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Illuminations in Poured Color: Paintings by Starr Weems

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 2:44pm
February 27 – April 11, 2014, Fourth Floor Gallery, Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park PlaceOpening reception Sunday March 2, 3;00 to 5:00 p.m., Boardroom, Fourth FloorFree workshop Sunday, March 30, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Storycastle, Second Floor. Registration required; call 226-3670.
The work of Alabama artist Starr Weems will be on display from February 27 to April 11, 2014 in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Central Library. The opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Sunday, March 2 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Boardroom on the Fourth Floor. 
Starry Night“I enjoy making art that represents the collision of reality and the fanciful world of dreams. My preferred medium is transparent watercolor, poured in layers over drawing gum. I create high-contrast images that are bathed in light. Vibrant colors mingle and overlap, creating a magical feeling that reflects my thoughts on spirituality and the enjoyment of life. ”
Weems enjoys designing colorful, dreamlike paintings with watercolor. She works using an unusual process which consists of layering drawing gum and transparent color to build high-contrast images. She has had shows at Kentuck Museum, Lowe Mill and Huntsville Public Library's Atrium gallery. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and exhibits throughout the Southeast. She makes use of her M.Ed. from Auburn by teaching art and foreign language to the creative and intelligent teenagers of Ardmore High School. She gets her best ideas from her children, Kharma and Rio. Visit her at or connect with her on Facebook at Starr Weems Fine Art.
On Sunday, March 30 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Weems will teach the method of watercolor pouring that she uses to create her artwork. The workshop will be held in the storycastle on the second floor of the Central Library. The class is free, but registration is required. Call 226-3670 to reserve your spot.

9-1-1 Emergency, How May I Help You?

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 4:25pm

Due to a family funeral, I recently made a trip to my parents’ hometown Haleyville, Alabama. Haleyville is a small town in the northwest quadrant of Alabama. Although it may not be a major metropolis, its proud history includes something many of us take for granted: being the home of 9-1-1.

In 1968 B.W. Gallagher, President of Alabama Telephone Company, was inspired by an article he read in The Wall Street Journal. The article stated that the president of AT&T, which was the major telephone carrier at the time, and the Federal Communications Commission were announcing 9-1-1 to be the nationwide emergency number. Gallagher wanted to make the Alabama Telephone Company the first to implement the new 9-1-1 system—it was his competitive spirit. Gallagher consulted with Robert Fitzgerald, inside plant manager for the Alabama Telephone Company, who examined schematics of the company’s 27 exchanges. Fitzgerald suggested Haleyville because its existing equipment was best suited to be quickly converted to receive 9-1-1 calls. In less than a week Fitzgerald designed and installed the first 9-1-1 system. Haleyville introduced the nation’s first 9-1-1 system, which was located at the police station.

On February 16, 1968, Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite made the first call from Haleyville’s city hall. It was answered by Congressman Tom Bevill on a bright red telephone. While the official red 9-1-1 telephone now resides in a museum in Haleyville, a duplicate phone is still in use today. Happy 46th Birthday, 9-1-1!

Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

Book Review: In the Blood

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 11:36am

In the Blood by Lisa Unger is an addictive read that will keep one reading into the night. Even while finishing it, one still wonders what secrets might be revealed before the ending.
In this book, we meet Lana Granger who's about to graduate from the University in a little place called the Hollows in upstate New York. As she realizes that she is about to become an adult, she takes a job to prepare herself. Her job is takes care of an eleven-year-old boy named Luke. Luke is an extremely troubled and manipulative child. Soon a mental contest begins between the two in the form of a scavenger hunt. At the same time Lana's best friend disappears. Lana continues lying at all cost to prevent her biggest secret from being revealed. Only Lana is not the only one who knows her secret, and the other person can’t wait for the truth to come out.
Barbara HuttoYouth  DepartmentCentral Library

Reception for Local Artist Joyce E. Brooks at Central Library, February 18

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 5:17pm
Joyce BrooksIn 2008, everything was rush, rush, rush for Joyce E. Brooks until a breast cancer diagnosis forced her to step back and reevaluate how she managed her time.

No longer would she let days full of demanding work deadlines, carrying take out food home to her family and long work hours run her. She had to take control.

