Friday, June 29, 2018

Springville Road Regional Library Receives Grant From Roebuck Walmart

by Roy L. Williams, Public Relations Department at Birmingham Public Library

BPL Executive Director Floyd Council and Regional Library Manager Yolanda Hardy accepting grant check from Roebuck's Walmart

The Roebuck Walmart (Store 762) gave the Springville Road Library a $500 grant to help fund its educational and community programming. BPL Executive Director Floyd Council and Regional Manager Yolanda Hardy accepted the check on behalf of the library during a ceremony held this morning, Friday, June 29, 2018.

Several grants were presented to community organizations to thank them for their support of the Walmart that serves Roebuck, Huffman, and surrounding communities in eastern Birmingham. The store also hosted an official ribbon-cutting celebrating a recently completed renovation.

The program included entertainment from the Huffman High School Band and cheerleaders. Besides BPL, other grant recipients were Huffman High School, Birmingham Firefighters, Boy Scouts of America, YMCA, The Celebration Center, and the Huffman Recreation Center.

Thank you, Walmart!

Rock and Roll Magic Shows Coming to BPL in July

If your child is into magic, several Birmingham Public Library locations are hosting free magic shows during the month of July as part of BPL’s 2018 Summer Learning activities for kids.

Summer Learning magic shows in July schedule:

Arch Duncan, Magician – Fun magic show for all ages.

   •  July 2, 11:00 a.m. Powderly Library
   •  July 3, 10:00 a.m. Wylam Library
   •  July 12, 11:00 a.m. West End Library

Rock “N” Magic – Discover the magic of music as Magic Man Larry Moore presents stories and tricks. Register 24 hours in advance by calling 205-226-4003.

   •  July 11, 10:00 a.m. Avondale Library

Libraries Rock Finale: Sam the Magic Man-Be ready to be amazed with the tricks and illusions of Sam the Magic Man. Individuals and groups welcome, but advanced registration required. Call 205-226-3655.

   •  July 16, 10:00 a.m. Central Library

For more information on BPL’s Summer Learning activities, check out the calendar at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tamika Takes on D.C.

West End Library Branch Manager Maya Jones (left)
and summer intern, 2018 Parker High School graduate
Tamika Green standing outside the Library of Congress. 
BPL Teen Intern Reflects on PLA Inclusive Internship Initiative Kickoff Event in Washington, D.C.

By Tamika Green

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for the Public Library Association Inclusive Internship Initiative Kick-Off. I was one of fifty interns from various libraries in thirty-five states who attended. It was my third time visiting D.C. and I was ecstatic to see the one monument that has become my favorite, “The Martin Luther King Jr. Monument”. It’s a personal favorite of mine because of my upbringing in Birmingham Alabama. Every day I see the cause he fought so hard for. I can go to Linn Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church and see the change that was created by him and the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

After viewing the sites, we returned to our hotel for dinner where I was able to socialize with other interns and mentors. My roommate was Myra Meyers from Algona Public Library in Iowa. I learned about her life and it was totally different from mine. She lives in a small town where everyone knows each other, while I am accustomed to the hustle and bustle of a city. On the second day, we attended sessions that were mostly designed for the mentors and interns to improve their libraries. We then traveled to Georgetown University Bioethics Library were we saw a makerspace that could make just about anything. We saw 3D printer replicas of Egyptian pyramids, statues and even a banana.

On our final day we were able to visit both Library of Congress buildings. The James Madison Memorial Building, where we ate lunch and listened to a speaker, who gave me the idea of creating a Human Library for my connected learning project during my internship. In a Human Library, the people of the community are the “books”. Their backgrounds vary but they all have a common purpose of sharing their stories. It gives library patrons an opportunity to learn about their community and its diverse make up. This project will bring the library and the community closer together.

We also toured the Jefferson Building where many U.S. historical documents and art pieces are housed. After the tour, we had to leave early to catch our plane back to Birmingham. Overall, I enjoyed the trip and cannot wait to travel to Chicago, IL where I will present my connected learning project to my peers and the other mentors.

Children Meet Hero Firefighters at Wylam Library Firefighters Rock Program

by Roy L. Williams, Public Relations Director at the Birmingham Public Library

Firefighter showing children equipment on the equipment

Birmingham’s police and firefighters are heroes on the front lines, protecting citizens in their time of need. Whether it’s in our neighborhoods putting out a fire or helping rescue drivers and their passengers from wrecked vehicles, firefighters put their lives on the line for us, often on a daily basis.

On Tuesday, June 26, Wylam Branch Library hosted Firefighters Rock, a Birmingham Public Library Summer Learning children’s program. During the event, Wylam’s patrons—both young and old—got a chance to meet community helpers from Birmingham fire stations and learn about fire safety. The children even toured a Birmingham fire truck, heard its sirens wail, and watched its lights flash.

Firefighters Rock is among over 400 Summer Learning programs for kids, teens, and adults taking place at BPL’s 19 library locations in June and July. For more information, click on the calendar at You can also print out a calendar of programs for children, teens, and adults on the BPL Summer Learning page.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Travel Resources You Can Use

by Selina Johnson, Wylam Branch Library

The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are usually when most people take their long anticipated and well deserved summer vacations. When vacationing the goal is to thoroughly enjoy the time spent away from home by maximizing your time and the money spent on your trip. The decisions that you make before and during your trip will dictate as to whether you have a dream vacation or one that is a nightmare.

