USMA Library LibGuides – New Guides Published

LibGuides is an easy to use Content Management System utilized by many thousands of libraries worldwide. Librarians use it to curate knowledge and share information by creating online Guides on any topic, subject, course, or process.  The USMA Library currently has 54 published LibGuides in 16 subject categories.  The Audiovisual and Social Sciences Liaison Librarian, Michael G. Arden, recently published two new Guides, AMERICAN POLITICS and INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS which are aimed at students of SS202 and SS307 respectively, as well as students in upper level courses.  Both Guides highlight the library’s research tools that will help cadets achieve success in their academic research work.

App of the Week – Box

boxonecloudWe are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

You may have noticed that a couple of the apps reviewed so far focus on organizing your life–particularly, your academic life. This week’s app, Box, continues in that theme.
Why Box?
USMA may soon be offering cloud-based storage to all cadets as part of a career-encompassing “digital rucksack,” with free storage in Box as part of the package. Those details are not finalized, but with that in mind, we thought it would be appropriate to take a closer look at this app.
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Box is an established, easy-to-use, cloud storage and file syncing service — and the iPad app is only the tip of the iceberg. Like many of the other apps we’ve reviewed, Box is a service that starts with the web, and syncs your files with its smartphone/tablet apps. You can use Box to store and organize important documents, photos, assignments, and collaborative projects.
Most helpful features:
●    Folder collaboration — you can invite others to access your files (there are different levels of permissions, from viewing to editing), so group work is shared immediately
●    Most file types accepted for uploading and editing, including Microsoft Word and Google Docs, video and audio files
●    In-app streaming — you can watch/listen to videos and songs or other audio directly through the app, without having to download them to your device (a feature Dropbox doesn’t offer)
●    Box OneCloud — access to 800+ companion apps within the Box app; approximately 30 are official Box apps; half are free, half are paid
●    A relatively new feature, Box Notes, which is similar to Evernote — so if you want to have *everything* in one (digital) place, this is ideal
●    Fast uploading and syncing
●    In addition to its encryption features for file transfers, you can password protect files and folders
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Downsides: No option for instant back-up/upload for photos on your device, such as Dropbox’s automatic photo syncing – but turning on Apple’s photo stream will fix that minor issue; you can edit your documents within Box on the web, but not in the app (however, this is true of most cloud storage apps at the moment)
Bottom line: Box is being heralded as one of the best cloud-storage apps for businesses, but the app’s intuitive interface, collaborative document sharing, and bonus features (OneCloud, Notes, etc) make it another helpful tool for managing your academic life.
Do you use Box, or another cloud storage app? If so, let us know what you think!

Further reading:
Box for iOS review: Secure cloud storage with an intuitive interface

Box Review: Powerful Cloud Storage for Your Business

PC Mag: Box for iOS Review

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

Banned Books Week is September 21 – 27, 2014

Banned_Books_WeekThis week libraries all over the country will be celebrating Banned Books Week, an event designed to bring national attention to the harms of censorship while highlighting the value of free and open access to information.

It’s easy to take a seemingly benign activity like reading for granted.  As Americans with a wide variety of opinions and beliefs, we are used to having access to books and other reading materials that offer just as many opinions and views.  However, this is the not the case for millions of people around the world where information is often censored or restricted by a government or regime.

Yet the basic right to read – explore ideas and express ourselves freely – are often at risk even in this country. According to The American Library Association, each year hundreds of books are either removed or challenged in schools and libraries across the nation. So the threat of censorship, or of the suppression of thoughts and differences of opinion, is not just a foreign affair, but something Americans need to be concerned about as well.

You might be surprised to learn that many of the books that have been banned over the years are considered classics.  The list includes: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Ulysses by James Joyce.  (View the complete list here).  While clearly not every book is intended for every reader, it’s hard to imagine being denied the right to read any of these books because someone has deemed their content inappropriate.

While Banned Books Weeks traditionally focuses on public and school libraries, colleges and universities are not immune from efforts aimed at censoring materials. In South Carolina, two public colleges recently were the target of funding cuts from the SC Legislature based on books assigned as summer reading for incoming freshmen. The gay-themed books: the graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a collection of stories first broadcast on a state radio program, were the subject of much controversy; while the funding to the two schools was ultimately restored, it was done so with the proviso that the schools use the reading program money to teach the U.S. Constitution and other key historical documents. Read more about this controversy here.

There are a number of ways that you can help commemorate Banned Books Week.  On Sept. 24, SAGE and American Library Association’s Office of intellectual Freedom will present a free webinar discussing efforts to un-ban books by visiting activists and speakers in London, Charleston, S.C., Houston and California.  ALA also invites anyone who is interested, to read from their favorite banned books by participating in the popular Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out on YouTube.

