Posted by & filed under Boredom Busters, Is That a Document?, Special Days.

A picture of Woodsy Owl with the words It's My 50th Birthday! on the side and bottom of the Woodsy Owl graphic.

Image courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.

Toot your hooters, Woodsy the Owl is 50 years old this year! We would like to use this anniversary to highlight just a few of the many resources we have in the Government Information Connection at Sycamore Library related not just to Woodsy, but also to the rest of that sometimes delightfully weird menagerie of characters the U.S. government has created over the years to charm and educate the public.

The Birth of Woodsy Owl

Woodsy Owl made his official debut on September 15, 1971. Ten years earlier, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had alerted the nation to the dangers of pesticides polluting the environment. Her book inspired a movement that increased throughout the 1960s, culminating in the first Earth Day celebration in 1970.

The Forest Service wanted to join in promoting this anti-pollution message—their Smokey Bear fire-prevention campaign had already succeeded beyond all expectations. But they didn’t want to dilute Smokey’s familiar slogan with a second message, so a new spokes-character was created: Woodsy, the anti-pollution owl. The two of them have continued to this day encouraging children and adults to protect the forests and all our natural surroundings.

Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear with Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson meets Smokey and his new pal, Woodsy Owl. Courtesy U.S. Forest Service.


What Is a Government Mascot?

There have been animal mascots in the military academies and branches of the armed forces since before the twentieth century, and symbols such as the bald eagle, Columbia, and Uncle Sam have been used to personify the United States for even longer, but the first instance of a government agency using an anthropomorphized animal character to promote a cause was probably the Smokey Bear campaign, which started during World War II.

Smokey Bear commemorative stick fan

World War Worries

As the Forest Service was losing manpower and equipment to the war effort, they needed a creative way to alert American citizens to the dangers of forest fires and to instill a sense of personal responsibility for protecting the forests.

Previous attempts to communicate this message included this poster by “I Want You” designer James Montgomery Flagg, featuring a hectoring Uncle Sam:

James Montgomery Flagg painting of Uncle Sam pointing to a raging forest fire and accusing the viewer: "Your Forests — Your Fault — Your Loss!"

There were also posters featuring Bambi the deer, who was quite popular because of the recent movie, but was on loan by his owner Disney for only a year. The Forest Service needed a positive message delivered by a character they could call their own.

The War Advertising Council

The nonprofit War Advertising Council had already been organized by American businesses and advertising professionals to promote the war effort through posters and other media. They encouraged Americans to buy war bonds, keep their lips sealed, and grow victory gardens. The Council assigned the advertising agency Foote, Cone and Belding the task of developing a forest fire prevention campaign using the same techniques that had been used to sell commercial products to consumers.

Because Somebody Talked!Don't Let That Shadow Touch Them: Buy War BondsPlant a Victory Garden: Our Food is FIghting—A Garden Will Make Your Rations Go Further

Smokey Bear Is Not a Mascot

Eventually the discussions led to the idea of an anthropomorphized bear named Smokey, dressed as a Forest ranger and delivering a single, memorable slogan about fire prevention. The cuteness factor and the simplicity would appeal to both adults and children, and the use of anthropomorphism has been shown to help us identify on a personal level with a message that might otherwise seem abstract or remote.

Smokey Bear plastic action figure

Smokey eventually acquired a vast and dazzling panoply of promotional paraphernalia. Not only was there Rudolph Wendelin’s familiar image of Smokey in his dungarees and ranger hat, brandishing a shovel; there were also posters, scripts, lesson plans, coloring books, and comic books; there was a song (that got his name wrong); there were toys, hats, t-shirts, buttons, bookmarks, and other swag, all to promote a single, laser-focused message: “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Smokey Bear Comics, Coloring Books, and Activity BooksSmokey Bear bookmarks, Smokey Bear stamps, pins, and badges

And make no mistake about it, it’s all about the message. The Forest Service wants you to be aware that Smokey is not a mascot—he is a “fire prevention bear.” Smokey has never been intended to personify the Forest Service the way other mascots might represent an entire agency or team.

