Thursday, January 31, 2019

Black History Programs Focus on Black Migration

The 20th Annual Black Heritage Fair Flyer

The national theme for this year's Black History Month is Black Migration. This refers to the trend in which many African Americans migrated from racism in southern states in search of a better life and higher paying jobs elsewhere.

Five Points West Regional Library  is hosting several free programs during February beginning next week based on black migration. Springville Road Regional Library is also hosting  a screening of Goin to Chicago in February.  On Saturday, February 2, the Central Library is hosting the Birmingham African-American Genealogy Group (BAAGG)'s  20th Annual Black Heritage Fair, with The Great Migration theme.  BAAGG holds its monthly meetings at the Central Library.

The topic is personal to 78-year-old Dianne Moore, a Birmingham native whose parents migrated up north to Ohio when she was a child to escape racist Jim Crow laws. "We as African Americans need to learn more about our past," she said. Moore, who is director of public relations for the BAAGG, talked about the Black Heritage Fair in this interview at The Birmingham Times.

BPL's  Black Migration programs are as follows:

Central Library 

Birmingham African American Genealogy Group's 20th Annual Black Heritage Fair - The Great Migration, Saturday, February 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Birmingham lawyer J. Mason Davis will discuss The Great Migration during this event. Featured will be Great Migration items, black genealogy displays, quilts, art, and more.

Five Points West Regional Library 

Great Migration Scavenger Hunt, Monday, February 4 through Friday, February 22

Patrons are invited to complete answer sheets about The Great Migration. All entries must be turned in by February 22, 2019. Winners will be announced Saturday, February 23, at The Great Migration presentation.

Screening of  The Great Migration film, Wednesday, February 20, 10:30 a.m.

Join us for a film that chronicles the great migration of African Americans from the rural south to cities up north and west during and after World War II.

Presentation and lecture on Jacob Lawrence's The Great Migration Series, Saturday, February 23, 2:30 p.m.

Professor and artist Steven Walker of Lawson State Community College will present a lecture on The Great Migration.

Springville Road Regional Library

 Screening of the Kanopy Documentary Goin' to Chicago  on Friday, February 22, 10:00 a.m. 

The migration of African Americans from the rural South to the North and West during and after World War II is retold through the personal stories of a group of Chicagoans born in the Mississippi Delta.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Lady Sings the Blues Screening at Central Library February 3

by David Ryan, Arts, Literature and Sports, Central Library

I grew up listening to rock and the occasional folk album. Perhaps this is why I’ve never felt completely comfortable exploring other types of music as an adult. The fact that I never learned to play an instrument, or read music, leaves me feeling even more lost. Jazz in particular has always left me intimidated. The dizzying improvisation, the voices, chords, and notes jumping from the top of the scale to the bottom is simply too much for me to comprehend let alone discuss intelligently. So, I’ve always steered myself aware from this quintessentially American art form. A composer friend recently told me that was nonsense. “You don’t have to understand the notes to feel the music,” he said.

I reluctantly took his advice and dove into the jazz end of my intimidation pool. I decided to begin with Billie Holiday. You can’t listen to any genre of music without hearing about the contributions of Lady Day. "God Bless the Child" and "I Wished on the Moon" have deservedly become classics. In fact, this was one of the few jazz names I knew. As a librarian I naturally researched Billie Holiday, or Lady Day to her fellow musicians, before listening to her music. What a beautiful yet tragic life! In reading about her, I discovered that she endured horrible abuse as a child, bigotry and drug abuse as an adult. But the music she left to future generations is heartbreaking one moment and teasingly joyful the next. Some music historians even credit her as an early civil rights activist because of her song "Strange Fruit." Unbelievably, she had no formal voice training, yet the work she left behind continues to touch countless lives and remains a standard for jazz singers.

During my research I came across a quote that seemed to speak to my embarrassment at having a poor musical background. Holiday once said, “If you find a tune that’s got something to do with you, you just feel it, and when you sing it, other people feel it, too.” Regardless of your musical education, you can’t help but be touched by the music and life of Billie Holiday.

In the end, unfortunately, the beautiful notes were not loud enough to drown out the dissonance of her life. She died from drug abuse complications, and, I would argue, a cruel world.

Please join us Sunday, February 3, 2:30 p.m., at the Central Library/Story Castle for a showing of Lady Sings the Blues.

Book Review: Glass Houses

by Jenn Seiler-Patrick, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

Glass Houses, #13 in the Chief Inspector Gamache Series,
Louise Penny

Glass Houses by Louise Penny is one of the most "can't-put-it-down" mysteries that I've read in a long time. I knew when I started reading earlier Louise Penny works that I loved her off-kilter characters in the small town of Three Pines, Quebec. To me, Inspector Gamache was reminiscent of Hercule Poirot, so obviously I'm going to read this whole series. But in this book, I was surprised to find that Penny takes the suspense and intrigue to a different level— thank goodness that I had insomnia all this week anyway, because I had to finish this book!

