Tour: Pentagon Library

On the 21st of May 2014 a group of Library and Information Science students from the Catholic University of America, including myself, went on a tour of the Pentagon Library. Reader beware: there are no state secrets in this post, but, all the same, I hope you are able to learn something from this post and, one day, have the opportunity to visit the library yourself.


The Pentagon Library uses Library of Congress classification.  Within their library, they have small targeted collections such as Language Learning and Military Related Movies. Some of the major sections of the library include: Military Collection, General Collection, Reference, and Periodicals.  They also have a large amount of material on “Strategic Bombing Studies” as one of the librarians pointed out to us.  One of the librarians was very excited to have a bound copy of Reports upon the purchase, importation, and use of camels and dromedaries, to be employed for military purposes : according to act of Congress of March 1855 / made under the direction of the Secretary of War, 1855-56-57Their catalog is made publicly available here.


The mission of the library is to provide “a research capability to Department of Defense personnel working at the Pentagon and in the National Capital Region (NCR).” (About Your Pentagon Library)  As another Librarian put it “The point of what we do is to enable you to have the right information to make the right decision.”  What really makes the library work is the librarians who help the users navigate the information.

There are currently 18 library staff members that serve the Pentagon and the National Capital Region.

Photo from Coakley & Williams Construction                           Photo from Coakley & Williams Construction

Brief History of Pentagon Library

The original library was the War Department Library established in Philedelphia in 1795. The Pentagon Library was established in 1944. After 9/11, the library was relocated up the road to Pentagon City.  It was moved into it’s current location in October of 2006. In 2007, the library governance was transferred to the Washington Headquarter Services.

The Pentagon Library is not financed through direct appropriations, but rather through a revolving fund that also pays for building maintenance according to one of the librarians who was describing library operations on our tour.  To get a Pentagon Library card you will need a building badge; sorry folks, they just don’t hand these things out (I asked).

Scope and Extent of Collection

The main focus of the collection is in the following areas: Military Arts and Science, Naval Science, Military History, Policy Making, International Law, Political Science, Leadership and Management, Law and Legislation, Organizational and Behavioral Psychology, Speech Writing and Training, Travel, and Foreign Languages. (About Your Pentagon Library)

There are approximately 200,000 items in the catalog and they subscribe to over 70 databases.  (Facts about the Pentagon Library) It is great to know that the Pentagon is well informed, and has access to the latest information, but more so that they have an experienced staff of information managers to help them dig into the research that they need.

With respect to their virtual services, the library has three objectives: 1.) Match user experience inside and out, 2.) knowledge management, and 3.) better statistics for better decision making.  To accomplish the first objective they utilize libguides, Ebsco Discovery Service, and EOS International.  The library has also conducted surveys to see how they can improve their services.

Military Documents

Military Documents have been generated for internal military use, many of which deal with policy. The system works similar to that of the FDLP, and series assignments are based on subjects.

Libguide Pentagon Army Regs

Currently, the staff is working on digitizing the army reports. Once material is digitized and cataloged, the item becomes searchable in their catalog. There is a strong need for a larger digital repository with more server space to make the collection accessible online; just  because something is digital doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy to find.

More about the Pentagon

After feasting upon the richness of their collection the librarians that were our guide asked if we would like to go on an additional tour of the Pentagon (Sorry guys, no state secrets again- just highlights from the open air museum that serves as many of the corridors).  There are numerous exhibits that mark the hallways of the Pentagon. Some of the exhibits that are up this year include: “Army Strong: Strength of a National- War fighter Superiority, Net-Centric”,  The Five Conflicts Memorial ExhibitGlobal Mission 1942-1949, Women’s Military Corridor & Vietnam Women’s Memorial StatueNational POW/MIA Recognition Day Photos“Secretaries of War Portraits. Flags of 13 Original Colonies,” and “50th Anniversary of Integration of the Armed Services, 1998 Proclomation.