Smokey Bear is not an Agency or Department mascot and should never be treated as such!

The Smokey Bear campaign was so successful that President Truman encouraged the Council to continue after the war as the Advertising Council (later shortened to the Ad Council). They would encourage advertising agencies to work pro bono to create public service advertisements, which would then be promoted for free in the newspapers, on the radio, and on the newly popular medium of television.

Woodsy Owl was not a project of the Ad Council, but his campaign was modeled after Smokey Bear’s and shared some of the same personnel. Smokey’s “caretaker,” the artist Rudy Wendelin, used his talents to give the preliminary sketches of Woodsy a distinct personality. Both characters wore pants and a hat, but nothing else; both had a ballad written about them; and both generated a huge amount of swag. 

"Smokey the Bear" song sheetThe Ballad of Woodsy Owl lead sheet

Some Advertising Superstars

Other government agencies would develop their own mascots or messengers according to this same template, with varying degrees of success. Here are a few that for a time at least were very popular, widely-recognized icons in our cultural landscape:

Johnny Horizon

Johnny Horizon was the Bureau of Land Management’s anti-littering spokesman in a popular campaign that predated and then briefly competed with Woodsy Owl. He peaked during a clean-up campaign preceding the American Bicentennial in 1976, then was retired and forgotten everywhere except in Twin Falls County, Idaho, where the communities still celebrate Johnny Horizon Day every May.

A tall, lean man, with strong facial features, wearing slacks and sport shirt buttoned to the collar, no tie, a field jacket, boot-type shoes, carrying a backpack and standing in a rugged, natural landscape


In the 1960s, the U.S. Post Office Department used the character of Mr. ZIP in a popular campaign to encourage people to use ZIP Codes on their mail. He was largely phased out after ZIP codes became accepted as the norm, but enjoyed a brief revival during the 50th anniversary of the ZIP code system in 2013. In his heyday he was recognized by 80 percent of Americans, and many of you probably still fondly remember him today.

MR. ZIP was used to promote usage of the U.S. Post Office Department's newly-implemented ZIP Code system.

McGruff, the Crime Dog

In the late 1970s, the Ad Council partnered with the FBI to create an anthropomorphic animal character that, like Woodsy Owl, was deliberately modeled after Smokey Bear. The result was a hugely successful anti-crime campaign featuring McGruff the Crime Dog and his slogan “Take a Bite Out of Crime.”

Two-page spread of the promotional comic "McGruff's Suprise Party," featuring McGruff the Crime Dog.

Vince and Larry

In the late 1980s, the Ad Council partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a humorous campaign featuring the crash test dummies Vince and Larry encouraging Americans to “Buckle Up.” The ads ran from 1985 through 1998, and in 2010 the Vince and Larry costumes and other related items were donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Vince and Larry on Belts and Bags Poster featuring crash test dummies Vince and Larry

The Fun, Freaky, and Forgotten

In contrast to these few hits, there are dozens of also-rans who for one reason or another did not quite capture the imagination or support of the public.

Some of them have a certain whimsical appeal or strangeness that can inspire enthusiasm in those whose tastes run toward the bizarre. In some cases, they may even develop a cult audience.

Freddy Food Stamp

Freddy Food Stamp was borrowed by the Food and Nutrition Service from the Mississippi Department of Public Welfare. He’s little more than a rectangle with a face and limbs, but even had he been blessed with a great artist he would have become obsolete when the Food Stamp Program was replaced by SNAP.

Freddy Food Stamp

Sprocket Man

Sprocket Man was a bicycle safety superhero adapted (some might say “bowdlerized”) by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from a comic originally commissioned by Stanford University and a local organization called the Urban Bikeway Design Collaborative. The entire comic was drawn by a Stanford student named Louis Saekow. Sprocket Man would probably have a cult following among bicyclists if the CPSC hadn’t offended them by classifying adult bicycles as children’s toys. The comic was reprinted several times with increasingly prissy modifications in each iteration.

