RS 100 Class Completes Poker Run in the Library

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Library Technician, Latisha Taylor, answers cadet questions at the Info Desk on the 2nd floor of Jefferson Hall.

On 25 and 26 August, cadets enrolled in the Center for Enhanced Performance’s RS 100 course got a chance to spend some very active time in the Library, finding their way from one service point to another and learning about Library resources, services, and staff along the way. The Library Poker Runs are designed to get cadets familiar with the people here at the Library who can help them in their studies, and with the resources they can use to complete the assignments they’ll have throughout their time at West Point.

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Bob Sorce, Interlibrary Loan Technician, explains how to obtain a copy of the a book not available in the USMA Library’s collection.

Cadets are given a checklist of locations in the Library (Welcome/Circulation Desk, Info Desk/Reference Librarian/Print Stations, and the Heritage Room) and are directed to complete a task at each checkpoint. The tasks help the plebes learn a multitude of research-related skills, such as how to search within our collections using Scout! – the Library’s discovery tool; how to renew books online; what to do when the Library doesn’t have an article or book they need (hint: Inter-Library Loan!); and the difference between primary and secondary sources. A highlight of the Poker Run is a visit to the Heritage Room, where this semester they got to see Custer’s demerits (all six pages of them!), hand-drawn plans (dating back to the 1870s) for the construction of the railroad tunnel underneath the Plain, and Howitzers feature the current Dean and Commandant.

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Cadets look at a page of the “Demerit Book” while Rare Book Curator, Elaine McConnell, shares some insights on what cadet life might have been like in the mid-1800s.

After completing each task, the cadets draw a card, and the cadet team with the best poker hand at the end of class wins a prize from their instructor. Almost 100 cadets participated in this round of Poker Runs, and judging from discussions with them at the end of class, a fun – and educational! – time was had by all.

Content contributed by Laura Mosher, Reference Librarian; photos by Barbara Maroney, Facilities Support Assistant.

The Library Reads – “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

book_thiefI have to admit that I was reluctant to read The Book Thief due to its subject matter. After all, the book is narrated by death and takes place in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. But after holding the best seller list for over four years and being made into a movie, it seemed to warrant a read. The Book Thief is categorized as a young adult book for ages fourteen and up but is by no means childish. Told from the perspective of a nine year old German girl named Liesel Meminger, the book provides a sympathetic glimpse into what life might have been like for the German populace as the Nazi regime took hold. One of things I found most intriguing about this book was the humanization of the German citizenry. Many of the characters are lovable and you witnesses how their world is torn apart by the impending war and how they themselves are victims of the Nazi regime. I recommend The Book Thief because books provide both nourishment for mind and soul – in this story and in real life.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)

The USMA Library has the audiobook and the DVD of The Book Thief

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 Karen Shea Reference & Liaison Librarian

 

USMA Library 2014-16 Program Review Available

2014-16 Program ReviewThe USMA Library 2014-16 Program Review is now available from the library website. The review is prepared annually each summer as both a look back at the previous academic year and a look ahead to the next. The document includes:

  •  A look at the framework governing our current work to redesign our organization and services.
  • Mission, Vision, and Goals
  • Brief snapshots of activities from the 2014-15 academic year.
  • Statistics and graphs of service and collection metrics.
  • Reports on our 2014-15 academic year organizational objectives.
  • A strategic awareness and vision for the future of academic library services and the profession of academic librarianship.
  • Assessment data and review.
  • Information on liaison support to academic departments.
  • Our 2015-16 academic year organizational objectives.

I am most thankful to the USMA Library team for the work done each and every day to deliver the best service we can to our cadets, faculty, and staff at the U.S. Military Academy. Here’s to a great 2015-16.

The Library Reads – “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy” by Karen Abbott

LiarTemptressSoldierSpy“Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy” by Karen Abbott tells the little-known story of four women who were spies during the Civil War. While this book is non-fiction, it reads like a thrilling espionage novel. Thoroughly researched with an impressive list of documentation by the author, it tells the compelling stories of four courageous women—Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a widow and Washington socialite; Belle Boyd, a small town girl from Martinsburg, Virginia (later West Virginia); Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Canadian farm girl; and Elizabeth Van Lew, a Virginia abolitionist.

