Friday, June 28, 2019

Kids Connect with Nature through Five Points West Library Potting Classes

by Carrie Campbell, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

A good omen appeared in the Five Points West Regional Branch Library's How to Plant & Care for Succulents summer class. Our visitor, an American green tree frog, flew out of the bag of soil and over my head, and the world slowed down for a moment. The children’s mouths and eyes made perfect O’s as they awkwardly leapt onto the chairs and tables. And just as quickly as the world slowed down, shrill chaos reigned and now there was hollering.

“No, no, no, no, no!” they cried.

First, I needed to secure our new classmate, and then the hard part began: convincing our would-be gardeners that the frog was actually our friend.

This delightful bit of mayhem occurred during the third class Five Points West Library has offered for our younger patrons to pot, plant, and take home to nurture their own plants. In each class the students learn how to take care of each type of plant, and, as they’ve taken the lessons to heart, talking about care has turned into a call-and-response routine:

Succulents belong in a dark closet, right?
“What? No!” the children yell. “They need a lot of sun!”

Potted Zinnia seeds need to be watered only once a week and with a tiny amount of water, right?
“No!” they cry. “They need a lot of water in bright sun!”

You simply cannot grow a new succulent plant out of a succulent leaf! Impossible!
“That’s not right!” they insist. “You put the leaf in a cool dark place and wait a long time! Leaves will start to grow out of the bottom of the leaves!”

But where do they get their water?
“From the leaf!” comes the correct answer. “Succulents grow new plants with the water stored in their leaves!”

Most librarians who work with children want them to understand more about the natural world, and the best way to do that is to get their fingers in soil, understand the plants they’re working with, and take care of them. It’s more fun for the kids (and for the librarian, too). Our hope, through these programs and others like it, is to encourage these young patrons to recognize that they are connected to and part of the natural world. As more and more of these children’s social, educational, and entertainment options become mediated by a form of technology, libraries can play an important role in strengthening that connection.

In previous generations, that connection came, if you’ll pardon the pun, as second nature. My great aunt was a sort of Johnny Appleseed in my hometown of Dauphin Island, Alabama, and planted various native plants around the neighborhood when I was a child. Those plants somehow managed to spread from one end of the tiny island to the other. My dad taught me to watch birds as they visited the island on their way to Cuba and South America in the fall, and back through on their way north in the spring. My grandparents grew large fruit and vegetable gardens. This was all a bit miraculous for me—as were the gazillion tree frogs singing after each rainstorm that blew in from the Gulf of Mexico. They have gone, those tree frogs on the island, but I have hope when I hear our planting class’s frog, now a permanent resident in my backyard, that we can turn this around—especially for our children.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

“Preserving the Past, Exploring the Future” – BPL Community Engagement Update

by Floyd Council, Executive Director, Birmingham Public Library

Note: This column was written during the 2019 American Library Association Annual Conference.

BPL staff at Grow With Google workshop outside Central Library

Greetings, BPL patrons and friends from the 2019 American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C. I write to you this morning from the nation’s capital where team members are attending the American Library Association Annual Conference.

Now more than ever our public library system is the center of all of our 99 neighborhoods and 23 communities in the City of Birmingham. BPL partnered with Google last August to be the first American Public Library to kick off the Alabama and National Grow with Google tour of digital skills.

As a result, you see many key members of the BPL team and the tech community featured this month in The Atlantic magazine in partnership with Google. BPL has also recently returned to the national spotlight as a true beacon in the Southeast as the only Urban Libraries Council library member in the State of Alabama.

BPL has been the headquarters location and member of Jefferson County Library Cooperative for over 40 years.

Mayor Randall Woodfin greets BPL board trustee Eunice Johnson Rogers

Currently, BPL is providing all of our traditional programs, services, and partnerships as well as collaborating at the center of major City of Birmingham community engagement projects such as A Citizen’s Experience, Peace in the Park, and Complete Communities, to name a view. BPL has long been about much more than just our beautiful books and maps.

We are working actively to take library service to the next level in Birmingham.

Here are 10 of the top updates of what we are working on and some of what we are planning to do soon to keep putting library patrons first in the City of Birmingham:

1. The Wylam Library Construction Project is a $1.6 million new library which has been 20 years in the making and now scheduled to open in January 2020.

2. The long-awaited Central Library Monumental Stairs Project is a $1.4 million project that just finished the bidding process. This project will replace the escalators with a beautiful new design of interactive public stairs and create a new path of interior light for the building. We also hope to replace elevators when funding is available.

