of all ages to examine, interact with, and explore. The Alabama Wildlife Center is Alabama’s oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation facility. It has been around since 1977. If you know of any wildlife that needs rescuing or rehabilitating, please contact them at 205-663-7930 ext. 2 from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, seven days a week.

Three-Part Seminar Series, Using Google to Grow Your Business, to be Held at Central Library in June, July, and August

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by Jim Murray, Department Head, Business, Science and Technology Department


What: Using Google to Grow Your Business Three-Part seminar series
When: Thursday June 29, 2017 – "Let’s Put Birmingham on the Map with Google"
Thursday July 20, 2017 – "Google Insights and Analytics"
Thursday August 17, 2017 – "Getting Started with Social Media and Email Marketing"
Time: 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Regional Library Computer Center, 4th floor
Details: Free but registration is required

The Central Library will host a series of three seminars for small business owners titled Using Google to Grow Your Business on the following Thursdays: June 29, July 20, and August 17. Each seminar will cover a different topic related to Google applications that can be used by small business owners to improve their online performance. The three seminars are: "Let’s Put Birmingham on the Map with Google," "Google Insights and Anal…

Girl Scouts, Camp Fletcher, and the Ku Klux Klan

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Talking with patrons about their research is one of my favorite things as you can learn something odd, new, different, or something that is now forgotten yet an important event in history. That was the case when I was helping David Kelley of WBRC Fox 6 with our digital microfilm scanner earlier this month. Local media often come in to use the library’s collection of newspaper microfilm, and he was researching a story about the Girl Scouts, Camp Fletcher, and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) for Fox 6’s new TV show, Bounce Around Birmingham.

In June 1948, two white Girl Scout instructors, Katrine Nickel and Elizabeth Ijams, came to Camp Pauline Bray Fletcher, an African American camp, to teach leadership training sessions for about 20 African American girls. Because there were no qualified African American women to conduct similar leadership training sessions, Nickel and Ijams came down from Memphis to train these African American women. The Girl Scout leaders claimed they had segregated bath …

Book Review:The Country Waif

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

The Country Waif
Georges Sand

In Swann’s Way Marcel Proust’s grandmother buys The Country Waif for young Marcel because she would not want to give him anything that was not well written. His grandmother was right. George Sand’s writing is extraordinary. The Country Waif reads like a folk tale with edges worn like an old stone memorial tablet, which retains the power to arouse the powerful emotions of a story told by flickering firelight.

Readers of Victor Hugo’s contemporaneous Les Miserables will be familiar with the plight of the thousands and thousands of homeless children in mid-nineteenth century Paris. Homeless children in rural France were waifs, and, like the gamins of Paris, they were despised. The Country Waif is the story of Francois, a waif, and the saintly Madeline, the miller’s wife, who secretly saves him from starvation in a peasant society where even a bowl of soup is missed.

The Country Waif is set in…

Book Review: Lenin on the Train

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by David Ryan, Librarian, Business Science and Technology Department

Lenin on the Train
Catherine Merridale

This is the centenary anniversary of the Russian Revolution. As you can imagine, publishers have responded with dozens of titles about this world-changing event. Lenin on the Train focuses on one seemingly mundane incident: a Russian exile returning to his homeland on a train. However, the completion of his eight-day trip across Russia is the catalyst for the rise of Communism.

In 1917 the First World War raged with mechanized savagery previously unseen by mankind. Both the Allies and the Central Powers swayed between defeat and victory. Millions had already perished. With the impending arrival of the United States into the fray, an allied victory seemed assured. The "desperate" Germans (James Joyce’s word, not mine) sent a revolutionary named V.I. Lenin from his exile in Switzerland back home to Russia via train.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, a.k.a. Lenin, was simply one po…

70 Years Ago, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan Set a Bold, New Course for U.S. Foreign Policy That Had Far-Reaching Consequences

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by Jim Murray, Department Head, Business, Science and Technology Department


In the spring of 2017, as politicians, pundits, and others debate the United States’ leadership role in world affairs, it is worthwhile to note that it was 70 years ago, in the spring of 1947, that the policies that help shape the parameters of this debate were put into place by the federal government. These policies were created in the midst of the great economic, social, and political upheaval that gripped much of the world in the years following the end of World War II. Emerging from that great conflict as the only major participant not having suffered immense economic and industrial devastation, the United States felt compelled to reevaluate its relationship with the rest of the world. Although much of this reevaluation process was concerned with stabilizing the economies and governmental structures of the afflicted nations, it was also concerned with impeding what many perceived to be the aggressive fo…

Library Summer Reading Programs Help Slow Summer Slide

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by Selina Johnson, Branch Manager, Wylam Branch Library


Summer is quickly approaching and with it brings to mind the thick summer air, eating your favorite ice cream and feeling it run down your chin as it drips onto the ground, dressing in shorts and flip flops, the smell of freshly manicured lawns, and beach vacations with sand in between your toes. With the arrival of summer there are also students that will not see the inside of a classroom for a couple of months. Two months without the structure and routine of school is exciting for students, but the dilemma of how to best keep their kids busy for the summer is likely on the minds of many parents. Parents definitely want to slow down summer slide or, better yet, prevent it all together. Summer slide is what happens when the skills students learn during the school year are lost or forgotten over the summer. Most teachers usually spend the first month of a new school year reteaching skills that have not been retained during the su…

Learn More about The Few, The Proud

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by Andrei Jones, Circulation Manager, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

In honor of this past Memorial Day and the fact that my son has recently left for U.S.M.C. Boot Camp, I have decided to do a military themed blog entry for the month of June.

When my youngest son told me of his decision to enlist in the military, all sorts of thoughts went through my head. After much discussion and prayer the path was set. I told him that I loved him and would support his decision 100%.

He successfully passed the ASVAB and got sworn in at M.E.P.S. (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Montgomery, Alabama. He left for Marine Corp boot camp on Mother’s day 2017 for 13 weeks of intense training. The Marine Corp is rich in history having its beginning on November 10, 1775.

If you are one looking to join this proud group of fighting soldiers or would simply like to learn more about the Marines, check out:

The Ultimate Marine Recruit Training Guidebookby Nick ”Gunny Pop” Popaditch
The Marines by…

BPL's Lee, Bitten Win Awards from Metro Birmingham NAACP

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Two Birmingham Public Library (BPL) employees were honored by the Metro Birmingham Branch of the NAACP’s 17th Annual Salute to (WOW) Wonderful Outstanding Women program on June 4, 2017.

Sandi Lee, interim director of BPL, was selected Metro Birmingham NAACP Administrator of the Year for her work leading the 19-branch Birmingham library system since June 2016. Loretta Bitten, branch manager of the Powderly Branch Library, was selected Metro Birmingham NAACP Mother of the Year. Bitten is mother of Alabama’s first identical twin judges, Jefferson County Judges Shera Grant and Shanta Owens.

Lee, who has served in many capacities during her 23-year career at BPL, said she is honored to receive such recognition from an organization like the NAACP.

“It has been a very humbling experience to be included in this group of outstanding women from the Birmingham community,” Lee said. “I appreciate this recognition from the Metro Birmingham NAACP. It means a great deal to me.”

Bitten, a 20-plus ye…