Thursday, June 29, 2017

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

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 known. You will not want to stop until you finish. Reserve your copy today.

For the record, it was cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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

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 and no one else would do, but Gable confesses that he was none too eager to play the role:
My reaction to playing Rhett Butler is both frank and simple. “The condemned man ate a hearty meal.” Now don’t get me wrong. As an actor, I loved it. As a character, he was terrific. As material for the screen, he was that “once in a lifetime” opportunity. But as Clark Gable, who likes to pick his spots and found himself trapped by a series of circumstances over which he had no control, I was scared stiff. 

Vivien Leigh also has some interesting commentary on what it was like to be caught up in the phenomenon of “Scarlett fever”:
There were dozens of girls testing, and I did not seriously consider that I might actually play the part. Yet once it was decided upon I discovered that there was no joking about playing Scarlett. From then on, I was swept along as though by a powerful wave—it was Scarlett, Scarlett, Scarlett, night and day, month after month.

The artwork and design of the program clearly reflect the era. On the cover, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler stands out as a broad-shouldered figure in black, but the women who swirl about him in colorful gowns are very much in the 1930s style of artwork that could come from an ad for cosmetics or high-end perfume. And speaking of those colorful gowns, we learn in the "Facts About the Production" pages that “more than 5500 separate items of wardrobe were required to be designed by Walter Plunkett, for which he had to draw more than 400 sketches”—a task made even more complicated by the progress of women’s styles from the hoopskirts of the Civil War years to the bustled gowns of the Reconstruction era.

A final sign of the times appears on the back cover, in which we learn that the program is sold in theatres showing the film and may be purchased at 25 cents a copy. A quarter would certainly buy more then than it would now! This gorgeous program is indeed a relic of a different era, when a night out at the movies was a genuine occasion—and this occasion made film history.

Fans of both the novel and the film would enjoy this time-capsule item about the transition of Gone with the Wind from page to screen.

For more information:
Gone with the Wind full text online – and
Twenty Things You Might Not Have Known About Gone with the Wind
Roger Ebert’s review of Gone with the Wind
Hattie McDaniel winning Best Supporting Actress
Trivia and Fun Facts About Gone with the Wind
Gowns, Illustrations and More—The Making of Gone With the Wind

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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

by Jim Baggett, Head, Archives and Manuscripts Department

Dr. Marvin Whiting, BPL archivist, 1975-1996
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; and Tom Turley of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

The deadline for nominations is July 28, 2017, and the award will be presented at the Society of Alabama Archivists Annual Meeting at the University of Alabama on October 13, 2017.

For more information and to access the nomination form, visit the SALA web site at

Questions may be directed to:
Jim Baggett, Head
Department of Archives and Manuscripts
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203
205-226-3631 (voice), 205-226-3633 (fax)

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

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 some of its participants, as is evident when one of the oldest members vaguely remembers that there used to be a saying—"Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon."

Shirley Jackson was shocked at the hate mail she received for the story, and even her own mother chastised her for being one of those doom-and-gloom young people and why couldn't she write an uplifting story to cheer people up?
"The children assembled first, of course."

Miles Hyman's illustrations at times have an old-timey sepia tone that emphasizes the backward nature of a town holding steadfast to a we've-always-done-it-this-way tradition that neighboring towns have discontinued. The tension as the sun rises on June 27 is palpable in the behavior of the anxious and excited townsfolk as the elders dust off the box, the women finish household chores, and the children go searching for the weightiest rocks.

The book includes an interesting biographical preface by Hyman. Although he was only three when Jackson died, she left an impression on him with her big presence and the things she surrounded herself with in her Victorian home in Vermont, such as the stacks of books on the occult and ancient civilizations, and her gramophone and collection of jazz records. I loved reading about the cocktail parties Shirley and her husband threw for famous writers (she was once chased around the house by a drunk Dylan Thomas).

So glad to have this in my graphic novel collection!

Read the full short story "The Lottery" at

Review of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle

If you're not into graphic novels because you associate them with superheroes—and you're not into those either—please rethink this because there are so many wonderful graphic novels you may enjoy that are biographical in nature or that deal with topical social issues. This list contains several such graphic novels that Birmingham Public Library staff have liked enough to post reviews about:

The Baby-Sitters Club
El Deafo
Fahrenheit 451
Fun Home
Mr. Wonderful
Solomon Kane

Anybody else excited about To Kill a Mockingbird being made into a graphic novel?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Reading for the Super Busy Family

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

created by Freepik

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 night? Read a related story together before or after the video. Going on a car trip? Check out some audiobooks you can all enjoy together during the trip.

