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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.

Bards & Brews Open Mic Event Hosted by Five Points West Library, February 7

Wed, 02/05/2014 - 1:40pm
Sampling local beer at the January 3 B&B Slam! at Avondale Library
Visit the Bards & Brews page on Facebook
The Five Points West Library hosts the next Bards & Brews Open Mic on Friday, February 7, 2014. Music is by Elliot Cleverdon, 6:30-7:00 p.m. Performances start at 7:00 p.m. The event is free to attend and is open to the public. Must be 18 and up to attend and 21 to participate. Beer tasting will be provided by Blue Pants Brewery. ID required. Refreshments will be served.

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

LifeSouth Blood Drive at Central Library

Wed, 02/05/2014 - 12:26pm

On Monday, February 10, LifeSouth will be doing a blood drive at the Central Library's Story Castle from noon till 5:00 p.m. Because of the recent snow, blood is at a winter low and is desperately needed. Please consider donating. All donors will receive a baseball hat and be put in a drawing for a new Play Station 4.

Twitter Haiku Contest! (#bplhaiku)

Wed, 02/05/2014 - 10:09am
Hosting haiku compOpen to AL residentsPoems in the spring. 
From February 23rd through March 15th, BPL will be sponsoring a Twitter Haiku Contest!

In conjuntion with the Japan America Society of Alabama (JASA) and the Southeast Chapter of the Haiku Society of America (HSA) the contest will be part of the annual Sakura Festival, the primary event of which will take place at the Japanese Gardens 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 begins 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. 
  • Haikus must be tagged with #bplhaiku to be eligible.
  • The winner in each division will be announced via the library Twitter @bpl early the following week.
  • Contestants may only win once.
Complete rules found here. 

    Five Points West Regional Library Celebrates Ten Years

    Mon, 02/03/2014 - 12:54pm
    An exhibit at Five Points West Library of photographs from every location in its 85-year history.
    The Five Points West Regional Library (formerly the Central Park Library) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary at its current location. The library will host an open house to celebrate the occasion on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. The open house will be held from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

    The library was first established in the 1930s on the upper floor of Birmingham Fire Station No. 24. Since then it was moved to the Central Park Recreation Center, to a building on Bessemer Road, to the former Britling West cafeteria on Avenue V, and finally to its current location at the Five Points West Municipal Center.

    The current library, designed by Giattina Fisher Aycock, opened in 2004. The building includes half of the old Food Fair/Zayre store building from Five Points West Shopping City which was partially demolished.

    The library was home to the monumental Antelumpen sculpture, created in 1997 by sculptor Zachary Coffin. It was lent by the Birmingham Museum of Art for display at the library in 2010. Coffin's sculpture was damaged at the library site during the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak. It was removed from the grounds on July 1, 2011.

    Historical Timeline for the Central Park/Five Points West Regional Library
    1928 - The Forthian Club sponsored a one-room library in Fire Station Number 24.
    1934  - The library was named the Virginia Harmon Library in honor of a founder of the
    Forthian Club.
    1938 - The library moved to the Central Park Community Center and became a branch of
    The Birmingham Public Library.
    1942 - Birmingham newspaper reported that the Central Park library circulated more
    books than any other branch public library in the city.
    1983 - The Five Points West regional branch opened on the site of the old Britling
    Cafeteria West, completing the Library Board’s 1981 plan to build three large
    Regional branches.
    2004 - In January the new Five Points West Regional Branch opened on the site of an abandoned grocery store. The facility has 30,000 square feet for library materials, children’s services, computers, offices, workspace, and a 150-seat auditorium.

    Among the most recent improvements at the library is the new Computer Commons. With the addition of 15 new computers purchased through an LSTA grant, Five Points West now has a total of 40 computers available for public use. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is a United States federal library grant program designed to help libraries with their technology infrastructure needs. The new computers also allow us to offer more computer classes. We are now able to offer a wider range of class times, including some afternoon courses.

    With over 85 years of library service to the western area of Birmingham, the Five Points West Regional Library will continue in its commitment to serve the community. The sun continues to shine brightly on the library.

    Lorraine Walker
    Five Points West Library

    Children's Book Review: Mr. Wuffles!

    Mon, 02/03/2014 - 9:09am

    Mr. Wuffles!
    David Wiesner

    After reading this book, no cat's toy will ever look the same.

    Among Mr. Wuffles' toys, there is a new one, different from all the rest. It's similar to a spinning top, and there appears to be a small creature (about the size of an ant) peering through a slit. These aliens are here to peacefully explore earth, but unfortunately, their first contact is Mr. Wuffl‏es.

    Wiesner's artwork reveals even more layers of the story each time one views a page making this a book even adult will want to return to. Mr.Wiesner is only the second person to win the Caldecott Medal three times.

    Barbara Hutto
    Youth Department
    Central Library

    Local Authors Expo, February 1

    Fri, 01/31/2014 - 9:00am
    Click image to enlargeNearly 100 authors are scheduled to showcase their written works during the Local Authors Expo and Book Fair on February 1, 9:00  a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Central Library. The event is free and open to the public.

    The event provides an outlet for authors, many of them self-published, to sell their books and to network. But it also gives library patrons an opportunity to discover new talent and talk to authors about their writing style and writing journey. Book topics include Birmingham and Alabama history, civil rights, poetry, memoirs, devotionals, relationships, inspiration and motivation, self-help, children’s fiction, Christian fiction, teen fiction, fantasy, romance, thrillers, science fiction, and historical fiction.