The intrigue takes the form of a Spanish "cobrador," a person who arrives in Three Pines and stands on the village green, dressed in all black with a mask concealing their identity. The menacing figure acts as a silent conscience–pointing the proverbial finger at someone who has performed true evil. However, since the cobrador is silent, we are left to wonder who the accused is in this small town. Characters begin confessing their darkest secrets and hidden guilt—Did the cobrador come to implicate the woman who caused her cousin to drown, or the former therapist who feels guilt over a patient’s suicide? While we are left to wonder, Penny skips ahead to the present, where Gamache is on the stand testifying at the trial of the cobrador’s unknown victim. But nothing is what or who they seem to be in this courtroom and you will never see this end coming.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Bards & Brews Goes on the Road to Black Market Bar & Grill February 1

What: Bards & Brews Open Mic poetry event
When: Friday, February 1, 2019, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Where: Black Market Bar & Grill, 1035 20th Street South
Details: Free to the public, but you must be 21 or older to buy alcohol. Food and beer will be available to purchase from Black Market Bar & Grill.

Bards & Brews, the Birmingham Public Library's popular monthly spoken word poetry event, is going on the road to Birmingham's Five Points South entertainment district.

Spoken word artists are invited to share Open Mic poetry on Friday night, February 1, 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at Black Market Bar & Grill. Food and beer will be available for purchase inside the establishment.

Join us for an unforgettable night of fun and fellowship with friends as you enjoy hearing many of metro Birmingham's best spoken word poets. Even novice poets are encouraged to share their talents during this event open to the public in one of the city's most popular nightspots.

For more information, visit Bards & Brews on Facebook.

Bards & Brews is made possible by a generous donation from the Friends Foundation of the Birmingham Public Library.

BPL Friends Bookstore Has New Operating Hours Beginning February 1

The Birmingham Public Library Friends Bookstore, located on the first floor of the Central Library downtown, will implement new operating hours for 2019 beginning Friday, February 1.

The bookstore will now be open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The new hours will better accommodate the needs of bookstore volunteers and fulfill its overall mission of serving the needs of patrons in the Birmingham community, said BPL Friends Bookstore Manager Thracie L.Pace.

Thracie Pace
"We appreciate you and your patronage whether you're new to Friends Bookstore or have been with us for many years," Pace said. "Let us know your positive suggestions as to how we may better serve you because, after all, it's you and our volunteers who make Friends the Best Little Bookstore Around."

All proceeds of the BPL Friends Bookstore benefit programs and services provided by BPL's 19 locations across the city of Birmingham.

Pace said BPL Friends Bookstore is appreciative of volunteers who give of their time and sincere dedication to serve the public. Those interested in volunteering should drop by the store or contact Pace at 205-587-2221 or via email at

Intro to Yoga Series Begins at Central Library January 28

If you are interested in yoga but don't know where to start, make plans to be at the Central Library in downtown Birmingham for the kickoff of a weekly series of Intro to Yoga classes beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, January 28, 2019.

The class will take place in the Arrington Auditorium 4th Floor of Central's Linn-Henley Research Library. Intro to Yoga will be taught by certified yoga instructor Kim Richardson, RYT-200. Richardson taught free yoga classes at BPL last fall. 

Participants will be introduced to a gentle practice in a non-judgemental environment. You will learn poses and modifications that will inspire self-confidence.

"This will be an open and inclusive class for the person who has been wanting to try yoga but feels unsure about where to start, or the person who has tried yoga in a traditional space and felt unwelcome or out of place," Richardson said. "Our focus will be on making the practice accessible for everyone."

BPL is excited to introduce yoga to support community health and wellness, said BPL Executive Director Floyd Council.

"We are thankful to Library Board Trustee Kimberly Richardson for her instruction, inspiration, and passion for yoga that will benefit the Birmingham Public Library community," he said.

Intro to Yoga is free of charge and open to all; no experience is necessary. Visit the BPL events calendar for specific dates of the class.

Participants will need to bring a yoga mat, yoga blocks (optional but encouraged), and a yoga strap or sturdy belt (optional but encouraged). Wear comfortable clothing suitable for bending and stretching.

Be Prepared to Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter

by Barbara Hutto, Government Documents Department, Central Library

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sound suggestions on how to stay safe and healthy in the winter. These include steps for winterizing your home, how to prepare your car, precautions to take outdoors, and what kind of equipment to have on hand for emergencies and travel preparations. For more information read "Be Prepared to Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter."

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

BPL Presents Dr. Anthony Pattin, Pianist at Central Library February 24

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

Anthony Pattin
What: BPL Presents Dr. Anthony Pattin, Pianist
When: Sunday, February 24, 2019, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library/Arrington Auditorium

Dr. Anthony Pattin is a native of Toledo, Ohio. He made his professional orchestral debut performing Gershwin’s Concerto in F with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Yuval Zaliouk. He has also performed with the Alabama Symphony, the Tuscaloosa Symphony, the Arkansas Symphony, and the Abilene Philharmonic, as well as others. He has performed on the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago, which was broadcast live on National Public Radio. In addition, he has performed two concert tours of Japan, and presented recitals throughout cities in Europe and Central Asia. He will return to Japan in May 2019 to perform recitals throughout Tokyo and other major cities in Japan.