We were blessed to be able to see many of these exhibits.  Our guide led us towards an interactive display that is updated daily with photographs from around the world with high definition pictures.  Behind that particular display was a set of movie posters that the Pentagon had lent it’s expertise to. These films include Lone SurvivorCaptain America, and Godzilla.

Pentagon hallway

The hallways can be confusing as most of the passages look the overly similar: white ceilings with white floors and white walls broken up by the occasional locked door.  On the interior ring, there is an expansive view of the courtyard.  Our tour happened to coincide with DARPA day so their were tents up everywhere showing off various technological advancements and gadgets.  Our guide told us how one year during a celebration that the Pentagon was having they hired a local bakery to build a cup-cake tank, which sounded delicious.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh poses with the Georgetown Cupcake tank during the Army birthday celebration, June 14, 2012, in the Pentagon courtyard.

 Random Trivia


“The Pentagon is the worlds Largest Low Rise Office Building consisting of 6,500,000 square feet of floor space of which 3,700,000 square feet are used as offices.” The “Pentagon sits on 34 acres & Pentagon Reservation consists of 280 acres.” The “center court yard is 5 acres.” The “total Length of corridors is 17.5 miles.” The total “area of Glass is 309,276 sq ft or 7.1 acres.” The “Subway is the busiest in America and sell[s] over 6,000 foot longs a day.” They receive “1.2 to 1.6 million pieces of mail per month.” The “Pentagon has 6 zip codes.” “Construction was completed in a remarkable short time of 16 months.” There are “1,700 pints of milk used per day.” “The Pentagon consolidated 17 buildings of the War Department.” Lastly, the Pentagon has “three times the floor space of the Empire Towers.” (Pentagon Fun Facts)

The Pentagon January 2008


  1. Pentagon Library and Conference Center.  About Your Pentagon Library. Washington D.C.: Pentagon Library.
  2. Pentagon Library.  Facts about the Pentagon Library. Washington D.C.: Pentagon Library.
  3. The Federal Library and Information Center Committee. . American Federal Libraries/Information Centers Chronology. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 2000.
  4. Pentagon. Pentagon Fun Facts. Washington D.C.: Pentagon.

Dedication of the Pentagon Memorial Marine

Post Script:

Advice from Pentagon Librarians about Employment:

  • “As you are thinking about interviewing… always have a really good answer for why you want the job.”
  • “Be open minded with where your career goes.”

When jobs are made available in a federal library, they are posted on USAjobs. The following are the series numbers for federal library related careers.

  • 1421 – Archives Technician, Library And Archives
  • 1410 – Librarian, Library And Archives
  • 1412 – Technical Information Services, Library And Archives
  • 0300 – All Management, Administrative And Clerical Services, Management, Administrative And Clerical Services
  • 2200 – All Information Technology, Information Technology

Using Swirl in R

If you are new to using R and R Studio, but are interested in learning the rich value of the statistical computing and graphics software R, then swirl will serve you as a wonderful guide for learning the great power that lies with in the R software.  Swirl stands for statistics with interactive R learning.

R Programing Language

“swirl is a software package for the R statistical programming language. Its purpose is to teach users statistics and R simultaneously and interactively.” (

Once everything is loaded on your computer (see Students page on swirl website for instructions), you can open up the swirl package in R Studio and begin learning the program.  Once the program is installed, it is very simple to use.  Swirl will prompt you to create a name and will teach you how to save your progress (when ready to leave type: bye()). Swirl will also keep track of your progress on the right side of the console by measuring the percent completed.

Step by step, swirl will teach you how to operate the programming language.  At every step that you are taught something, swirl reaffirms and encourages you (e.g. “You nailed it! Good job!”).  Also, after teaching you something, they go in and highlight what the action does and how it is used.

swirl encouragement and affirmation


The lesson I was doing as I was writing this post went by pretty quick. I would encourage everyone interested in learning R to play around with swirl.  From my brief experience so far it is fun and easy to use.