The planning stage of your trip is crucial, so do your research. Current guidebooks, travel reviews such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, tourist information websites, and maps are your friends. Selectively choose these resources based on your travel needs and interests.

Also, don’t forget to search the plethora of travel resources that are available at BPL. You can find resources that provide travel tips, destination ideas, and so much more. Many of them can be downloaded onto your digital device. It was refreshing to download travel guidebooks and e-books about my vacation destination through Hoopla. I did not have bulky books to keep up with on the trip. Instead, e-books were on my tablet and I could easily peruse and refer to them on the plane and in my hotel room.

Below is a list of just a few of the travel resources at BPL. So, whether you are trekking by plane, train, car, or RV…Enjoy!

Budget Travel for the GENIUS: A Road Tested Guide for Saving Money While Enjoying Your Vacation to the Fullest by Cynthia J. Drake.
Senior Travel Guide: How to Survive Squatty Potties and More by Sara Raney
The Solo Travel Handbook: Practical Tips and Inspirations for a Safe, Fun and Fearless Trip by Sarah Reid
The Travel Book: A Journey through Every Country in the World 
2017 North American RV Travel & Savings Guide
203 Travel Challenges: Travel the World: Explore Your Inner Self by Maria Angelova, Ivalina Nenova

ALA Apologizes for Silence on Segregated Libraries Issue

by Roy L. Williams, Director of Public Relations at the Birmingham Public Library

Wayne Wiegand at the May 1 lecture at the Birmingham Public Library

On Sunday, June 24, 2018, renowned national library historian Wayne A. Wiegand and his wife, Shirley, appeared at the New Orleans Public Library’s main branch to discuss their new book, The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism. Wiegand (pronounced Wee-ghund) is on a nationwide lecture and book-signing tour promoting the book. Wiegand has a chapter detailing the 1963 sit-ins by Miles College students that led to the desegregation of the Birmingham Public Library.

Wiegand signing his book for an attendee after the BPL event

The Wiegands’ New Orleans talk, “Hidden Figures in American Library History,” included a panel discussion with four blacks whose protests of segregated libraries in the Deep South are featured in their book. It was timed to coincide with the American Library Association (ALA)’s 2018 Annual Conference held in New Orleans June 21-26.

ALA’s board released a resolution apologizing for its failure to speak out against the racist Jim Crow laws that kept many public libraries segregated until the 1960s. The resolution reads in part:
“Whereas, despite the work of African-American librarians . . . and the allies who stood with them to proactively fight segregation, a large majority of the nation’s library community failed to address the injustices of segregated library services until the 1960s.

“Whereas a genuine apology is an important and necessary first step in the process of reconciliation, resolved that the American Library Association
  1. Acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, and inhumanity that segregated libraries effected on African-Americans
  2. Apologizes to African-Americans for wrongs committed against them in segregated public libraries
  3. Commends African-Americans who risked their lives to integrate public libraries and forced public libraries to live up to the rhetoric of their ideas for their bravery and courage in challenging segregation in public libraries.”
East Grand Reading Room, Central Library

Wiegand, who worked with ALA on the resolution, applauded the group for taking a step he says is long overdue. His passion about the segregated library issue was evident on May 1, 2018, when as part of the book tour he captivated a large audience at the Birmingham Public Library’s downtown location by sharing details of young black heroes whose brave stands led to the integration of public libraries in former Jim Crow southern cities like Birmingham.

(L-R) Wiegand lecture panel: U.W. Clemon, Shelly Millender, Jeff Drew

Former federal judge U.W. Clemon, retired radio broadcaster Shelly Millender, and Jeff Drew, whose late mother Deenie Drew were among the blacks whose sit-in led to the desegregation of the Birmingham Public Library in 1963, participated in a panel discussion during the event. Wiegand’s book lecture in Birmingham was sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and Patrick Long in memory of Patricia Long, librarian and educator.

Wiegand said the desegregation of the Birmingham Public Library in 1963 was inspiring considering it was the same year police commissioner Bull Connor gave the city a black eye with his violent response to black civil rights protesters in Birmingham.

On April 10, 1963, Miles College students, including Shelly Millender (pictured), staged a sit-
in at 
the Birmingham Public Library. The library leadership agreed to end segregation in the
institution, making it one of 
the few public facilities in Birmingham that was peacefully de-
Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History

“The fact the library became integrated peacefully in the middle of that violent summer is kind of lost on people,” Wiegand said. “It was the sole site of racial conciliation in the middle of a town that was hosing African-Americans and turning dogs on them. The media, of course, looking constantly for photos and images that attracted attention, paid no attention to the integration of the Birmingham Public Library. So it kind of got lost in history.”

Wiegand, a retired professor considered the “Dean of American Library Historians,” is also author of Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library. He hopes The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South gives proper recognition to the brave heroes who integrated an important American institution—public libraries.

“What I hope is this can inform a number of people to recognize that public libraries had a role in the civil rights movement and there are certain systemic racist practices that are built into library practice, in part because they have not come to grips with their past on the issue of race,” Wiegand said. “We hope this stimulates a discussion in the library profession about what they have done on the issue of race and reflect on that.”