Act it out – Make reading part of playtime. Try reading and acting out a simple story together. Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggy books are great for this. Let the kids assign parts and put on a show.

Think outside the (fiction) box – Try different genres based on your kids’ interests and incorporate reading into their favorite activities. Is your kid a joker? Try joke books. Do you have a budding superhero in the house? Try (age-appropriate) comic books. Do you have an artist on your hands? Try art instruction books and artist’s biographies. Are your kids into dinosaurs? Do they want to build robots? Travel in space? Be the next MasterChef? There are books for every interest.

Backseat buddies – I keep books in the backseat of the car for the kids. This gives them a way to entertain themselves while I chauffer them around. Sometimes my oldest reads me a story while I’m driving.

Campfire stories – Sometimes we camp out, and sometimes we just pretend to camp out in the living room. (The boys like eating marshmallows whether we’re actually roasting them or just sticking them on drinking straws and holding them next to the camp lantern.) This is another great opportunity—no electronic distractions, and reading spooky stories by flashlight is just so much more, well, spooky.

If you can’t beat them, join them – If your kids would rather watch a video, roll with it. Turn on the closed captions so they can read along. Hearing the words spoken while they’re reading helps to reinforce learning. And if they enjoy playing on a mobile device, try interactive e-books and reading apps like TumbleBook. And don’t stop there—find library books about the movies, games, and characters they love to enhance the experience. I’ve found that my son will voluntarily stop playing Minecraft long enough to read a book about Minecraft.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun with it. If you and your kids enjoy reading now, you’re well on your way to raising life-long readers.

Children's Book Review: Iron Hearted Violet

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 her appearance.

This is a charming, fast-paced book. The omniscient narrator is a character in and of himself as he sets the stage for a fairy tale that feels both original and familiar. This is a great book for kids and parents who want to celebrate girl power. Violet is a dynamic character that is capable, brave, and strong. Additionally, the story contains female characters in leadership and military positions without calling attention to this break from gender clich├ęs. I listened to the audiobook, which is splendidly narrated by Simon Vance. While the illustrations from the book were wonderful, they were distracting. Violet is drawn as a lovely young woman, possessing none of the physical irregularities described in the story. It goes against the entire lesson of the story to show a beautiful princess rather than the plain, pug-nosed heroine described in the text. Apparently ugliness is fine to read about, but not to view. Regardless, this makes an excellent selection for middle grade readers and fans of fantasy adventure.

Help Raise Some Dough for the Birmingham Public Library

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.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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

Candice Hardy (left) and Lady Woo from 95.7 Jamz at a summer reading
mediation and exercise program at the Five Points West Regional Branch
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, July 12, at 2:00 p.m. - West End Branch Library

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

Build a Better City at Inglenook Library

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

by Jim Baggett, Department Head, Archives and Manuscripts Department

Jane Ann and Lilla dressed for competition
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.

June 26, 11:00 a.m., Pinson Public Library
June 28, 10:00 a.m., Avondale Library (registration required; the Irish dance instruction will be part of the storytime program)
June 30, 4:00 p.m., Springville Road Library (registration required)
July 7, 10:30 a.m., Homewood Public Library

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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

Yoga instructor and former librarian Marie Blair (third from left) with North Birmingham Library 
librarian Leigh Wilson (fourth from left) and gentle yoga participants. Wilson's Take a Step in 
the Right Direction pedometer program allowed patrons to receive their own pedometers 
to keep track of their exercise. 

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.

Marie Blair at the East Lake Branch Library

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

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 world around them and the joy of reading.

You can see the full schedule of over 500 programs for kids, teens, and adults by visiting the BPL events calendar.

BPL Hosting Ballard House Conversation Project Signups June 19-24

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, Avondale Regional Branch Library, 2:00-5:00 p.m.

For more information, go to or call 205-731-2000.

