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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 http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/10-immune-system-busters-boosters.

Books
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

Pratt City Library's Reopening Scheduled for January 30

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 12:02pm

The Pratt City Branch Library, which was severely damaged in an April 27, 2011, tornado, has been rebuilt and will reopen on January 30 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 January 30 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.

Birmingham Public Library’s Local Authors Expo and Book Fair To Feature Writing Workshops and 100 Authors on Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 11:51am
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.

“One of the main missions of the library is to connect authors and readers,’’ says Expo coordinator Jared Millett. “The Local Authors Expo lets us shine a spotlight on Birmingham’s own writing community, and it gives the authors an opportunity to promote their works directly to the public.’’

Interest in the expo continues to grow. Foot traffic in the Birmingham Public Library the weekend of the 2013 Expo was 1,800—double what it was for a normal February weekend and triple what it was for the 2011 Expo.

“I’m excited to do the Expo because I’m going to be among numerous writers who have produced rich and significant works on Birmingham’s history,’’ says Karen R. Utz, who co-wrote Iron & Steel: A Guide to Birmingham Area Industrial Heritage Sites with James R. Bennett. “Also I’m a huge supporter of the Birmingham Library and all of the wonderful branches. Anytime I can help the library system, I’m there.’’

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

At 10:00 a.m., young adult author and full-time Spanish teacher Anne Riley from Birmingham will lead a session called "How to Write While Having a Life.'' She will explain how to make writing a book a manageable task when you also have a job and family. Her first novel, Shadows of the Hidden, was released in 2012 and published through Compass Press. Recently, she secured a book deal with Spencer Hill Press to publish her book Pull.

People often ask Riley, a 30-year-old mother of a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, when she finds time to write. She says she makes the time, which can come during her school lunch break, right after school or during a weekend break from home when her husband can watch their children for a few hours.
“You just pick a time that works for you and you do your best to protect it,’’ she says.

At 1:00 p.m., seejanewritebham.com will offer practical tips on how to use blogging and social media to reach readers and promote one’s work. Featured speakers will be Alabama authors Stephanie Naman and Kathryn C. Lang, and seejanewritebham.com founder and blogger Javacia Harris Bowser.

“In our workshop, we will discuss ways authors can use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and a number of other social networking sites to promote their work,’’ says Bowser. “We'll also discuss the importance of blogging and how to build a platform.”

Also, Books-A-Million will be on hand to talk about a new book publishing service they offer. The company now has the Espresso Book Machine, the only one of its kind in Alabama, which allows authors to submit their works to be published. Customers may also browse the company’s database of over 7 million titles and request that a book be printed and bound in minutes just by using the Espresso Book Machine.

The machine is designed to make self-publishing easy by turning someone’s words and/or images into a book. A person can publish anything from their own poetry or grandmother's recipes to childhood photos or a novel. Books-A-Million offers a variety of packages and services to meet an author's needs. Three Espresso Book Machine packages give authors the opportunity to sell their book at the Colonial Brookwood Village store. (Note: The machine will not be at the library on February 1. But store representatives will be at the Expo to take questions and explain the process and services.)

"We are committed to assisting local authors as they work to get their written masterpieces off the ground,'' said Mary Gallagher, senior vice president of merchandising at Books-A-Million. "It is our hope that many of the new books found on the shelves at Books-A-Million will be printed and bound by this cutting edge printing equipment.''

Here’s additional information about the speakers:

  • Birmingham author Anne Riley has written four books and has had two published. She’s already making plans for her next book, which will be a young teen novel set in Alabama.Her website is www.annerileybooks.com. Follow her on Twitter at @anneriley.
  • Guntersville-based writer Kathryn Lang is the author of 10 books including her latest nonfiction work Place in Purpose. Lang describes herself as a "hopesmith," crafting hope for those she encounters through her books, columns, teachings, and presentations because she knows that hope makes everything possible. Her website is www.kathrynlang.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynclang .
  • Billie Thomas is the pseudonym of Birmingham-based author Stephanie Naman, whose day job is in the advertising industry. Her clever and comical murder mystery Murder on the First Day of Christmas follows the adventures of amateur sleuth Chloe Carstairs. She blogs as Chloe at chloegetsaclue.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ChloeGetsAClue.
  • Javacia Harris Bowser is a blogger, freelance journalist, and the founder of See Jane Write, which is a networking organization for women writers. She is also founder of seejanewritemagazine.com.Her websites include: www.seejanewritebham.com and www.seejanewritemagazine.com.Follow her on Twitter: @seejanewritemag, @seejanewritebhm, and @writeousbabe.