3. Last fall we transformed the first floor of the Central Library East Building into a flexible programming space that can seat about 400 people, and we have hosted wonderful programs in the space such as the historic Wayne Wiegand lecture on desegregation of Birmingham Public Libraries, Grow with Google Day of Digital Skills, UniverSoul Circus, Staff Day 2018, Local Authors Expo 2018, Bards & Brews (BPL's monthly spoken word poetry event, which was featured by a national blogger from North Carolina), and Reading Between the Wines 2019. We also hosted amazing programs and partnerships at all Birmingham Public Library locations during the last year.

4. Current: Working on planning and funding for redesign of our BPL website and BPL mobile application.

5. Current: Working on planning and funding for Central Library East Building flooring and interior design upgrades.

6. Current: Working on staffing models to keep all neighborhood libraries open without closing for lunch hours.

7. Current: Working to improve security infrastructure and measures system-wide.

8. Current: Working on a new marketing and communications plan. This includes updates to signage, interior merchandising, and branding.

9. Current: Working on a comprehensive Business Operations Plan which includes new development and grants objectives.

10. Current: Working on an interactive community engagement plan with use of the ALA Libraries Transform practice and Harwood methodology for community engagement.

This fall the BPL Library Board will meet on scheduled dates at two of our regional library locations, and we also look forward to listening as we host community engagement table talks at three of our regional library locations.

All citizens are always welcome to visit our monthly board of trustees meeting to speak on our public voices agenda. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month. Citizens and visitors are welcome to reach out to us at any time with questions, comments, and suggestions by email to us at

See the BPL Annual Report of performance.

We are thankful to our Mayor Randall Woodfin and City of Birmingham leadership team, the Birmingham City Council, all BPL Trustees, Friends Foundation of the Birmingham Public Library, staff, volunteers, retirees, friends, and, always first, library patrons.

Please click on our website for more news about BPL.

2019 Lambda Literary Awards Winners

On June 3 at the NYU Skirball Center, the winners of the 31st Lambda Literary Awards—the Lammys—were announced. In addition to the 25 book award winners, three other individuals were acknowledged for their work in bringing visibility to LGBTQ voices.

Lambda Literary is an organization dedicated to promoting LGBTQ books and advocating for LGBTQ writers. For 31 years the Lambda Literary Awards have identified and honored the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender books.

And the Lammy goes to...! 

Lesbian Fiction: The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai
Gay Fiction: Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
Bisexual Fiction: Disoriental by NĂ©gar Djavadi
Transgender Fiction: Little Fish by Casey Plett
Bisexual Nonfiction: Out of Step: A Memoir by Anthony Moll
Transgender Nonfiction: Histories of the Transgender Child by Julian Gill-Peterson
LGBTQ Nonfiction: Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
Lesbian Mystery: A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell
Gay Mystery: Late Fees: A Pinx Video Mystery by Marshall Thornton
LGBTQ Anthology Fiction: As You Like It: The Gerald Kraak Anthology Volume II by Jacana Media
LGBTQ Anthology Nonfiction: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay
LGBTQ Graphic Novel: The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish
LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror: The Breath of the Sun by Isaac R. Fellman
Lesbian Memoir/Biography: Chronology by Zahra Patterson
Gay Memoir/Biography: No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L. Moore
LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult: Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Lambda’s Trustee Award: Alexander Chee
Visionary Award: Masha Gessen
Publishing Professional Award: Barbara Smith

For a full list of the winners and finalists, visit the Lambda Literary website.

For books listed but not available in the JCLC catalog, try borrowing them through our convenient interlibrary loan service.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Nonprofit Management Workshop Series Returns Beginning at Central Library July 2

What: Birmingham Public Library’s Nonprofit Management Class Series: How to Start a Nonprofit 501(c)3 Organization
When: Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Time: 5:30–6:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor, Arrington Auditorium
Details: This five-part Nonprofit Management Class Series is led by instructor John Whitman, PhD., in collaboration with the Harvard Club of Birmingham. The workshops kick off at 5:30 p.m. July 2 with "How to Start a Nonprofit 501(c)3 Organization."

Beginning Tuesday, July 2, in response to patron demand, the Birmingham Public Library is bringing back instructor Dr. John Whitman's five-part monthly Nonprofit Management Class Series. The workshops are being offered in collaboration with the Harvard Club of Birmingham.

The workshop series, previously held at noon, is being offered from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., this time to accommodate patrons unable to make it last time due to work. All of the classes will take place in the Central Library's Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th Floor.