Sprocket Man cover

Thermy and BAC

Thermy the thermometer travels the country fighting his nemesis BAC the bacterium while educating America on the many ways food can become contaminated. Thermy’s catchy slogan is “It’s safe to bite when the temperature is right!”

detail from a pamphlet featuring Thermy the thermometer saying his catchphrase, "It's safe to bit when the temperature is right!"


In this family activity book, Thermy teaches principles of food safety with the help of three anthropomorphic friends: a pump bottle filled with soap, a cutting board, and a refrigerator. They represent the principles of cleaning, separating, cooking, and chilling in order to avoid food contamination.

Food Safe Families Activity Book


Thirstin’ is quite literally a tall drink of water with a baseball cap. The EPA uses him to teach children about protecting and conserving drinking water.

This unusually-shaped CD contains computer games, animations, and other activities that feature Thirstin’.

CD containing software for running educational computer games featuring Thirstin', the EPA mascot who looks like a glass of water wearing a baseball cap. 

The Characters at NRCS

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has probably spawned more animal messengers than any other agency except the National Park Service, which seems to have a mascot for every individual national park. They include Sammy Soil​, Mighty Mini Microbe​ (a rare female character), S.K. Worm (who when traveling is played by an animatronic puppet rather than a human being in costume), and the WhoBuddies—a group of six environmentally conscious owl superheroes.  ​

Cover of the coloring book "The Adventures of Sammy Soil"Cover of Mighty Mini Microbe's Tale coloring book
S.K. Worm, the official annelid of the Natural Resources Conservation ServiceWhobuddies


Government mascots and messengers may be fun and educational, but they have not been without controversy.

Waste of Money

They are frequently seen as an extravagant waste of taxpayer money. Little research has been done to show whether mascots are effective in promoting social change, and often their themes seem irrelevant to the interests of young children. Sometimes there seem to be way too many characters redundantly promoting the same message.

Here are four different characters that have been used to teach children about water safety: Otto Otter, Bobber the Water Safety Dog, an anonymous safety pin, and an anonymous fish:

Water Safety Mascots: Otto Otter, Bobber the Water Safety Dog, an anonymous safety pin, and an anonymous fish

Unintended consequences

Smokey Bear’s slogan was changed from “Only You can Prevent Forest Fires” to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires,” not just to address the issue of wildfires that occurred in grasslands and other areas outside the forests, but because the Smokey campaign had led to a reduction of prescribed burns, which inadvertently made the forests even more susceptible to out-of-control wildfires. 

Misleading or Manipulative

Most insidiously, the Ad Council has been accused of using their access to the media to push a pro-business agenda that is not always in the public interest.

For example, emphasis on individual responsibility has been used to distract the public from the more serious and deep-seated problems created by corporations and government policies. Encouraging individual citizens to pick up their trash does little to alleviate the problem of systemic pollution by industries, and does not address the issue of companies packaging everything in disposable containers.

The Ad Council also played a major role in establishing the current perception of capitalism and free enterprise as an essential aspect of our American identity while demonizing government regulations and other interventions in the economy by branding them as socialist tendencies that can only lead to communism and tyranny.

The American Economic System... and your part in it.


In order to maintain a mascot or messenger’s popularity, they must be updated every once in a while to stay relevant to current concerns and to stay stylistically fresh. 

Even the perennially popular Smokey Bear experienced a moment of self-doubt in the 1970. One TV ad showed actress Joanna Cassidy imploring us in a sultry voice to be careful in the forest.  At the end of the message she rips her face off and reveals herself to have been Smokey Bear in disguise. He chuckles and asks, If you had known it was me, would you have listened?”

Woodsy Owl

Woodsy Owl’s popularity grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but in the 1990s Woodsy became an unwitting participant in a conflict between the logging industry and the northern Spotted Owl, which had recently been added to the endangered species list. The 1990s were also a time when doctors were becoming alarmed at the growing rate of obesity among Americans, and Woodsy’s rotund owl shape made him seem like an unhealthy role model. The anti-littering message also seemed relatively trivial as climate change became a growing cause for concern.