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 http://www.bplonline.org/programs/LocalAuthors/.

Photos from the 2013 Authors Expo can be found on the library’s Flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bpl/8439043562/in/set-72157632669709859.

Eunice Elliott to Give Three More Motivational Lectures in Living the Dream 2014 Series

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 10:00am
Eunice Elliott
Get motivated in the new year with inspiring words from Birmingham motivational speaker Eunice Elliott and her lecture series, Living the Dream 2014, at various Birmingham Public Library locations in January and February. The interactive empowerment series will focus on how people can identify and activate individual goals and ambitions. All sessions are free and open to the public.

The Bessemer native graduated from the University of Alabama in 1997 and moved to Connecticut a week later to pursue her dream job at ESPN, working in public relations and later as a production assistant at ESPN Sports Center. After more than 10 years working in sports public relations, including stints at the Tennessee Titans, the FedEx Orange Bowl Committee, and with several high-profile professional athletes, Elliott changed course and started performing stand-up comedy and acting.

In 2011, she moved to Atlanta to pursue her new passion of comedy and acting. In 2013, she returned to Birmingham to join Alabama's 13 morning team as the traffic reporter. She appears daily from 4:30 to 7:00 a.m.

"I'm so excited about this series because honestly, when I see that light come on in people's minds about pursuing their own passions, it further inspires and motivates me to continue pursuing my own,’’ says Elliott. “I love the feeling I get from motivating other others. Honestly, it motivates me to keep trying to accomplish my own dreams.’’

 "As a Man Thinketh"— Understanding the Law of Attraction
Monday, January 27, 11:00 a.m.
Springville Road Library

Maintaining the Vision — Keeping the Faith
Wednesday, January 29, 12:00 p.m.
Central Library

Enjoying this Moment —Gratitude
Monday, February 3, 12:00 p.m.
North Birmingham Library

For more information, visit http://facebook.com/euniceelliott.

Birmingham Public Library Wants Community Input for Major Makeover

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 3:26pm
Central Library: Linn-Henley Research Library and the East Building
Want to redesign the downtown Birmingham Public Library? Here’s your chance.

Now through February 21, people can suggest how to improve the East Building and the Linn-Henley Research Library, which are both part of the Central Library at 2100 Park Place. A café, a roof-top garden, a children’s theater, and a larger auditorium are just some of the ideas. Library leaders welcome more.

“A great city has a great library. Help us make ours even better,‘’ says Renee Blalock, Birmingham Public Library Director.

The downtown library includes the East Building, which is more than 30 years old, and the Linn-Henley Research Library, which was built in 1927 and was last updated in 1985. Major renovations are planned to equip buildings with cutting-edge technology, expanded meeting spaces, and improved areas for the Archives and Southern History Departments. Renovations will also address improved services and library materials for teenagers, children, adults, seniors, and patrons with disabilities.

“We are using IdeaScale, a free, online resource that captures the community’s ideas on how to improve the library. The team of architects we are working with can use this site to gather ideas and suggestions from library users, staff and supporters,’’ says Blalock. “Ideas posted before February 21 will be given to the architects. However, the IdeasScale website will remain up so that we may continue to collect input from the public.’’

Submitting ideas is easy. Patrons may visit www.bplonline.org, click on the red “Redesign the Central Library’’ box, sign up, post suggestions, comment on ideas, and vote for their favorite ones. The suggestions with the most votes will rise to the top. The direct link is http://bplrenovation.ideascale.com. People may also sign up through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

“We are determining what we need to do and what we’d like to do to make BPL a destination for years to come,’’ says Blalock. “Libraries today need state-of-the-art technology, exciting spaces for kids and teens, as well as a place where people are comfortable coming to learn and have fun. We’d like the public’s input in planning the new look of the downtown library.’’