Greenhow was a strong supporter of the Southern cause. She charmed top military leaders and senators to glean information and send it to her friend General P. G. T. Beauregard (USMA 1838). She was credited by confederate authorities for providing the key information which allowed First Manassas to be a victory. Eventually, Greenhow and her young daughter, who was involved in her spying activities, were arrested by the North and became some of the first women detained during the war.

Boyd, loyal to the Southern cause, coaxed many Northern politicians into divulging secrets. With sheer determination, she served as a courier by carrying intelligence to her hero Stonewall Jackson (USMA 1846). When Jackson was about to attack Front Royal, Virginia in May of 1862, she ran onto the battlefield to provide the General with last minute information about the Union troop dispositions. Boyd was arrested six or seven times, and was far from being a model inmate: she waved Confederate flags from her window, sang Dixie, and devised a unique method of communicating with supporters outside.

Edmonds, who cut her hair off and passed herself as a man, served the North as a soldier/spy in some of the bloodiest battles of the war. Edmonds signed up as a male field nurse in the Second Volunteers of the United States Army under her alias Franklin Flint Thompson. In March 1862, she was reassigned as a mail carrier for her regiment. A few months later, one of General George McClellan’s (USMA 1846) spies was caught and executed by the Confederate Army; Edmonds volunteered for the open position. In the spring of 1863, Edmonds developed malaria. Out of fear of being discovered as a woman, she deserted. While Frank Thompson was listed as a deserter, Edmonds resumed worked as a nurse in war- torn Virginia for the remainder of the Civil War.

Van Lew lived in Richmond yet remained loyal to the Union. Her efforts at assisting Yankee soldiers escaping from Confederate prisons, and runaway slaves from their masters were no small feat during war time. Her neighbors, as well as the government, suspected her of such treason but were never able to catch her in the act. One of Elizabeth Van Lew’s loyal servants, Mary Bowser, served as a slave in the White House of the Confederacy. Because of Mary’s photographic memory, she able to provide extremely important information based on what she heard and read in Jefferson Davis’ (USMA 1828) Confederate White House.

A note regarding how the book is laid out: the author choose to chronicle the characters, moving back and forth between the figures, to tell the entire saga in accordance with the timeline. Initially I started reading “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy” on an electronic device, however, I found it difficult to go back and review previous entries about a character. Thus, I personally found reading this in traditional print form more desirable.

“Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy” is beautifully written and a real page-turner. The book serves as a reminder that the heroes of our history are often found in the most unexpected places.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2014)

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 Barbara Maroney-French, Facilities Support Assistant

USMA Library Transitions to Summer Hours

Effective, Friday, June 12, 2015, USMA Library is operating on our summer hours. This means the library will close at 1630 on most days and will also remain closed on Saturdays and Sundays. There are some exceptions to these hours. For specific hours for any day, please see our Hours page.

We will resume extended hours to support the Fall Term on Monday, August 10, 2015.

Books at JSTOR

479149414_640We’ve recently increased our book collection by adding over 20,000 electronic book titles to the USMA Library collection. How, you may ask? Through our excellent new resource, Books at JSTOR.

Many of you are already familiar with JSTOR Journals, and Books at JSTOR works just like its other database. Books at JSTOR offers eBooks that are easily accessible through our SCOUT search on the library website.

This collection of academic books is drawn largely (but not exclusively) from university presses and covers 14 subject areas, including Science & Technology, Political Science, Sustainability, Sociology and History, among others. Do a keyword or title search in SCOUT, then retrieve the book by clicking on the URL at the bottom of the result you select.

JSTOR SCOUT search

Benefits of Books at JSTOR

  • High-quality scholarly content: Important titles from leading academic publishers, including Princeton University Press, Yale University Press, Harvard University Press, and many more
  • Easy to use: For example, journal articles, book chapters can be read online or downloaded as PDF files that never expire

Other nice features:

  • No logging in and no special software required
  • Unlimited downloads; unlimited copy and paste
  • Access is 24 x 7
  • New titles added monthly

Users will be able to:

  • View eBook chapters online
  • View books even if another user is “using” the book, as JSTOR offers unlimited simultaneous access– AND they never expire
  • Download and print (please remember the environment) a PDF of a chapter
  • Cross-search eBooks and journals for related content JSTOR cross-searchiing

 

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 Manja Yirka,  Continuing Resources Librarian

 

App of the Week – Adobe Slate

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.

logoslateWould you like to create a powerful visual for an assignment or presentation, but don’t have a lot of time or design skills? Adobe Slate is a new “visual storytelling” app that creates polished, easily shareable magazine-esque websites. You can create beautiful presentations, newsletters, reports, and more on your iPad in a matter of minutes–no design expertise needed. This is one of those apps where you simply have to jump in and play around; the app intuitively guides you through your new creation.

