Books · Research

The Perseids

Have you heard about the Perseid meteor shower? Maybe you saw this post at IFLscience.

2007 Perseid
Persied Meteor 2007. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 8 Aug 2016.

Every year around this time, meteors are visible, originating from the comet Swift-Tuttle, and appearing to come from the constellation Perseus.

If you’re curious about the Perseids, or meteor showers in general, you can learn more with various library resources:

This book, Meteor Showers and their Parent comets.

Articles in online reference works like Credo Reference.

Articles in the ProQuest SciTech collection, like this one.

If you’d like to learn more about meteors, stop by the reference desk or contact the Library Help Desk.


Air Assault: Sharing Military Experience

Air Assault: Sharing Military Experience by William Crisp, ’63

AIR ASSAULT: SHARING MILITARY EXPERIENCE by William Crisp, VMI class of 1963, draws on the author’s experience as a rifle platoon leader with the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 8th Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division (Airmobile), Vietnam. The writer discusses a broad range of military issues, not solely limited to the Vietnam era, but applicable to many current situations. Topics range from fighting, to the importance of chow; training; enlisted men and NCO’s; officers and tactics; “Shank Mechanics and Hospitals;” goin’ out; goin’ home. Considerable space is devoted to “influences,” including a discussion of the VMI Rat Line.

After military service, Crisp served as a U.S. Foreign Service officer in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and worked for twenty-five years as an East European business specialist with the Economist Intelligence Unit, Vienna, Austria. With his wife and daughter he returned to his homes in Staunton and McDowell, Highland County. He then taught in VMI’s International Studies department, and served as head coach of the VMI Rugby Football Club. The book is available from bookstores and online orders from, and

Mr. Crisp kindly donated a copy of his book to Preston Library where it will find a welcome home.

Books · Events

Col. and Mrs. Tom McDaniel Book Presentation

Col. McDaniel presents The Major to Col. Samdahl

Col. and Mrs. W. Thomas McDaniel, Jr., presented the book, The Major: The Senior Officer in Charge: Commanding Fellow Prisoners of War to Preston Library. Written by Col. McDaniel, the book is about his father, Major W. Thomas McDaniel,  (West Point, 1941). Major McDaniel was the senior officer of American soldiers captured by the North Koreans. The book documents the brutal conditions POWs suffered in the Korean War and the heroic and inspirational leadership Major McDaniel provided under extreme conditions. It not only reveals important information about the “Forgotten War” but is a thought-provoking read for future leaders.

Books · The Friends of Preston Library

The Friends of Preston Library 2012 Spring Program

Remarkable RockbridgeThe Friends of Preston Library’s Spring Program will feature Dr. Charles Bodie as its speaker March 20 at 3:00 p.m. in the Turman Room. Dr. Bodie recently completed Remarkable Rockbridge: The Story of a Virginia County. The title of his talk will be “The Ties that Bind: Reflections on the Post and the Town.” Please join us for an interesting and engaging historical walk through the history of Lexington and VMI.

Charles A. Bodie received his B.A. at the College of William and Mary and his Ph.D. in American history at Indiana University. He taught in the history department at VMI and has published articles and several manuscript guides to Virginia counties, including that of Rockbridge. He is currently working on a biography of Virginia Governor James McDowell, an antebellum native of Rockbridge.

Refreshments will be served and books will be available for sale and signature by the author.


May is National Short Story Month!

There are many great things to say about short stories.

  • Their length is appealing to those of us who always read something before going to sleep as well as those of you who read on your phones and other electronic gadgets.
  • Often short stories are dense and rich with all the dialog and description that we appreciate in our favorite novels.
  • As readers, we can be introduced to the work of an author without having to commit to something as long as a novel.
  • Frequently, novel writers also write short stories which are less known than their novels.

I could go on – instead, I’ll provide you with a couple suggestions.  Raymond Carver, Cathedral. Roald Dahl (did you know he wrote short stories?) Collected Stories. And a perennial favorite, JD Salinger’s Nine Stories.

If you’re interested in searching the Preston Library catalog to see what other short story collections we have, take a look here.

Who’s your favorite short story author?

Books · Research

Oxford English Dictionary site relaunches!

Do you use the Oxford English Dictionary online? If you haven’t used it, check it out the next time you need a good definition, word history, or a thesaurus search. Those of you who have been using the OED will notice many of the same features and tools as well as some new ways to search and browse and a tool to help you cite the entry.

Check out the new OED, and if you have questions about it, Ask A Librarian!

Books · Events

Have you read a banned book lately?

In Preston Library’s Periodicals Room you’ll find a display in honor of Banned Books Week. This week marks the 29th year that Americans have been celebrating the freedom to read.  Each year many books are challenged as being objectionable by individuals and groups who ask for them to be removed by public and school libraries everywhere.  See the top 10 books challenged in 2009, as reported by the American Library Association Office for International Freedom here.  When an individual or group makes a challenge, it’s more than stating a negative opinion about that book – it’s asking that others don’t have the freedom to choose to read that book.

All sorts of books are challenged for reasons ranging from content to language to age level.  Of the top 100 novels of the 20th Century (as designated by the well-respected Radcliffe Publishing Course), 46 have been challenged or banned. Libraries are great supporters of the First Amendment, and further, the freedom to choose what to read.  Stop in the Periodicals Room to learn more about Banned Books week and see some of Preston Library’s books that were once challenged or banned.

See other news about Banned Books Week here.

Books · Events · What's New

National Women’s History Month

In March 2010, we are celebrating 30 years of recognition of women’s historic contributions to the growth and strength of our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways.  It was President Jimmy Carter who issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as the first National Women’s History Week.  Later the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) worked to lobby Congress to expand the week into a month.  In 1987, a Congressional Proclamation designated March as the “Women’s History Month.”

The theme selected for this year’s celebration is “Writing Women Back into History.”  You will find a display of library books, CDs and DVDs in the Periodical Reading Room by and about women who were artists, engineers, scientists, warriors and much more.

When you visit the display in the Periodicals Room, you can see materials representing the variety of experiences that comprise Women’s History, from the letter writers in Revolutionary War times in Women’s Letters through to Laura Brodie’s account of the admission of the first female cadets at VMI in 1997.  In between are the biographies of suffragist Susan B. Anthony; America’s first female doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell; pilot Amelia Earhart; anthropologists Margaret Mead and Mary Leakey, and Maria Stewart, America’s First Black Woman Political Writer.

The National Women’s History Project website is here, and their facebook page is here.

Books · Events · The Friends of Preston Library

The Friends of Preston Library 2010 Spring Program

The Friends of Preston Library in concert with the VMI Honors Program hosted a program Wednesday, 3 March 2010 at 5 p.m. in the Turman Room of Preston Library featuring James L. W. West, III. Dr. West is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. He discussed his book on William StyronLetters to My Father. The letters were written by Styron to his father between 1943 and 1953. Each letter opens with “Dear Pop,” and provides a kind of autobiography of the young author’s activities and thoughts. In later years, Styron communicated increasingly by telephone so these letters are especially valuable in providing insight of the author’s formative ears.

A native of Newport News, author of Sophie’s ChoiceThe Confessions of Nat TurnerLie Down in DarknessA Tidewater Morning, and other celebrated works, William Styron will be remembered as one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Last month, Jim West’s book received a front page review by the Times Literary Supplement.

Copies of Letters to My Father were available for purchase at the program and for the author to sign. Dr. West provided an informative and engaging program that was enjoyed by cadets, faculty, and the public.