Alabama Waterfalls

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 10:36am

Although this is the time of year when it is cold outside and the skies are often a dark and dreary shade of gray,  we have also reached the peak time of year for viewing waterfalls in the state of Alabama. Alabama is blessed with thousands of impressive waterfalls from the mighty High Falls (pictured above) located at an easily accessible county park in DeKalb County to the Kings Shower hidden within the miles of underground passage inside the Tumbling Rock Cave near Scottsboro. The library has several books that can help you get started in discovering waterfalls in Alabama. Several guides to hiking in Alabama mention the locations of waterfalls, including titles such as Alabama: An Atlas of Alabama’s Greatest Hiking Adventures, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Birmingham, 50 Hikes in Alabama, and - especially - Waterfall Walks and Drives in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.
Many of the most photographed waterfalls in Alabama reside within the borders of the Sipsey Wilderness Area, a rugged tract of wilderness in the northwestern part of the state that contains (literally) thousands of waterfalls. The library system has a couple of books that can help you navigate this area: Alabama Canyons is available for checkout by anyone with a valid library card, but you will have to visit the Southern History department in order to find additional information on the Sipsey Wilderness in books such as Walking Sipsey: The People, Places, and Wildlife or Indian Trails of the Warrior Mountains.
Also, if you are interested in spending a full day exploring some waterfalls around the state (with very little hiking required), the map below features an itinerary and directions for a road trip to six really great and easily accessible waterfalls around northeast Alabama. Its a 300 mile roundtrip drive from the Birmingham area, but a great way to spend a cold Saturday in January or February.



View Waterfall Tour Sand Mountain and Lookout Mountain Watersheds in a larger map

Impact Alabama To Offer Free Tax Prep Assistance at Selected BPL Locations

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 11:48am
Impact Alabama will again be providing free tax preparation services during the 2013 tax season for households earning less than $50,000 a year with one or more children or $20,000 year without children. You must call 1-888-99-TAX-AL (1-888-998-2925) for an appointment; no walk-ins will be assisted. Impact Alabama is sponsored by SaveFirst.

Participating Libraries:

Smithfield Branch Library
205-324-8428
Opening Day, January 20 (library is closed for MLK Day, but Impact Alabama will begin taking appointments)
10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
January 21-February 1
Mondays & Tuesdays 12:00-6:00 p.m.; Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
February 3-March 8
Mondays & Tuesdays 12:00-8:00 p.m.; Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
March 10-April 14
Mondays & Thursdays 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Super Tax Saturday, April 12
9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

West End Branch Library
205-226-4089
January 22-March 8
Wednesdays & Fridays 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Woodlawn Branch Library
205-595-2001
January 23-March 8
Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 12:00-6:00 p.m.; Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. (Please note: There will be no tax prep service on Saturday, January 25)

MakingCents Class for Kids on Saving Money at Avondale Library, January 23

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 10:30am

The Birmingham Public Library will kick off the new year with three money management classes in January. All classes are free and open to the public.


January 23
3:30 p.m.
Avondale Library
Bring the little ones to see Phillip “Mr. Mac’’ McEntee as he leads “A Penny Saved’’ in this children’s program. Using Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “A penny saved is a penny earned,’’ McEntee will teach children about the importance of saving money.

For more information, call Jim Murray at 205-226-3690 or visit www.making-cents.org.

The Birmingham Public Library and 14 other libraries in Jefferson and Shelby counties offer the series. The programs will end in May 2014. Other BPL locations include Avondale, Five Points West, North Birmingham, and Springville Road.

The classes are part of a national grant program known as MakingCents: Resources to Help Your Money Grow and Smart investing@your library®, a partnership between the American Library Association and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

Teen Audio Book Review: Vanish

Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:03pm
Vanish
Sophie Jordan
Narrated by Therese Plummer

Jacinda, her twin, Tamra, and their mother must flee back to their "pride" when Jacinda shows her true self to the boy she loves: Will. Will is a menber of a family who hunts her people. The draki decides Jacinda, a fire breather, must marry the pride's heir apparent, Cassian, whom Tamra wants. The draki have the ability to morph from human to dragon form which is not revealed until the third CD, although Jacinda morphs several times. The angst Jacinda suffers over the duty to her pride and her love for Will ends the story with a cliffhanger.