Here’s a quick story I created about USMA Library in less than 10 minutes (click on the image below to view story):

USMA Library

Most Helpful Features:

  • Very easy to use – you immediately choose a title, subtitle, theme, and main photo, and then add to your story as needed. The story continues vertically until you scroll to the end.
  • Creates beautiful visuals; currently, you can choose between 11 distinct themes.
  • Themes are meant to translate to any device, so you don’t have to worry about formatting for desktop vs. iPad.
  • Pulling photos in for your presentation is easy – use photos from your iPad or Dropbox, take a photo, or you can choose “Find a Photo” and search through Creative Commons-licensed photos.
  • You can choose to make your Slate public, or keep it private (only people you share the link with can view it)
  • You can automatically share your Slate with Facebook, Twitter, email, or iMessage, or you can share the link created immediately after uploading.

Downsides:

  • The choice of only 11 themes and staying within that theme may feel limiting, but the sacrifice of choice is what speeds along the process (and keeps the story visually consistent).
  • There is no undo/redo feature, which is a little unusual.
  • Video is not supported at this time.
  • You can’t host the story on your own site – the link will always point to Adobe’s pages. The embed code will display your headline and opening image.
  • You can’t remove the “Made with Adobe Slate” branding at the bottom of your story.

Bottom Line:

Adobe Slate is a free, easy-to-use app that allows you to create visually stunning, professional-looking stories for any purpose you can think of. As always, if you try it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Adobe Slate review: Adobe Slate for iPad makes telling stories with photos much easier

Hands-on: Adobe Slate takes another stab at “visual stories”

Adobe’s Slate Is A Visual Storytelling App For The iPad

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 D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – Skitch

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.

logoSince Evernote consistently delivers helpful apps that help us work smarter, we decided to try out Skitch, an Evernote-owned annotation tool with the tagline: “Snap. Mark up. Send.” It really is that easy. It could be called Snapchat for productivity, except that you (and/or your recipient) get to keep the photo.

Skitch allows you to annotate/draw on/mark-up any website, photo, map, or PDF of your choosing. You can also draw and annotate an idea from scratch. Skitch aims to facilitate visual communication (marking up a photo or map to highlight points for others), but it also allows you to simply make better use of your own notes. Need to study for anatomy? Just use the text and arrows to label a photo you snapped from your textbook. Want to screencap or scan your notes and highlight them for use on your iPad? The possibilities are endless.

USMASite

Most Helpful Features:

  • Simple, easy-to-use interface.
  • Each document choice (photo, maps, etc.) provides the same mark-up tools – you can add text, colorful arrows, shapes, stamps, and even emoticons. You can even use the pixelation feature to blur out information you don’t want to share (or distract others with).
  • Allows you to export your items to Evernote, email, Facebook, Twitter, and many other compatible apps.
  • You can configure your settings to automatically upload shared photos to your Camera Roll.

Downsides:

One of the more helpful features of the app–PDF mark-up–is only provided as a one-time in-app purchase of $1.99. However, if you read a lot of PDFs on your iPad and plan to take notes on them, it will be worth it to pay for this feature. It costs less than your morning coffee, and will save your printing allowance (and the environment).

EmailSkitch

Bottom Line:

Skitch is a simple mark-up tool that allows you to visually communicate with others quickly and easily. As always, if you try it out, please feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Review: Skitch lets you visually highlight images to help your point

Staff Picks: Sketch a little here and there with Skitch

Skitch is a multi-purpose editing tool for doodling on any document

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 D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – Lingua.ly

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.

maxresdefaultWhile learning a new language, you can never have too many resources at your disposal. If you’ve started using an app like Duolingo to get familiar with another language’s vocabulary, you’ll be looking for ways to test your new skills in the real world. The Lingua.ly app provides an immersive language experience by allowing you to read online articles–generally recent headline news–in the language of your choice, on a topic of your choice.

While it may be helpful to have a little vocabulary knowledge of the language you’re trying to read in, the app still works well for beginners because it lets you “select” every word you don’t understand. The app then translates the word and pronounces it for you. It also remembers all the words you select, and these become your ongoing vocabulary words. You can practice these words at any time, or keep reading through articles – the app adapts the articles it shows you to what you’re learning!

