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WORD UP! 2014 Showcases Teen Poets

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 5:10pm

The excitement was palpable in the packed Arrington Auditorium as emcee Jim Reed genially welcomed the crowd. This was the seventh year for the competition which allows Jefferson County teenagers to showcase their poetry writing and performance skills. Students in grades 9 through 12 write and perform an original work of poetry inspired by a theme selected by the WORD UP! planning committee.  This year’s theme was “community.” Earlier this year, participating high schools held preliminary contests at their schools, and the first and second place winners competed at WORD UP!.
The performances were over, and the winners were proclaimed: first place and $300 went to Eboni Wallace of Tarrant; this was the third year in a row that Eboni had received this honor. Second place  and $200 went to Miaya Webster of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Miaya had won third place at last year’s competition. And there was a tie for third place; Jeralyn Lankford of Clay-Chalkville and Brianna Whittsett of McAdory shared that spot, and each was awarded $150. 
In all, twelve high schools were represented at the event.  The schools included: Birmingham’s Wenonah and Woodlawn; Jefferson County’s Clay-Chalkville, McAdory, Minor, and Shades Valley/Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School; Alabama School of Fine Arts; Hewitt-Trussville; Holy Family Cristo Rey; Leeds, Tarrant, and Vestavia.

Word UP! 2014 was made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Book Review: Lookaway, Lookaway

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 4:13pm
Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel
Wilton Barnhardt

Before he was an acclaimed fiction writer (Lookaway, Lookaway made several prestigious year’s best lists) Wilton Barnhardt was a sports writer. It shows in his appreciation of the details that help make yarns real and entertaining. And, no, Lookaway, Lookaway, is not another book about southern football. It’s about a far more desperate, violent, and intricate spectacle, the modern day dissolution of a Great Old Southern Family. Set in Charlotte, North Carolina, the “prefab” metropolis, with a “monster truck show” religious scene, Lookaway, Lookaway is a satire. While funnier in tone than Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full and more outrageous than Pat Conroy, it rings at least as true as either.

This is the epic saga of the Jarvis-Johnston clan. Duke, the patriarch is under the spell of his storied Civil War ancestor, General Joseph E. Johnston. Jerene, his wife, is the steel magnolia matriarch and the de facto patriarch (“Who cares what Duke does?”). The intricately plotted story unfolds in chapters narrated from the point of view of every family member in turn, each revealing their own and each other’s secrets. Good little debutante Jerelyn goes off to Chapel Hill to join a sorority whose sisters go by the nickname “the Skanks” (real sorority, real nickname, by the way). Brother Josh spends his nights seeking interracial romance on CDL, Charlotte Down Low, a gay hook-up website. Dorie, Josh’s black lesbian BFF seduces fine southern ladies. Calamities ensue and are revealed: rape, murder, grand larceny, society gala fundraisers, illegitimate children, abortions, domestic violence, Christmas dinner, interracial lust, feuding Presbyterian congregations, dueling, beastiality, blackmail, betrayal, Civil War battle re-enactments. The regional variations of Carolina barbeque, hush puppies, and cole slaw are explicated.

Lookaway, Lookaway is an exploration of the myth of the Great Old Southern Family. Although that myth does not enjoy the dominance in southern culture it once did, it still has millions of devotees. Its shrines, southern show-mansions stuffed with antiques, are maintained by private families and municipalities at great expense throughout the south. Barnhardt’s acid satire should, at the very least, inspire the reader to wonder at the hypocrisy, fragility and ruinous cost of Great Old Southern Family pretensions. As grandmother Jeannette tells her stone-hard daughter, Jerene, “It is naïve to think that anybody that has got money got it without doing something really bad, because it is much easier to be poor—that, my girl, is the natural state of things. Money runs out. Money gets spent. To have so much of it that it doesn't run out, doesn't get spent, means that something…. unpleasant had to happen along the way.”

Jerene, the matriarch, is the great character. She first commands the reader’s attention when she lays down the law for her daughter, who is experiencing a teachable moment, “Darling, in the future, you may not invite to a bed any young man about whom you do not know his father’s profession, his eventual means, his status in this world. That is a one-way ticket to the mobile home park. These are most important details.” Thus, from mother to daughter, hard earned wisdom is imparted and the Great Old Southern Family is maintained.
We know Jerene, and the awful Jeannette. We know Josh, brother Beau, sister Annie, Aunt Dillard (Jerene to her sister Dillard, “You may not become a cat lady. You may not become eccentric beyond a certain point.”) daddy Duke, wife Kate and Uncle Gaston. And we know bits and pieces of all of these stories that wrap around the Jarvis-Johnstons in their decline.