The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by reference librarians Karen Shea and Laura Mosher

App of the Week – Evernote Peek

evernote-peek-175
We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

Last week, we discussed Evernote, a digital workspace that allows you to store all kinds of content–in the form of “notes” and “notebooks”–and syncs your files among all of your devices. This week, we wanted to highlight an Evernote companion app that is perfect for studying: Evernote Peek.

Evernote Peek works with your iPad cover to “peek” at virtual flashcards for an exam. Don’t have an iPad cover? No problem. Evernote Peek allows you to use a virtual, customizable cover that serves the same purpose.

How does it work?
Flip up the bottom section of the cover to see a clue. Think of the answer, then open up the cover midway to reveal the answer. You can mark your answer as “correct” or “incorrect,” so if you mark an answer incorrect, the flashcard will pop up again later. You can close the cover again to go to the next flashcard.
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Where do the flashcards come from?
Your Evernote Notebooks! Any of your Notebooks can be automatically converted into flashcards (you’ll want to make sure they’re typed/organized in a flashcard-friendly format), but you can also create new ones just for Peek. There are also several pre-loaded Notebooks, such as foreign language vocabulary quizzes and general subject test prep (i.e.. Periodic Table quiz, Econ 101, US History Master Vocabulary).
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Downsides: Once you’ve started a quiz, you have to flip through the entire thing to get back to the Notebooks – a slight inconvenience. It can also take a little time to shape your notebooks into flashcard-ready mode.

Bottom Line: Evernote Peek is an easy-to-use app that converts your stored homework notes into ready-made virtual flashcards. Integrating the iPad cover is a fun bonus. Try it out, and let us know if Evernote and Evernote Peek enhance your academic experience.
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Further reading on Evernote Peek:

Ace Your Exams With Evernote Peek

Introducing: Evernote Peek, The First iPad Smart Cover App

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

Those Daring Young Men in Their Flying Machines!

selfridgeThe United States Armed Forces and graduates of the Military Academy have always been on the forefront of technology integration. Thomas Etholen Selfridge, born February 2nd 1882 in San Francisco, California exemplifies this sense of wonder and adventure.
Upon graduation from the Academy in June 1903, Selfridge served with the coast and field artillery. Returning to West Point in 1906, Selfridge began a serious study of the new field of aeronautics and discovered his true vocation. Through the auspices of astronomer and librarian Edward Singleton Holden, Selfridge spent the summer of 1907 in Nova Scotia working with Alexander Graham Bell. Lt. Selfridge flew Bell’s tetrahedral kite the “Cygnet” as well as the “White Wings and “June Bug” aero planes. These experiments were so successful that Selfridge was sent to Hammondsport, NY to assist Professor Bell in continued experiments through the winters of 1907 and 1908.
Selfridge was then transferred to Fot Meyer, Virginia as part of the “Signal Corps for Aeronautical Work” unit.  In Fort Meyer Selfridge worked with Captain Baldwin on the development of dirigibles and met Mr. Orville Wright, who with his brother had successfully flown a motor driven plane at Kitty Hawk, N.C. in 1903.
With dirigible experiments going so well the army selected Lieutenant Selfridge as one of the two officers to manage its new dirigible experimental station in Saint Joseph, Missouri. On September 17th, 1909, just prior to his planned departure, Thomas Selfridge realized one of his long held dreams—a heavier than air flight with Orville Wright. Selfridge and Wright took off at 6:14 p.m. into a four mile per hour wind. According to contemporary reports they circled the field four and one half times before a propeller blade detached. Wright and Selfridge were at an altitude of about 150 feet.  Wright turned off the motor and glided the plane down to 75 feet; they fell the remaining 75 feet. During the precipitous fall Selfridge “sustained severe cuts about the face and a fracture at the base of the skull”. Lieutenant Selfridge died of his injuries at 8:10 on   the evening of September 17th 1909, becoming the first air fatality of a mechanized flight.
A memorial to Thomas Selfridge, USMA 1903 stands in the West Point Cemetery as a monument to his tenacity, forward thinking and mankind’s everlasting dream of flight.

Contents contributed by Elaine McConnell, Rare Book Curator.  Photo courtesy of USMA Library Special Collections and Archives.