GermanSports

Most Helpful Features:

  • Completely free – and it’s also ad free.
  • No set lessons, so essentially, you’re deciding what you learn by choosing specific articles to read.
  • The app only suggests articles for you that are on your level (which it guesses based on your vocabulary and quizzes).
  • You can learn multiple languages at a time.
  • It tracks your progress with points earned and words learned.
  • It encourages short intervals of learning by letting you choose how many words you want to review at a time.
  • Lingua.ly began as a browser extension in Google Chrome, so if you’d like an additional dimension to your learning, add it to save vocabulary from websites and turn them into automatic flashcards.

Downsides:

  • The app doesn’t teach you the grammar behind the sentences – it just immerses you in the language experience.
  • Can have trouble with idiomatic phrases, and may translate very literally.
  • Sometimes, there are no articles available for the language and topic you want at the time (example – Arabic + science articles), but I just try a different combination and find other interesting things to read.
  • Only 10 languages are supported on the iOS app right now, but more will be supported soon. More languages are already supported on the web and Android versions. FrenchTravel

Bottom Line:

Lingua.ly provides a fun, enriching language-learning experience by guiding you through current world happenings in the language of your choice. It is an excellent tool to add to your language acquisition arsenal. As always, if you try it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Lingua.ly, Which Turns The Internet Into A Language Learning Tool, Launches Its First App

EdTech Startup Lingua.ly Raises $1M for its Immersive Language Platform

Finally, a Language Learning App That Works

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 D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – HabitRPG

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.

Have you evelogor wished real life was more like a video game, where you could get rewards for completing everyday tasks? Would earning experience points or leveling up your character for doing your research or finishing a paper motivate you to get started earlier or work a little harder? If so, HabitRPG might be just be your alternative to a more traditional to-do list.

HabitRPG is based on a role-playing game, where one creates a character and undertakes a quest, faces obstacles, gains experience, and levels-up along the way. You sign up for an account either through the website or app (you can use email or a Facebook login); Habit RPG then allows you to design your character and immediately start adding and completing tasks. While getting set-up is fairly straightforward, the game aspect is in-depth enough to truly be considered an RPG, so you may want to check out the site FAQ and the rest of the HabitRPG wiki for all of your quest and character possibilities (as well as how to level up and avoid death!).

On the surface, though, it’s a fairly straightforward concept. There are 4 categories of action: Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Rewards. You add good habits that you want to maintain, but you can also include bad habits that you want to break. Checking off Dailies and To-dos offer instant gratification in the form of gold, and the more gold you have, the better rewards you can “buy.”

Most Helpful Features:

  • Unlike some other RPG apps and websites, this one is totally free.
  • The interface is reminiscent of Minecraft and Legend of Zelda, which gives it more of a game feel than simply a habit/task app.
  • In addition to being rewarded for your good habits, you are penalized for your lack of action (or continuing bad habits), from gradually losing health to the death of your character – so you can’t afford to ignore your tasks!
  • Allows you to rank your habits as Easy, Medium, or Difficult, and you can make daily tasks recurring.
  • Keeps a chart of your progress for each habit.
  • Rewards can be anything you want — there are several in-game tools you can earn, or you can give yourself an hour of Netflix time.
  • On the website, you can join a guild (some of them have thousands of other players), join challenges and compete against other players to win gems, and create a party of friends to go on a quest with.
  • If you want to get really into the game and also keep yourself on track, you can download a Google Chrome browser extension for the website version that will actually hurt your character if you waste time on specific websites (such as Facebook or Reddit – you can choose the worst offenders).

HabitWeb

Downsides:

Unfortunately, the app itself does not contain the full game capacity of the web version of HabitRPG, but when you’re logged into your account, the app and the site work together. You are able to edit your character, control all of the basic habits and tasks, maintain inventory, and chat socially with others in the app. If you are looking for an app-only experience and don’t want to deal with the website, the app works fine as a stand-alone resource, and is still fun and addictive.

Bottom Line:

HabitRPG helps you establish good habits and set goals while literally leveling up in life. If you enjoy gaming and need some extra motivation, give it a try. As always, if you check it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive

Life Is A Game: Level Up Life and HabitRPG

HabitRPG Turns Better Behavior into a Game of Survival

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 D. Hall, Circulation Librarian