Read more about Wiegand’s lecture at

Here is a link to the book description from Wiegand’s publisher, LSU Press:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Influences of African American Music

by Russell Lee, Arts, Literature and Sports Department, Central Library

During the month of June we celebrate African-American Music Appreciation Month. All genres of music have been influenced by the contributions of African American music in some way or another.

When slaves arrived in America during the 1700s,  they were forced to reinvent the music, rhythms, moans, chants, and even some of the instruments of their homeland. These were often used to send secret codes and messages to one another, which is the main reason drums were banned on plantations by slave owners. Many slaves were forced to learn and play the banjo or fiddle to provide music and entertainment for slaves and plantation owners to try and keep the thought and reality of slavery out of the slave’s minds.

In 1892 Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák traveled to the United States at the invitation of a wealthy music lover. Dvořák was enthralled with the spirituals of African American slaves. He stated, "I am
now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.” While in America he wrote his most popular work, “Symphony No. 9” ("From the New World"). Dvořák stated, "It is the spirit of the Negro melodies which I have endeavored to produce in my new symphony.” Dvorak’s themes are thought to be inspired by spirituals he learned from Harry Burleigh, a black man who studied composition at the National Conservatory under Dvořák. The themes of Dvořák initiated the style of American music composed by Aaron Copeland, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington. Rock, pop, country, and rhythm and blues have all utilized some characteristics of African American music to produce the sound we hear in present times.

Spirituals were derived from field hollers and work songs. From spirituals the evolution of blues, jazz, and gospel evolved blended hollering, shouting, moaning, scatting (wordless singing using syllables or sounds), and melisma (sliding from one note to the next when singing).

Elvis Presley’s big hit “Hound Dog” recorded in 1956 had been previously recorded by female blues belter Big Mama Thornton in 1952. Listening to both versions you can definitely hear the soulful growl and rough sound of Big Mama Thornton in the Elvis Presley version. Elvis was the king but Big Mama Thornton was definitely the queen.

While listening to Janis Joplin or Aretha Franklin you can hear the wailing and hollering similarity of Bessie Smith who possessed a strong voice that could be heard from the stage to the balcony without her using a microphone. Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin both possessed big voices that could fill a hall. They all sang with pathos, passion, and emotion that could bring tears, pain, and other strong emotions.

Listen to George Gershwin’s orchestral composition “Rhapsody in Blue” or his contemporary opera, “Porgy and Bess” and you can hear jazz and blues themes in these great well-known compositions.
It would be hard pressed to say any popular music since the 1900s cannot be linked or traced to some type of influence of the spiritual. The African American Spiritual, from the shores of Africa, to the United States gave rise to blues, jazz, gospel, ragtime, country, folk, rhythm and blues, pop, rap and hip-hop.

2018 Stonewall Book Award Winners and Honorees

The annual Stonewall Book Award is a set of three literary awards (adult fiction, adult nonfiction, children and young adult) for books published in the US that are of exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/
transgender experience.

Sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) of the American Library Association (ALA), they have been part of the American Library Association awards program since 1986, when they were known as the Gay Book Award since its inception in 1971. In 2002 the awards (fiction and nonfiction categories only at that time) were renamed Stonewall Book Award after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, demonstrations and sometimes violent confrontations by individuals in the gay/lesbian/transgender community against the New York Police Department after a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan's West Village.

A panel of librarians selects finalists in each category, and then selects a winner. The winners are announced in January and each receives a plaque and $1000 cash prize during the ALA Annual Conference in June or July. Winners are expected to attend and to give acceptance speeches. This year's conference is being held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

And the winners are...

Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers
 by Cat Fitzpatrick

Honor Books
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
A Place Called No Homeland by Kai Cheng Thom
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
When I Grow Up I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community by John Chaich and Todd Oldham

Honor Books
Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
The Black Penguin by Andrew Evans
LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers by Bennett Singer and David Deschamps

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Honor Book
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

Young Adult
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater

Honor Book
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Winners 1971-2017

North Avondale Library Chapter Chatters Book Club—Seven Years and Going Strong

By Roy L. Williams, Public Relations Director at Birmingham Public Library

North Avondale branch manager Saundra Ross (seated, second from left) and members
of the Chapter Chatters Book Club

Since February 2011, the North Avondale Branch Library's Chapter Chatters Book Club has been a monthly gathering place for adults in the Birmingham area who share a passion for reading.

The book club meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month for lunch and a lively discussion of African American-themed books recommended by its members, or chosen from best-seller lists and talk shows. Birmingham Public Library's Summer Learning adult programming includes two North Avondale Chapter Chatters meetings that are open to the public: Wednesday, June 27, and Wednesday, July 25.

The July program will be truly unique: a book discussion incorporating a hands-on painting experience based on the book and led by Birmingham artist Cherie Hunt. Participants will leave with their own hand-painted masterpiece. The class is limited to 20 adults; advance registration is required by calling 205-592-2082.