The Ballard House in the Birmingham civil rights district downtown, is a cultural and educational space dedicated to celebrating people, places and events from Birmingham’s past and inspiring citizens of today. “Our goal is to bridge our present with our past,” Hamilton said.

The Ballard House
1420 7th Ave N, Birmingham, AL
The Ballard House was built in 1940 by Dr. Edward Ballard, a prominent Birmingham doctor in the 1920s. Hamilton’s husband, Herschell Hamilton, is the son of the late Dr. Herschell Hamilton Sr., who upon moving to Birmingham in 1958 became the first board-certified African American surgeon in the city. Dr. Hamilton became known as the “dog-bite doctor” for providing free medical care, including surgery for several foot soldiers and activists injured during the 1960s civil rights movement. He was the personal physician for Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and also treated Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Hamilton’s office was located inside the Ballard House, and he spent much of his 43 years of medical practice there. Hamilton’s family established the Herschell Lee Hamilton Endowed Medical Scholarship in his honor during the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement in Birmingham.

Monday, June 19, 2017

One for the Record Books: The English Census

Beyond the Basics of Genealogy logoSearching 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 Census and its English cousin. This Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop will show you how to navigate this important information source.

Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshops are free of charge, but registration is requested. To register, contact the Southern History Department of the Birmingham Public Library at 205-226-3665, email, or online through the library's calendar.

Department of Defense Pocket Guides

by Mary Beth Newbill, Head of Government Documents and Southern History Department
Greece Pocket Guide Being Measured
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.

Hawaii Pocket GuideVietnam Pocket Guide

Germany Pocket Guide
Mostly published in the 1950s through the 1980s, each guide presents the soldier with a surprisingly detailed history of the country of their deployment and includes helpful advice about the country's economy, society, religion, and government. Always respectful in tone, the guides emphasize the people of each country. Most of them go into great detail about family life and social customs. They even include instructions on what to do if invited into someone's home (always remove your shoes if invited into a home in Okinawa and offer enthusiastic and detailed compliments when invited to a Moroccan home). All of the guides include a section with common phrases and their pronunciations. Even the guide to the United Kingdom includes a British to American vocabulary with definitions for British terms such as chips, lorry, and zed (French fries, truck, and the letter "z," respectively).

Not only is the factual information found in the pocket guides interesting, they also provide us with a look at the manners and social customs that were the norm for each country at the time the guide was published. By including such information, we are able to learn what our soldiers were taught and how they were expected to behave while representing the United States on foreign soil.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New Urban Fiction

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 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 whether Starr should step down.

Hustling on the Down Low 

Hustling on the Down Low  by M.T. Pope
In the violent criminal underworld, there is no room for weakness, so the idea of a growing gay mafia in Baltimore is rejected by most people. That doesn't stop kingpin Avery Nelson from striving to come out on top in his battle against Leroy Grant. Avery has faced adversity most of his life, and being a gay black male only adds fuel to the fire already burning within him.  Leroy Grant does not want to see a gay man in charge, especially since in his mind, he is supposed to be where Avery is. A hatred grows inside of him with every mention of Avery and the moves he's making in the streets. Now Leroy's singular mission is to take the top spot for himself. With so much violence and hate, there is no way to tell who will be Baltimore's kingpin and who will be headed to the pen. 

Charisma: Baller's Wife  
Charisma:  Baller's Wife  by Nikki Turner
Charisma Bland was born and raised in the heart of Baltimore, where she learns that a moment's pleasure can sometimes lead to a life of pain. Against her better judgment, she has a one-night stand that changes her life forever. Turning over the family business to her cousin, she leaves behind her past. Charisma moves to Miami, where she meets Mr. Manny Manifesto, aka Mr. Baseball. Manny is coming off his best season ever, bringing with him a freshly inked 250-million-dollar-plus contract. After a chance meeting, Charisma sees an opportunity to start anew, and she and Manny attempt to build a relationship. The sex might be good, but will their omissions and the deeds of their past come back to haunt them?

