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A time to study

We may be entering a golden era for teachers and students.

Or that would be the case if I were the teacher or the student.

Mutli-media courses are just exploding, and they promise to make the learning experience richer and more fun than ever.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about: The Libray of Congress has launched a new interactive e-book series for students and teachers, and it's all free.

Better still, these six courses are based on original source materials that learners can actually see up close and personal.

The "discovery sets" are: The Constitution, The Dust Bowl, The Harlem Renaissance, Immigration, Symbols of the United States and Understanding the Cosmos.

The discovery set on the Constitution includes the drafts and the debates that brought the finished document and the Bill of Rights into being, including notes of the framers.

The set on The Dust Bowl includes songs, maps and photos documenting the daily ordeals of the rural families that suffered through this decade.

See what I mean? With its vast resources, the LoC is the perfect originator of this material.

What a great service.

Click ... click ... click ...

For all of probably 10 years after I became a journalist, in 1966, the only input devices we had were typewriters.

For a few of those years, we used standard Royal typewriters, then switched to IBM Selectrics at some point.

When we finally switched over to keyboards what I really missed the most was the clacking sound of my own hands on the keys and all the clatter of everyone typing around me.

The Sunday magazine in the New York Times tells me that management at The Times of London missed that sound, too, as well as, I guess, the productivity that accompanied the clicks and clacks.

So, The Times' newsroom now has the sound of old typewriters piped into the newsroom. The New York Times says the reason is to inspire reporters to meet deadlines.

We had mean city editors to do that when I was a kid.

Now Austin's cooking

The American-Statesman reports in today's edition that the new Austin library in downtown, which is opening in two years, will have a big cooking class area.

The architects and librarians are right in catering to a growing group of people who are interested in food, recipes and ingredients.

I started a cooking class that I offer on the first Monday of each month a couple of years ago, and had a half-dozen people at the outset. This past Monday, I cooked for 17, but had enough food to feed 20, including myself.

The program has, to say the least, grown in popularity. In fact, we're probably at capacity.

I'd sure love to have a kind of dedicated culinary space, but we are, after all, a small library in a small community. So, I make do with a tailgate-type cooker and keep the dishes simple.

That's OK. It's all about having fun and meeting the needs of our patrons.

Wearing out the thumb

Last month I had surgery on my hand to remove the trapezium bone at the base of the thumb.

I had the bone removed because my hand was in pain all the time ... 24/7.

Today I went back to the doctor who did the procedure for a checkup. I'm doing fine, as it happens.

After the visit, I headed into the elevator and was joined by a young man and a young woman. Neither looked at me, of course, because they -- you guessed it -- were both checking and sending text messages on their phones.

Both were using their thumbs as input devices, and, boy, were those thumbs getting a workout.

So in the interest of promoting the public's health, I raised my arm with its blue splint and said, "Excuse me. But I wanted you guys to realize that because of what you're doing with your thumbs, you're going to have the surgery I just had much soon than I have had to have it."

The woman did not even look up.

The guy said, "Oh, gosh, I don't really do this that much."

Yeah. Right.

Bring us your tech problems

During the summer we set aside an hour every other Tuesday to help people who were having problems with their tablets.

We helped three or four every week. Some had trouble figuring out how to borrow e-books frm the library. Others wanted to buy apps. And a few had been given their tablets and only knew how to turn them on. I think we helped them all.

Now we're starting a new service. Instead of limiting our assistance to tablets, we'll try to help with any technical problem having to do with laptops, tablets, word-processing, etc.

The tech-savvy staffers will be here to help from noon to 1 p.m. every other Tuesday.

So come by and let us help you.