Readers who enjoy the works of Jill McCorkle, Allan Gurganus, and Clyde Edgerton will not want to miss Lookaway, Lookaway.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

"I Want to Learn..."

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:22am

I’ve been thinking about learning lately. I don’t really want to take a formal course or go back to school but I want to study something. This caused me to think about the free resources that Birmingham Public Library and other entities provide for lifelong learning.

Birmingham Public Library (BPL) Classes, Programs & Workshops
Check out the BPL Calendar of Events for upcoming classes, programs and workshops. At the top of the page, choose your library.

The April 2014 computer class schedule for the BPL Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) is already posted. Follow the instructions on the class schedule to register for classes. The RLCC is located at the Central Library. If you are interested in computer classes at other branches, use the BPL Calendar of Events and do a keyword search for computer.

If you are looking for classes, programs, and workshops in any of the Jefferson County public libraries, check out their Calendar of Events and Reader.

I know the title of the series …For Dummies may sound off-putting but these are some of the best introductory books around and they cover a variety of topics. Likewise, I never liked the word “idiot” but the Complete Idiot’s Guide series makes me feel like I’m less of one. When you have the time, pick a subject that’s interesting and check out a book in one of these series.

Birmingham Public Library Databases & Free Online Resources
BBC Languages is available to the public; you don’t need a library card. I really liked this website. You can learn British Isle languages: Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Ulster Scots, Cornish, Manx, and Guernsey French as well as phrases in more than 40 languages.

Ben's (Benjamin Franklin) Guide to U.S. Government for Kids is a wonderful website administered by the U.S. Government Printing Office and the courses are specifically tailored by grade levels.

CIA Factbook has information on the people, history, geography, economy, etc. of other countries.

Encyclopedia of Alabama this free encyclopedia is recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about Alabama’s people, history, government and culture.

Learn 2 Type is a free keyboarding tutorial. Click on Typing Tutor Account to create an account and start learning to type.

Mango Languages is available to Birmingham Public Library cardholders and is a great resource if you want to learn Mandarin (Chinese), Japanese, French, German or Spanish.

TED Talks are short talks, usually 18 minutes or less, and they cover various topics. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. You can look at the videos or tune into TED RadioHour on NPR (National Public Radio).

Free Online Courses and Classes
Coursera provides free and fee online courses from universities across the country and around the world.

Khan Academy is a K-12 video resource that covers math, science and some of the humanities. The great thing is each video is only 10 minutes long.

Harvard Open Courses: Open Learning Initiative offers free recorded lectures taught by Harvard faculty.

MITOpenCourseware is similar to Harvard and Yale’s open courses but they have a larger selection of courses. I just finished watching the “Dress for Success” segment of the 2010 Graduate Women at MIT (GWAMIT) Leadership Conference. I enjoyed the conference and plan to watch the keynote speech.

OpenLearn is the website for free courses through the Open University. They offer over 650 courses with different skill levels: introductory, beginner, intermediate, advanced and master’s levels. College credit is not available.

Open Yale Courses are free recorded lectures taught by teachers and scholars at Yale University. College credit is not available.

I hope you will use these free resources and learn about things that interest and challenge you. While working on this blog article, I signed up for a computer programming course in Coursera titled, “Programming for Everybody.” If you want to know how the computer class is going and my experience with Coursera, please feel free to e-mail me at

Maya Jones
West End Library

Final Four 2014

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 2:28pm

The road to the Final Four is a difficult journey.  Just ask (#6) Ohio State who lost to (#11) Dayton or (#3) Duke who lost to (#14) Mercer.  Who knew that Ohio State and (#5) Cincinnati would be sitting at home watching Dayton represent the state of Ohio in the Elite Eight?  Mind you, these were very close games, but the only score that matters is the one on the scoreboard when the clock hits zero.  Brackets were breaking all over the place.
Four really good teams made it into the Final Four so it should be an outstanding finish to the season.  Overall (#1) seed Florida is scheduled to take on (#7) UConn.  The Florida Gators won back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007.  The UConn Huskies are making their first appearance under head coach Kevin Ollie but won their last NCAA Championship in 2011 under longtime head coach Jim Calhoun.  
The other matchup features (#2) Wisconsin versus (#8) Kentucky.  Kentucky features five freshmen starters, including twin brothers, who want to add their names to the long list of champions.  The Wildcats won their last championship just two years ago in 2012.  Wisconsin has waited the longest to compete for a national championship.  Their last win in 1941 makes this Final Four appearance so much sweeter for the Badgers.
Two SEC teams in the Final Four!  I'm just saying.  The first game (Florida v. UConn) tips off at 5:09 p.m. tonight.  The championship game tips off Monday, April 7 at approximately 8:10 p.m.  Enjoy the games, I know I will.