A veteran of both the private and nonprofit sectors, class presenter Whitman has 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.

The previous nonprofit workshop series, held from January through May 2019, was one of BPL's most popular business workshop series ever.

Here is a description of the Nonprofit Management Class Series (all being held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Central Library's Arrington Auditorium):

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 – How to Start a Nonprofit 501(c)3 Organization
This class will provide an overview of the steps involved in starting a charitable, religious, or educational organization that is exempt from taxation. Register

Tuesday, August 6, 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. View a handout of Whitman's Introduction to Grant Writing workshop held in April 2019. Register

Tuesday, September 3, 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. Register

Tuesday, October 1, 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. Register

Tuesday, December 3, 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. Register

The workshops are free of charge, but registration is required.

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 at or 205-226-3691.

2019 BPL Summer Learning Spotlight: Critters and Constellations

Alabama 4-H visits Powderly Library.
Have you ever gazed up at the night sky and wondered what stories the stars have to tell?
 Many of the constellations grouped in our night sky resemble the shape of the real creatures that we see today.

As part of BPL's 2019 Summer Learning activities, Alabama 4-H is sharing interesting tidbits of information like this during a program called "Critters and Constellations."

 Staff from Alabama 4-H introduce patrons to a crew of kid-friendly animals such as snakes and birds, and teach young patrons about their interesting features that make these fascinating creatures "outta this world."

 Below is the remaining schedule of BPL locations hosting Alabama 4-H's "Critters and Constellations" program:

 Thursday, June 27, 11:00 a.m. - Eastwood Library

 Tuesday, July 9, 10:00 a.m. - Ensley Library 

Thursday, July 11, 1:00 a.m. - West End Library 

 Wednesday, July l7, 10:30 a.m. - Pratt City Library

Monday, June 24, 2019

Summer Beach Reads

Summer is officially here.  Although it has been hot for months, the calendar has finally caught up with the temperature. It's time for a trip to the beach.  Before you leave, though, make sure you have something great to read.  These new titles might be just what you're looking for.  The descriptions are from the publishers.

Queen BeeQueen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank

Beekeeper Holly McNee Jensen quietly lives in a world of her own on Sullivans Island, tending her hives and working at the local island library. Holly calls her mother The Queen Bee because she's a demanding hulk of a woman...  To escape the drama, Holly's sister Leslie married and moved away, wanting little to do with island life. Holly's escape is to submerge herself in the lives of the two young boys next door and their widowed father, Archie.  Her world is upended when the more flamboyant Leslie returns and both sisters, polar opposites, fixate on what's happening in their neighbor's home. Is Archie really in love with that awful ice queen of a woman? If Archie marries her, what will become of his little boys? Restless Leslie is desperate for validation after her imploded marriage, squandering her favors on any and all takers. Their mother ups her game in an uproarious and theatrical downward spiral. Scandalized Holly is talking to her honey bees a mile a minute, as though they'll give her a solution to all the chaos. Maybe they will.

Sunset BeachSunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

Drue Campbell's life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn't seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother's funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he's remarried - to Drue's eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they're offering her a job.  It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance - her grandparents' beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.  With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father's firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may - or may not - involve her father. 

The Favorite Daughter
The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

Ten years ago, Lena Donohue experienced a wedding-day betrayal so painful that she fled the small town of Watersend, South Carolina, and reinvented herself in New York City. Though now a freelance travel writer, the one place she rarely goes is home—until she learns of her dad’s failing health. Returning to Watersend means seeing the sister she has avoided for a decade and the brother who runs the family’s Irish pub and has borne the burden of his sisters’ rift. While Alzheimer’s slowly steals their father’s memories, the siblings rush to preserve his life in stories and in photographs. As his secret past brings Lena’s own childhood into focus, it sends her on a journey to discover the true meaning of home.

The Friends We Keep
The Friends We Keep by Jane Green

Evvie, Maggie, and Topher have known one another since college. Their friendship was something they swore would last forever. Now years have passed, the friends have drifted apart, and they never found the lives they wanted--the lives they dreamed of when they were young and everything seemed possible. Evvie starved herself to become a supermodel but derailed her career by sleeping with a married man. Maggie married Ben, the boy she fell in love with in college, never imagining the heartbreak his drinking would cause. Topher became a successful actor, but the shame of a childhood secret shut him off from real intimacy. By their thirtieth reunion, these old friends have lost touch with one another and with the people they dreamed of becoming. Together again, they have a second chance at happiness...until a dark secret is revealed that changes everything.