In 2009, she was declared cancer-free and wrote a book about how to overcome stress. In the 2010, she discovered her ability to paint. With paintbrush in hand, she found her peace.

Now, she’s sharing that “peace’’ with others through an exhibit on the first floor of the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Release of the Inner Artist will be up through March 29. It features landscapes, folk art, and abstracts.

On Tuesday, February 18 from 5:00-7:00 p.m., Brooks will have a reception and sign copies of her book, Self-Inflicted Overload: Five Steps to Achieving Work-Life Balance and Becoming Your Very Best. Her books and paintings will be for sale.

She’ll give a brief talk about the importance of having a balanced life and how she set the reset button in her life. Painting played a big role in that.

Brooks is married to Birmingham Fire Chief Ivor Brooks, is a mother of four, a grandmother to one, and is an active member of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

For more information about Brooks, an electrical engineer now running her own consulting firm, visit or

Get Up Close and Personal with Artist Amy Pleasant

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 4:47pm
Where do artists get their inspiration? For Birmingham artist Amy Pleasant, she often gets inspired by materials at this library.

On Tuesday, February 25 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., Pleasant will be in the First Floor Conference Room at the Central Library and talk about her drawings to interested visitors thus giving them an opportunity to engage with the artist one on one and interact with works of art in an intimate way. It will provide an “open studio” environment in the library, which allows for open discussion and hands-on experience. The visitors will be able to hold the drawings as they would a book. There are not many opportunities for people to interact with artists and artworks in this way, and a deeper understanding can occur because of the ability to talk to an artist while standing in front of the works and also by looking at original works of art, not reproductions.

 “The project will be a way for me to share my process and how the source material for a lot of my work comes from the books in this very library. I would like to have available alongside my work the books that I refer to on a regular basis. This will also demonstrate the connection between the library and the studio,” states Pleasant. “The museum or gallery experience is very different and most of the public may feel outside of the cultural dialog in Birmingham… I feel this event could create a sense of connectedness with the community. There is a lot of mystery involved with the idea of the artist in the studio and this will open up that mystery and make it available to all who are present.”

 Pleasant is a member of the Viewing Program artist registry at The Drawing Center, New York. Established in 1977, the Viewing Program offers emerging artists around the world the opportunity to include their work in a curated artist registry that is consulted by a wide variety of arts professionals: curators, gallerists, and collectors. The Drawing Center suggests the program On the Table to the members of the Viewing Program as an opportunity for artists to show work outside of conventional exhibition spaces.

Pleasant received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from The Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA. She has held solo exhibitions at various locations including Jeff Bailey Gallery, NY, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her work has been included in group exhibitions in venues such as The Hunter Museum of American Art, The Weatherspoon Museum of Art, The National Museum for Women in the Arts, The Mobile Museum of Art, and The U.S. Embassy, Prague, Czech Republic. Pleasant’s work has been reviewed in publications such as Art in America, Art Papers, The Commercial Appeal and She currently lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama and is represented by Jeff Bailey Gallery, NYC and whitespace gallery in Atlanta, GA.

Amy Pleasant--On the Table--in Collaboration with The Drawing Center, NYCTuesday, February 25, 2014, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place
First Floor Conference RoomFor more information, call 226-3670.

Lois Wilson Exhibit Ends Its Run at BPL on February 21

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 3:56pm

The exhibit Ladies, Gentlemen and Bazards: The Art of Lois Wilson will be on display in the Central Library's Fourth Floor Gallery through Friday, February 21, 2014. Featuring a little known Alabama artist who died in 1980, the exhibit focuses on Wilson’s “found art” where she used wood that she scavenged from demolition sites, parts of furniture that she disassembled, old brushes, ironing boards, toilet seats, and left over food for coloring to take the trash that other people discarded and create art. The art illustrates the issues that were important to Wilson: environmentalism and conservation, racism, spiritualism, the needs of the aged and homeless, and the emptiness of modern American materialism.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Jim Baggett at or 205-226-3631.

Hey Jack, Help Me Transition to Reading Chapter Books!