Book Review: Secrets of the Southern Belle

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:16pm
Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment
By Phaedra Parks

One of the most popular stars of the BRAVO reality show The Housewives of Atlanta, Phaedra Parks is an accomplished woman who is always on the move. But while Mrs. Parks has always been a successful business woman, she prides herself throughout the show as being a “Southern Belle.”

 Mrs. Parks has finally heard her followers and decided to answer all of their questions in her self- help book, Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment. She shares things that could be really beneficial to anyone, not just Southern Belles. What I admired the most about Phaedra Parks and her writing is that she is completely honest! She admits that while she knows what it takes to be a proper, respectable woman, she sometimes fails at being a Southern Belle herself. The fact that she has everything sectioned off—it’s organized by section, and she even provides bulleted lists when necessary—makes the information in the book easier to access and absorb.

Parks speaks to every part of life from the social aspects, the work field, and even about personal relationships. The advice she gives within this book is valuable, relatable, and often humorous. If you’re looking for a quick weekend read or are interested in how to become a Southern Belle yourself, this book is for you.

Pam Jessie
Woodlawn Library

Book Review: The Last Picture Show

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 1:27pm
The Last Picture Show
Larry McMurtry

For many years now, in a real irregular way, I’ve been reading the books that my repeat-viewing movies are based on. As book-centered as I am, I’ve felt this is backwards, but what the hey, better late than never.

At its best, this reverse approach lets me “see the movie” in a more fleshed-out, deeper, richer way. You go from a skeleton to a body. It doesn’t always work like that but it did with The Last Picture Show, partly because McMurtry co-wrote the screenplay. Reading the novel made the movie expand. Watching the movie again, after I finished reading, made the novel contract.

The movie owes more to Italian Neorealism and British kitchen sink dramas than it does to American movie conventions. That fits the spirit of the book. In the book, the landscape is plain, even bleak. The story is anti-sentimental, anti-Romantic. It couldn’t be farther from moonlight-and-magnolias if it tried. It shows virtually no sign of trying anything. These are some of the reasons why it’s such an accomplished novel.

The scene is fifties Thalia, Texas, on the plains near the Oklahoma border. It’s a stand-in for Archer City, Texas, where McMurtry grew up. The main characters are Sonny, Duane, and Jacy, three teenagers near the end of high school, and several adults they’re connected to by family, romance, friendship or school. Duane dates Jacy, then Sonny does. Between these two, Sonny has an affair with Ruth Popper, who is forty and married to his gym coach. There’s a whole lot of sex going on in this town, but people seldom talk about it in public (this is much like the real Archer City in the early seventies, according to a film crew member). Tangled webs are woven and re-woven. The movie shocked some with its frank depiction of fluid sexual relations, although little actual sex was shown. But whereas the movie was R, the book is X. Some of the events in it concern livestock. This is Texas without varnish, after all.

Presiding over all the characters is Sam the Lion, a sort of father figure to Sonny and Duane, and owner of the town’s restaurant, pool hall and movie house. His death halfway through parallels the slow death of Thalia itself. You realize that the old-time string band who play at the annual Christmas party is an echo of the frontier past. What everybody really listens to is what’s on the radio. Also fading out is Victorian morality and the cattle industry. People are moving to bigger towns. Maybe the frenetic sex in this Boccaccio-on-the-Plains tale is part frustration with all this change. Nearly everyone here is testy and breaking the bonds of convention that defined small town Southern life. This is a good time to say it’s very funny, too.

In one scene, Sonny, Duane, and some boys get drunk and try to set up the town mental case with the town prostitute. It backfires and they dump the boy in front of Sam’s pool hall. Sam berates them: “Scaring an unfortunate creature like Billy when there ain’t no reason to scare him is just plain trashy behavior. I’ve seen a lifetime of it and I’m tired of putting up with it. You can just stay out of this pool hall and out of my picture show and café too.“ Sam is hardly a prude, but the boys have crossed a line. Sam is as contradictory as everybody else here. All the characters are wrestling with desire, lust, propriety, honor, and boredom, trying and usually failing to put them all into some workable order. Like his literary forebear Henry Miller, McMurtry sees sex as simply part of life. And like his spiritual descendent, British novelist/screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, McMurtry wisely leaves in all the dirty laundry, all the contradictions and schizo behavior. The result: these are people you know. It’s the struggle that counts, and drives the story, not any kind of resolution. There’s almost none of that.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Brilliant Blooms

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:49pm
Fresh flowers can brighten your day in your own home or by visiting any location where these spectacular beauties are on display. It's those breathtaking hues of color, varieties, and the choice to display one or one hundred and one that makes flowers as special as they are.

