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):

Screen1

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

econ

And for fun, a 2009 NFL quarterback comparison:

football

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

App of the Week – Trello

trelloWelcome 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.

Trello – Task Management

If you are a visual person when it comes to task management, Trello is an online tool that can help to bring some order out of to-do chaos either for a single person, or for teams. For me, if something is out of sight, it really is out of mind. Most other task/project management tools tend to show you things that need to be done now, while obscuring things that may need to be done later, or that aren’t requiring specific action right now, but that you want to keep track of. Trello’s model of lists and cards allows for a variety of different topics (to-dos, delegations, ideas, etc.) to live side by side in a way that can be easily scanned and reviewed.

Brainstorming is also easy to do in Trello, and with some features like voting on individual cards, could provide another effective way to gather input from groups in a collaborative, visual way. We have not yet tried this in the library, though we may do so in the future.

Personally, I keep two main boards, one that I try to keep all my own activities tracked on, and another for the Library generally (Library staff have access to the latter. Those without accounts can let me know and I can set them up). I have a number of other boards for smaller projects, as well as one board shared with each team leader in the library. The Communications Team has used Trello for some time to plan out and track social media/blog posts.

Perhaps one of the best features of Trello is that the basic product is free to use, even in a team setting. There is a paid tier that offers greater customizations and control for organizations, though the basic product is quite robust for general use. Perhaps the biggest issue in my mind is poor printing support. So if someone does not have access to a screen and is linked into your board, it is difficult to share it with them. Trello does not run so well on our approved versions of Internet Explorer. Current versions of Firefox or Chrome are the best tool, along with good iOS/Android apps.

For more in-depth feature and product reviews on Trello, check out the following online articles:

by Christopher D. Barth, USMA Librarian with some content contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian.

RS 100 Classes Complete Poker Runs in the USMA Library

Librarian Darrell Hankins helps Plebes learn to search the Library’s resources with our Scout! Search tool.

Librarian Darrell Hankins helps Plebes learn to search
the Library’s resources with our Scout! Search tool.

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.

Rare Book Curator Elaine McConnell tells cadets about some of the unique resources in the Library’s Special Collections and Archives Division.

Rare Book Curator Elaine McConnell tells cadets about some of the unique resources in the Library’s Special Collections and Archives Division.

Cadets are given a checklist of locations in the Library (Circulation Desk, Reference Desk, Reserve Room, and Special Collections & Archives Reading 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 Special Collections and Archives Reading Room, where this semester they got to see Custer’s demerits (all six pages of them!) and hand-drawn plans (dating back to the 1870s) for the construction of the railroad tunnel underneath the Plain.

Librarian Michael Arden advices cadets as they search for books and  journal articles using the Library website.

Librarian Michael Arden advices cadets as they search for books and journal articles using the Library website.

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.

Narrative by Laura Mosher; photos by Barbara Maroney

Librarian from German Army Officers’ School Visits Library

USMA Librarian Christopher Barth introduces Barbara Marschallek, Librarian from the German Army Officer's School before her presentation.

USMA Librarian Christopher Barth introduces Barbara Marschallek, Librarian from the German Army Officer’s School before her presentation.

Barbara Marshallek, librarian at the Offizierschule des Heeres (The German Army Officers’ School in Dresden), recently visited the USMA Library. She met with library staff to gain a greater understanding of our facilities and functions. At the conclusion of her time visiting the library, she gave the USMA Library staff a presentation about The German Army Officers’ Academy in Dresden and its library. We were surprised to learn that the German Army Officers’ School staff is not nearly as large as West Point’s. Ms. Marshallek’s presentation was very enlightening, showing historical documents and visuals of the German library. The staff thoroughly enjoyed getting to know our German counterpart!

New Faculty Orientations at the USMA Library

Department of GeNe  viewing the USMA Library's website.

Department of GeNe instructors viewing the USMA Library’s website as part of new faculty orientations at the USMA Library.

During the “dog days” of summer, USMA Librarians keep busy by working on various projects and initiatives that prepare us and our patrons for the demands of the upcoming academic year. One of the notable ways we do this is by conducting tours of the Library for incoming staff and faculty. Most of the Librarians at the USMA Library serve as Liaisons to specific Academic Departments; as part of the faculty development workshops in these Departments, Library Liaisons lead new staff and faculty members on tours that introduce them to the services and resources of the Library.

Newly assigned instructors receive library card application.

Newly assigned instructors receive library card application.

From 1 through 31 July, nine of our Liaison Librarians gave a total of 120 new faculty and staff members an overview of what we can do for them – and for their cadets! –  during these tours. The Liaison Librarians use the Library’s website – our gateway to the vast digital and physical resources available to our patrons – as a jumping-off point, demonstrating the variety of resources that can be accessed both locally and through inter-library loan. We show our new colleagues that our website also provides information on our hours, staff, and methods for requesting and renewing resources.

Instructors from the Math Department view archival documents in the Heritage Room.

Instructors from the Math Department view archival documents in the Heritage Room.

We explain the services available from our staff, including: the creation of subject- or course-specific research guides (accessible through the Library website); library instruction sessions tailored to the research requirements of specific assignments; and our Reserve Room, where materials can be placed on reserve by instructors in order that all cadets in their classes may have access to them. Of course, no trip to the Library is complete without a visit to the 6th floor Haig Room and terrace, and a stop at the Class of 1986 Ring Case.

Department of English and Philosophy instructors view the Haig Room.

Department of English and Philosophy instructors view the Haig Room.

It’s our goal that the new faculty and staff at USMA understand the resources and services the Library provides for them and their cadets, and know to call on us whenever they have a research needs associated with their personal, professional, or teaching duties.

Contributors:  Laura Mosher, Reference Librarian (article); Barbara Maroney (photos)