    The Expo will have two writing sessions in the Arrington Auditorium. The sessions are free and don’t require advance registration.

    The Local Authors Expo is presented by the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library, a nonprofit association that supports Birmingham Public Library special needs by providing volunteer and financial resources.

    For more information and to see a list of the 2014 authors, visit

    Photos from the 2013 Authors Expo can be found on the library’s Flickr account:

    BPL Closed Wednesday, January 29

    Tue, 01/28/2014 - 11:09pm
    All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will be closed Wednesday, January 29 due to inclement weather. Stay safe!

    Participate in the City's Comprehensive Plan

    Tue, 01/28/2014 - 12:25pm
    Birmingham is in the process of creating a comprehensive plan for the city and is asking for citizen input. Framework plans focusing on issues, growth, and development specific to neighborhoods within each community are needed. Make your voice heard for the future of your community by participating.


    North Birmingham
    Location: Trinity CME Church
    Date: Thursday, February 6
    Time: 6:00-8:00 p.m.

    Location: Sixth Avenue Baptist Church
    Date: Monday, February 10
    Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

    Western Area
    Location: Five Points West Library
    Date: Saturday, February 1
    Time: 10:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

    New Birmingham Public Library Exhibit Features Discarded Trash Turned Into Treasured Works of Art

    Tue, 01/28/2014 - 11:01am

    The Birmingham Public Library has a new exhibit that highlights the work of Fayette, Alabama, artist Lois Wilson, who took discarded pieces of trash and turned them into treasures. Ladies, Gentlemen and Bazards: The Art of Lois Wilson will be on display through February 21, 2014, in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Central Library. The exhibit is free.

    The exhibit focuses on Wilson’s “found art,” which includes pieces made of wood that Wilson scavenged from demolition sites, parts of furniture she disassembled, old brushes, ironing boards, and toilet seats. She used left over food for coloring. 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. Wilson died in 1980. The pieces are on loan from the Fayette Art Museum in Fayette.

    “Bazard,”pronounced buh-zard, is a made-up word that conveys how Wilson saw herself, which is as “a bizarre person, an oddball, an outsider,’’ says Jim Baggett, Birmingham Public Library archivist. “She very much was a person who felt like she did not fit in modern society. Clearly, her artwork illustrates that,’’ says Baggett.

    Now through February 21, people may give their own definition of a “bazard’’ and drop it into a box in the gallery. The best and most creative answer will win a prize.

    Laquita Thomson, courtesy of Diego RojasLaquita Thomson, associate professor of fine arts at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, will give a free talk and gallery tour on February 2 at 3:00 p.m. The talk, “Alabama Mystic or Alabama Outsider: The Art of Lois Wilson,” will be held in the Arrington Auditorium at the downtown library. She will then give a guided tour of the gallery. An artist, Thomson has exhibited widely for the past 35 years. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, the Huntsville Museum of Art, the Mobile Museum of Art, and the Georgia Museum of Art.

    For more information, call Jim Baggett at (205) 226-3631.

    Immunity against Alabama’s Changing Weather

    Sat, 01/25/2014 - 12:00pm

    Alabama’s weather can be very unpredictable and easy to get sick in. One day the weather can be so beautiful that it would almost be a sin to sit inside and do nothing. On another day, many times the very next day, the weather can be so frightful that you wouldn’t even want to look outside. Weather changes can play a role in lowering our immune systems’ ability to fight against germs and diseases. So how can we protect ourselves from this crazy Alabama weather? Below, in article titled 6 Immune System Busters & Boosters, WebMD explains how our lifestyles can negatively affect our immune system and how changes can be made to improve it. Following the article are pertinent books that you can find in the Birmingham Public Library. Hopefully, after reading this information we’ll be better prepared for whatever Alabama’s weather throws our way.

    6 Immune System Busters & Boosters
    1. You're short on sleep.
    Not getting enough sleep can lead to higher levels of a stress hormone. It may also lead to more inflammation in your body. Although researchers aren’t exactly sure how sleep boosts the immune system, it’s clear that getting enough – usually 7 to 9 hours for an adult – is key for good health.

    2. You don't exercise.
    Try to get regular, moderate exercise, like a daily 30-minute walk. It can help your immune system fight infection. If you don't exercise, you're more likely to get colds, for example, than someone who exercises. Exercise can also boost your body's feel-good chemicals and help you sleep better. Both of those are good for your immune system.

    3. Your diet is off.
    Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks. Eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc.

    4. You're always stressed.
    Everyone has some stress; it's part of life. If stress drags on for a long time, it makes you more vulnerable to illness, from colds to serious diseases. Chronic stress exposes your body to a steady stream of stress hormones that suppress the immune system. You may not be able to get rid of your stress, but you can get better at managing it. Some ways include meditating, slowing down, and connecting with other people.

    5. You're too isolated.
    People who feel connected to friends – whether it’s a few close friends or a large group – have stronger immunity than those who feel alone, studies show. In one study, lonely freshmen had a weaker immune response to a flu vaccine than those who felt connected to others.

    6. You've lost your sense of humor.
    Laughing is good for you. It curbs the levels of stress hormones in your body and boosts a type of white blood cell that fights infection.

    For a full article go to

    The Immune System by Gregory J. Stewart
    The Immune System: Your Body's Disease-Fighting Army by Mark P. Friedlander
    In Defense of Self: How the Immune System Really Works by William R. Clark
    The Immune System: How It Works by Lydia Woods Schindler.

    Karnecia Williams
    Inglenook Library