Just think for a moment, how flowers are shared in so many of our life events. Olympians receive them along with their medals when they stand proud and are recognized by their country. Brides include flowers in their weddings because they exude elegance and beauty. On September 17, 1983, the world witnessed Vanessa Williams receive the title as the first black Miss America along with flowers as a part of the celebration. And the great jazz singer, Billie Holiday, was known worldwide for wearing her signature "Gardenia" so beautifully in her hair.

It doesn’t seem to matter, whether flowers are given for a reason or no reason at all, they always bring the same joy. This spring, take the time to stroll through a park, attend a garden show, or even plan a trip and just lose yourself in these natural beauties.

To check out books on flowers, visit your local library or the JCLC catalog.

To get more information on gardens, events and shows, visit the websites below and others like these.

Biltmore Gardens and Grounds

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Callaway Gardens

Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum

Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade

The Philadelphia Flower Show

Saundra Ross
North Avondale Library

Bards & Brews Poetry SLAM Hosted by Vestavia Hills Library in the Forrest, April 4

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 10:09am
A performer at March's Bards & Brews Haiku
Vestavia Hills Library in the Forrest will host the next Bards & Brews SLAM on Friday, April 4, 2014. Prizes are $200 for first place, $100 for second place. Music and signup from 6:30-7:00 p.m.; performances start at 7:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Must be 18 and up to attend and 21 to participate. Music and vocals by Patrick Summey. Beer tasting provided by Bell's Brewery. ID required. Refreshments will be served.

For more info, call 205-226-3670 or email

Fictional Heroes Battle Terrorism

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 11:13am
If you’re a fan of 24, the television show, you already know that Jack and Chloe will be coming back to Fox in May 2014.  I was thrilled when I learned the show was returning to television for a special season.  I enjoy “one man versus the enemy” thrillers and I enjoy reading books like that as well.  There are several series featuring heroes who are keeping America safe from terrorism.  If you enjoy 24, you may enjoy reading these as well.  Each title is the first in the series with a publisher description.

Power Down  by Ben Coes (Dewey Andreas)
A major North American hydroelectric dam is blown up and the largest off-shore oil field in this hemisphere is destroyed in a brutal, coordinated terrorist attack. When terrorists strike the Capitana platform off the coast of Colombia, crew chief Dewey Andreas, former Army Ranger and Delta, survives the attack, rescuing as many of his men as possible. While the intelligence and law enforcement agencies scramble to untangle these events and find the people responsible, an agent embedded into the highest levels of American society and business sets into play the second stage of these long-planned attacks. Meanwhile, Dewey Andreas is using all his long-dormant skills to fight his way off the platform, then out of Colombia and back to the U.S., following the trail of terrorists and operatives sent to stop him.

One Rough Man  by Brad Taylor (Pike Logan)
Commissioned at the highest level of the U.S. government, the fighting team known as Taskforce operates outside the law. Pike Logan was the most successful operator on the Taskforce until tragedy permanently altered his outlook on the world. Pike knows what the rest of the country might not want to admit: The real threat isn't from any nation, any government, any terrorist group. The real threat is one or two men, controlled by ideology, operating independently, in possession of a powerful weapon. Buried in a stack of intercepted chatter is evidence of two such men. The transcripts are scheduled for analysis in three months. The attack is mere days away. It is their bad luck that they're about to cross paths with Pike Logan. And Pike Logan has nothing left to lose.

Alpha  by Greg Rucka (Jad Bell)
For the visitors to Wilsonville, the largest theme park in the world, the day began with a smile. By the end, they wonder-will they be able to escape with their lives? Retired Delta Force operator, Master Sergeant Jonathan "Jad" Bell, is Wilsonville's lead undercover security officer. The threat begins with the announcement of a hidden dirty bomb, but quickly becomes something far, far worse. Trained since the age of seventeen to save innocent victims from impossible hostage situations, Jad scrambles to assess the threat and protect the visitors. He will come face to face with a villain whose training matches his in every way-and presents a threat Jad may not be able to stop.

American Assassin  by Vince Flynn (Mitch Rapp)
Two decades after the Cold War, Islamic terrorism is on the rise, and CIA Operations Director Thomas Stansfield forms a new group of clandestine operatives--men who do not exist--to meet this burgeoning threat abroad, before it reaches America's shores. Stansfield's protege, Irene Kennedy, finds the ideal candidate in the wake of the Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist attack. Among the thousands grieving the victims is Mitch Rapp, a gifted college athlete, who wants only one thing: retribution. Six months of intense training prepare him to devastate the enemy with brutal efficiency, leaving a trail of bodies from Istanbul and across Europe, to Beirut. But there, the American assassin will need every ounce of skill and cunning to survive the war-ravaged city and its deadly terrorist factions.