His New York debut recital at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall was in 1998. In a review of that concert, a critic for the New York Review magazine called Pattin "a pianist of definite skills and strengths.” Of his 2002 solo recital in Merkin Concert Hall in New York: "Dr. Pattin is a solid presence on stage, confident and gracious. His music making speaks of great involvement and erudition. With the ear and ability to vary tone color with constancy, his palette is a good one." (Darrell Rosenbluth, New York Concert Review Magazine). He returned to Weill Hall in 2006 and received high praise for his Schumann Kreisleriana and Debussy and Rachmaninoff interpretations.

Dr. Pattin has degrees in piano performance from Toledo University, University of Michigan, and The University of Alabama. He was a professor of music at the University of Montevallo from 1987–2011. After his retirement in 2011, the university set up the Dr. Anthony Pattin Steinway Endowment Fund. Pattin lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and is active as a pianist in solo, orchestral, and chamber music performances as well as an adjudicator and music scholar. For the past five years he has been part of the MostArts Music Festival and Piano Competition held each summer at Alfred University in New York. He has recorded seven CDs on the APT label.

Pattin is an accomplished organist and skilled improviser and has served as organist and director of music for several prominent congregations in the area: organist/director of music for Shades Valley Lutheran Church in Homewood (currently); director of music for Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church in Hoover; pianist/organist at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Pattin during my tenure as pianist at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church under the leadership of Dr. Christopher Hamlin at the time. He is no stranger to the Birmingham Public Library, and I helped facilitate performances by him at the library in January 2009, December 2011, and in August 2013. We will be gifted again by his talented hands on February 24, 2019, at 3:00 p.m. Dr. Pattin will be moving back to Toledo, Ohio, in a couple of months. You will not want to miss out on this great offering of music by this talented maestro of piano. Come experience once again the magic and power of  the Birmingham Public Library to bring you quality programming to enhance your cultural and learning experience.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Central Library Hosting Two New Art Exhibits Beginning January 31, February 12

Two new exhibits will open in January and February 2019 at the Central LibraryDowntown: Photographs from the Archives' Collection in the Fourth Floor Gallery on January 31, and A Portrait of Birmingham at Work in the First Floor Gallery on February 12. The current art exhibit in the Fourth Floor Gallery, For Freedoms – Alabama, will be on view through January 25, 2019. 

From Downtown: Photographs from the Archives' Collection
Downtown: Photographs from the Archives' Collection
When: January 31–April 5, 2019
Where: Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
Details: The Downtown: Photographs exhibit contains historic photographs of downtown Birmingham that have been housed in the BPL Archives Department.  

On Thursday, January 31, 2019, the Fourth Floor Gallery is bringing back the popular exhibit Downtown: Photographs from the Archives' Collection. This exhibit, which will be open to the public during Central Library operating hours through April 5, 2019, originally was on display at BPL 25 years ago.

Downtown: Photographs contains historic photographs of downtown Birmingham that have been housed in the BPL Archives Department. This display of vintage photographs will allow visitors to explore four Birmingham streets as they appeared in the past: Second Avenue North, Fourth Avenue North, 19th Street North, and 20th Street North.

For more information about the exhibit, call BPL Archives Department head Jim Baggett at 205-226-3601.

From A Portrait of Birmingham at Work

A Portrait of Birmingham at Work

When: February 12–March 26, 2019
Where: Central Library, First Floor Gallery 
Details: A Portrait of Birmingham at Work is a 20-portrait collection highlighting Birmingham restaurant labor, created by Birmingham photographer Celestia Morgan and commissioned by the Southern Foodways Alliance. 

The art exhibit A Portrait of Birmingham at Work will be on display in the Central Library First Floor Gallery from February 12 through March 26, 2019. It will feature a 20-portrait collection highlighting Birmingham restaurant labor created by Celestia Morgan, a Birmingham-based photographer. 

Morgan says the food photos were inspired by growing up watching her mother cooking in kitchen. The photographs focus on the meticulous care in mixing ingredients that goes into preparing nourishment for others.

The Southern Foodways Alliance, a Mississippi-based organization, commissioned Morgan to create the photo exhibit showcasing the role workers play behind the scenes and in public of producing food. Before the exhibit opens at the Central Library, A Portrait of Birmingham at Work will make its public debut during the alliance's 2019 Winter Symposium: Food is Work, being held Saturday, February 9, at Haven, an event center in Birmingham.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin Delivers State of the City 2019 Address

Mayor Randall Woodfin

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin touted progress made during the first year of his administration while delivering his 2019 State of the City address January 14 at Boutwell Auditorium.