Rumore of Springville Road Library Appointed to ALA GLBTRT Program Planning Committee

Samuel Moore of Springville Road Regional Library

Samuel Rumore, a Librarian II at the BPL’s Springville Road Regional Library, has been appointed to the American Library Association (ALA)  Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRTProgram Planning Committee).

Rumore will represent the State of Alabama for a two-year-term beginning July 1, 2019, through July 1, 2021. This will be the second time Rumore, a 13-year employee at BPL, has represented Alabama on the committee

Floyd Council, executive director of the Birmingham Public Library, said the entire BPL system is honored at the news of Rumore’s appointment as ALA celebrates national Gay Pride Month 2019 during the month of June.

“We are very proud of the work that Samuel has done at BPL, the Jefferson County Public Library Association (past officer of the JCPLA), and look forward with excitement to his contributions on this ALA national committee,” Council said.

The ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table Program Planning Committee plans, promotes and implements educational sessions and informational programs related to GLBT issues. The planning committee also recruits co-sponsors of GLBRT programs, monitors other programs the round table might want to support and recruits presenters for programs, conferences and other events. 

A Birmingham native, Rumore obtained a major in sociology and minor in philosophy from the University of Montevallo. He obtained a Masters in Library Information Studies (MLIS) from the University of Alabama.

Rumore looks forward to brainstorming with other members of the ALA program planning committee for the GLBGRT.

"I hope to get programming ideas for BPL and for Alabama libraries, in general,” Rumore said.

Sacred Harp Singing Reception for Sacred Sounds of Alabama Exhibit at Central Library June 30

What: Sacred Harp singing reception for Sacred Sounds of Alabama exhibit
When: Sunday, June 30, 2019, 3:00–5:00 p.m.
The Central Library Fourth Floor Gallery
Details: Free and open to the public

The Sacred Harp singers will be at the Central Library on Saturday, June 30, 3:00–5:00 p.m., after the group performs an Alabama Bicentennial Singing on the sixth floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse, located just across the street. The all-day singing event will celebrate the forthcoming release of Alan Lomax’s field recordings for the Library of Congress. They were made during a singing on the site of the courthouse in August 1942.

We’ll Sing Hallelujah: Sacred Sounds of Alabama is produced by the Alabama Folklife Association and pays tribute to genres of music that have been passed on through generations. The exhibit will be on display in the Central Library’s Fourth Floor Gallery through Monday, July 22, 2019.

We'll Sing Hallelujah displays historic photographs and contemporary images, captured by folklorists working in the state of Alabama, demonstrating the profound heritage of traditional music genres.

“The AFA is honored to bring the exhibit to the library, especially during the year of Alabama’s Bicentennial, when there are so many special programs taking place in the city,” said Executive Director Mary Allison Haynie. “While several sections of the exhibit will be very familiar to many, residents, visitors, and newcomers can learn about Sacred Harp traditions or gain a greater understanding of the many noteworthy honors bestowed on Alabama artists.”

For over 30 years, the Alabama Folklife Association, a partner program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, has supported the research, preservation, presentation, and promotion of Alabama’s folk and traditional arts. Sacred music has played a major role in the work of the organization.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

2019 Summer Learning Spotlight: Adult Programs for Week of June 24-28

Adults, did you know the Birmingham Public Library has plenty of fun activities to help you both have fun and learn as part of our 2019 BPL Summer Learning programs?

To find out more about our Summer Learning activities, go to the calendar at our website or click here for a highlight.

Here are 20 programs for adults taking place between Monday, June 24, and Friday, June 28, at nine of our 19 BPL locations:

Avondale Library

Finding African American Records in,,, and FamilySearch, Monday, June 24, 2:00 p.m. Learn how to use BPL's most popular genealogy databases to pinpoint African American records. This workshop will show you tips and tricks to quickly locate records specifically relating to African Americans.

Avondale Book Club Freestyle, Monday, June 24, 6:00 p.m.
The Avondale Book Club Freestyle is book club allows patrons to read any book they like and join fellow book-lovers to discuss what everyone else is reading. For more information or to reserve a spot, call 205-226-4000.

Papercraft Party, Wednesday, June 26, 2:00 p.m.
Explore the universe of paper crafts. Enjoy fun and simple projects with instruction and materials provided. Class size is limited.   For more information or to reserve a spot, call 205-226-4000.