Therese Plummer does a good job narrating this angst-filled story. Her character voices are distinct and easy to follow. Her pacing fits the narrative and the characters. When the character narrative says her voice breaks, the character's dialog reflects the break.

Lynn Carpenter
Five Points West

Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Lecture - Human Trafficking 101, January 17

Thu, 01/16/2014 - 9:30am
Patricia A. McCayAs part of the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, each January the Birmingham Public Library’s Department of Archives and Manuscripts sponsors Begin the Day: The Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture. Now in its eleventh year, the King Lecture has featured civil rights activists, scholars, children’s book authors, and community leaders talking on civil rights history and contemporary civil rights issues.

The 2014 lecture will feature Patricia A. McCay, Chair of the Huntsville-Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force. Her talk, Human Trafficking 101, will discuss the victims of modern day slavery, explore the ways that traffickers entrap and control their victims, and look at cases of trafficking in Alabama.

The program will be held January 17, 2014, at noon in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium at the downtown Birmingham Public Library.

To learn more about Patricia McCay and human trafficking in Alabama visit http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2013/08/human_trafficking_task_force_w.html.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information contact Jim Baggett
(205-226-3631, jbaggett@bham.lib.al.us) or visit www.bplonline.org.

Jim Baggett
Archives Department
Central Library

February 2014 RLCC Class Schedule Available

Wed, 01/15/2014 - 10:00am


Registration is now open for staff and the public for the February 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.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.

Birmingham Motivational Speaker Eunice Elliott and the Birmingham Public Library Kick Off New Empowerment Lecture Series to Help People Realize their Dreams in 2014

Tue, 01/14/2014 - 10:18am
Eunice Elliott
Get motivated in the new year with inspiring words from Birmingham motivational speaker Eunice Elliott and her lecture series, Living the Dream 2014, at various Birmingham Public Library locations in January and February. The interactive empowerment series will focus on how people can identify and activate individual goals and ambitions. All sessions are free and open to the public.

The first session will be held on Wednesday, January 15, 10:30 a.m., at Five Points West Library. The topic will be “Dreaming 101: Identifying Your Heart’s Desires.’’ “I feel that my calling in life is to inspire people to pursue their dreams,’’ says Elliott. “Stop trying to put limits on your dreams. It’s a dream. Anything can happen.’’

The Bessemer native graduated from the University of Alabama in 1997 and moved to Connecticut a week later to pursue her dream job at ESPN, working in public relations and later as a production assistant at ESPN Sports Center. After more than 10 years working in sports public relations, including stints at the Tennessee Titans, the FedEx Orange Bowl Committee, and with several high-profile professional athletes, Elliott changed course and started performing stand-up comedy and acting.

In 2011, she moved to Atlanta to pursue her new passion of comedy and acting. In 2013, she returned to Birmingham to join Alabama's 13 morning team as the traffic reporter. She appears daily from 4:30 to 7:00 a.m.

"I'm so excited about this series because honestly, when I see that light come on in people's minds about pursuing their own passions, it further inspires and motivates me to continue pursuing my own,’’ says Elliott. “I love the feeling I get from motivating other others. Honestly, it motivates me to keep trying to accomplish my own dreams.’’

“Each session will address another phase of Living the Dream. The first session is designed to help those who may have forgotten their passion due to circumstances or have run out of ideas of how to pursue them,’’ she says.

The other sessions include:

 "As a Man Thinketh"— Understanding the Law of Attraction
Monday, January 27, 11:00 a.m.
Springville Road Library

Maintaining the Vision — Keeping the Faith
Wednesday, January 29, 12:00 p.m.
Central Library

Enjoying this Moment —Gratitude
Monday, February 3, 12:00 p.m.
North Birmingham Library

For more information, visit http://facebook.com/euniceelliott.

Performances, Cooking Classes, and More Are Part of Black History Month 2014 at BPL

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 2:18pm


Several Birmingham Public Library locations will celebrate Black History Month in February with cooking classes, art projects, lectures, and theatrical presentations. All events are free. Click on the poster image for a list of the programs.