Woodfin, who took office as Birmingham's youngest mayor in a century in November 2017, began his address to city employees and managers by honoring the memory of Birmingham Police Sgt. Wytasha Carter, who was fatally shot around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 13, while investigating a car break-in in the 900 block of Fifth Avenue North downtown. Another police officer was wounded and is recovering in a hospital from his injuries. The suspected gunman was taken into custody. 

Woodfin also paid tribute to former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, who died last week in a Birmingham hospital after a long illness. The mayor focused on several accomplishments and goals during his address. Among them:

  • Commitment to focus on Birmingham's 99 neighborhoods, including continuation of town hall meetings in all 9 council districts
  • A top priority for 2019 will be addressing "food deserts"—areas of the city where residents don't have access to affordable, healthy foods
  • Job growth hit a seven-year high in 2018, with 2,100 new jobs created 
  • Vowed to address violent crime in Birmingham
  • Addressing city worker pension shortfall

Visit the City of Birmingham Facebook page to see links to the mayor's State of the City address.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

For Freedoms – Alabama Artist Reception to be Held at Central Library January 20

The Central Library is hosting a reception allowing the public to meet 24 artists featured in For Freedoms – Alabama, an art exhibit that is part of a non-partisan, nationwide campaign using art as a means to inspire civic participation by celebrating freedoms. The reception will take place from 2:30-5:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 20, 2019, in the Central Library Fourth Floor Gallery.  

The For Freedoms – Alabama exhibit opened Sunday, October 28, 2018, and concludes on Friday, January 25, 2019. Curated by Paul Barrett, the exhibition includes paintings, photographs, prints, and mixed media works from Alabama artists: Lanette Blankenship, Becky Delgado, Carey Fountain, Frances Hackney, Ira Hill, Josh Hoggle, Angela Hollowell, Devonte Holt, Holland Hopson, illartpeace; Kiante Johnson, Tara Stallworth Lee, Leanna Leithauser-Lesley, Elizabeth Limbaugh, Erin London, Meghan Malone, Isaac Nunn, Amber Quinn, Meroe Rei, Jared Ragland, Carl Schinasi; Don Stewart, Chris Wade, and Collin Williams.

For details on the For Freedoms campaign, click here

Real Life Poets Remember Dr. King at Avondale Library January 20

What: Begin the Day: The 16th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Lecture – "Real Life Poets Remember Dr. King"
When: Sunday, January 20, 2019, 3:00–4:30 p.m.
Details: Teen spoken word artists from Real Life Poets share original poems about Dr. King and discuss how his legacy continues to impact young people today. 

The Birmingham Public Library Archives Department's 16th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Lecture is focusing on the next generation in 2019.

This year a group of talented young poets from metro Birmingham will lead the MLK presentation, "Real Life Poets Remember Dr. King,"  Sunday, January 20, 2019, 3:00 p.m., at the Avondale Regional Branch Library. In the past, most MLK Memorial Lecture events featured adult speakers sharing their thoughts on the life and legacy of King, best known for leading the 1960s civil rights movement in Birmingham. One exception was two years ago when young Muslim college students talked about being a Muslim in America.

The 2019 MLK memorial lecture, to be held a day before the MLK national holiday, will feature students from Real Life Poets, a Birmingham nonprofit  spoken word organization founded by John Paul Taylor. Real Life Poets mentors young adults, teaching them how to express themselves through spoken word poetry and the arts.

The students will share original poetry inspired by the words of Dr. King. A panel comprised of young poets will also discuss the relevance of Dr. King's nonviolent protest teachings in their lives today.

"Real Life Poets is excited about the opportunity for youth in our program to express themselves through spoken word about the legacy of Dr. King," Taylor said. "We  also look forward  to discussing how Dr. King's message of non-violence is still relevant today."  

The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact BPL Archives Department Head Jim Baggett at or 205-226-3631.

Free Tax Prep Assistance and Forms at Birmingham Public Library

stock image of tax form

Please check back for updates. 

As a service to the community, the Birmingham Public Library provides some copies of current federal and Alabama tax forms, instructions, and publications. The following 2018 forms/booklets are currently available at  the Central Library: federal – 1040; state – 40 and 40NR Alabama tax booklets. You can pick up a form or booklet at the Information Desk in the East Building and in the Government Documents and Southern History Departments in the Linn-Henley Research Library. Some BPL branches may also have forms. Please call the department or Birmingham Public Library branch to make sure that the form(s) you need is available. All forms and instructions can be found online at

Federal Forms
IRS forms and publications

State Forms
Alabama Department of Revenue

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

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

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

Free Tax Prep Assistance at the Birmingham Public Library

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offering free individualized tax preparation for low-to moderate-income taxpayers—especially those 50 and older. Starting February 1, call 205-226-4000 to make an appointment; no walk-ins will be assisted. Important documents to take with you.