Central Library (Arrington Auditorium)

Intro to Yoga, Monday, June 24, 6:30 p.m.
Join BPL Board of Trustee member Kim Richardson, a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) on Mondays as she introduces patrons to the gentle practice of yoga in a non-judgmental environment. You will learn poses and modifications that will give you confidence to start practicing yoga. You will need a yoga mat, yoga blocks (optional but encouraged), yoga strap or sturdy belt, and comfortable clothing. The class is every Monday night during June and July 2019.

Central Library RLCC (Click on the calendar for class descriptions)

Word 2010 Advanced Part 1, Monday, June 24, 9:15 a.m.
Word 2010 Advanced Part 2, Monday, June 24, 10:30 a.m.
BPL Database: Careers, College, and Financial Aid, Tuesday, June 25, 10:30 a.m.

Ensley Library (including Freegal/Kanopy program June 26 originally scheduled for Wylam Library)

Downloadables, Monday, June 24, 3:00 p.m. 
Bring your own smart phone, iPad or other electronic device and library staff will teach you  how to download and read ebooks or listen to audio books for free. See what BPL's Downloadable Libby or Overdrive sites have to offer.

Get Your Foodie On, Tuesday, June 25, 3:00 p.m. 
Are you interested in food and cooking, but just don't have time to keep up with the latest culinary trends? BPL has resources available to help you "get your foodie on" and stay properly informed. This program will take you on a tour of what's happenig in the world of cooking, nutrition and food culture.

Freegal/Kanopy, Wednesday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. 
During this one-hour session, learn about Freegal Music and Kanopy, two services available through BPL. Freegal Music service includes millions of songs, Mp3 files that can be played on any device.  The downloaded music file is yours to keep with no due date or expiration date. Kanopy Films is a video streaming platform with over 30,000 films  Android tablets and iPads will be provided.

Five Points West Library

Learn About Henna, Wednesday, June 26, 10:30 a.m. 
Natural Henna artist September Reed shares information on the history of henna and how to create safe, fun henna tattoos.

North Avondale Library

Chapter Chatters Book Club, Wednesday, June 26, 10:30 a.m. 
The North Avondale Chapter Chatters Book Club meets every fourth Wednesday. Join for a spirited debate and good reading.  For details, call 205-592-2082.

Powderly Library

Hoopla, Tuesday, June 25, 2:00 p.m. 
Hoopla is a new digital collection through which BPL gives patrons access to thousands of movies, music, audio books, graphic novels and more. All you need is your library card, a web browser, smart phone or tablet to get started. Android tablets and iPads will be provided.

Springville Road Library

Coffee Conversations & Crafts, Monday, June 24, 11:00 a.m. 
Join us for simple crafts  with other adults through Coffee, Conversations & Crafts, also known as "CCC". Get to know new people, learn something new or practice an old favorite craft. Participants are invited to bring their own projects while socializing. Craft materials and instruction provided, along with lunch. Participation in the crafts is not required. CCC is among many adult programs available at Springville Road Library.

Body Changers,  Monday, June 24, 1:00 p.m. 
Weigh in, receive tips on nutrition and exercise, and be supported in striving to reach your personal goals. You may use your own plan or one provided by your doctor. Prizes and incentives are awarded for successful weight management.

Bend & Stretch, Tuesdays (June 25) at 11:00 a.m. and Thursdays  (June 27) at 1:00 p.m. Gentle exercise for adults based on the National Institute for Aging's Go4Life program. These exercises build strength, flexibility, endurance and balance, and most can be done while sitting in a chair. Sessions end with meditation and light refreshments.

Cards  & Game Party, Thursday, June 27 at 10:00 a.m. Join fellow patrons in playing Poker, Continental, Canasta, Gin, Spades and learn other new card games. Board games are also provided, and patrons are welcome to bring their favorites. Refreshments provided.

Fight Cognitive Decline: Brain Jam!, Friday, June 28, 11:00 a.m.
Learning to play and/or sing music stimulates newly created neurons in the adult brain and can actually fight cognitive decline in seniors. If you have an acoustic instrument, bring it. Simple instruments will be provided by the library. Singers are welcome too. Learn simple tunes and then practice playing and singing together. Light refreshments provided.

Titusville Library

Natural Henna 101, Friday, June 28, 10:00 a.m. 
Natural Henna artist September Reed shares information on the history of henna and how to create safe, fun henna tattoos.