Addendum:
"Our Musical Journey Through Faith"
Thursday, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. at the West End Branch (1348 Tuscaloosa Ave. SW.)
Come see the Birmingham Metropolitan Youth Choir perform songs from the civil rights movement on Thursday, 2/20/14, at the West End.
Three foot soldiers will talk about their experiences. A question-and-answer session will follow.
Choir director: Emmanuel Reese Musician: Samuel Robinson.
Target age group: Children and teenagers
Registration is not required.
Phone: 205-226-4089

Discover Middle-Earth

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:44pm
In September of 1937 an Oxford professor by the name of John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien published a short novel based upon stories originally written for his children: The Hobbit or There and Back Again. This book became the prequel to the later-written Lord of the Rings trilogy and the posthumously published Silmarillion (1977) and sparked a phenomenon that has been loved by generations.


 Film adaptations of The Fellowship of the Ring (Book 1954, Film 2001), The Two Towers (Book 1954, Film 2002), and Return of the King (Book 1955, Film 2003) were blockbuster hits, leading to the current three-part film adaptation of The Hobbit - the second of which, The Desolation of Smaug is currently in theaters (the third movie, There and Back Again is due out in late 2014). 

Learn more about The Hobbit, Middle-Earth, and Tolkien at the Birmingham Public Library.

Read: The Hobbit

Watch: In 1977 The Hobbit was made into an animated motion picture.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is also now available on DVD.

Discover Middle-earth:
The art of the Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien / Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull
There and back again : the map of the Hobbit/ text by Brian Sibley; images by John Howe
The complete guide to Middle-earth : from The hobbit to The Silmarillion / Robert FosterThe peoples of middle-earth / J.R.R. Tolkien ; edited by Christopher Tolkien
Realms of Tolkien : images of Middle-earth
Read analysis, commentary, criticism and critique:
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The hobbit / Corey Olsen
The individuated hobbit : Jung, Tolkien, and the archetypes of Middle-Earth / Timothy R. O'Neill
The wisdom of the shire : a short guide to a long and happy life / Noble Smith
Defending Middle-earth : Tolkien, myth and modernity / Patrick Curry
Meditations on Middle Earth / edited by Karen Haber

Learn about the making of the movie:
The hobbit : an unexpected journey : official movie guide / Brian Sibley
The hobbit : an unexpected journey. Chronicles II, Creatures & characters /  Daniel Falconer
The hobbit : an unexpected journey : chronicles : art & design /  Daniel Falconer
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design



*Images in this post are the primary English language book covers and movie posters used for The Hobbit since its publication. More images of covers for many of Tolkien's books can be found here

This Year I Will Exercise More

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 10:12am

It’s a new year and many of us have made New Year’s resolutions.  One resolution on many lists is to get more exercise.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t find the discipline to exercise consistently.  I go through periods when I can’t wait to go exercise and others when I’d rather do anything but exercise.  Usually when I’m exercising on a regular basis, something happens to throw me off track (injury, illness, etc.). Sometimes I get disgruntled with my health club membership and decide to go it alone to save money.  I admit I’ve bought a couple of things I’ve seen on television, but I didn’t stick with them for the long haul.

A coworker told me about BodyRock.tv.  This website features a number of high-intensity workouts that work your entire body with just a short time commitment.  I decided to give it a try.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did start my BodyRock journey with a workout entitled, “It Will Rain Sweat.”  To use one of Judge Judy’s famous phrases, “BIG MISTAKE!!!”  As I gasped for breath, heaving on the floor, I texted (with great effort) the person who told me about BodyRock and said I could only do one round.  After she got her laughter under control, which I learned later, she texted back and told me I went through the workout too fast. 
Have you seen the commercial where the bodybuilder asks the smaller guy if he "got his burn on" today?  If you haven’t experienced that, believe me, it happens.  When I was a member of the YMCA, a friend from the library who’s more than twice my age started trash-talking me about not using all the workout equipment that he did.  He's not a bodybuilder, but he's in great shape.  He is a mild-mannered, friendly grandpa, but get him in the gym and he turns into a UFC fighter.  How about the people who choose the cardio machine right next to you and start racing?  I admit that ONE time this guy started running next to me and I decided that barring death, I would NOT be the first one to stop.  I had to crawl back to the locker room, but he stopped first.  I call that a victory.  Thankfully, the locker room was on the same floor.
I hope you’re laughing by now, but we all know that exercise is important for good health.  My eating habits are in order, but I have to get back on the exercise train.  I hope all of us find something we enjoy doing and stick to our New Year’s resolution to get more exercise.  Be sure to check out the collection of fitness books and DVDs at the library to get some motivation and inspiration.  Happy New Year!