Carchedi, Nick. “Swirl – Home.” (accessed May 21, 2014).

Seeking truth to gain mutual respect

“One of the most ennobling gestures any of us can make toward another human being is to ask her, sincerely, what she thinks about what we are doing together. What is her take on the truth? When we ask, wanting to hear, we treat the other person with a fundamental respect, and this behavior is then much more likely to be mirrored back to us.”  ~ Morris, Tom. If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business. First ed. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997. p. 27

Playing around in Bamboo Dirt

For a recent course project in Digital Humanities, the professor had us examine various tools available on Bamboo DiRT.  In this post I will be examining three tools available off of BambooDiRT.  I would like to encourage the reader to explore the site for themselves and see what else is available.

“Bamboo DiRT is a registry of digital research tools for scholarly use. Developed by Project Bamboo, Bamboo DiRT makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.” (


Tool 1

The first tool I would like to look at is exploratree.  Exploratree is under the “Brainstorm/generate ideas” category off of Bamboo Dirt. “Exploratree is a free web resource where you can access a library of ready-made interactive thinking guides, print them, edit them or make your own. You can share them and work on them in groups too.” (

Exploratree allows users to create projects independently or within the context of a group. Exploratree my groups

There are numerous ready made guides available to use; many of these are also available in Welsh. There is also great versatility in creating purely original content with the amount and types of tools available.

Exploratree ready made templates

When creating content, exploratree offers a zoomable grid so that the user can always bear in mind the part being worked on in relation to the whole. The box, in the center of the picture below, is grabable and can be moved over any section of the larger box.

Exploratree Grid

This tool would be wonderful for preparing supplemental material for lectures, or in class discussions. With it’s ease of usability, accessibility, and functionality this would be a good tool to add to any repertoire.


Tool 2

The second tool I will be examining is Collex.  “Collex allows users to collect, annotate, and tag online objects and to repurpose them in illustrated, interlinked essays or exhibits.” (

Bethany Nowviskie has written a wonderful White Paper on this tool.  I would like to highlight a few passages below:

  • “Collex uses a Dublin Core flavor of RDF, the resource description framework of the semantic web, to define collectible ‘objects’ without limiting them to their expression as web pages.” (Nowviskie  pg. 8)
  • “Where other social bookmarking tools (like or Connotea) are designed to allow collection and annotation of whole web pages, Collex allows contributors of resources to make finer-grained distinctions, and users of the system to build collections and exhibits more attuned to the patterns of attention in humanities scholarship.” (Nowviskie pg. 8)
  • “Because this content  can be expressed as subscription based RSS feeds, a web service, or an API through Collex’s underlying Nutch, Lucene, and Kowari RDF systems, it is possible for the maintainers of scholarly resources to patch into Collex directly from their individual web or listserv interfaces, offering information about user annotations and re-mediations for any given object without reference to Collex at all.” (Nowviskie pg. 9)

Though I found numerous mentions that this tool is open source, I was unable to find out where I could find the source online.  That said, there is a contact page for Collex. Perhaps the software must be requested from Nines (Nineteenth Century Scholarship Online).  There appear to be a few other scholastic endeavors that are utilizing this software as well: 18th Century Connect and MESA: Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance.


Tool 3

The last tool I would like to look at here is Pipes. “Yahoo Pipes allows users to combine, filter, translate, and geocode data from RSS feeds, JSON, KML, or other similar formats, and power widgets/badges using that data.” (

Yahoo Pipes

You will need to have a Yahoo account for this.  Once inside Pipes, there are numerous user input options to choose from.

Yahoo Pipes Sources

Creating a series of pipes can be an exciting endeavor.  All that is required is to drag the input box desired into the workstation and then add the material that is desired.  For every user input box, there are useful descriptions of how the boxes are used.


As a side note:

Bamboo DiRT is currently seeking people to serve on their editorial board.  They anticipate the workload to be only a couple hours a month, so this might be a great opportunity to gain experience in the DH realm.