Can't Stop 
Can't Stop  by Clifford "Spud" Johnson
Jason Gaines, better known as Hot Shot, has just buried his mother, father, and little brother after a home invasion. Now the only thing on his mind is finding the people responsible and punishing them severely for taking all that he cared for in this world. Before he can take action, he has to get his money right, and that means turning up his hustle. So, it's off to Dallas, Texas to get money from the streets. He has the connects to give him everything from drugs to weapons. His hustle has to remain on point so he can then redirect his focus on finding the people who murdered his family. Texas is his first stop, but it damn sure won't be his last. He's on a mission, and he Can't Stop!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Raptors Program at Springville Road on June 23

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

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 Analytics," and "Getting Started with Social Media and Email Marketing." All sessions will be held from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. in the Central Library's Regional Library Computer Center, located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building. The seminar series is sponsored by the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development and Zeekee, a local digital marketing agency. The program presenters will be Zeekee’s marketing and IT specialists.

The seminars are free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, please contact Andy Mayo in the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development by phone at 205-254-2774 or by email at

Zeekee started in 2003 as a small business and has since grown into a full-fledged internet marketing agency with services that include website development, graphic design, internet marketing and website support. They have developed and supported over 2,000 websites and countless campaigns for their clients in all industries from local startups to international Fortune 500 companies. Zeekee has offices in Birmingham and Fairhope, AL.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Girl Scouts, Camp Fletcher, and the Ku Klux Klan

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 and sleeping facilities but did have to share the toilet facilities.

Word of the white Girl Scout instructors’ presence reached the Ku Klux Klan, who felt it was not proper for white women to be working and living within the boundaries of an African American camp, and decided to conduct a night raid to frighten Nickel and Ijams into leaving camp. According to Katrine Nickel, between 8 to 10 robed, masked men entered their tent, woke them up, shined flashlights in their faces, rifled through their purses and belongings, and ordered them to get out within 24 hours. As a result of the threat, Camp Fletcher closed and sent everyone home. E.P. Pruitt, president of the Birmingham’s Ku Klux Klan, released a statement denying the involvement of the Klan in the Camp Pauline Bray Fletcher incident, but the description of the attackers left little doubt in most people’s minds that the raid was the work of the Klan.

Girl Scouts Demand Justice

In the aftermath of the incident, the Jefferson County Girl Scout Council asked for an investigation both by local law enforcement and the FBI. The Negro Citizens Defense Committee petitioned Governor Jim Folsom and Attorney General A.A. Carmichael to protect the African American community in the wake of increased violence in Birmingham. There had been a similar incident at Camp Blossom Hill, as well as the deaths of six African Americans allegedly at the hands of the police. Attorney Abe Berkowitz asked the Alabama’s Attorney General A.A. Carmichael to revoke the Ku Klux Klan’s charter. Local businessmen founded Citizens Against Mobism (CAM) in 1949 to advocate for an anti-masking law by curtailing the influence of the KKK from their mask of anonymity.

Public outcry and negative national press helped encourage action against the Ku Klux Klan. A year later, the Alabama legislature passed the first anti-masking law which made it a misdemeanor to appear in public wearing a mask. It carried a $500 fine or one year in jail for violation. It was the first anti-masking law enacted in the Deep South since Reconstruction and weakened the power of the Ku Klux Klan.

Tune in on Monday, June 19, at 6:00 p.m., to watch this story be featured on Fox 6’s new show, Bounce Around Birmingham, which showcases compelling stories that impact the African American community. Bounce Around Birmingham will air every Monday on the Bounce TV Channel 6.2 at 6:00 p.m.

Book Review:The Country Waif

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 the countryside of Barry, where Sand lived as a child and where she summered with Frederic Chopin during the nine years of their affair. It stimulates the high emotion of its romantic era, and pays convincing respect to the folk writing so prized at the time, but its pastoral realism links it to the later urban realism of Emile Zola.

Like Jane Austen, Georges Sand had to contend with a world that did not take women’s intellectual achievements seriously. Georges Sand is a nom de plume taken on in order to get works published and read. And, like Austen’s novels, The Country Waif is, in part, a story about women, written by a woman, but the reader will be taken by the contrast between Austen’s novels of manners and Sand’s short romantic jewel.

Book Review: Lenin on the Train

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 political theorist among many Russian rabble rousers surviving exile by printing newspapers promising utopia, and soliciting aid from wealthy fellow exiles. The Germans, however, were hoping that Lenin would prove to be less a man of theory, and more a man of practice. They were hoping his fiery speeches would actually foment strikes, protests, and possibly worse. Ultimately, the German’s wish was fulfilled; the already faltering Russian Army ground to a halt. Russia withdrew from the war and signed a separate peace treaty. The Germans were able to transfer their forces from the Eastern Front to the West. The war dragged on.