West End Library
Hoopla, Tuesday, June 25, 10:00 a.m.
Hoopla is a new digital collection through which BPL gives patrons access to thousands of movies, music, audio books, graphic novels and more. All you need is your library card, a web browser, smart phone or tablet to get started. Android tablets and iPads will be provided.

Summer Mini-Camps Underway at Five Points West Library: Crochet, Quilting, Wii

Lynn Carpenter of Five Points West teaches patron how to crochet.

The Five Points West Regional Branch Library is hosting free week-long mini-camps during June and July as part of BPL's 2019 Summer Learning.

This week, from June 17 through Thursday,  June 20, the library hosted Camp Crochet. During the eight-hour mini-camp, Five Points West Library's Lynn Carpenter taught young patrons the ancient art of turning yarn into useful objects.

Earlier this year, a story went viral online about an 11-year-old boy who learned how to crochet at age 5 by watching YouTube videos. Today, Jonah Lawson of Wisconsin has 46,000 followers on Instragram and over 2,500 orders for his work online. All Things Considered, a syndicated National Public Radio series that runs on WBHM in Birmingham, did a spotlight on him in February during Black History Month. Read more about the 11-year-old's crochet business.

Upcoming mini-camps at Five Points West Library for patrons aged 10 and up (all 12:00–2:00 p.m.) are as follows (register in advance by calling 205-226-4017):

Camp Code (Monday–Thursday, June 24-27)
This eight-hour mini-camp will explore the fascinating world of computer coding.

Camp Craft (MondayWednesday July 1-3)
This six-hour mini-camp will explore crafts you an do to keep entertained on a rainy day or when it is too hot to go outside. Saundra Ross, branch manager of the North Avondale Branch Library, recently wrote a blog about family crafting fun.

Camp Quilt (MondayThursday, July 8-11)This eight-hour mini-camp will explore the world of quilting from Ancient Egypt to Gee's Bend quilting in Alabama.

Camp Wii (MondayThursday, July 15-18)
This eight-hour mini-camp is pure gaming fun!. We will play Wii video games to our heart's content.

The Atlantic Spotlights BPL on Role Libraries Play in Digital Skills Training

Dominique Agee and Maurice Harley teach computer skills to
patrons at Ensley Library

New York-based The Atlantic magazine spotlighted the Birmingham Public Library System in an article highlighting how libraries around the U.S. are helping provide patrons the digital skills needed in today's society.

The article by Atlantic Re:think, in a series called Ideas on Main, is titled "America Has a Digital Skills Gap. Libraries Can Help Fix It." It went live online on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

Writer Jordan Teicher and art director Drew Campbell led a team representing Atlantic Re:think, who spent three days at BPL in mid-May 2019. The Atlantic's focus on BPL's computer training came as a a result of a partnership BPL began with Google after hosting the first Grow With Google workshops in Alabama last August. Since those workshops, BPL has hosted several free Google classes.

Jordan Teicher and Calvester Sanders

Teicher sat in on computer workshops at the Central Library and Ensley Branch Library led by Maurice Harley, BPL training coordinator. He interviewed BPL patrons, including Calvester Sanders, who was promoted to lead the housekeeping staff at the Redmont Hotel thanks to computer skills she gained from free computer workshops at the Central Library. Sanders credits attending free introductory computer classes at BPL for allowing her to overcome a fear of computers and better manage her employees' schedules.

"I don't know why I was afraid of coming into the computer world," Sanders says. "Now I love it."

The Atlantic also interviewed BPL Executive Director Floyd Council and other BPL staffers about the role that BPL can play in helping patrons learn new skills and achieve success.

Since April of 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King mailed a copy of his historic Letter from Birmingham Jail to The Atlantic in New York, Birmingham has shared a long historic relationship with The Atlantic, Council said.

"After The Atlantic featured BPL in November 2016 as a Birmingham treasure, iconic photos of our Linn-Henley Library have become a core part of our branding thanks to Atlantic reporters and photographers," Council said.

As part of over 400 free programs being offered during its 2019 Summer Learning activities, BPL is offering several free Google workshops during the month of July. The classes include how to use Google to search for jobs, Google email, Google Docs, and Google Sheets & Presentation.

#GrowWithGoogle #TheAtlantic

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Steps to Starting Your Business Continues at Central Library July 16

What: Steps to Starting Your Business
When: 3rd Tuesday of each month, July–November 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 continue hosting the monthly seminar Steps to Starting Your Business from July to September 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: July 16, August 20, September 17, October 15, November 19.