The Chapter Chatters Book Club’s members range in age from the 40s to early 80s, and come from cities across metro Birmingham—McCalla, Bessemer, Center Point, Forestdale, and Hueytown. Several Birmingham communities are represented, including Penfield Park, Bush Hills, downtown Birmingham, Huffman, Kingston, Powderly, and North Avondale.

Marie Nash leads a discussion of The Youngest Marcher
by Cynthia Levinson at an April 2017 Children's Picture
Book Club meeting
In addition to discussing books, Chapter Chatters also occasionally holds talks with authors. During the May 2018 meeting, members spoke with Cydney Rax about her new book A Sister’s Secret. Best-selling Birmingham author Vanessa Davis Griggs has visited the club, and author Sherelle Green has participated via conference call and sent a gift bag of new book titles to be used as prizes. Tayari Jones, Hurston-Wright Legacy Award winner, was so impressed that she mailed autographed book plates and book marks for each club member. Saundra Ross, library branch manager, said she looks forward to listening to the different viewpoints and the personal stories book club members share each month.

Marie Nash, library assistant, wanted to start a book club for children, so she collaborated with Ross to develop the Children's Picture Book Club. In November, the North Avondale Library began hosting the Children's Picture Book Club where a group of neighborhood students meet every second Wednesday after school. They discuss books based on the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. Their first book was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

"The children's book club is a great way to encourage group reading and to get children to practice their analytical skills," Ross said. "I'm most proud when they read and then express to me what they've learned and how this new knowledge relates to them personally."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Beanstack Mobile App Updates: Badges and Bye-Bye History

A new version 1.3 of the Beanstack mobile app is now available for both Apple and Android phones. It includes badges now popping up when readers reach a milestone, plus a separate section where the reader can find all of his or her earned badges and prizes.

A change was made to the text that appears in the app based on users' feedback. Specifically, the word "History" has been changed to "Archive" to better communicate the "put it aside" function of that list of books. Similarly, changes have been made to the phrases "Mark Title As Completed" (now "Count Title as Completed") and "Move to History" (now "Move from Reading to Archive") to clarify the function of those actions.

Additionally, a bug was fixed whereby books weren't being counted in the web app if the Completed button was not toggled off and then back on.

Here's a list of "New Stuff" in the Beanstack app:

  • Badges! Receive notifications in Beanstack Tracker when badges are earned. Previously earned badges and badge statistics can also be viewed. To find badges: tap Highlights in the bottom bar, Achievements, then Badges.
  • Statistics have a new home! With the addition of badges, statistics now live under Highlights. Tap Highlights in the bottom bar to view statistics. 
  • Improved log searching: ability to search by author was added.
  • Improved data refreshing: data refreshing is now faster and happens more frequently.
  • Bug fixes and UI fine tuning. 

The Beanstack team is next taking on adding reading programs to the mobile app. It's a complex series of interactions that they expect to take at least a month. The result will be the app continuing to more closely resemble the core functions of the Beanstack website.

In the meantime, they're also working to make it more clear and easy to log a previous reading session. The Beanstack team will continue to make tweaks to the app based on what they're learning from users feedback. So keep the suggestions coming!

Book Review: In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits

by Richard Grooms, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits

You probably couldn’t ask for a more various collection of portraits than In Focus. From formal to casual, exotic to mundane, sublime to horrific, celebrity shots to peasant pics, old to contemporary, this collection seems to have it all.

“The Strange and Exotic” (chapter 2) has many notable pictures. A rural Russian family from 1917 stares blankly at the camera (save one boy, who’s wisecracking). We know their world will be devastated soon and this makes their stance all the more poignant and fragile. Do they have any idea of what will befall them? On another front, can a young woman carry off a mustache? Yes, if that’s what her people deem normal. An Ainu daughter sports her traditional over the lip tattoo as she delicately holds a flower. She provides a contrast to traditional Japanese concepts of femininity, 1922. So does a geisha from a more contemporary time. She primly holds a cigarette as she realizes she’s been caught in what she thought was a private moment. Teddy Roosevelt and hunting party display a jaguar they’ve just killed and apparently gutted. The cat’s head is well in front of the party and faces us. It’s sticking out its tongue, raspberry-style, as if it has the last word, subverting the macho poses behind it.

The definition of portrait is used broadly in this book. Included is a group of severed heads posted in Nanking in the '20s to dissuade lawbreakers. More conventional portraits are also here, as is seemingly everything in between. Tribal people address the camera in widely varying ways. A woman from Nauru, festooned with fishes that seem to be flying around her naked torso, looks sternly at us. She’s nobody’s fool. In contrast, two flirty young women from Algeria seduce the camera. I could never have guessed where they were from. The eyes of the girl on the right look almost Chinese. The 1914 date adds distance and hence confusion.

The “Away From Depression and War: The 1930s and 1940s” chapter goes heavy on the light and silly. The photos here were meant to offer a respite and diversion from hard times. The text assures us that not only National Geographic tried to cheer us up during these decades, it was just the way magazines were then, and some of this norm was a strain of propaganda. So: Look what you can do with vulcanized rubber!

“Cheerful Kodachrome Days,” which covers the '50s and '60s, could also be called “The Strange and Exotic.” Lobsterettes in Maine, happy snowmen, models modeling beef at Swift headquarters, while a mounted pig’s head smiles approvingly down from its wall perch. Who cares about Dali & Co. from the '20s? The '50s were the height of Surrealism as far as the evidence here shows. These decades didn’t run short on diversion either.