Catherine Merridale's choice of details and her storytelling acumen is what brings an essentially political story to life. She brings the eight-day train ride of Lenin’s revolutionary group from Zurich to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) to life with descriptions of political machinations and beautiful images of the countryside through a speeding train window.

Critics love Merridale’s book and it’s easy to see way. The Russian Revolution is an inherently complex topic. Yet, she gives us a very readable, albeit, abbreviated version of events. When you put the book down, you understand not only the motives of many of the players who took part in the Russian Revolution, but also how Lenin survived and ultimately succeeded. In high school I found the political maneuverings of Anarchists, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, White Russians, English spies, and German spies utterly confusing, but she does a wonderful job of making it all understandable.

She’s also a talented writer with a real knack for finding just the right scene, or contemporary quote which perfectly describes the geography or the politics of Europe then and now. At one point Lenin’s train passed close to the Arctic Circle. She writes that “the forest was so close the observant members of the group might have glimpsed deer and Arctic hares, perhaps a red fox slipping home. There were more elk than people here.”

But at its heart this is not a travel book. This is a book about politics, revolution, war, and freedom lost to terror. Merridale quotes Winston Churchill who said, “they transported Lenin in a sealed truck [sic] like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia.” And the philosophy of Lenin did go on to infect not only Russia, but dozens of other countries. “…no statue, song or festival could capture the ambition of [Lenin’s] dream, and none could blot the bloodstains from its execution…the system he created was a stifling, cruel, sterile one, a workshop for decades of tyranny.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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

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

One of the posters created by the U.S. Economic Cooperation
Administration to promote the Marshall Plan

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 foreign policy ambitions of America’s former wartime ally, the Soviet Union. It was out of these tumultuous circumstances that the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan arose.

The Truman doctrine was officially enunciated on March 12, 1947, in a presidential address before a joint session of Congress. The specific purpose of President Truman’s address that day was to convince federal legislators to pass a bill authorizing $400 million in aid to the governments of Greece and Turkey, both of whom were experiencing political instability that was due at least partly to communist influence. In broader terms, however, Truman’s speech was a clarion call to the citizens of the United States and the rest of the world, that, moving forward, it would be the policy of the U.S. to intervene in the affairs of any independent nation that was being threatened by authoritarian forces, either from an external source or an internal one. In the 2,204-word address, Truman never mentioned the Soviet Union by name and he only used the term “communists” once, but it was clear to all listeners who and what he had in mind:
The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments.

At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.

I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.
By emphasizing the threat of authoritarian forces to the existence of free societies throughout the world, and the constant danger that this threat posed to American interests, Truman was able to galvanize public opinion in support of his policy. Both the war weary citizens of the United States and the budget-conscious members of the U.S. Congress became convinced that the argument being made by the president was valid and compelling enough to warrant, what would become, decades of vigilance and sacrifice. The bill that was eventually designated Public Law 80-75, An Act to Provide Assistance to Greece and Turkey passed both the House and Senate by margins of nearly 3 to 1.

Just a couple of weeks after Truman’s assistance bill became law, the details of America’s new foreign policy were fleshed out further by what would become known as the Marshall Plan. Like the Truman doctrine, the Marshall Plan was first made public in a speech. The speaker was the current U.S. Secretary of State, and former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall. The speech took place at the Harvard University commencement exercises on June 5, 1947. Although the speech lasted less than 11 minutes, its message has resonated with American policymakers down to the present day: world peace and prosperity is dependent upon the economic and political stability of individual nations, and the United States, both for the good of all mankind and its own self-interest, has a responsibility to do what it can to help foster this stability. As Marshall put it that day:
Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.
Certainly the tone of Marshall’s speech emphasized goodwill and cooperation, but it also brought with it a warning, much like Truman’s address, directed to the explicitly unnamed Soviet Union:
Any government that is willing to assist in the task of recovery will find full cooperation, I am sure, on the part of the United States Government. Any government which maneuvers to block the recovery of other countries cannot expect help from us. Furthermore, governments, political parties or groups which seek to perpetuate human misery in order to profit therefrom politically or otherwise will encounter the opposition of the United States.
It took nearly a year for the details of the Marshall Plan to be put into practice. Following multinational meetings involving several European countries, and months of U.S. Congressional deliberation, the plan was codified as Public Law 80-472, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, and the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948. The law created the U.S. Economic Cooperation Administration that, between the years 1948 and 1951, coordinated the distribution of nearly 13 billion dollars for the purpose of strengthening the economies of sixteen European nations. In recognition of his leadership and contributions to this historic effort, George C. Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