Librarians—We're Not Just For Shushing Anymore

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 7:44am
Not a BPL employee.I assisted a patron this week who was seeking information on writing a business plan. He has an MBA and a business he's owned for years, but wants to expand. He was thrilled with the Business Plans Handbook I showed him through the Database link on BPL's homepage. He also needed to find general industry and competitor information, so I showed him the Mergent Online database. One thing led to another and soon I was pointing out Alabama Legal Forms, LearningExpress Library, and the Chilton Automotive links. He was so pleased that I couldn't help saying, "And you thought all we did was read books all day long." He laughed a little, but said, "No, I thought you put up the books." Sigh. Unfortunately, both misconceptions are common. So what DOES your modern librarian do all day?

Well, we review and select materials for inclusion in the collection based on collection development policies, current trends, and community interest. We also plan programs to support the library's mission of lifelong learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment for children, teens, and adults. We contact speakers, arrange for supplies, facilities, and refreshments, and provide information to advertise and promote the programs. Sometimes we teach classes about using computers, e-readers, how to download library materials, searching the databases and diving the Deep Web, and some of us open the world of books to children through storytime. We moderate book clubs and other in-house programs, we attend training sessions to learn about new reference sources, and we assist patrons, whether it's by finding something new to read for pleasure or by finding the perfect source for a reference paper. We attend meetings of the local neighborhood associations to find out what our community concerns are and to let them know how the library is helping to address some of those concerns. We work desks where books are checked out and returned, and we get the books where they are needed, whether that's to a holdshelf or another library.

When a patron wants an item that's not at our library, we show them how to request it—and if it's not in our system, we assist with Interlibrary Loan Requests. Some of us are active in reaching out to the schools in the area to help support learning goals, and some of us do outreach with other professionals in Birmingham to find out what we can help do to make our city a better place to live and work. Some of us are in charge of staying on top of the latest technology to make sure the information our patrons want is always available and that we are well-represented in social media outlets to let the public know all that we offer. We attend in-house, county-wide, and city training on how to offer the best services, and go to in-state and national conferences and webcasts to share the best ideas with other library professionals. On any given day, the librarians and library assistants of our city can be found doing so many different tasks that there's not room to list them all.

Librarians are experts at reader's advisory.
 Have you read Oranges and Peaches by Darwin?One of the most important things we do is make sure that accurate information is available to everyone who needs it, regardless of race, nationality, residence, economic status, political preference, employment status, gender, or age. Everyone is welcome at the library and the librarians and library assistants are there to assist you find the information you want and need, whether it's in print or online. Did I mention the information and the help finding it is free?

And sometimes we even put up the books!

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Library

Haiku Contest Winners

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 5:25pm
The first Birmingham Public Library Haiku contest was a great success, with over fifty participants, spanning a wide range of ages and demographics.  The winning poems from both the adult and youth categories are posted below. First, second, and third prizes were awarded at the Sakura Festival at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on March 22.  All winners received an anthology of haiku as well as cash prizes. The first place winner in each category was also given a year-membership in the Haiku Society of America.

A special "Thank you" to all the participants as well as to Terri French, coordinator of the Southeast Chapter of the Haiku Society of America.

Winners are listed in order from first to third place in each category.

Adult Winners:
pine thicket laced
with dogwood blossoms--
painter's poison

Virginia G
In a far field cranes
under a drape of rain bend
white wings, folding moon

From his sharp chisel
Marble metamorphoses
Softly, wings unfurl.

Youth Winners:
Paleness becomes green
Life opens its crusty eyes
Waking Up to spring

Longing for springtime
Small birds flying and chirping
Life is beautiful

Katana S.
I can’t halt time, so
I dig my heels in the earth
And let it flow past

Book Review: F This Test: Even More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 10:04am
F This Test: Even More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers
Richard Benson

Five Points West received a new book titled F This Test: Even More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson today. It's hilarious. It consists of totally wrong answers to college tests which actual students have given. Some were sincere, but some seemed to take it all in stride and decided to have a little fun with their answers. Here are some examples:

Which part of the Earth is directly below the crust?
The Filling.

Name a key theme in Madame Bovary.

Give brief summary of the plot of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Jekyll & Hyde find a briefcase, and it's very strange.

What factors led to Nancy's death in Oliver Twist?
Charles Dickens killed her.