Book Review: The Cleaner of Chartres

Sat, 01/11/2014 - 5:02pm
The Cleaner of Chartres
Salley Vickers

We often know the traits of Dickens’s characters as we read their names. In Salley Vickers’s The Cleaner of Chartres names don’t give away the game, but Vickers gives us insight into characters even as she introduces them. This Dickensian tale set in modern France even has its own Madame DeFarge and Madame Beck in this story and is also full of malice. (Fortunately Madame Beck does not knit). Helpfully, Vickers tells us the meaning of our cleaner’s name, Agnès Morel. Morel is for the mushroom, beloved by the old farmer who found her abandoned, in a basket, in his fields. Agnès means “lamb of God”, in this case a very Dickensian name. Agnès is indeed the lamb of God. She is forty when we meet her, humbly washing the floors of the great cathedral, which is the other great character of this book.

And there are many characters. The author introduces her characters early on and almost all at once in a natural, offhand way, the narrative passing effortlessly from the thoughts of one to the other as their paths weave together from day to day in the old town in and about the cathedral. Salley Vickers was a practicing psychoanalyst until the success of her first novel Miss Garnet’s Angel, and she has unsparing insight into the cleric, nuns, widows, workmen and barmaids of Chartres, regarding their foibles with humor and sympathy. We come to know them well.

We come to know Agnès well, but Agnès is nonetheless a mystery. She carries a dark secret and hides her shame. She is so silent the townspeople believe her to be stupid and give her odd jobs. The narrative of the novel alternates between the present, when, forty years old, her precarious mental state she is threatened by discovery, and twenty five years earlier, her teen years as an orphan in a convent and mental hospital, the story of her secret shame.

We pull for Agnès. While the townspeople take her for granted and think very little about her, she quietly goes about her tasks, listening to those who need solace and doing small things that make a difference in their lives, spreading God’s grace. Indeed, this reader wondered if she might be a revisitation by Saint Mary to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, so saintly is Agnès. But, as the dense plot unfolds, the characters become more than stereotypes, entertaining us at every twist and turn through the medieval town, up, under and through the great gothic masterwork of Chartres Cathedral.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Book Review: The Liars' Club

Fri, 01/10/2014 - 1:33pm
The Liars’ Club
Mary Karr

Over the last few years I’ve read several of the big memoir phenoms that are part of a memoir revival that’s been going on in America for the last twenty or so years. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr’s story of growing up in brutal East Texas and Antelope, Colorado, in the fifties and sixties, is often seen as the first book of this revival.

The metatheme for most memoirs is Overcoming Adversity, or at least Surviving Adversity. The Liars’ Club is much more of the latter. Both of Karr’s parents were alcoholics. Leechfield, Texas, where most of the action takes place, won national awards as one of the ugliest and most unhealthy towns in the U.S. It’s a town where ”…the only thing a woman might dream for…was a deep-freeze filled with deer meat she’d cleaned and dressed herself.” All women, that is, but Karr’s mother. She rages at how she’s sunk socially so much that she has to actually live in such a place as Leechfield, drowning her anger in drink. Dad works at the refinery, comes home and drinks. Mary and her sister Lecia absorb and dodge the fallout as best they can. Their dad teaches them to become scrappers, to fight. Soon they become feared throughout town, even by most boys.

As I said, Leechfield is filthiness itself. Once, the sisters join other children in following the mosquito truck as it goes through town. Interestingly, this scene is duplicated years later in Bill Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid memoir. Was inhaling mosquito repellent a rite of passage in Mid-Century America?