As you go through the collection, you see patterns and poses repeat themselves. No special attention is drawn to this, and that’s fine, as it makes the repeats surprising and subtle. A Tahitian woman, showing us her right side, recalls a sub-Saharan “Favorite Wife” we saw awhile back. That woman is in the same position, also shows us her right side, and she has a similar serious and confident look. The African woman is steely, while the Tahitian woman is almost seductive, but they parallel each other over the decades, across cultures, and over the span of the book. They never met, I’m sure, but they somehow meet here. In like ways, other men and women and groups meet in In Focus.

Toward the end of the book, the array of portraits has become dizzying. It’s good that the book doesn’t take itself too seriously and owns up to its fakeness and glitz. Sometimes the contrast in approaches and subjects is almost overwhelming. I’d rather spend time with this than The Family of Man.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ensley Library Closed Temporarily Beginning June 21 Due to HVAC issues

The Ensley Branch Library will close temporarily beginning Thursday, June 21, 2018, due to HVAC mechanical issues, the Birmingham Public Library announced.

The library has been operating on a shortened schedule of 9:00 a.m. until noon after the air conditioning system stopped working. Ensley Library’s Summer Learning program, MAD Skillz dance class, to be held Tuesday, June 26, 10:00 a.m., has been relocated to the Ensley Recreation Center, 2800 Ave. K, Ensley Branch Manager Alisha Johnson said.

No decision has been made about the teen program Rocking With Checkers, originally scheduled for  Thursday, June 28, 10:00 a.m. An announcement about Ensley Library’s July Summer Learning programs will be released at a later date, Johnson said.

For more information on BPL’s Summer Learning activities, check out the calendar at

About Juneteenth, the Oldest Known U.S. Celebration of the End of Slavery

by Roy L. Williams, Public Relations Director at the Birmingham Public Library

On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, African Americans across the United States celebrated Juneteenth, the oldest known national celebration of the end of slavery. Also called Emancipation Day, it marks the day black slaves learned that President Abraham Lincoln had on January 1, 1863, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing them. Most slaves did not receive word of Lincoln’s action until over two years later in June 1865, thus the name Juneteenth.

Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas
Wikimedia Commons

Many African Americans mark the Juneteenth anniversary much like the Fourth of July with parties, musical entertainment, picnics, and other public events. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute holds Juneteenth celebrations every year. The Birmingham Public Library’s 19 locations have several resources about Juneteenth.

Here are some interesting facts about Juneteenth, courtesy of CNN :

  • 153 – Years since Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger (Union Army) first read the proclamation, General Orders, No. 3, in Galveston, Texas, notifying slaves of their emancipation, on June 19, 1865.
  • January 1, 1863 – Date President Abraham Lincoln issued the final Proclamation, freeing those enslaved.
  • 901 – Days in between the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and General Orders, No. 3.
  • 13th – Amendment to the US Constitution that abolished slavery.
  • 3,953,760 – Estimated number of slaves in the United States in 1860.
  • 500,000 – Estimated number of free blacks in the United States in 1860. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, about half were in the North and half were in the South.
  • 15 – States where it was legal to have slaves before the Civil War: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
  • 45 – States with laws or resolutions celebrating Juneteenth.
  • January 1, 1980 – Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas, although it had been celebrated informally since 1865.
  • 45,133,880 – African Americans (one race alone or in combination) in the United States in 2016, according to the most recent Census Bureau estimate.

The Inside Scoop on

by Mary Beth Newbill, Southern History Department, Central Library is probably the best known genealogy database on the market. But did you know that you can access the Library Edition of free at any public library in Alabama? Keep reading for some research tips and tricks and then make plans to visit your local library to try them out.

Census Records
One of my favorite sources and, arguably, the most important one for genealogists is the U.S. Census. Ancestry has every population schedule currently available for genealogy research (1790-1940) and they are fully indexed. You can search by name, location, age range, etc. You can even search by occupation in the later years. As with any database taken from handwritten documents, expect to find some interesting transcription errors. For instance, I became very curious about John H. Cheney who appears in the 1870 census. The index lists his occupation as retired sea cat. Upon closer inspection of the image on which his name appears, it is obvious that he was a retired sea captain.

City Directories
Like telephone books, but better, city directories from all over the country can be found on They have an excellent collection for Birmingham with coverage from 1888-1960 (minus a few years). However, cities such as Denver, CO, Charleston, SC, and Honolulu, HI are among the many others included. City directories pre-date the telephone book and include additional information such as a person’s occupation or place of employment and the name of their spouse. Most also offer the ability to do reverse look-ups if you know an address, but not the name of the person who lived there.

School Yearbooks
Whether you’re looking for an ancestor, interested in the fashions of the day, or just strolling down memory lane, old high school and college yearbooks are a must. has got a massive collection of digitized and keyword searchable yearbooks from all across the country. I was thrilled to use the yearbooks to locate a picture of someone’s grandfather who was orphaned at a young age and for whom no childhood pictures exist.