What contributed to the collapse of the Bronze Age?

Describe a neutrino.
The opposite of an Oldtrino.

Define a supersaturated solution.
Water with extra water in it.

Give an example of a primary source. Explain why it is a primary source.
Tomato source because nearly everyone loves it.

What did an Ancient Egyptian embalmer do?
Embalmed ancient Egyptians.

And finally:
In politics, what does the term "impeachment" mean?
It's like imprisonment but with fruit.

If these examples have given you a chuckle, you might want to check out, F This Test, from the Five Points West Library.

Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Library

Haiku Contest Ends March 15

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 9:46am
Send those haiku in...
lest your words remain tight buds
never to blossom

Our Haiku Contest is no longer just on Twitter! Which is a good thing 'cause you've got only a few more days to submit those lyrical gems.

Poets may now send poems to (although tweets labeled #bplhaiku are still encouraged)!

Contestants still must register and agree to the terms at
The youth competition is open to poets ages 13-17, and the adult competition is open to poets 18+.

Any Alabama resident is encouraged to submit.

In conjunction with the Japan America Society of Alabama (JASA) and the Southeast Chapter of the Haiku Society of America (HSA) the contest is part of the annual Sakura Festival. The primary event of the Festival will take place at the Japanese Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Saturday, March 22, 2014.

A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition. For more information, see
  • Must be an Alabama resident.
  • Contestants must submit a registration form.
  • To enter the adult competition, must be over 18.
  • To enter the youth competition, must be 13-17 (13 by the registration date).
  • Library staff and immediate family members are ineligible.
  • Haiku must follow the official Haiku Society of America definition as linked above.
  • Contest began on February 23rd and runs through March 15th.
  • A winner will be selected each week for the adult division and the youth division.
    Poems must be submitted by Saturday at 11:59 p.m. to be considered for that week. 
  • The winner in each division will be announced via the library Twitter @bpl early

    the following week.
  • Contestants may only win once.
To learn more about this beautiful and timeless poetical form, check out these books from the Birmingham Public Library:

Teen Tech Week: DIY@ your Library

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 8:56am

Teen Tech Week is when libraries make the time to showcase all of the great non-print resources and services that are available to teens and their families.  This year was celebrated with the “DIY @ your library” theme during YALSA’s Teen Tech Week which was March 9-15, 2014. The purpose was to demonstrate the value our library gives to the community by offering teens a space to extend learning beyond the classroom where they can explore, create and share content. From maker spaces, to coding classes to online knitting clubs, libraries can leverage the do-it-yourself theme to show how you can connect in meaningful ways with the teens in your community.  

In honor of Teen Tech Week the Central Youth Department decided to get a little crafty but, with a techie spin.  Teens converted old books into cases for their digital devices including Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and cell phones.  All it took was an old book, a little duct tape, and some elastic.  The teens were creative with no two cases looking alike.  



For more information on how to create your own case, you can visit this website:

Final Program in Remembering the Holocaust Series to Show Film Examining Path to Nazi Genocide, March 26

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 9:00am
The Birmingham Public Library is marking its ten-year partnership with the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center in presenting Remembering the Holocaust, presentations by Birmingham residents  sharing their experiences and perspectives. The programs are held every Wednesday in March at noon in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library and are free and open to the public.

Remembering the Holocaust - The Path to Nazi Genocide, a USHMM Film
March 26
This 38-minute film examines the Nazis' rise and consolidation of power in Germany. Using rare footage, the film explores their ideology, propaganda, and persecution of Jews and other victims. It also outlines the path by which the Nazis and their collaborators led a state to war and to the murder of millions of people. By providing a concise overview of the Holocaust and those involved, this resource is intended to provide reflection and discussion about the role of ordinary people, institutions, and nations between 1918 and 1945.

Learning to Type

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 3:42pm

Learning to type will take a lot of self-discipline and patience. It is important that you do not get frustrated. You need to view the process as a skill you are attempting to master. It takes practice to achieve good technique. It is also important that you establish the foundation of having the correct technique rather than speed. Speed and accuracy are results of establishing a good technique.

Tips for Typing
  • Memorize the letters by not looking at your hands while typing.
  • Good posture helps your form. Keep your feet flat on floor, hips touching the back of chair, back straight, and sit up tall.
  • Additionally, the way you position your arms, wrist, and fingers will help deter any discomfort from typing. Remember to keep your fingers curved, arms close to body, and wrists straight and not touching keyboard.
  • Strike the keys with the proper finger, and then return those fingers to home row keys.
Rhythm – You will eventually learn and develop a good rhythm. This will hopefully keep you from potential tension and anxiety, and it may even minimize mistakes. Instead of focusing on a “quick where is the next” letter approach, an even rhythm will allow you to focus on what to type. If you slow down to achieve an even rhythm, you will find that you actually speed up.

