'I'm so Birmingham I remember the BIRMINGHAM STEELDOGS!': 'I'm so' Facebook/Twitter meme makes its way to Alabama
Adults looking for something fun and different to do on a weeknight, should check out what's brewing at the Birmingham Public Library.
- Support the Birmingham Public Library's Young Professionals' fundraiser, "I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie," on Thursday, July 24 at Rogue Tavern, 2312 Second Ave. North. Tickets are $10. Proceeds will help support library programs. There will be a silent auction and food and drink specials. www.bigbooks.eventbrite.com.
- Enjoy the perfect blend of poetry and free beer samples during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, Aug. 1 at Avondale Library, 509 40th St. South. It's from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Open Mic Night poet registration starts at 6:30 p.m. Avondale Brewery will be providing the beer. Call 226-3670 for more info. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and at least 21 to be served. Free.
- Check out artist Debra Riffe's "Every Line Tells a Story'' exhibit during the Birmingham Art Crawl on Thursday, Aug. 7, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Riffe will be one of several artists slated to display works at downtown Birmingham businesses on this night.
- Learn how easy it is to care for orchids on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 6:30 - 8 p.m., at the Springville Road Library, 1224 Old Springville Road. Master gardener Richard Healy, who's a member of Alabama Orchid Society, will provide tips on which orchids do well in the Alabama environment and in your home. Free.
Fourth Floor Gallery exhibit, Central Library, July 24 - August 26
With the start of school just around the corner, the Birmingham Public Library has free programs that will help keep young and young-at-heart minds sharp before and well after the school bell rings. Some library programs set for July, August, and September include:
Learn the different styles and techniques of wire and bead jewelry making on Tuesday, July 22 at 4 p.m. at Woodlawn Library, 5709 First Ave. North.
Enter the Lego Building Challenge on Tuesday, July 22 at 10 a.m. at Smithfield Library, #1 Eighth Ave. West, and on Thursday, July 24 at 1:30 p.m. at the Powderly Library, 3301 Jefferson Ave. SW.
Exercise the brain on Saturday, July 26 during the annual Math and Science Day at Five Points West Library, 4812 Ave. W, 1 to 4 p.m. For all ages. Adolescent attendees must have parent or caregiver present. Free.
Learn the marvels of magnets at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23 at Ensley Library, 1201 25th St.,Ensley. McWane Science Center to present.
Connect with your inner artist and visit "Every Line Tells a Story," an exhibit of linoleum block relief prints by Debra Eubanks Riffe, July 24 - Aug. 26 in the fourth floor gallery of the Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Free.
Check out Debra Riffe's "Every Line Tells a Story'' exhibit during the Birmingham Art Crawl on Thursday, Aug. 7, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Birmingham Public Library. Riffe will be one of several artists to display works at downtown Birmingham businesses on Aug. 7. Free.
Get ready to laugh as storyteller and author Bil Lepp tells tall tales and funny stories on Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. at the downtown Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. On Aug. 7, he'll be at Springville Road Library, 1224 Springville Road, at 6:30 p.m. Free. (Note: There’s only one L in Bil.)
Release your inner poet and attend a haiku workshop on Saturday, Aug. 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Birmingham Public Library's first floor conference room, 2100 Park Place. Terri French, the Southeast region coordinator for the Haiku Society of America, will lead the session. Ideal for teens and adults. For more information, call 226-3670. Free.
Brush up on your computer skills with free August classes at the downtown Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Pre-registration is required. Classes will be from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. No one will be admitted after 9:45 a.m. Advanced Word Mail Merge/Labels will be on Aug. 25 and MS Word 2010 Advanced will be on Aug. 26. Visit www.rlccbpl.wordpress.com for a complete schedule and to register. Questions? Call 226-3680.
See reading programs brought to life through dance during Sanspointe Dance Co.’s “Creative Catalog’’ performance on Wednesday, September 24. A Master Class for ages 12 to 17 will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Story Castle of the downtown Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place. Sanspointe Dance Co. will perform at 5 p.m. in the atrium. Free.