The First World War and Popular Cinema

A scene from "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930)

A scene from “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930)

World War I coincided with a young, rapidly developing film industry, and as belligerent governments aggressively utilized film to rally their public to the war effort, the foundation was set for the robust development of world film during the interwar period. As the publisher of The First World War and Popular Cinema: 1914 to the Present noted, “The Great War played an instrumental role in the development of cinema, so necessary was it to the mobilization efforts of the combatant nations. In turn, after the war, as memory began to fade, cinema continued to shape the war’s legacy and eventually to determine the ways in which all warfare is imagined.”

Classic films like All Quiet on the Western Front, Hell’s Angels, Grand Illusion, and Paths of Glory transport today’s audiences back to the bloody world of trench warfare and aerial dogfights, both of which characterize how we remember the war today. World War I is considerably underrepresented in the war film genre in terms of both feature films and documentaries. This is particularly true in comparison to the war it set the stage for, World War II. However, the USMA Library has a number of titles relating to the war that broke out 100 years ago that did so much to shape our modern world. Take a look at the films in this guide for some of the best in the genre.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Mike Arden, Audiovisual Librarian

App of the Week – Evernote

evernoteAgain, welcome to a new academic year USMA cadets, faculty, and staff! With the new year brings new technology–in the form of 4,000+ cadet iPads! Since USMA Library staff members are always looking for the best resources to recommend to our users, we are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.  

Evernote has been on many “best of the best” app lists over the past few years, so chances are that even if you’ve never used it, you’ve at least heard of it. Here’s a little more information to help you determine whether the Evernote app is a useful addition to your academic toolkit.

What is it? Evernote is essentially a digital workspace. You have the ability to compose or upload notes (whether by typing them directly into Evernote or importing them from another digital location, taking a photo, “clipping” text or links from the web, or recording audio), access those notes on any device (from laptop to iPad to iPhone or Android phone to random computer while traveling), and easily share notes with group members without leaving Evernote. To utilize the Evernote iPad app, you must sign up for a free Evernote account.EvernoteWeb

Most useful features (free app only):

  • Instant syncing: type something into the iPad app and access it on your Evernote phone or laptop immediately.
  • Organization: you can create “notebooks” for each class, project, or activity you’re involved in, and file all notes you create under a specific notebook. You can also easily create checklists/to-do lists, assign due dates and pop reminders, and tag/label each note for instant retrieval.
  • Search: Evernote has a powerful search function – type in a word or two related to the note you’re looking for, and it will pull up several options instantly.
  • Snap pictures to store in your notes, including useful documents that you always want access to: examples include taking scanning handwritten notes or handouts that actually become searchable; an instructor’s notes written on the whiteboard in class; handouts/homework, etc.
  • Group work made easy – you can create shared notebooks that your group members can add to.
  • Downsides: Web clipper, which is an excellent feature, is not available to use in the iPad app – but you can use it through a web browser on your desktop/laptop, and anything you clip will still appear in your app. There is a premium version of Evernote with more features and monthly space that you can pay for (60 MB a month free, 1 GB per month with premium), but unless you’re a prolific user, upgrading is probably not necessary.
  • Bottom line: Evernote has the potential to make organizing your life a lot easier. If you try it out, let us know what you think!

As always, here are some other helpful reviews:

Evernote (for iPad) Review

The Best Apps for Taking Notes

10 Tricks to Make Yourself an Evernote Master

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – Wolfram|Alpha

Again, welcome to a new academic year USMA cadets, faculty, and staff! With the new year brings new technology–in the form of 4,000+ cadet iPads! Since USMA Library staff members are always looking for the best resources to recommend to our users, we are starting a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

If you’ve heard of Wolfram|Alpha before, you may have heard it compared to Google and Bing—but it is not your typical search engine.  Its creators call it a “knowledge engine,” because it does not search the web for information – it is pre-programmed with data that was curated by humans (not web crawlers). It uses its computational abilities to answer natural language based queries and/or high-level math equations. Thus, Wolfram|Alpha can only retrieve answers about things that are known – to make the distinction, you can ask “What year was the United States Military Academy founded?” but not more subtle questions like “Why was the United States Military Academy founded?”

Math example (you can also choose “step by step” calculations, to help understand the work behind it):

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Compare economic data (Wolfram|Alpha is especially helpful for data comparisons):

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And for fun, a 2009 NFL quarterback comparison:

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See this FAQ and these examples for more information about Wolfram|Alpha’s scope. You really have to explore it for yourself to see all of the possibilities!

You can use Wolfram|Alpha for free on your desktop/laptop/mobile device/tablet, but the iPad app is customized specifically for iPad use, with the additional benefit of being able to save favorites and view your search history. It’s better than visiting Wikipedia every time you want to start researching a subject, or need a quick answer to a question–not only are the sources vetted before entry into Wolfram|Alpha’s knowledge base, but in the app, those sources are listed directly below your query answer, with related links to your search below that.