You don't have to be an AARP member, and there's no age requirement to get tax help from IRS-certified volunteers.

Avondale Library February 6–April 12, 2019
Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 a.m.; 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 p.m.

Impact America provides free tax preparation services for households earning up to $55,000* with one or more children in the home, or $20,000 without children in the home. You must call 1-888-99-TAX-AL (1-888-998-2925) for an appointment; no walk-ins will be assisted.

Services are provided by IRS-certified Volunteer Tax Preparers from local colleges in the cities where their tax sites are located. Impact Alabama is sponsored by SaveFirst. Schedule an appointment and find out what important documents to take with you.

Smithfield Branch Library
January 22–April 15, 2019
Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.; 2:00–5:00 p.m.

Mondays and Tuesdays, 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 2, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.; 2:00–5:00 p.m. 

March and April
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.; 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Friday, March 1, no appointments taken
Saturday, March 2, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Springville Road Regional Branch Library 
January 22-March 9, 2019
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00–8:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 22, 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 24, 
2:00–8:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 16, 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 19, 4:00–8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 2, no appointments taken

West End Branch Library
January 25-March 2, 2019
Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.; 2:00–6:00 p.m.

Woodlawn Branch Library
January 23-⁠March 8, 2019
Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 12:00–6:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

*Some promotional materials may show $54,000 as the income cutoff line. The current income cutoff line is $55,000, but it is a general requirement and may mean that you qualify for the free service if your income is in that range. Call 
1-888-998-2925 for more information.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

1-2-3 Play with Me Kicks Off at Avondale and Southside Libraries in February

The Birmingham Public Library is kicking off new sessions of 1-2-3 Play with Me at four library locations.

Playing with your baby is not only important for bonding, but is also an educational experience for your child. We are providing a special time and place for you to come to the public library and spend one-on-one time playing with your child. This five-week program involves children birth through age 3 and their parents or caregivers. The library will have age appropriate toys, books, and art activities just for you and your child. Also, we have invited special guests from the community to join us each week to answer your questions about parenting.

1-2-3 Play with Me emphasizes the role of parents as the first teachers of their children, facilitates early intervention and teaches strategies for healthy child development and early literacy. 1-2-3 Play with Me is the signature event for Family Place Libraries and is a community project grant recipient of the Junior League of Birmingham.

The 2019 schedule is as follows. Visit the BPL events calendar for exact dates.

Avondale Regional Branch Library
February 13–March 13, 2019
Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m.

Southside Branch Library
February 14–March 14, 2019
Thursdays at 11:00 a.m.

Five Points West Regional Branch Library
April 2–April 30, 2019
Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m.

Springville Road Regional Branch Library
April 4–May 2, 2019
Thursdays at 10:00 a.m.

Book Review: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

by Shea Robinson, Fiction Department, Central Library

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture
Edited by Roxane Gay

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture is an anthology of essays written by those who have experienced harassment, violence, or assault of a sexual nature. It opens with the following line:
When I was twelve years old, I was gang-raped in the woods behind my neighborhood by a group of boys with the dangerous intentions of bad men.
It’s an attention-grabbing statement that flings us immediately into the deep end of the pool. A child was raped by several people. This checks all the appropriate boxes for undeniably bad in my assessment. While I believe that most readers would agree, it must be noted that the victim of this crime does not. After listening to numerous accounts given by other victims of sexual violence, she determined that what she experienced was bad, but not that bad.

The insertion of this qualifier and how society classifies the bad vs. the not that bad is the issue this anthology tackles head on. Since there is no universal definition as to the criteria that constitutes a particular label, individuals must assign a designation informed by their own moral relativism.

Given that each person’s moral relativism is shaped by the culture, beliefs, and specific experiences that are unique to each individual, it follows that a society could easily have a diverse spectrum of viewpoints. While the law may inform us as to which acts constitute a crime, it cannot tell us how we should classify them or more importantly—feel about them.

The writers featured within the anthology are as varied as their experiences. Some names are well-known—such as Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union—while others are first-person accounts from unknown writers chronicling a myriad of subjects including child molestation, rape, and sexual harassment.

Though the accounts may vastly differ, the underlying message is clear. While all experiences may not be considered equal, continually raising the bar on what is classified as bad will lead to the development of a numbing effect within society. The minimization and trivialization of certain acts serves to nurture an environment where sexual violence is excused and victims are marginalized. This environment is commonly known as rape culture.

Sexual violence is an uncomfortable topic, but this anthology has the potential to make us uncomfortable in the best of ways. It can challenge our beliefs that are deeply ingrained, some of which we may be unaware. As I read each essay, I considered which experiences I would qualify as bad vs. not that bad and upon what criteria I used to make such designations. Some of my thought process was cringe-inducing.