For more programs, visit http://www.bplonline.org/calendar/.
A retirement program will be held on August 1 at 8 a.m. in the Central Library's fourth floor Arrington Auditorium. Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell Sr. and Alabama Public Library Service Interim Director Kelyn Ralya will be among those slated to speak. A reception will follow in the library’s board room.
During her career, Blalock managed branches, worked as a library business manager, and served as a regional branch coordinator. She became an associate director in 1994 and was appointed director in 2009.
“I am a very lucky woman to have been able to earn my living doing something I love and that I believe is vital to our community,’’ said Blalock, who was also a member of the Leadership Birmingham Class of 2000 and was named as one of the NAACP Metro Birmingham’s 2008 Outstanding Women for Community Service, Multiculturalism and Political Action. In October 2012, Blalock was honored at the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham “SMART Party’’ for her innovative leadership.
Blalock has overseen numerous enhancements to the branch libraries, their collections, and furnishings. She served as the project manager for the construction of the Five Points West and West End branches. Major upgrades to the East Lake, Inglenook, and Powderly branches were completed under her watch. In January 2014, a rebuilt, safer and more beautiful Pratt City Library reopened after being destroyed in an April 2011 tornado. In May 2014, Inglenook Library reopened after undergoing renovations.
As her retirement approaches, Blalock remains committed to even more changes. “We are in the midst of planning a fantastic renovation of the Central Library that will not only move the Archives up from the basement but will transform the East Building into the world-class facility for learning that Birmingham and its citizens deserve,’’ Blalock said.
She has been actively involved in the American Library Association, the Alabama Library Association, and the University of Alabama Library School Association Board. She served on the ALA’s Public Library Association board as well as many committees and task forces. She received the Alabama Library Association’s Eminent Librarian Award in April 2013 for her advocacy, community service, and service to the profession. She's also supported the Jefferson County Public Library Association and the Jefferson County Library Cooperative Board.
“The expansion of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative and its services and resources has enabled citizens across Jefferson County to access books and information in numbers that would have been incomprehensible when I started here in 1981. We take enormous pride in being the most cooperative and collaborative organization in Jefferson County,” said Blalock.
Blalock supported her staff’s efforts to launch a 2013 worldwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” For its efforts, the library, in June 2014, received the John Cotton Dana Award, which honors outstanding and effective strategic communication campaigns that produce results. The Library Leadership and Management Association presents the award each year. This is the fourth time that BPL has won the award.
Blalock added that she’s seen wonderful changes, big and small, happen in the library world during her years of service. A memorable one is how the Internet has made each branch a gateway to superior information for all patrons.
“The equity of access to information today is astounding,’’ she said, adding that the library has downloadable eBooks, music and audiobooks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week through its Internet services.
Associate Director Angela Fisher Hall will serve as interim director when Blalock retires.
Dwight is the weirdest kid at in McQuarrie Middle School, but he doesn’t seem to care. Despite his low spot on the middle school food chain he shakes things up when he folds an origami Yoda finger puppet who starts giving out advice. The kids at school are confounded when the paper Yoda says some really insightful stuff while he is perched on Dwight’s finger. The real Dwight would have never thought of such clever solutions to his classmates’ problems. How could a finger puppet say such astute things? Is Dwight actually wise beyond his years or has the puppet somehow gained magical properties? In this title, a group of students work to put together case files to help them get to the truth of the matter as they investigate the mystery of Dwight and his paper Jedi.
This is a great story for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The book is split up between several different characters’ case files, so the book is chopped into short segments with a different voice narrating each event. There is also a generous supply of doodles that are sure to lure in kids who cling to journal and diary books. Though this book is set in a middle school, the reading level is geared more toward the elementary school crowd, which makes sense as fourth and fifth graders tend to be interested in reading about what life is like for older kids. There are instructions for how to fold your own paper Yoda in the back of the book, which is a lot of fun and a good introduction to origami. This is a series, so if you or your kids love the first one, there are already three more titles out there. This is a great summer read for avid and reluctant readers alike.