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 11:27am

Do you have or know a child who is transitioning to reading chapter books? Well, if you do the Birmingham Public Library has just the series for you. Sally Rippin, the author of the Hey Jack series, has creatively and successfully combined context and comprehension in the series making the transition to chapter books smoother for young readers.

Each book in the Hey Jack series, which is a spin off to the Billy B. Brown series, is narrated by young Jack himself and presents young readers with identifiable plots, humor, and a variety of emotions. His encounters are similar to those that children his age experience, and though he is a boy, his encounters are relatable to girls as well. Jack even demonstrates alternative ways to handle situations that result in positive outcomes and that may help a young reader facing a similar issue. Each book contains only three chapters with no more than 50 pages providing young readers with a great sense of accomplishment after finishing book. The illustrations are simple, but do an excellent job in reiterating comprehension and providing accurate imagery.
The Hey Jack series is a wonderful way to introduce children to chapter books and has the potential of even winning over reluctant readers. Get young readers excited about their reading journey. Check it out!

Hey Jack! Books
The Circus Lesson 
The Bumpy Ride Ride 
The Worse Sleepover 
The Robot Blues
The Winning Goal
The Scary Solo
The Worry Monster
The New Friend
The Crazy Cousins

Karnecia Williams
Inglnook Library

BPL To Open at 11.00 A.M. February 13

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 8:39am
All Birmingham Public Library locations will open to the public at 11:00 a.m.

BPL Closed February 12

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 9:51pm
All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will be closed on Wednesday, February 12, due to the ongoing threat of inclement weather.

The DSM-5 Arrivest at BPL

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 11:00am
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, better known as DSM-5, is the 2013 update to the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) classification and diagnostic tool. In the US, it is the universal standard for all psychiatric disorder diagnoses. Treatments, as well as payment by insurance providers are determined by their DSM classification.

It replaces the DSM–IV, which was published in 2000. Some of the notable changes to the DSM-5 are the removal of Asperger syndrome and autism as distinctive disorders and their combination with several other disorders under the new title, Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The DSM-5 chapter on anxiety disorder no longer includes obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (which is included with the obsessive-compulsive and related disorders), or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder (which is included with the trauma- and stressor-related disorders).

If you would like to use this extremely important reference, the Five Points West Regional Library owns a copy. It is not for checkout, but may be photocopied. We also still have the DMS-IV. Please drop by the Information desk if you are interested.

Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Library

BPL Closing at 5:00 P.M. on February 10

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 5:31pm
All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will close at 5:00 p.m. today due to the threat of inclement weather.

Movie Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 3:44pm

In the year 1900, a girls’ high school in an underpopulated area in Australia goes for a rare outing, a picnic, to be held at Hanging Rock, halfway into the bush. While there, four girls start to climb the Rock to the top. They disappear. The school panics. A search, with police and bloodhounds, is conducted. It’s unsuccessful. After a couple more days, two teenage boys do their own search. They discover and rescue one of the girls, now near death. The found girl remembers nothing of the trek up the Rock. The other girls haze her, accusing her of mischief, murder. Is she holding back information? The school, and community near it, emotionally implodes. The rigid principal (who in profile is a dead ringer for Tenniel’s Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland) loses it and starts to drink. One young woman, who had been in love with Miranda, one of the missing girls, becomes inconsolable, and disconnects. Flashbacks of Miranda climbing the Rock suggest an angel ascending into the beyond. Time passes. Hanging Rock becomes a makeshift tourist spot.

This sublime movie, directed by Peter Weir, was based on a novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay. The author would never say whether or not the novel was based on a true story.

Virtually everything works here. Directing, cast performances, cinematography, script, music- all conspire to create a mood and a story that is near perfect. Take music, for instance. Zamfir’s panpipes (which would go on to blight so much in the later seventies and eighties) are perfectly lean and sparse in the movie. They illustrate, and heighten, the heat of the outback and the mystery. Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto’s slow movement, with its lyrical, meditative and upward-moving progression, greatly enhances the girls’ progress up the Rock. Camerawork expertly conveys the harshness of the land and the cloistered nature of the school.