I think it’s imperative that we question ourselves regarding the application of these labels even if it causes discomfort. Perhaps then we can begin to have a dialogue unimpeded by minimizing qualifiers that downplay the gravity of sexual violence. Society can only benefit from further progress of this important conversation.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Make It Your Own

by Gelenda Norman, Arts, Literature and Sports Department, Central Library

I have always had a thing for finding pieces that are unique and different. More intriguing is when the item is handmade. One day while browsing in one of my favorite boutiques, I happened upon a beautiful leather belt. Well, when I looked at the tag, it was $300. Yes, $300 for a piece of leather with a couple of punched holes with leather strings. The typical response: “I can make that myself!” Sooooo I left the shop and headed to a nearby craft shop and purchased a bag of leather remnants. With a nail and hammer, I created my own “$300 boutique belt.” Now don’t get me wrong, I respect the creativity and the workmanship of the designer of that belt. I’m sure someone has gone home and created a similar version of something I have created. That belt opened the door to designing and creating jewelry and other accessories—“making it my own.”

It’s nothing like having a piece of jewelry or accessory that is “in” or “what’s trending.” Every now and then you should want to stand out from the crowd. I encourage the kids to create outside of the box, to paint wooden discs in ways that represent them. Don’t worry about them not looking like someone else’s or whether or not the other person likes them. Make it your own!

Gelenda Norma (right) helps a teen in one of the Arts, Literature and Sports
Department's Hooking & Stitches class

Tweens and teens are welcome to attend the program Made in Africa: Make it Your Own on Wednesday, February 27, 3:30 p.m., in the Create205 Learning Lab. African jewelry has always played a major role in identifying regions and countries throughout the continent; various religions and rituals; as well as an “accessory piece” or adornment. Sometimes the pieces identified tribes or one’s position within a tribe. With the use of various beads, shells, and other materials, we will create jewelry to recognize the African culture.

Mandala Painting at the Titusville Library

by Amanda Jenkins, Titusville Branch Library

On January 9, the Titusville Library presented our monthly adult craft program. This month's program was centered on the art of creating colorful mandalas, which are abstract circular designs. Participants were provided with a blank canvas and received instruction on various painting techniques in order to create their own masterpieces.

Our craft group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 10:00 a.m., and all supplies are provided by the library. To sign up for next month's class, please call the Titusville Library at 322-1140.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

BPL Southern History Department Hosting Genealogy Workshops in January and February

Did you make a New Year's Resolution to learn more about your family history in 2019? Then make plans to take advantage of six free genealogy workshops BPL's Southern History Department is hosting over the next five weeks beginning Saturday, January 12, 2019.

Below is a listing of the workshops. Learn more  about the resources the Southern History Department has to help research your family tree by following the Southern History Facebook page.

Saturday, January 12, 10:00 a.m. – Intro to Genealogy, Central Library, Southern History Department, Linn-Henley Research Library, 1st floor Want to learn how to do genealogical research? Come to this introductory class that will get you started on your genealogical journey. The staff in the Southern History Department covers such topics as vital records, courthouse and church records, and the Federal Census.

Monday, January 14, 2:15 p.m. – Jump in the Gene PoolCentral Library, Regional Library Computer Center, Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor
Discover how genetic research can help explore your family history. This introductory workshop will help you determine what a gene sample can tell you about what parts of the world your ancestors come from and more.

Tuesday, January 22, 10:00 a.m. – Intro to Genealogy, Bessemer Public Library
Want to learn how to do genealogical research? Come to this introductory class that will get you started on your genealogical journey. The staff in the Southern History Department covers such topics as vital records, courthouse and church records, and the Federal Census.

Monday, January 28, 2:15 p.m. – Mind Your Own Family BusinessCentral Library, Arrington Auditorium, Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor 
Did your ancestors own a pharmacy, furniture shop, or other business? This workshop will show you how to use city directories, government websites, newspapers, and other sources to learn more about the history of the family business or the company your ancestors worked for.

Tuesday, February 12, 6:00 p.m. – An Emblem of Segregation: The 1926 Birmingham Zoning Map, Central Library, Arrington Auditorium, Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor 
A scheme to segregate Birmingham's population by race existed both in theory and in practice long before the legislation that made it legal was passed in 1926. Paul Boncella of the Southern History Department examines the zoning map and other documents to demonstrate how the ordinance came into existence and why it was initially accepted by the population at large. 

Wednesday, February 13, 3:00 p.m. – Intro to GenealogyCentral Library, Southern History Department, Linn-Henley Research Library, 1st floor 
Want to learn how to do genealogical research? Come to this introductory class that will get you started on your genealogical journey. The staff in the Southern History Department covers such topics as vital records, courthouse and church records, and the Federal Census.

Tuesday, February 19, 2:15 p.m.,  Finding African-American Records in,,, and FamilySearch
Central Library, Regional Library Computer Center, Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor
Learn how to use BPL's most popular genealogy databases to pinpoint African-American records. This workshop will show you some tips and tricks for quickly locating records specifically relating to African Americans and will be useful for historians and genealogists.

