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Very unfunny

One of my favorite comic strips in the newspaper is Zits, the continuing saga of a teen-age boy who is old enough to drive ... and to drive his parents crazy.

A few days ago, Jeremy, the hapless lad featured in the strip, used a credit card that got hacked to buy an essay online to turn in as his own at his high school.

Needless to say, he got found out, and the teacher, somewhat surprised, confronted him with the accusation that he'd plagiarized his assignment.

No, Jeremy responded, adding: "You could think of it as a repurposed, vintage, crowd-sourced effort."

Ha. Ha. Heh. Eh. Hmmm.

Not funny.

Plagiarism is probably the most notable sin in academia today, made so easy it's laughable by the omniscience of the internet. (In second place, it seems, is the kind of scientific misadventure that made the pages of The New York Times today.)

My beef with the writers of the Zits strip is this: He got grounded for two weeks. Two weeks.

When I was a college professor, you could kick a kid out of class forever for plagiarizing. That's a little more serious than being grounded for two weeks.

The strip-writers flubbed this one. They should have thrown the book at Jeremy or, because that might not be funny, they should have left plagiarism alone as a strip topic.

More classics

Thanks to a patron of the library Penguin has donated quite a large number of paperback classics for our collection.

We now have brand-new sets of the works of Shakespeare and Steinbeck, for example.

Little Women and the Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen are on the classics shelves.

And much, much more.

These books don't need to be checked out; just come by and pick one up and promise to bring it back.

These new materials are located in our paperback-lending area.

Come check it out.

Reading about LBJ

I recently spent six days in the hospital, and before that I spent several days at home trying to get well.

As wild as this may sound, for a few days at the hospital I had no television reception in my room.

The upshot: I had a lot of time to read.

Five or six years ago, my wife bought the entire set of books written by Robert Caro about the life of Lyndon B. Johnson, thinking I would love to read them. I never did. Their thickness was off-putting. Why would I possibly want to know that much about LBJ? How could you even write that much about one guy?

But, with time on my hands and not much else to read in the house I reluctantly picked up the first volume.

And in pretty short order I was hooked.

So, now I've read two and am on the last one. They're fascinating. Like watching a train wreck: You just can't look away.

Even if you're not a captive in some TV-less isolation ward, I recommend them.

Another free service

Librarians across the country have been historically reluctant to let patrons bring stuff to drink into their facilities.

People might spill stuff onto books or, then, into computer keyboards. Or on the floor, which would be less disastrous but still a mess.

We've been in that camp, too.

I didn't come to this job through regular library channels. Instead, I was in charge of a newsroom or two where everyone had a computer keyboard and everyone drank coffee or soft drinks all the time.

I can't recall ever seeing anyone who worked for me spilling drinks into their keyboards. And, mind you, none of those drinks were covered by lids.

(Instead, we had trouble with sports writers spitting sunflower seed hulls into their keyboards, but that's another story.)

When I was living in Temple, the city refurbished the library, and they provided coffee inside the library.

I never saw anyone spill anything.

So, after coming here and getting this job I began to push for us to serve coffee -- like a bookstore does.

And today that happened for the first time.

We now have free coffee.

Come by and enjoy some.

Not so sure

The American-Statesman announced in today's editions that over the summer it will stop printing its own newspaper. Instead, the paper will be printed in San Antonio by the Hearst organization.

The move is to save money, the publisher said.

The immediate impact will be the loss of more than 100 jobs by people working in the press room.

The longer-term impact? The editor says in the artilce that nightly deadlines will be affected. But, that's not a big worry, she said, because today's reader is probably going to the web to look at breaking sports stories, etc.

I would not bet on that.

Yes, the rabid sports fan might go to the web on a smartphone or desktop to look up a score.

The causal fan will not, especially the casual fan who goes to bed relatively early in the evening -- a group that probably reads newspapers regularly.

But, I am not convinced that the rabid fan will read a game story right after the game. I wonder if the rabid fan doesn't want to see the the complete report in the morning while enjoying a cup of coffee.

Cutting back on services like this one may be necessary, but it reduces the quality of the daily newspaper -- to its detriment in a time when newspapers are under intense pressure anyway.

As an editor I hated being told to cut something when I knew that it would hurt the paper. My argument was that when you're threatened by competitive pressures you need to do what you do better than ever before rather than retreat and run. Add more, not less.

That's one big reason why I took a buyout when I did back in 2007.

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