Prior to World War II, the United States was hesitant to involve itself in the affairs of other countries. However, the global nature of that conflict and the massive and total destruction it wrought persuaded American leaders that, at the conclusion of the hostilities, a major reassessment of the nation’s foreign policy was needed. This reassessment was characterized not only by a desire to see a rebuilt and healthy Europe, but also by a wish to see the power of the Soviet Union held in check. In short, this is what the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan hoped to accomplish. Overall, they were clearly successful in this task.

Then again, the price that was paid for this success is much more open to debate. The 40-year Cold War, which these two policies helped to initiate, resulted in enormous human and material costs for the United States. The Korean War and the Vietnam War, both of which accounted for nearly 95,000 American fatalities, can be traced back to the decisions implemented in the late 1940s. Furthermore, it is estimated that the United States spent almost $4 trillion on its nuclear arsenal during the Cold War years. The C.I.A. was another product of the Truman administration’s foreign policy, and it has certainly generated a fair share of ill will and mistrust both abroad and at home. So, as is the case with most bold political ventures, the Truman doctrine and the Marshall Plan will forever be open to interpretation and reinterpretation.

Library materials dealing with the end of World War II and the origins of the Cold War are the best place to start in understanding the context in which the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan were crafted. Materials concerning the history of United States foreign relations are helpful in providing insight into the impact these policies had on America’s evolving role in international affairs.

There are also several biographies and memoirs available about those individuals who played significant roles in developing and implementing American foreign policy in the immediate post-World War II period. Most prominent among these individuals are President Harry S. Truman and Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Especially noteworthy is David McCullough’s Truman, which won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and Autobiography. Other highly influential government policymakers of the era include George Kennan and Dean Acheson. Acheson‘s memoir, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Departmentwon the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for History.

The historical researcher who wants to delve even deeper should consult the websites of The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum and The George C. Marshall Research Library, both of which contain unique primary and secondary source documents that can be viewed online. The Truman website does a very good job in organizing their documents into easily accessible subject categories, including “The Truman Doctrine and the Beginning of the Cold War” and “The Marshall Plan, 1947-48.”

Library Summer Reading Programs Help Slow Summer Slide

by Selina Johnson, Branch Manager, Wylam Branch Library

Second grade teacher Constance Blaylock helping students retain reading skills during
summer break

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 summer.

What is the remedy for summer slide? It is definitely keeping students mentally active during the summer. Wylam Branch Library has several programs that will be offered to students each Tuesday throughout the summer. “Summer Push” is one program that is being offered to Wylam Elementary students in second through fourth grade. The program is spearheaded by Constance Blaylock, a second grade teacher at Wylam Elementary School. Blaylock will meet with the students every Tuesday and teach mini-lessons on reading skills. The students are required to read a certain number of books and complete book reports by the end of the summer.

Wylam Library, as well as all Birmingham Public Library branches, will have special events and incentives that will be provided throughout the summer to encourage recreational reading for children and adults. The more you read, the more chances you will have towards winning prizes. Come and visit the Wylam Library or the online events calendar to learn more about specific dates and times for our summer events.

Learn More about The Few, The Proud

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 Guidebook by Nick ”Gunny Pop” Popaditch
The Marines by Edward Howard Simmons
Marines: An Illustrated History: The United States Marine Corps from 1775 to the 21st Century by by Chester G. Hearn
The Marines and You by Dorothy Hole
And many more

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

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

Powderly Library branch manager Loretta Bitten and BPL Interim Director Sandi Lee
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 year veteran at BPL, said “being a mother is one of my greatest accomplishments,” adding she was humbled to receive an award or her parenting from the Metro Birmingham NAACP.

“This is such an honor to be recognized for doing something that has given me so much pleasure,” Bitten said. “I thank God for my daughters and His allowing me to tunnel visions into their lives.”

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