The East Texas lingo is one of the strengths of the books and it’s here in all its hardscrabble glory: “Grandma…was such a ringtailed bitch.” “He’s got the mulligrubs.” Rain falls on the back porch “like a cow pissing on a flat rock.” “Mother…was Nervous.”

Mom and Dad divorce. Grandma dies; Mom comes into an inheritance, blows it. She takes the kids to Colorado, marries Hector, a Mexican-American, another alcoholic. They fight. She buys a bar in Antelope and runs it. Antelope has not only seen better days, it’s past its adequate days. The girl’s public school is an experimental bad joke. Mom splits up with Hector, takes the girls back to Leechfield, reunites with husband one. The last section, from 1980, concerns the death of Karr’s father. He smokes and drinks himself to death.

Does it seem unbearable? Well, it isn’t. There is humor scattered through the book. Karr has a smaller reputation as a poet, and her poet’s eye and ear are exhilaratingly strong throughout. Here is Karr’s on her mom: “She pinched her mouth into a stiff little asterisk at that.” A hurricane throws a jellyfish up on the beach: “I spied a huge cabbage-head jellyfish…It looked like a free-floating brain knocked out of somebody’s skull.” “When [dad] finally curled on his side…he looked like something dry you’d shake out of a shell.” I could cite a hundred equally good bits.

The ugly beauty of The Liars’ Club is very rare and sometimes miraculous. Like Sylvia Plath, Mary Karr is proof that poets can come out of the most unlikely places. She’s been called a writer’s writer, and that she is, and a lot more besides. This is memoir writing at the apex.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Begin the Day: The Eleventh Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Lecture

Fri, 01/10/2014 - 12:25pm
Patricia A. McCayAs part of the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, each January the Birmingham Public Library’s Department of Archives and Manuscripts sponsors Begin the Day: The Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture. Now in its eleventh year, the King Lecture has featured civil rights activists, scholars, children’s book authors, and community leaders talking on civil rights history and contemporary civil rights issues.

The 2014 lecture will feature Patricia A. McCay, Chair of the Huntsville-Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force. Her talk, Human Trafficking 101, will discuss the victims of modern day slavery, explore the ways that traffickers entrap and control their victims, and look at cases of trafficking in Alabama.

The program will be held January 17, 2014, at noon in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium at the downtown Birmingham Public Library.

To learn more about Patricia McCay and human trafficking in Alabama visit http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2013/08/human_trafficking_task_force_w.html.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information contact Jim Baggett
(205-226-3631, jbaggett@bham.lib.al.us) or visit www.bplonline.org.

Jim Baggett
Archives Department
Central Library

From Page to Stage: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – A Reader’s Theater Workshop for Children

Thu, 01/09/2014 - 12:28pm


The Birmingham Public Library (BPL), in partnership with the Birmingham Children’s Theatre (BCT) and Junior League of Birmingham (JLB), would like to invite you to attend From Page to Stage: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — A Readers’ Theater Workshop for Children.

In anticipation of the upcoming BCT performance of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, BPL will be hosting free workshops at several of its area libraries. Children, aged 7 to 12, will learn how storybook characters come alive through the magic of theater. JLB members will coach the children and introduce them to similar literature located in their local library. Each child will receive two free tickets (one child and one adult ticket) to the BCT The Adventures of Tom Sawyer production on February 8, 2014, at 2:00 p.m.

Tom’s adventures begin with a whitewashed fence, a sweet girl named Becky, Huck Finn, and tales of pirating and treasure hunting. After a surprise funeral and a murder trial where the truth is uncovered, the audience will see Tom not only as an adventurer, but also a moral hero. Join the Birmingham Public Library and the Birmingham Children’s Theatre for lessons of bravery, truth, and adventure where Tom meets his match and mischievous fun begins.

Workshop space is limited, so contact your participating library location to register a child for the workshop. Libraries and dates are as follows:

Avondale: January 18 – 11:00 a.m.Central: January 25 – 11:00 a.m. East Lake: January 18 – 11:00 a.m.Five Points West: January 25 – 11:00 a.m.
North Birmingham: January 18 – 11:00 a.m. Southside: January 18 – 2:30 p.m.Springville Road: January 25 at 11:00 a.m. West End: January 25 – 2:30 p.m.