If you’d like to learn more, I hope you can attend one of our upcoming classes on the Library Edition of There will be one at the Wylam Branch Library on Wednesday, June 27. at 10:00 a.m., and again at the Avondale Branch on Monday, July 2, at 2:00 p.m.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Go Straight to the Source for OverDrive Troubleshooting Help

There is good news for patrons needing some troubleshooting help with OverDrive! OverDrive is now providing the Public Libraries in Jefferson County with free Front Line Tech Support. What this means is that if patrons are having trouble, they are now able to contact OverDrive directly by email and OverDrive will troubleshoot and help resolve their problem.

Overdrive Front Line Tech Support includes the following:
  • Access to the OverDrive Front Line Tech Support team 24/7/365 via web form and email.
  • Response time via email expected within 8 business hours of receipt, or within 24 hours if received outside of business hours (8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. ET Monday-Friday, excluding major holidays).
  • Professionally trained specialists provide support for OverDrive technology-related issues only.
  • Self-service support is also available to users 24/7/365 through extensive and user-friendly FAQ and other written help that is accessible through the library's OverDrive-powered website.

How do patrons contact OverDrive directly?

  • Scroll to the bottom of the web page and click on Get Support in the Support column at the bottom of the page.
  • Click Contact Support.

From Libby:
  • Open the app and tap on the Libby icon in the top right corner to open the menu.
  • Scroll to the bottom and click Help & Support.
  • The middle prompt says "We would love to hear from you. What's on your mind?" Click A Problem underneath this prompt.
  • Fill in the appropriate information about your problem and follow the prompts.

Monday, June 18, 2018

BPL Spinners Club Spreading Music Appreciation throughout BPL This Summer

Russell Lee to lead blues music discussions during Summer Learning at BPL

Hey music lovers across the City of Birmingham: the BPL Spinners Club is spreading the joy of music throughout library locations across the city as part of the Birmingham Public Library’s 2018 Summer Learning activities.

Next stop: BPL Spinners Club to be held Monday, June 19, 11:00 a.m., at North Avondale Library. Attendees will spend time listening to some of the best in blues and learn interesting facts about various artists. The brainchild of Russell Lee, Library Assistant III in the Arts, Literature and Sports Department, BPL Spinners Club is a music-based program in which attendees will listen to preselected music recordings and then open the floor for brief discussions about them. The club debuted in February and explores a different genre of music monthly. Patrons may bring a light snack and a nonalcoholic beverage.

"I enjoy this opportunity to share the gift of music with patrons in a laid back and relaxed atmosphere,” said Lee, an accomplished pianist. “The Birmingham Public Library continues to offer cutting edge programming that reaches into our communities promoting lifelong learning and educational experiences."

Here is the remaining schedule for BPL Spinners Club during 2018 Summer Learning (All programs begin at 11:00 a.m. and are geared toward patrons at least 18 years old):

June 19: North Avondale Library
June 25 – Smithfield Library
June 26 – Southside Library
July 09 – East Ensley Library
July 10 – Powderly Library

For more information call Russell Lee at 205-226-3673. The program was a November 2017 recipient of an Innovative and Cool Award of the BPL Board of Trustees, which funds unique programs that benefit library patrons.

Birmingham Public Library Selected for 2018 Inclusive Internship Initiative

by Roy Williams, Director of Public Relations

West End Library summer intern Tamika Green and branch manager Maya Jones

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will participate in a connected learning internship program this summer sponsored by the Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Through its Inclusive Internship Initiative (III), PLA is sponsoring paid, mentored public library internships for 50 high school juniors and seniors from diverse backgrounds. With individual guidance from a mentor, each intern will engage with multiple facets of library life, from administration to programming to user services. Over the course of the summer, interns and mentors will develop and complete a connected learning project.

BPL has selected Tamika Green as its intern for summer 2018. Green is a 2018 graduate of Parker High School. The selection was made based on her academic standing, application essay, and a letter of recommendation. Green will work closely with her appointed mentor, West End Library branch manager Maya Jones, throughout the internship. Green and Jones will travel to Washington, D.C., later this month for Inclusive Internship Initiative’s summer kickoff event.

This project will have an immediate benefit to the libraries and student participants. Library staff will better understand early career pathways to librarianship and gain appreciation for their role and impact in supporting diversity along those paths. Students will better understand the many ways librarians positively serve their communities, and gain the tools to make decisions about the educational directions that will lead them into library service and leadership. Interns will have opportunities to connect with one another, and mentors across the country, to share what they are learning and doing through live and virtual channels, creating a ripple effect of learning and awareness.

Additional information about the Inclusive Internship Initiative can be found at

This program is funded by PLA with support from a pre-professional Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant (grant RE-00-17-0129-17) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

2018 Rainbow Books for Kids

The Rainbow Book List Committee of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association evaluates quality books published every year that contain significant and authentic GLBTQ content for children and youth, birth through age 18. For the 2018 Rainbow Book List, 260 books published between July 2016 and December 2017 were studied, and 48 from 18 different publishers made the cut. Out of these, 10 were chosen due to their outstanding merit.

The Top 10

Board Book
Baby’s First Words by Stella Blackstone; illustrated by Christiane Engel. Two dads and their baby spend a busy day together learning new words.