Dannon Project's Social Workers Help Change Lives @ BPL

The Dannon Project and the Birmingham Public Library are partnering again to offer the Social Workers Help Change Lives @ BPL consultations in 2019. From January 9 through March 27, 2019, library patrons can meet with a Dannon Project social worker to address personal barriers to success. Dannon Project staff will then connect BPL patrons with various service providers offering services such as housing, job search assistance and employment, legal referrals, domestic violence counseling, and healthcare, including mental health programs.

Last year, the Dannon Project began providing assistance for BPL patrons desiring social services at various BPL locations.  

In addition to the social worker program, the Dannon Project and BPL are partnering again to host a Health Fair similar to one held last year. The 2019 health fair will be held on Wednesday, March 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Central Library  
The dates and library locations of Social Workers Help Change Lives @BPL program, all on Wednesdays between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., are as follows: 
January 9 – Avondale LibraryJanuary 23  East Ensley Library
January 30  Ensley Library
February 6  Five Points West Library
February 13  Inglenook Library
February 20  North Avondale Library
February 27  North Birmingham Library
March 13  Springville Road Library
March 20   Woodlawn Library
March 27  Wylam Library

CANCELED: Retirement Planning Workshop – "Managing Retirement Plan Assets" at Central Library January 9

The January 9 Money Matters workshop scheduled at the Central Library has been canceled and rescheduled for January 16, 12:00-1:00 p.m. You may register for the January 16 workshop through the BPL calendar at We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

Money Matters Retirement Planning Workshop: "Managing Retirement Plan Assets"
When: January 9, 2019
Time: 12:00–1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor

Retirement is something that most of us look forward to. It is indeed an appealing notion to think that one day you will not have to get up every day and go to work. But retirement can also be a troubling notion as well, especially if you are worried about your financial situation. Concerns about money and finances are the primary reason that people do not enjoy their retirement years to the fullest.

Perhaps these concerns can never be totally alleviated, but thoughtful financial planning can certainly help to lessen the stress that we feel when we contemplate our post-work years.

Planning for retirement is the focus of the Birmingham Public Library’s 2018/2019 edition of Money Matters. Once again, this series of workshops is made possible through a partnership between BPL and the Regions Institute for Financial Education and The University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business. All workshops will be held at the Central Library on the second Wednesday of the month from October 2018 to May 2019. Each month a different topic will be covered, but the goal is to present a unified and coherent introduction to the retirement financial planning process. Workshop instructors will be representatives from the Collat School of Business.

The workshops are free of charge, but registration is required. To register for each workshop, please go to the Birmingham Public Library’s events calendar. For more information about the workshop series and other financial literacy resources available at BPL, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by e-mail at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Steps to Starting Your Business Seminar at Central Library January 15

What: Steps to Starting Your Business
When: 3rd Tuesday of each month, January–June 2019
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor

The Birmingham Public Library, in collaboration with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and the City of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, will be hosting the monthly seminar Steps to Starting Your Business from January to June 2019. The seminar is scheduled to be held on the following Tuesdays from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., in the Arrington Auditorium, which is located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library: January 15, February 19, March 19, April 16, May 21, June 18.

Each seminar will cover the same topics, but those who are interested are welcome to attend more than one day. Topics covered will include crafting a vision statement, identifying sources of funding, determining the legal structure of your business, devising a business plan, and investigating sources of business and economic information. Please register for the seminars by contacting Valencia Fisher in the Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity 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 seminars or about resources available at the Birmingham Public Library relating to small business development, please contact Jim Murray in the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department at or by phoning 205-226-3691.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

From Page to Stage: The Hundred Dresses – A Reader’s Theater Workshop for Children

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL), in partnership with the Birmingham Children’s Theatre (BCT) and Junior League of Birmingham (JLB), invites you to attend From Page to Stage: The Hundred Dresses – A Readers’ Theater Workshop for Children.

In anticipation of the upcoming BCT performance of The Hundred Dresses, BPL will be hosting free workshops at several of its area libraries. Children, aged 7 to 12, will learn how stories come alive through the magic of theater. JLB members will coach the children and introduce them to similar literature located in their local library. Each child will receive two free tickets (one child and one adult ticket) to the BCT The Hundred Dresses production on February 16 or 17, 2019.

Wanda Petronski is the new girl in town. Her Polish accent and single faded blue dress set her apart, but she insists she has one hundred beautiful dresses at home. Her disbelieving classmates tease her mercilessly until one day, Wanda’s desk sits empty. A musical based on the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor Estes, The Hundred Dresses is a powerful and timeless story about bullying, friendship, and forgiveness.

Workshop space is limited, so contact your participating library location to register a child for the workshop. To register online, click the location links below.