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, June 18, 2019

Unlimited Access, Intellectual Freedom & Prisons

by Alisha Johnson, Ensley Branch Library

Library at a federal prison on an island in the Puget Sound, 1928

After reading an article about Georgia prisons and how books have contributed to low recidivism rates, it is apparently clear that more institutions should adopt the idea of acquiring more books and maintaining prison collections.

Historically Georgia, among many other states, have faced years of zero funding and have had to rely solely on donations to keep libraries functioning. Even after books are donated, much of the materials are scrutinized in a manner in which a number of them never reach the prison population. In fact, if a book or magazine includes an excerpt that has potential of inciting a riot, then that material is immediately taken and discarded. Consequently, other information contained in the book is never accessed by inmates as a result of safety concerns.

Literacy for inmates and all others is based on the fundamentals of unlimited access and choice. Without having these elements as a basis for investment and building in our communities, we lose that which is necessary for survival—learning!

For more information check out these resources from your local library:

Books in Stir: A Bibliographic Essay about Prison Libraries and about Books Written by Prisoners and Prison Employees by Rudolf Engelbarts
Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg
The Prison Problem in Jefferson County, Alabama / a survey by the Prison Industries Reorganization Administration

Monday, June 17, 2019

What to Read Next

by Lynn Hutchins, Circulation Department, Central Library

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens? Did you enjoy it? Are you looking for what to read next? If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, try one of these eight books published in the last eight years. One of them might become your next favorite book.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
A breathtaking story set in Atlanta about a man's deception, a family's complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl's heart-stopping fight for her own soul. Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast.

As always, please feel free to stop by the library and visit any desk for more information. We love recommending books and are always happy to help you find a new favorite.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Podcast Discussion Club

What? Podcast Discussion Club
When? Monday, July 8, 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Where? Avondale Regional Branch Library Conference Room

Have you ever listened to a podcast and wished you could discuss it with someone else? Well, this is the group for you! This month we're focusing on living a happier life.

Prior to the meeting, listen to the following episodes. Click on the links below to listen. Join us on the meeting date for an interesting discussion.

The Science of Compassion (NPR's Hidden Brain Podcast)
Outer Order, Inner Calm with Gretchen Rubin (Live Happy Now Podcast)

For more information, contact Leslie Deason at 205-226-4000 or

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sims Saturday Sitdown: Life Coaches Help Navigate Life's Journey

by Lynn Hutchins, Circulation Department, Central Library

Angelik and Victor Sims
Join us at the Central Library on Saturday, June 29, and Saturday, July 27, 2:00–4:00 p.m., for the Sims Saturday Sitdown.

Life Coaches Angelik and Victor Sims and their team will help you find and define the motivation and tools to navigate through this journey called life. The Sims Saturday Sitdown is a community outreach program that highlights and focuses on building individuals and teaching others.

Before you can impact your community, workplace, or world at large, you need to start by taking a look at yourself as an individual. The Sims will host this event one Saturday a month, bringing a new and useful topic to the community during each meeting.


First Session
Saturday, June 29, 2:00–4:00 p.m.
Central Library, First Floor Conference Room

Second Session
Saturday, July 27, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor, Arrington Auditorium.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

2019 Summer Learning: McWane Center Visits BPL

McWane Center Visits BPL program held June 12 at Central Library

The McWane Science Center is joining forces with the Birmingham Public Library 2019 Summer Learning to help educate patrons of all ages about the valuable role of science in every day life.

Through a program called McWane Center Visits BPL at various library locations across Birmingham, the McWane Center is celebrating this summer's 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 NASA space flight.

During McWane's June 12 visit to the Central Library, 100 people - including 89 kids from the YMCA Youth Center and other camps - were engaged by fascinating demonstrations of rockets, gravity and surviving in space.

You can still register for BPL Summer Learning by clicking on this link.

For a list of other McWane Center programs and over 400 others being offered as part of BPL Summer Learning, click here

Board Game Review: Terraforming Mars

by Vincent Solfronk, Eastwood Branch Library

Terraforming Mars
Celebrating the summer learning theme "A Universe of Stories," I wanted to highlight one of the most popular board games with a space theme: Terraforming Mars. In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.

The players acquire unique project cards (from over two hundred different ones) by buying them to their hand. The projects (cards) can represent anything from introducing plant life or animals, hurling asteroids at the surface, building cities, to mining the moons of Jupiter and establishing greenhouse gas industries to heat up the atmosphere. The cards can give you immediate bonuses, as well as increasing your production of different resources. Many cards also have requirements and they become playable when the temperature, oxygen, or ocean coverage increases enough.

