Computer skills are crucial for many job seekers in this sour economy. That is why Malcolm Anderson’s computer classes at the Forest Park Public Library are so well attended. They’re also popular because Malcolm can make clear the most obscure concepts.

One student, Adilah Bilal, thinks Malcolm is remarkable. He is always open to questions and gives hands-on help if the student doesn’t understand his answer. Most valuable of all are the handouts Malcolm issues, so students can practice skills at home.

Adilah moved to Forest Park from Arizona a few months ago, after her job as medical-office coordinator was eliminated. She cherished being near her eleven-month-old grandson but had to find gainful employment. She was at the library brushing up her skills with computer books, when she heard about Malcolm. She’s been attending his classes ever since.

Malcolm graduated from the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering. Despite his broad background in math and science, he found a job in an English department teaching technical writing at Morton West High School.

In 1975, Malcolm began entering his grades into a computer. This was back in the Bronze Age of technology, when a memory module with 4K capacity cost $4,000. He went on to become the de facto information technology consultant for the high school.

After retiring in 1995, he wrote databases for large corporations. Four years ago, he volunteered to lead computer classes at the library. These are held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, from 9 to 11. Malcolm instructs his students in the use of PowerPoint, Excel and Internet Explorer.

His students range in age from early 20’s to 65-and-beyond. Some are fine-tuning their skills; others are clueless. He recalls one student dangling the mouse, as if the cord was a tail, and asking what it was. Malcolm’s answer made sense. He knew it was some kind of rodent.

On a recent Saturday morning, Malcolm conducted class in the library’s meeting room. His laptop was plugged into a projector, while students sat with library laptops. There were only six computers available but one of the students graciously shared hers with Adilah.

Teaching is part show biz, so it helps that Malcolm’s a gifted amateur actor, who’s hammed it up in several Forest Park productions. He uses common household terms to explain technical theories. He teaches timesaving shortcuts and will certify a student who has mastered a skill for their resume.

Malcolm noted that in today’s economy, productivity has increased, while employment has declined. He’s unwittingly been part of this process, writing databases that allowed clients to cut their work force.

So, if your position has been eliminated, or you’d just like to learn how to download your grandkids’ pictures, Malcolm can help. His next eight-class session begins on May 6.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.