There are several qualities in Picnic that bring to mind Forster’s A Passage To India, aside from the obvious Europeans maladjusting to the colonies setting. That novel’s Adela Quested is overwhelmed by the Marabar Caves, especially their overpowering echo. Picnic’s girls are apparently swallowed up by Hanging Rock, and the soundtrack features at crucial points the sound of a gigantic boulder rolling by, which is more or less how Forster described the sound in Adela’s troubled head. There is also a moment, on the trip to the Rock, when a teacher, noting the extreme age of same, states that, by comparison, human lives are insubstantial, even meaningless. This recalls Passage’s Mrs. Moore who, also disturbed by the Marabar Caves, exclaims that life may have no meaning. I don’t want to go on too much about this; you certainly don’t need to have read A Passage To India to fall under the spell of Picnic at Hanging Rock. A more direct ancestor to the movie may be Deliverance, which came out a couple of years before and which dealt in similar themes of innocence lost, mourning and the implacability of nature. Michael, dressed in the English manner with top hat and kid gloves (could anything be less appropriate for the bush?), co-leads the second search for the girls and ends up ragged, almost mad. Nature will not be denied.

What did happen? Were the girls kidnapped? Murdered? Did they fall down a hidden crevice? Were supernatural forces involved? We don’t know. Sarah, the girl in love with Miranda, recalls her saying, before they left for the picnic, “I won’t be here much longer.” How much should we read into this? Does it matter? There is something powerfully eldritch and numinous about Picnic At Hanging Rock. A mixture of wonder, dread, frustration and helplessness fills the movie.

The cicadas buzz. The panpipes play. The sun beats down. The clocks in the school tick. The questions continue to come, but no answers do. It brings to mind the Bob Dylan lyric: “Nothing was delivered/ And I tell this truth to you/ Not out of spite or anger/ But simply because it’s true…”

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Pratt City Branch Library Reopens - A Look Inside

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 11:25am

The Pratt City Library, which was destroyed in an April 27, 2011 tornado, has been rebuilt and will reopen on Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. Mayor William A. Bell, Sr., Birmingham Public Library Director Renee Blalock and several others are slated to speak during the grand reopening ceremony. 

The Dirt on the Cleaners

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 3:58pm
Can’t get enough of Downton Abbey? Wonder what it was really like to be “in service” in England? BPL has the answers! Check out any of these titles to get the inside scoop on the real lives of servants from the aristocratic butlers to the lowly tweenys:

If you like your dirt in scholarly form (but still an entertaining read), look into Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times.

And if you like a little Austen with your curiosity, check out Longbourn by Jo Baker. It’s Pride and Prejudice viewed from the servants’ hall, and a real eye-opener. Where gentlemen reside there are also “gentleman's gentlemen” and romance and misalliances are not limited to the posh set.

Kelley Laney
Springville Road Library

From the Linn-Henley Basement to the World

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 12:27pm

On Sunday, February 9, C-SPAN television will feature the Birmingham Public Library’s Department of Archives and Manuscripts on its American Artifacts series. C-SPAN draws 47 million viewers each week on all major U.S. cable networks and in 90 countries around the world.

American Artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums, and historic sites to see items from history and explore the stories behind those items.

The program will air at 7:00 a.m., 6:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. on C-SPAN3 and will be available on the C-SPAN website.

For more information on the American Artifacts series and to view previous episodes visit

Jim Baggett
Archives Department
Central Library

BPL Closing at 3:00 P.M. on February 6

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 3:43pm
Due to the threat of inclement weather all locations of the Birmingham Public Library will be closing at 3:00 p.m. today.

Release of the Inner Artist Exhibit at Central Library Through March 29

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 1:28pm

Don’t miss . . .

The Release of the Inner Artist

Paintings by Joyce E. Brooks are on display on the first floor of the Birmingham Public Library’s Central location from now until March 29.

Ms. Brooks’ website says it best:

Once Joyce E. Brooks managed to minimize the overload, achieve balance and gain some much deserved peace, she discovered a hidden gift deep inside of her. Joyce had never given any thought to becoming an artist. In 2010, after attending an event that included painting on canvass for entertainment, she stumbled upon a new passion. She began painting with acrylics and hasn’t stopped.

Joyce E. Brooks is also the author of the book titled Self-Inflicted Overload.

