From keeping chickens to optimizing your e-reader, today’s do-it-yourself culture is an exciting mix of old-world skills and high-tech how-tos.

    “I see this resurgence of interest in things that our forefathers did to survive. I think there’s a desire to have more control over our environment,” said Patty Case, a dietitian with the Oregon State University Extension Service in Klamath Falls.

    Unlike grandma, today’s home gurus can learn cheese making and home brewing virtually on demand. Through online videos, skill-swapping websites and community education like that offered by the OSU Extension, the information age offers a world of new ways to learn.

Social value

    Regardless of the learning technique you choose, Case sees a social value that goes beyond personal independence.

    “For example, kids get excited about showing their sheep at the fair, but adults see the skills it took to bring that lamb to market. Hopefully that will translate later in their life — more work-ready, more connected to their community, more leadership skills,” Case said.

    No matter how much fun learning can be, frustration is part of the game. In a world where the default  is to “Google it,” Klamath County Library assistant Heidi Nowak still encounters people with little to no Internet exposure — from youth with no keyboarding skills to an older generation baffled by Kindle.

    “When someone says they’re not computer literate, we can look up some things for them, but to teach them how to use a computer, we just can’t. People need to be patient and persistent. And they need at least a place to start,” Nowak said.

Lifelong learning

    Like many of the how-to resources available today, the library can help with chunks of knowledge. An upcoming class at the South Suburban Branch Library will teach Kindle owners how to operate the pocket-sized e-reader from Amazon.

    “We offer lifelong learning on any subject. That’s a part of what the library is,” said Nowak, who pointed to the library’s current Mastery of Aging discussion series.

    The series, a collaboration between the OSU Extension and AARP, explores topics from exercise to food as medication. Some OSU Extension topics have grown so popular these days — including horticulture — that students become the instructors.

    “We train volunteers to go out and teach others,” said Case. “They say if you want to learn something, teach others. It keeps the mind active.”