The only major downside of this app, and its corresponding subject-based apps: they’re not free. But if I could only recommend one paid app to anyone, ever, it would be Wolfram|Alpha.  Explore the amazing Wolfram|Alpha website for more information on everything it can do (you will be fascinated!), and for more helpful reviews on the app and site, visit the links below.

The ultimate “kitchen sink” app – Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha App is so Smart It’s Scary

32 Tricks You Can Do With Wolfram Alpha, The Most Useful Site In The History Of The Internet

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

Fall 2014 Service Announcements

NEW WELCOME AND CIRCULATION DESK COMING SOON

Later this fall, our primary welcome and circulation desk will move to the first floor of Jefferson Hall. Construction has been ongoing since late summer on the new desk and service area. This new location will allow us to enhance both service and security for Jefferson Hall. Once the move is complete, materials will be checked out and returned on the first floor (no more climbing up the stairs to return a book). The new desk will serve as a primary welcome point for anyone visiting Jefferson Hall where staff can provide assistance and guidance on services, events, and policies. Outside guests visiting the library will also have a new checkpoint for registration and clearance. Eventually, with our new collection security perimeter incorporating the first floor rotunda, we will also reprogram the elevators to be able to move freely to all floors (no more switching cars on the second floor). We hope these changes will make it easier for guests and researchers to use and gain information about library services while increasing overall facility and collection security.

NEW FLEXIBLE USE SPACE ON THE SECOND FLOOR OF JEFFERSON HALL

This past spring, guests to Jefferson Hall may have noticed the newly configured flexible use space on the second floor adjacent to the Reference Desk in the northwest corner of the floor. This space formerly housed our print reference collection and now affords us a flexible use area for exhibits, collection engagement, cadet study, and a place for support activities to other building events. The reference collection formerly in this location has been either assimilated into the general collections (where we are already seeing higher use of these materials and they are available for circulation), or consolidated into a smaller ready reference collection that remains next to the Reference Desk. We have installed new easy-to-move-and-configure tables, chairs and other seating. The space is already seeing high use from cadets throughout the day and evenings.

2013-2015 USMA LIBRARY PROGRAM REVIEW AVAILABLE

This summer the Library published our annual program review which includes information about our activities during the 2013-14 academic year as well as a look ahead at our goals and objectives for the coming academic year. The review is available for download on the USMA Library website.

UNESCORTED GUEST ACCESS POLICIES NOW IN PLACE

Per force protection policies put in place this past year, all visitors in Jefferson Hall should be in uniform, or have valid DoD identification displayed at all times. Outside guests should be accompanied by West Point personnel at all times.

FALL SERVICE HOURS

Hours for operation for USMA Library and Jefferson Hall are always posted on our website. Please note that there can be adjusted hours based on the schedule for the Corps of Cadets.

Special Collections and Archives is now available for research 0800-1600 Monday through Friday. For best service, advance coordination of resources to be consulted is advised. More information is available.

STAY CONNECTED TO THE LIBRARY

We’d love to keep you up-to-date throughout the year on library news and programs. You can follow our blog, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Discover a Database – SciFinder

SciFinder scifinderis the leading research tool for chemists and researchers, providing the essential content and proven results scientists need to increase productivity and make faster breakthroughs. SciFinder includes information about many different types of substances, their synonyms, molecular formulas, ring analysis, structure diagrams, experimental and predicted property data. In addition, other topics that are covered are: proteomics, genomics, biochemistry, biochemical genetics and macromolecules. Or, you can search physical, inorganic, organic and analytical chemistry. You can research a topic, a chemical reaction or a reaction structure.

  • First-time users must register: SciFinder User Registration. After a quick registration, you should receive an email saying: “You have successfully completed the registration process. To sign in to SciFinder®, click the link below.”
  • TIP: Scifinder will “remember” you for two weeks, unless you LOGOFF. X-out instead of logging off.
  • Search tips for SciFinder:
  1. When researching a topic, it is usually best to search on a phrase, such as “methods of detecting drugs or hazardous materials.”
  2. To search a chemical structure you can draw a structure in the structure editor or import one from an external file. You can also search on a molecular formula to retrieve substances with molecular formulas matching the symbols in your query. You can retrieve substance references or reactions, specific to biological or other studies.
  3. Remember to save your searches and create an alert to “keep you posted,” on future substances with the same criteria.
  4. References cover both CAPlus and MEDLINE

Contents contributed by Manja Yirka, Continuing Resources Librarian