This month Joyce is celebrating being cancer-free for five years. Since being declared cancer-free in 2009, Joyce has become an artist, author, stress awareness expert, and a “mompreneur.” Joyce says, “Being diagnosed with breast cancer has been a life challenging experience. What could have been devastating has turned out to be a blessing!” Watch an interview with Brooks conducted by Alabama's 13's Ashley Roberts.

Come to the show and view the beautiful canvasses that reflect the artist within.

Come back on Tuesday, February 18, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. for a reception and meet the artist, herself. Self-Inflicted Overload will be available for purchase and signing. The paintings are also available for purchase.

Time is ticking . . . don’t miss out . . .

Come to the show.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Black Heritage Genealogy Fair, February 8

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 12:02pm
Students at St. Mark's Academic and Industrial School, 1931
BPL Digital Collections
Discover your past and forge toward the future during the Black Heritage Genealogy Fair on February 8 at Central Library, Arrington Auditorium. Presented by the Birmingham African-American Genealogy Study Group, the event will feature an exhibit from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., and program with guest speakers from 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Sochi 2014

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 10:51am

There has  been a lot of press coverage about the Sochi Winter Olympics and the Games haven’t even started yet.  Unfortunately, politics has overshadowed one of the best representations of international cooperation and sportsmanship the world gets to witness.  Hopefully, this will all change once the XXII Olympic Winter Games get under way.  The Games will take place February 7-23.
My favorite memory from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was the Men’s Halfpipe competition.  Shaun White was the last snowboarder to take his run during the final round.   The broadcasters kept talking about a new trick Shaun had mastered and were wondering if he would pull it out since he already had the lead going into this run.  Shaun dropped into the halfpipe and rather than doing a trick on the first wall like his competitors, he went for big air.  When he crested the other side, I swear he went so high, I thought he’d be at the end of the course when he came back down.  On the last wall of his run, he nailed the difficult trick the broadcasters were talking about.  The crowd erupted, Shaun finished with his hands in the air and pumped his fist.
I’m sure you have some favorite memories from past Winter Games.  The movie Miracle  is about the miraculous U.S Hockey team win over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid (1980).  How about Nancy Kerrigan winning the silver medal for figure skating in Lillehammer (1994) after having her knee bashed before the competition.  Birmingham’s own Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics by earning gold for two-woman bobsleigh in Salt Lake City (2002).  I personally developed a huge interest in short track speed skating  watching Apolo Ohno compete in Salt Lake City and Turin (2006).  I always cheer for Team USA, but NBC does such a great job profiling the athletes, you want each of them to win so much more.   
Sochi 2014 will provide its own historical moments and great memories. Between events, take a look at the Olympic Games subject guide to discover books, websites, and other information about the Olympics. Enjoy the next two weeks.

Pratt City Library's Reopening Scheduled for February 10

Wed, 02/05/2014 - 3:33pm

The Pratt City Branch Library, which was severely damaged in an April 27, 2011, tornado, has been rebuilt and will reopen on February 10 at 10:00 a.m. with a grand reopening ceremony and reception. A new library feature is a storm shelter with reinforced concrete walls.

"The new building not only has a safe room, but has been strengthened in other ways to withstand high winds,'' says Renee Blalock, director of the Birmingham Public Library. "The design is not only practical, but also beautiful. The staff looks forward to providing improved services to friends and patrons in Pratt City.''

When the tornado hit, the library’s steel frame was one of the only salvageable parts left of a building that was built in 1993. During the planning process to rebuild, the City of Birmingham insisted that a storm shelter be incorporated into the new design. The goal was to provide protection from future tornadoes and wind events. During the February 10 reopening ceremony, Mayor William A. Bell, Sr., U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, city council members, and others are scheduled to speak. The public is invited to attend.

"We are very excited that the Birmingham Public Library will once again be providing library services to the citizens of Pratt City,'' says Blalock.

Other features include a terrazzo floor marked with major Pratt City landmarks, new study rooms, a business center, and youth and teen areas accented with bright and inviting colors. The branch's collection has more than 7, 000 items. The library is at Dugan Avenue and Hibernian Street. Crews and library staff are working to put the finishing touches on the library for the Jan. 30 opening.

The Pratt City Branch Library is one of 19 locations within the Birmingham Public Library system.