Schedule of workshops:

East Lake Branch Library: Saturday, February 2, 2019, 2:30 p.m.
Avondale Regional Branch Library: Sunday, February 3, 2019, 2:30 p.m.
West End Branch Library: Saturday, February 9, 2019, 2:30 p.m.
Five Points West Regional Branch Library: Sunday, February 10, 2019, 2:30 p.m.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Nonprofit Management Class Series – "Introduction to Grant Writing" at Central Library February 21

Nonprofit organizations come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they want to develop, fund, and implement creative programs that serve to fulfill their mission. Most people who work in the nonprofit world have the desire and commitment to make this happen, but they often lack access to learning resources that will help them understand how best to get there. If you feel like this applies to you, whether you are an experienced nonprofit leader or someone brand new to the field, then you will want to attend the Birmingham Public Library’s Nonprofit Management Class Series. The one hour classes will be offered monthly from January to May 2019 at the library’s Central location. The classes are offered as part of a collaboration between BPL and the Harvard Club of Birmingham.

The series instructor is John Whitman, PhD. A veteran of both the private and nonprofit sectors, Dr. Whitman has also taught leadership and management courses at American University, Babson College, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He recently served as a member of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin's Transition Committee for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

What: Birmingham Public Library’s Nonprofit Management Class Series
Time: 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Arrington Auditorium

Schedule of classes: 

Thursday February 21, 2019
"Introduction to Grant Writing" – Participants will be taught the basics of writing proposals for the purpose of securing grant funding from organizations such as philanthropic foundations and government agencies.

Thursday March 7, 2019
"Assessment and Evaluation of Nonprofit Programs" - This class will introduce participants to the systematic collection of data that can be used to assess and evaluate programs.

Thursday April 4, 2019
"Logic Models and Theory of Change" – Participants will be introduced to basic conceptual models that can help them develop more complete and thorough justifications of the programs for which funding is being sought.

Thursday May 2, 2019
"Tools for Social Change" – Participants will be introduced to over 10 different approaches to help them, and their nonprofit organizations, achieve incremental and systemic social change.

The workshops are free of charge, but registration is required. To register for each workshop, please go to the Birmingham Public Library’s events calendar. For more information about the series and other nonprofit resources 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.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

New Year's Resolution: Take Advantage of Your Library Card

Happy New Year 2019

Happy New Year!  Every New Year offers an opportunity to grow, expand, and improve ourselves.  That’s one of the main reasons why people make New Year’s resolutions.  According to the Washington Post, 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.  These resolutions may be to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, eat healthier, or any number of other things.  This year, I challenge you to add the resolution to use your library card more.  It may have been a while since you’ve been to the library or you may not be aware of all the resources you have available.  Take a look at some of the many benefits of having your library card. 

With a library card, most people think immediately of checking out books.  Of course this is true, but you may also check out graphic novels, music scores, DVDs, audiobooks, certain magazines, foreign language instruction CDs and music CDs.  Furthermore, did you know that some libraries let you check out art prints, board games, ukuleles, and Wi-Fi hotspots?  If you’re curious about whether something is available, please call the library to inquire.  You also have access to a multitude of databases including Mango Languages for foreign language instruction and LearningExpress Library which offers a wealth of information including video tutorials for computer instruction.  The descriptions of the services and databases below are from the BPL website.  The Overdrive description is from its website.  

Interlibrary Loan - The Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service makes it possible for library users in Jefferson County to borrow books, photocopies of articles, and government publications not already owned by the public libraries of Jefferson County. Through WorldCat Discovery, library users may search and request titles from public and academic libraries across the United States.

Kanopy        Freegal

Kanopy - Kanopy is a video streaming platform for libraries with one of the largest collections in the world (5x Netflix) - over 30,000 films featuring over 1,000 producers including Criterion Collection, Media Education Foundation, Great Courses, Kino Lorber, etc. Our films are more typically "educative" in nature (documentaries, foreign language films, etc) and our motto is "thoughtful entertainment" - seeking to provide patrons access to films of social and cultural importance.

Freegal - Freegal Music Service includes millions of songs from ten thousand labels including the labels of Sony Music Entertainment. Stream or download music. Music streaming is unlimited. The Freegal Music downloaded files are DRM-FREE, Mp3 files that can be played on any device (including iPods). Even better, the downloaded music file is yours to keep with no due date and no expiration date.

Hoopla       Flipster

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

Flipster - Read magazines online. Get access to Atlantic, Better Homes & Gardens, Cosmpolitan, Ebony, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN Magazine, Essence, Field & Stream, Forbes, Good Housekeeping, Health, HGTV Magazine, Motor Trend, O The Oprah Magazine, People, Prevention, Real Simple, Rolling Stone, Slam, Southern Living, US Weekly, The Week, and Wired.

Overdrive - OverDrive is a free service offered by your library or school that lets you borrow digital content (like ebooks and audiobooks) anytime, anywhere. Every OverDrive collection is slightly different because each library or school picks the digital content they want for their users. Through OverDrive, you can borrow Kindle Books to read on Kindle devices or Kindle reading apps. Both Libby and the OverDrive app allow you to borrow and read the same digital content from your library.

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