Around Town: Library can help tap those online sources

Mark Totten, the head reference librarian and manager of the La Cañada Flintridge branch of the County of Los Angeles Public Library, mentioned in passing that the library’s collection of Civil War books gets a lot of use during Civil War homework season. The teachers, it seems, want the students to cite real books, not just Wikipedia articles, for their Civil War references. So, local kids pour into the library searching for Civil War books.

It hardly seems fair to deprive students of online resources. We live in the era of HeinOnline, Lexis, Google and Yes, Riot Games. All digital games are potential online homework resources. Just don’t tell your teacher. Don’t tell your teacher because she’s probably surfing the Civil War Trust’s website at

No need to write a new curriculum when the Civil War Trust provides free Civil War “interdisciplinary” lesson plans for teachers. There’s an elementary curriculum for grades 3 to 6, a middle school curriculum consisting of “a set of nine standards based lesson plans and one final exam... developed by teachers for students in grades 7 [to] 9.” There’s even a high school curriculum.

All these materials are available for free download, including power point presentations — the sine quo non of bureaucrats everywhere — at

Speaking of the Civil War, last weekend, Sgt. Major James Harkins, USMC (Ret.) asked me, “Which war had the most American casualties?” The answer, of course, is the Civil War. Both sides, the Union and the Confederates, were Americans.

If the library runs out of Civil War books, the Library of Congress has an online exhibit called “U.S. Civil War: Selected Resources. The exhibit includes maps, music and sound recordings, photographs, webcasts, and, you guessed it — online resources for teachers and students.

That’s not all. Cornell University maintains an online compilation of the “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.”

If you want to learn how to amputate a leg or dislodge brain shrapnel, Thomas Jefferson University offers “Civil War Surgery Manuals” at its website.

There’s always Books.Google.Com , which allows keyword searches for text within books. You can download public domain books, and purchase or borrow other print books and e-book versions from, you guessed it, your local library.

According to Wikipedia , the County of Los Angeles Public Library is “the sixth largest public library system in the United States which serves residents living in 51 of the 88 incorporated cities of Los Angeles County, Calif, United States and those living in unincorporated areas resulting in a service area extending over 3,000 square miles (7,800 km). “

We are lucky to have a well-positioned, Internet-supported, reference-friendly crew at the local branch, right here in La Cañada!

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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