Check it out!
Springville Road Library
By Christine Wicker
“Serving spirit” in Lily Dale doesn’t mean tending bar. It means forwarding messages from departed loved ones to the living. Lily Dale, New York is different. Only Spiritualists can buy houses here. This creates solidarity but depresses property values. Residents regularly report seeing ghosts strolling “the streets dressed in Victorian era clothes.” Just about anything goes in Lily Dale, at least in the broad confines of New Age thought. Well, almost. Once the leader of the Spiritualist Assembly was shut out of the annual meeting because he’d failed to pay his dues.
Lily Dale is grounded in many good ways. “Neighbors help one another. Old people are looked after…When someone falls sick, everybody knows it and helps. Children can play outside at night. There’s no crime to speak of.” And yet, Spiritualism dissuades its members from getting involved in politics. As a result, it’s much too other-worldly for most. Maybe that’s why the sewer never works well in the town.
Are these people weird? Scary? A friend asked me when I told him I was reading this book. No, dotty’s the best word.
Spiritualism once claimed anything from hundreds of thousands to millions in the U.S. Now there are about 400 very small churches. And if you look at the people who were captivated by it (for a wide range of reasons) William James, Jung, Edison, Houdini, Conan Doyle, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Upton Sinclair—you can see it had a great cultural life. James and Jung in particular are important to Christine Wicker, who keeps coming back to their ideas about how the mind can get into many modes and how the unconscious may be the explanation for the spirits.
Spiritualism was very big, but a series of fraud scandals reduced its numbers significantly. Today, happily, most members freely acknowledge their compromised past.
You read a book like Lily Dale for weird stuff. Wicker doesn’t disappoint. In one case, a spirit who looks like a man from the Homo Erectus period manifests itself. This might answer a question I had as a kid, “Are there cavemen in Heaven?” In another bit, a spirit announces it had been “a priest, an amoeba, a virus” by way of pulling rank on a living human. At a town meeting, one practitioner argues that just because a spirit guide says something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s profound. He admits that his guide often visits him while he’s on the toilet and once offered this advice: “Flush.” Another local goes to the doctor for a mental ailment. The doc asks him if he hears voices. He says,”Doc, where I live, I’m the only one who doesn’t.” You come in for weird and you get funny in the bargain.
While reading, I kept noticing the many similarities between Spiritualism and Shamanism. “Almost all the mediums suffered with chronic illnesses before taking up their gifts,” says the author. One medium writhes on the floor and hisses like a snake. Several locals encounter the spirit of an Andalusian stallion. A medium says no one needs to feel lonely because spirits are all around us. What may seem odd to modern Americans has been going on, more or less, since the Paleolithic Era. Everything old is new again. Wicker seems unaware of this. It would have added much depth to the book if she had been.
Christine Wicker is the former religion reporter for the Dallas Morning News. She keeps her feet firmly planted throughout her stay in the Dale. She allows herself reveries and gets transported several times. But she always comes back to a middle ground of skepticism mixed with openness and appreciation. She finds all kinds of inside dope, such as the fact that many mediums don’t allow their sessions taped because they’re afraid that false predictions may be used against them. Reach for the stars, but tether your camel. Wicker concludes that religion says that “people will be transformed into new beings. They aren’t. And faith sails right on.” This seems largely true. Harkening back to James and Jung, she asks, Can we know where the mind leaves off and the sprits start? No, says Wicker. She ends up in a space between belief and unbelief. I think this is a sensible choice. Many spend their lives there.
After all are said and done, people keep coming to the Dale. Most just want their fortunes told. They aren’t interested in talking to the dead. Lily Dale is highly readable, and very engrossing. Wise, witty and almost always well-informed, I recommend it to all on this side of the dark-or light-veil.