Middle Grade Fiction
Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker. Grades 5-8. Felix is fused with a fourth dimensional alien and is counting down the days until a potentially fatal experimental surgery to separate them, all the while dealing with his crush on his classmate Hector.

Young Adult Fiction
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. Grades 9-12. After the sudden loss of her grandfather, Marin moves to college, isolating herself from her past. When her best friend Mabel comes to visit during winter break, she is forced to come face-to-face with her grief.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. Grades 9-12. Blue-haired teenager Ramona works odd jobs to help support her family in a town that hasn’t quite recovered after Hurricane Katrina. Although she identifies as a lesbian, Ramona is thrown for a loop as she realizes her feelings for Freddie, her male best friend.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Grades 9-12. Mateo and Rufus both find out that they are going to die today. Over the course of the day, their stories and lives converge. Starting as a search for a final friendship, the boys develop a relationship far deeper than either of them expected.

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens. Grades 9-12. Billie McCaffrey—artist, preacher’s daughter, and general troublemaker—finds herself in an awkward position when she and her four best friends accidentally burn down a section of their church. The friends, and Billie in particular, find themselves in the spotlight as they work to save the cherished harvest festival and stay out of trouble.

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. Grades 4-8. In her middle school’s production of Romeo & Juliet, Mattie chooses to play Paris because her crush, Gemma, is cast as Juliet.

Young Adult Nonfiction
The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ashley Mardell. Grades 7+. Mardell’s self-published reference book is an introductory text that looks at incredibly complex issues from both theoretical and anecdotal perspectives.

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. Grades 7-12. Sasha is an agender white teen living in a middle-class suburban neighborhood of Oakland, California, Richard is a black teen living in a crime-plagued part of the city. One afternoon, their paths cross on the 57 bus, with disastrous results. Based on a true story, the book is written in a documentary style.

Graphic Novels
The Backstagers Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV. Grades 7-12. When Jory transfers to an all-boys private school and joins the Drama club in an attempt to make new friends, he discovers the mysterious world of the backstage.

These 10 books are considered by the committee to be exceptional GLBTQ books for younger readers, but you can find the complete 2018 Rainbow Book List at

Steps to Starting a Franchise Business Seminar Scheduled for June 25 at Central Library

What: Steps to Starting a Franchise Business seminar
Monday, June 25, 2018
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Cost: Free but registration is required

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and Birmingham SCORE will begin offering Steps to Starting a Franchise Business, a monthly how-to seminar on franchising, beginning Monday, April 23, 12:00 p.m., at the Central Library. The seminar will explore how franchising can take the risk out of starting your own business and becoming self-employed. Greg Foss, a career transition coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source® and SCORE mentor, will facilitate the seminar.

Topics to be covered in the seminar include: common myths and truths about franchising, the importance of knowing your personal goals before taking the plunge, non-standard ownership options, how to finance your business, how to research and select the right franchise, and resources that are available to help you with your research.

The seminar will be offered at 12:00 p.m. on June 25 and July 24. The seminar is free, but registration is required. Register online through the BPL events calendar or call Greg Foss at 336-501-5695.

For more information about the seminar and other resources for small business development available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Kickoff Party Celebrates 2018 BPL Summer Learning

Over 200 attendees, mostly young people, scurried around the Central Library downtown, playing basketball, spin the wheel, and other games at the Birmingham Public Library’s 2018 Summer Learning Kickoff Party. Meanwhile, several adults listened to the blues being played by George Griffin & the Firebirds, a local group providing entertainment.

George Griffin & the Firebirds

The June 1 event was the official kickoff of over 400 free learning activities being held at BPL’s 19 locations in June and July to celebrate the joy of reading and help reduce summer slide learning loss while kids are out of school. Attendees received information on Summer Learning and signed up for programs being offered for kids, teens, and adults. They also grubbed down on free hotdogs, chips, snow cones, and other goodies.

A family poses at the photo booth

One of the more popular stations was a photo booth, in which parents, grandparents, and kids took family photos that were printed out within minutes. Both adults and children also took advantage of the free tattoo parlor. Kids and teens competed against each other at the Wii station, playing games such as boxing, bowling, and tennis.

Enjoying a night of music, games, and goodies

As a new member of the Urban Libraries Council, BPL is joining other libraries across the country in switching programs to a Summer Learning program. “It’s quite different from Summer Reading because children are able to have a break and have some recreation but still be in a multifaceted environment where they have the chance to explore and adventure,” BPL Executive Director Floyd Council said in an article featured on the Urban Libraries Council page.

To find out more about BPL’s Summer Learning programs, click on the calendar at

Track It with Beanstack

The Birmingham Public Library is making it easier than ever to keep track of your time spent on 2018 Summer Learning.

BPL is changing the way its 19 libraries record summer learning participation for 2018. Rather than counting the number of books read, BPL will now record time read. Counting time spent reading, or being read to, rather than the number of books read or heard puts the emphasis on the act of reading.

Participants in BPL’s Summer Learning program can record their reading accomplishments via the online app Beanstack, or through the traditional paper reading log. The more participants log in their reading time, the more opportunities they have to win prizes. Encourage everyone to be an “Eager Reader” this summer.

In addition to logging reading time, BPL is offering a variety of learning track activities for participants to complete. Activities include attending a library program, using one of the library's free online resources, reading outside, and telling your librarian a joke.