Errors – The acceptable number of typing errors is one error per minute, regardless of how fast you type. Of course, as a beginner, expect to have more. These numbers will lower as you learn to master keyboarding.WPM – This stands for “words per minute” typing rate. A word is considered to be on average of five keystrokes, including spaces. If you type 50 keystrokes per minute, your typing rate is 10 wpm.Note: A speed of 40 wpm is the basic minimum standard required by many employers and government positions. Effective typing speeds should be at least three to four times your handwriting speed.April 2014 Class RegistrationRegistration is now open for staff and the public for the April 2014 Regional Library Computer Center classes. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) LibraryPRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.Other classes offered are:
  • Creating Labels and Envelopes in Word 2010 (Advanced)
  • Working with Images in Word 2010 (Advanced)
  • Removing Background Images in Word 2010 (Intermediate)
To register for classes, you may:
  • Visit the Computer Commons department at the Central Library and obtain a copy of the class schedule. Fill it out and return to a Computer Commons staff.
  • Register online through the RLCC website. Please allow 2 to 4 business days for registration confirmation.
Space is limited for each class, and registration does not guarantee you a space. If you register for a class, please make all efforts to attend. Repeated “no shows” could affect your registration eligibility for future classes. If you register for a class and cannot attend, call Public Computer Services at (205) 226-3680 or 226-3681 as soon as possible. Please pay close attention to the class times. No one will be admitted after 5 minutes past the time class is scheduled to start. Classes are provided by the Birmingham Public Library.

Top Teen Poets to Compete in Poetry Slam at the Birmingham Public Library on April 6

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 3:39pm

First place winner Eboni Wallace performs at WORD UP! 2013.
Watch other WORD UP! performances on BPL's YouTube channel.
Students from 13 high schools in Jefferson County will compete in a poetry slam on Sunday, April 6, at 3:00 p.m. in the Birmingham Public Library’s Arrington Auditorium. The event is free.

Known as WORD UP! 2014, the event allows teenagers to showcase their spoken word skills. This is the seventh year for the competition. Students in grades 9 through 12 write and perform an original work of poetry inspired by a theme selected by the WORD UP! planning committee. The WORD UP! 2014 theme is “community.” Earlier this year, participating high schools held preliminary contests at their schools. The schools' winners will face off on April 6.

On April 6, a panel of three judges will judge contestants on content and performance. The first place winner will receive $300, second place $200 and third place $150. The slam is sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library and Real Life Poets, a nonprofit creative writing organization based in Birmingham.

John Paul TaylorJohn Paul Taylor, co-founder and director of RLP, says WORD UP! gives students an opportunity to express themselves on a local level, which in turn, exposes them and their talents on a national level. “I’m so proud of them,’’ says Taylor. “I just returned from a San Francisco poetry conference. They were impressed with RLP and what we are doing in the community. We continue to put Birmingham on a national map.’’

In 2013, several past WORD UP! winners were part of a team of Birmingham-area students who went to Chicago to compete in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Competition, the worldwide standard in spoken word poetry competitions for teens since 1998. It was the first time Birmingham had been represented. The team advanced to the semifinals, a feat almost unheard of for first-time teams.

The Birmingham team impressed the BNV sponsors so much that Birmingham was invited to compete in the BNV 2014 in Philadelphia, July 16 -20. The library and RLP will help sponsor a spoken word team to compete in this year’s BNV competition.

Eboni Wallace, a senior at Tarrant High School, says the poetry slam has been a life-changing experience for her. She’s won first place in WORD UP! for the past two years. She was also a member of Team #KnowDisclaimer. Tarrant High School teacher Beth Sanders says that WORD UP! has opened doors to opportunities for genuine expression for her as an educator and for her students.

Tarrant will be one of 13 high schools to compete on April 6. The other schools include: Birmingham’s Ramsay, Wenonah, and Woodlawn; Jefferson County’s Center Point, Clay-Chalkville, McAdory, Minor, and Shades Valley; Alabama School of Fine Arts; Hewitt-Trussville; Holy Family Cristo Rey; and Leeds.

Word UP! 2014 is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, call 226-3670 or visit

NOTE: RLP hosts teen poetry workshops every Saturday at the downtown Birmingham library’s Story Castle from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. A teen poetry open mic is held every third Saturday at the Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO) in Woodlawn, 5500 First Ave. North. For the teen open mic, doors open at 6:00 p.m. and performances are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. An adult poetry workshop is held every first Tuesday in the Story Castle from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. All events are free.