This is a game where players have to develop a strategy and work together to make Mars habitable. There is a lot of player interaction and competition, but with no combat or violence. Players will learn what it takes to turn an inhospitable world into sustainable planet. This game and many others can be checked out at the Eastwood Library!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

2019 Summer Learning Spotlight: Pen Craft Workshops

Decorative pens being made during Pen Craft workshop.

Looking for a simple gift or a cute display for your desk? Ink pens always come in handy, and the Birmingham Public Library wants to help.

Rachel Marable, a Library Assistant III at the Central Library, is hosting a series of "Pen Craft" workshops at several BPL locations this summer. The workshops are among more than 400 free activities for kids, teens and adults being held as part of the 2019 BPL Summer Learning.

"Participants will decorate ink pens that can be used for display or given away as fun gifts," Marable said. "Crafters will learn how to incorporate seasonal themes to their artwork while displaying their love for learning."

The workshop has already been held at the Springville Road Library and Southside Library.

The remaining Pen Craft schedule is as follows (Registration is required so contact each library):

Rachel Marable of Central Library
 June 19, 12:00 p.m. (Adults) - Central Library (First Floor Conference Room)

 July 10, 10:00 a.m. (Adults) - North Birmingham Library

 July 15, 1:00 p.m. (Teens) - North Avondale Library

 July 16, 10:00 a.m. (Adults) - Powderly Library

 July 25, 12:00 p.m. (Adults) - Central Library (First Floor Conference Room)

Sonya "Sam" Mitchell To Share Tips on Documentary Filmmaking at Central Library June 13

Birmingham documentary film-maker Sonya "Sam" Mitchell

What: The Documentary Film-making Process with Sonya “Sam” Mitchell
When: Thursday, July 18, 2019
Time: 12:00–1:00 p.m.
Where: Birmingham Public Library – Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Library, 4th floor, Arrington Auditorium

Have you wanted to learn how to make a documentary film?

 Then make plans to be at the Central Library at 12:00 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2019, as Birmingham film-maker Sonya "Sam" Mitchell shares her personal story of how she turned a lifelong passion for films into an art-form.

 Mitchell will host the first of two free workshops, "The Documentary Film-making Process with Sonya "Sam" Mitchell, at 12:00 p.m. this Thursday in the Linn-Henley Research Library's Arrington Auditorium, 4th Floor. She will repeat the workshop at noon on Thursday, July 18. Read more about Mitchell's documentary workshops by clicking here

The workshops are among more than 400 free activities for kids, teens and adults being held as part of the 2019 BPL Summer Learning.

 Mitchell has directed and produced three documentary films. Two of Mitchell’s short films, Jesse “Speeks” and The Truth Up and Comingare profiles of interesting friends and both have been screened in recent years at the local Sidewalk Film Festival. BPL hosted a screening of The Truth Up and Coming in 2016 at the Central Library and another screening of Mitchell's film Jesse Speeks in 2015.  

Mitchell's latest film, The State Wins, takes a look at Alabama’s favorite pastime—college football. The documentary was inspired by her love for attending the Iron Bowl  between the University of Alabama and Auburn University as well as the Magic City Classic football game between Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University.

"It gives you a close-up look at the tailgating experience and other activities that makes the Iron Bowl and the Magic City Classic so special," Mitchell said.

The Central Library's Arrington Auditorium will host a screening of Mitchell's The State Wins on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 1:00 p.m., just before the fall 2019 college football season kicks off.

During both her June 13 and July 18 film-making workshops, Mitchell says she will share tips on how people can make a documentary with something as simple as an iPhone. She filmed her documentaries with a camera. Mitchell said she did research and learned by trial and error before perfecting her craft.

First-time film-makers should not be discouraged, and soon their patience will be rewarded when they complete the process. For more information on Mitchell and her films, follow her on Facebook by clicking here. 


Summer Family Crafting

by Saundra Ross, North Avondale Branch Library

Crafting can be a fun and beneficial way for families to spend time together. This summer there will be long hot days and this kind of indoor activity can relieve stress, provide an escape from the routine, enhance a positive mood, and help with developing family creativity. The library’s shelves are full of craft books for ideas that will last you all summer.

Get crafting starting with the titles below:

Duct tape mania by Amanda Formaro
Low-mess crafts for kids: 72 projects to create your own magical worlds by Debbie Chapman
Supercaft: easy projects for every weekend by Sophie Pester

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