The old, “classic” Woodsy was replaced by a trimmer, fitter Woodsy who was more appropriately dressed for hiking, and his message was broadened to “Give a Hand—Care for the Land.” The new Woodsy looked less like an owl and more like a human with an owl head.

Help Woodsy Spread the Word [poster]Cover of picture book entitled "El alfabeto del Búho Woodsy"

Not everyone was impressed with the transformation. The new Woodsy, a man with an owl face and wing-hands, looked like a variation on Vincent Price’s man-insect hybrid in The Fly. Some said his face looked like a chicken nugget.New Woodsy Owl Costume

The new slogan proved so unmemorable that when a survey was conducted a few years after the updated image, his old slogan was still the most recognized by Americans. The new slogan came dead last, even behind two “decoy” slogans. Eventually Woodsy kept both the original and the new slogan. Today even his new “buff” image might be criticized as “fat shaming.”

To the horror of fans who had grown up with the classic Woodsy, the old costumes were ordered to be burned:

Destroying Old Woodsy Owl Costumes

In 2020 the band Kitsch Club released a song entitled “Burn Him Down,” inspired by the destruction order.

Woodsy Owl is a character still used today, primarily in educational materials for young children, produced in partnership with the Head Start program.

Ben’s Guide

Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids provided educational resources and games to teach children in grades K–12 about how the U.S. government works and about related topics such as our national symbols. Ben Franklin was not around when the Government Printing Office was created, but his experience as a printer and his role in drafting some of the most important founding documents of our nation made him the perfect mascot for the GPO’s educational website.

The original Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government was released in 1999 and was very text heavy. As with so many webpages designed in those early days of the World Wide Web, the illustrations seem dated and somewhat amateurish today. 

Original version of Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids

On November 17, 2015, the Government Publishing Office launched an updated and redesigned version of Ben’s Guide. The Federal Depository Library program partnered with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), to ensure the quality and comprehensibility of the site’s content and to make sure it was suitable for the age ranges of the intended audience. The remake is far more polished and interactive than the old site, and the division into grade levels was replaced by three categories cleverly named after levels of training in the printing trade. In September 2016, the new Ben’s Guide was selected as one of the American Library Association’s “Great Websites for Kids.”

Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government


Compared to the original Ben Franklin mascot, the new Ben has
personality and panache, and there’s definitely no size shaming here as there was with Woodsy! Notice he has also been given a catchy slogan — “Let’s Go On a Learning Adventure!” This is an example of a mascot update that works.

Cover page of Ben's Guide informational pamphletStand-up display of Ben mascot from Ben's Guide to U.S. Government


Celebrate with Us

We invite you to visit the Sycamore Library and celebrate Woodsy Owl’s birthday with us. You can see a display of Woodsy-themed items from our collection and investigate the many other mascots and messengers in our library. We also invite you to explore the Sycamore Stacks Blog, the Government Information Connection, and other collections and resources at Sycamore. Come on over, and you might be surprised at what we have—you’ll find more at Sycamore!  

Woodsy Owl 50th Anniversary Display in Sycamore Library

Article by Bobby Griffith.


The Birth of Woodsy Owl

Fuller-Howell and Iris Velez. “Woodsy Owl at 40.” Forest History Today. Spring 2012. 

Westover, Robert Hudson. “Celebrate Woodsy Owl’s 50th Birthday.” U.S. Forest Service. April 22, 2021. 

What Is a Government Mascot?

Pasquill, Robert G. Harry Ludwig Rossoll et al: A Study of the Smokey Bear Artists. 2015.

Smith, J. Morgan. “The Story of Smokey Bear.” The Forestry Chronicle, Vol. 32, No. 2, June 1956. Pp. 183–188.