When you download the Beanstack app, you get these perks:

  • Barcode Scanner: Scan barcodes to quickly add titles to your reading log
  • Reading Session Timer: Record reading sessions to keep track of what you’re reading
  • Reading Stats: View totals and averages of your time spent reading and titles read
  • Family Accounts: Manage each member of your family’s reading log and view their stats

Click here to find out more about the tracking your Summer Learning progress with the Beanstack app:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

African-American Music Appreciation Month

by Gus Jones, Fiction Department, Central Library

June is African-American Music Appreciation Month. It started in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter decreed that June would be Black Music Month and it has been celebrated each year since. It was renamed to African-American Music Appreciation Month in a proclamation by President Barack Obama in 2009. The best way to “appreciate” African-American music, of course, is to listen to it. The library has a great collection of music CDs by a number of different artists. In addition, you can use our Hoopla database to borrow albums online for a period of seven days. Furthermore, you can download songs to keep (limit of 3 per week) using our Freegal Music database. If you would like to learn more about the history of African-American music, you may be interested in checking out one of the following titles. The descriptions are from the publishers.

The Story of African-American Music by Andrew Pina
The influence of African Americans on music in the United States cannot be overstated. A large variety of musical genres owe their beginnings to black musicians. Jazz, rap, funk, R&B, and even techno have roots in African American culture. This volume chronicles the history of African American music, with spotlights on influential black musicians of the past and present. Historical and contemporary photographs, including primary sources, contribute to an in-depth look at this essential part of American musical history.

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: The Apollo Theater and American Entertainment
Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment celebrates the seventy-five year history of the Apollo Theater, Harlem’s landmark performing arts space and the iconic showplace for the best in jazz, blues, dance, comedy, gospel, R & B, hip-hop, and more since it opened its doors in 1934. This beautifully illustrated book is the companion volume to an exhibition of the same name, organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in collaboration with the Apollo Theater Foundation. It offers a sweeping panorama of American cultural achievement from the Harlem Renaissance to the present through the compelling story of a single institution.

Gospel Music: An African American Art Form by Dr. Joan Rucker-Hillsman
Gospel Music: An African American Art Form provides music information on the heritage of gospel from its African roots, Negro spirituals, and traditional and contemporary gospel music trends. The mission and purpose of this book is to provide a framework of the study of gospel music. There are 8 detailed sections, appendices and resources on gospel music which include African Roots and Characteristics and history, Negro Spirituals, Black Congregational Singing, Gospel history and Movement, Gripping effects, Cross Over Artists, Youth in Gospel, and Gospel Music in the Academic Curriculum with lesson plans.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

LGBTQ Stories on Kanopy

To spotlight LGBT Pride Month in June, Kanopy has compiled a documentary collection titled LGBTQ Stories that chronicles the history, arts, and activism of the community.

Kanopy is a video streaming platform for libraries with one of the largest collections in the world—over 30,000 films. Kanopy is available to Birmingham residents with a JCLC library card.

Book Review: Venice: Pure City

by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library

Venice: Pure City
Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd is a literary historian with a gift for evoking long gone places and societies, very often different scenes from London’s past. But with Venice, the physical historical places are all still there. The whole city is almost all still there. A Renaissance era workman could walk from one end of today’s city to the other, a two-hour walk, on familiar calle (streets) past familiar buildings. The city that Venetians began building more than one thousand years ago is the city we see today, nearly untouched by war or automobiles. Peter Ackroyd populates the glorious architectural marvel that is Venice, with the generations of Venetians who made it so—their domestic life, their pageants, their conquests, and their industry.

Ackroyd’s Venice: Pure City, is a loose chronological series of essays on essential topics in the city’s thousand-year history. Venetians' struggle against natural elements, the difficulty of building a major city in the middle of a lagoon, these topics are addressed in early essays, whereas essays about the city’s musical traditions are among other seventeenth century topics because of the prominence of Vivaldi. Along the way we meet the beggars and the admirals, the tradesmen and the pets that shared these urban spaces one after another, century after century.

During its long zenith, Venice was an imperial city, controlling all the commerce between Europe and the east, as rich a city as the country of France. While other European powers pillaged one another’s cities, Venetians, secure in their lagoon, fought their wars at a distance and decorated their city with the great art and architecture we see there today. Ackroyd evokes the polyglot of peoples from all over the world, each with their own traditions, living side by side, lives closely regulated by church bells and the strict rules of Venice’s oligarchical republic.

Ackroyd’s essays can be read individually. The reader can pick and choose from a discussion of the Venetian attitude on death, or color and light in Venetian painting, or gang warfare during the Renaissance. Regardless of the topic, Ackroyd’s descriptive powers will captivate the reader.

Check it out.

Steps to Starting Your Business Seminar Scheduled for June 19 at Central Library

What: Steps to Starting Your Business seminar
When: Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor

The Birmingham Public Library, in conjunction with SCORE and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development, will be hosting the seminar Steps to Starting Your Business. The seminar will be held in the Arrington Auditorium, which is located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library.

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 seminar by contacting Valencia Fisher in the Economic Development Office at or 205-254-2799.

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 seminar 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.

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