Audiobooks Make the Holiday Road Bearable

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 8:07am

Spring break is coming up and many families will be hitting the road to visit relatives or go to the beach. Those long road trips can get on anybody’s nerves. Why not stop by the library and pick up an audio book to entertain everyone on the trip?

We have this year’s Newbery-winning book Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, which is a great family listen. The Newbery Medal award is given to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" each year. This is a second win for this year's winner Kate DiCamillo. Jim Dale will keep the family thoroughly entertained with his skillful rendition of the Harry Potter series for those who have not read the books. Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to not Reading is a hilarious tale of the lengths to which a boy will go to not read a book that will leave the whole family laughing.

You can find these titles and many others on CDs or as downloadable audio books at your library, so check some out for those long road trips. They will make your drive as fun as the rest of your vacation.

Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West Library

Birmingham Public Library to Host Holocaust Lecture Series in March

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 9:49am
When the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center started in 2002, there were about 35 Holocaust survivors living in Birmingham. Today, there are about 16 in Birmingham. Just a few days ago, the oldest known-living Holocaust survivor died at the age of 110 in London.

The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and the Birmingham Public Library realize the last-living Holocaust survivors are dying more and more every year, which is why they continue to keep survivors and their stories before the public. Every Wednesday in March at 12 p.m., the two groups will present a Holocaust lecture in the Arrington Auditorium of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place. The lectures are free.

“We are doing what we can to preserve the history and the knowledge,’’ says Phyllis Weinstein, president of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. “Even people who feel like they know about the Holocaust can always learn something new.’’ (The Birmingham Holocaust Education Center is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to keeping the history and the lessons of the Holocaust alive.)

The lectures will be held on March 5, 12, 19, and 26. Survivors will speak on March 12 and 19.

Robert May. Camberg, Germany, 1932.  The March 5 speaker will be Shades Valley history teacher Amy McDonald, who’s received national recognition—the Robert I. Goldman Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous—for her Holocaust education program. She will share her deep commitment and reasons for teaching the Holocaust.

On March 12, Ann Mollengarden will host a discussion with her 88-year-old father, physician Robert May of Birmingham. They will discuss his experience in Nazi Germany. “Many people think of Holocaust survivors only in terms of Nazi ghettos and concentration camps. But a Holocaust survivor is anyone who experienced life under Nazi domination,’’ says Mollengarden, education vice president of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center.

On March 19, Max Herzel, 83, will speak. He had at least 13 relatives to perish in concentration camps. He will share postcards, a diary he kept, and materials he’s never shared about his past. He escaped from Belgium when he was 10.

Max Herzel. Villards sur Boege, France, 1943.“We are really, right now, delving deeper into their stories. The two survivors will be revealing more personal stories,’’ says Mollengarden. “It’s vital that we document these experiences so that future generations can learn from these past experiences.’’

“This is the last generation that will be able to give first-hand accounts of their stories,’’ says Mollengarden. “You may not get another opportunity to ask those personal questions from the Holocaust survivors.’’

March 26 will feature the screening of the new, 38-minute film The Path to Nazi Genocide. Using rare footage, the film examines the Nazis’ rise and consolidation of power in Germany. It also explores the Nazis’ ideology, propaganda, and persecution of Jews and other victims.

This is the 10th year the center and the library have partnered on the series. Past events have included exhibits, display windows, and workshops. For more information about the center, please visit For more information about the library, visit

Empowerment Workshops for Women Scheduled at BPL During Women's History Month

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 9:44am
Eunice Elliott"Living the Dream 2014: Finding, Chasing and Gaining Your Bliss"
Pratt City Library, Saturday March 29, 2:30 p.m.

Alabama's 13 traffic reporter and motivational speaker Eunice Elliott will deliver inspiring words during “Living the Dream 2014: Finding, Chasing and Gaining Your Bliss.'' Women's History Month is about recognizing amazing women and their achievements. Eunice's messages of encouragement will push women and men to make their own history. Free and open to the public.

Marcus Lundy"Power in Heels" - A Business Empowerment Workshop for Women
Central Library, Arrington Auditorium, Friday, March 28, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

City Councilman Marcus Lundy and the nonprofit organization Operation HOPE will present "Power in Heels," a business empowerment workshop designed for female entrepreneurs and the working woman. Topics will focus on networking and dressing for the office. This workshop will offer tips on how to make a good first impression. Come to this event to meet experts to help you with personal branding and how it can open doors in business. The event is free and lunch will be served. For more information and to reserve your spot, contact Latanya Millhouse at 706-3671 or