Some Advertising Superstars

“Flashing Across the Country: Mr. Zip and the ZIP Code Promotional Campaign.” Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

Lewis, James. “Forgotten Characters from Forest History: Johnny Horizon.” Forest History Society. March 17, 2011.

National Crime Prevention Council. “McGruff.” 

“Vince and Larry Dummies ‘Crash’ into the Smithsonian.” National Museum of American History. July 22, 2010.

The Fun, Freaky, and Forgotten

Palmer, Barbara. “Sprocket Man, the Superman of bike safety, returns’” Stanford Report. October 23, 2002. Available at Stanford: Transportation.

“Sprocket Man Comics.” The Retrogrouch. September 25, 2015.


“Feds Spend Billions on Useless Samples, Public Relations Gimmicks, and Mascots Nobody Knows.” Current Affairs.

“How socialism became un-American through the Ad Council’s propaganda campaigns.” The Conversation.

Lutz, William D. “’The American Economic System’: The Gospel According to the Advertising Council.” College English, Vol. 38, No. 8, Mass Culture, Political Consciousness and English Studies (Apr., 1977), pp. 860-865.

Pyne, Stephen. “It’s Time to Retire Smokey Bear.” History News Network. Available at

Strand, Ginger. “The Crying Indian.” Orion Magazine (c. 2008?) Available at

Summers, Megan. “The Shocking True Story Behind The ‘Crying Indian’ Commercial.” Ranker.


American Library Association. Association for Library Service to Children. “Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government.” Great Websites for Kids.

“Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government: Updates and Next Steps.” FDLP Newsletter. August 25, 2015. Last updated August 26, 2015.

Brereton, Erin. “Guide to U.S. Government for Kids: Useful info buried by dull site design and way too much text.” Common Sense Education. Updated May 2013. 

Keene, Linda. “Is Woodsy Owl Endangered? Whoooo Knows?—Rangers Fearful of Ruffling Feathers in Logging Areas,” The Seattle Times, June 14, 1990.

“Woodsy Owl not a welcome bird.” UPI Archives. April 13, 1990. 

Zong, Louie (@everydaylouie). “did you know that the forest service requires you to burn old woodsy owl costumes? me and @quinnecl wrote a song about it. please enjoy, BURN IT DOWN.” Twitter, Apr 19, 2020, 12:19 AM.

Vance-Cooks, Davita. Prepared Statement before the Committee on House Administration, U.S. House of Representatives, Priorities of the House Officers and Legislative Branch Entities for FY 2018 and Beyond. February 26, 2017.


Posted by & filed under Recipes, Special Days.

The month of  May is celebrated annually in the United States as Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. (The exact title varies, but the sentiment remains constant.) The reason this particular month was chosen was largely to commemorate two especially significant events: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to the United States (a shipwrecked 14-year-old boy named Manjiro) on May 7, 1843; and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (constructed primarily by Chinese migrant workers) on May 10, 1869.

The Law Library of Congress has made available a comprehensive inventory of relevant public laws, presidential proclamations, and congressional resolutions that trace the evolution of this annual observance from a week-long celebration in 1979 to the current month-long celebration.

During the month of May and beyond, we invite you to explore the many government information resources at the Eagle Commons Library and online that celebrate the significant role Asian/Pacific Americans have played in the creation of a dynamic and pluralistic American society with their contributions to the sciences, arts, industry, government and commerce. These are a few of our favorites:


Man on shore with net.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (Resource Guide)

This collaborative Web portal highlights a sample of the plethora of digital and physical holdings related to Asian/Pacific heritage available from the following agencies:

The site includes virtual exhibits and collections; a huge library of ready-to-use educational resources such as lesson plans, student activities, collection guides, and research aids; selected audio and video resources; and selected images from the various participating agencies. Join these federal agencies in paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.


Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900-2017

Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900–2017

On December 15, 1900, Robert W. Wilcox—son of a New England sea captain and a Native-Hawaiian mother—took the oath of office as the first Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Territory of Hawaii. Wilcox was the first Asian Pacific American (APA) member of Congress, as well as the first member of Congress to represent a constituency outside the continental United States. During the next century, another 59 individuals of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry followed Delegate Wilcox into the Capitol to become members of the U.S. Congress. Dalip Singh Saund, an immigrant from India who was in office from 1957 to 1963 and who is pictured on the cover of this publication, was the first Asian American, the first Indian American, and the first member of a non-Abrahamic faith to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

Fourth in the Women and Minorities in Congress series (previous volumes have profiled women, Black Americans, and Hispanic Americans in Congress), this publication is the most comprehensive history available on the Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who have served in Congress. This detailed, richly-illustrated work provides a biographical profile of each member and tells the story of how Asian and Pacific Islanders moved from a position of almost complete exclusion and marginalization to an increasing influence at the center of American government. 


Five Happiness Fried Noodles

Asian Recipes from

You can find several healthy and easy-to-make recipes for Asian-style dishes on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website. For example, the “Five Happiness Fried Noodles” recipe featured in the photo above combines carrots, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and green onions with fried noodles and a simple sauce. The recipe originally appeared on the California Department of Social Services website and was funded by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The USDA and their partners have adapted recipes from many cuisines around the world to create well-balanced dishes that incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein foods.

East-West Interchanges in American Art: A Long and Tumultuous Relationship

East–West Interchanges in American Art: A Long and Tumultuous Relationship

In October 2009, a two-day symposium was held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. to discuss the complicated interactions between American and Asian artists and visual traditions from the eighteenth century to the present. Presentations by both senior and emerging scholars and curators explored cultural interactions in a variety of “contact zones” ranging from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States to venues of artistic production in India, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. 

This document, published by Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press in 2012, contains the symposium proceedings, along with an introduction by symposium organizer, Cynthia Mills, and two essays by co-organizers, Lee Glazer and Amelia Goerlitz, on the Smithsonian’s research resources relating to East-West exchange. A webcast of the symposium is also available for viewing on the Smithsonian American Art Museum Symposium Playlist.


Solidarity Against Hate Crime (Columbus, OH)

FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces Additional Actions to Respond to Anti-Asian Violence, Xenophobia and Bias (March 30, 2021)

In response to the recent increase in acts of violence, harrassment, and xenophobia directed against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States—especially against Asian women and girls—President Biden announced the following steps were being taken to advance safety, inclusion, and belonging for all Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities:

These actions build on the President’s Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, which he issued during his first week in office last January.


Would You Like to Know More?

For more government information about Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture, contact the Eagle Commons Library at


Article by Bobby Griffith.

Image credits:

Detail of Hawaiian Fisherman (woodcut, color)
Charles William Bartlett, artist, 1920
Library of Congress:

Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900–2017 (cover image):
Dalip Singh Saund, posthumous portrait by Jon R. Friedman, 2007
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives:
More about the artist and the portrait:

Five Happiness Fried Noodles

East–West Interchanges in American Art: A Tumultuous Relationship (cover image):
Detail of Black Stone and Red Pebble (color woodcut on paper)
Seong Moy, artist, ca. 1970s
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Ruth and Jacob Kainen, 1989.77.9, © 1970s, Seong Moy 

Standing in Solidarity Against Hate Crimes in Columbus, OH (March 20, 2021)
Photo by Paul Becker, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Posted by & filed under Local Doings, Make a Difference.

image of vote button

Saturday, May 1 is election day across Texas. Municipalities around the state are deciding a variety of races including city council seats, school district/board seats, mayors, and even one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. So often the news is dominated by national politics, so much so, that the importance of state and local politics can be lost amongst the noise. It’s important to remind folks that so much of our everyday lives are governed locally.

The decisions our mayors, city councilors, county commissioners, school board members, district attorneys, sheriffs, and other local officials make impact our lives on daily basis. Property taxes and sales taxes fund our local governments and the people we elect to local offices make the decisions on how and what is taxed and who or what receives the funds. Our local governments make decisions about critical local infrastructure including power/electricity, water, roads, and parks. They make decisions on business permitting, new neighborhood development, road expansions and repairs, shopping districts, community policing, local resource control, and more. Our school boards make decisions about the education of our communities’ children including the facilities in which they learn or the modes by which instruction is delivered. The little things that impact our daily lives, those things which we may take for granted, are often the results of decisions made by our local government officials.

To make your voice heard and influence the local decisions that impact your life, turn out on May 1st to cast your vote in your local municipal race. If you’re unsure where to look for information or how to find out who’s on your ballot, the UNT Libraries and Government Information Connection have you covered. Check out our Voting and Civic Engagement Guide for links to voter information, including For those in the North Texas region, The Dallas Morning News has a list of races and candidates and a tool to create a personal ballot.

Posted by & filed under Is That a Document?, Make a Difference, Special Days, Toys R U.S..

Mariana Fruit Bat


The government document specialists at the Eagle Commons Library can find information on any subject for you. For instance, we can find help you find a children’s book on bats, a conservation book on bats, a book about bat funguses, and even a list of places where you can go to see bats in Texas. Today is International Bat Appreciation Day, and we are standing by to meet all your bat information needs!

These are some of our favorite government documents and websites related to bats. They represent only a fraction of the information that is available at the Eagle Commons Library, but they are excellent examples of the kind of material you can obtain from government resources: 


Watching bats at Bracken Cave


Bat-Watching Sites of Texas

Home to 32 of the 47 species of bats found in the United States, Texas is without doubt the battiest state in the country! Texas also has the largest bat colony in the world (at Bracken Cave Preserve, near San Antonio) and the largest urban bat colony (at the Congress Avenue Bridge, in Austin).

This website from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will tell you the best locations and times for watching bats and provide tips on how to have a memorable bat-watching experience without causing harm to the bats or to yourself. The Bat-Watching Sites of Texas Guide is also available as a pamphlet.



The Adventure of Echo the Bat


The Adventure of Echo the Bat

This delightful picture book uses the story of Echo the Bat to introduce the concept of remote sensing to very young children. Illustrations show satellite imagery of the landscape, and when the reader opens flaps in the images (similar to windows in an Advent calendar), the ground-level view of the landscape appears. Lesson plans and activities and an Adventure of Echo the Bat Teacher’s Guide are available to help teach the concepts in this book.

Echo’s story has even been dramatized! You can view an The Adventure of Echo the Bat video on YouTube or stage your very own The Adventure of Echo the Bat puppet show



Diagram of a bat box


Bats, People, and Buildings: Issues and Opportunities

Many Americans are afraid of bats or view them as annoying pests, but bats play a number of very important roles in our ecosystem. With more than 1400 species, bats comprise the second-largest order of mammals (rodents are the largest), and by eating harmful insects, pollinating many species of plants, and dispersing seeds, they provide critical services to the ecology of our planet. And we all know that bat guano makes an excellent fertilizer!

This document explains how humans can support the bat population by incorporating bat housing into buildings and bringing bat-friendly habitat into neighborhoods.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has detailed plans showing how to build a bat box to attract bats to your house. 


Bat with White-Nose Syndrome


White-Nose Syndrome

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease of hibernating bats caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of the bats. Since the winter of 2007–2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 35 states and seven Canadian provinces (as of March 2021) have died from this devastating disease, resulting in bat population declines that could have major impacts on the environment and agriculture.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been a leading contributor to the interagency response to WNS since 2008 and continues to provide ongoing scientific support to these efforts by performing fundamental research on bat ecology, fungal biology, and WNS epidemiology and pathology. This USGS webpage provides links to maps, publications, photos, videos, and other information to keep you up to date on the latest research.

A note to Texans: Although according to research conducted by Bat Conservation International and funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the fungus that causes WNS has been detected in six counties in the panhandle as early as 2017, so far no Texas bats have been found exhibiting symptoms of the disease. Visit the TPWD White-Nose Syndrome page for FAQs and to download the TPWD White-Nose Syndrome Action Plan. (On a side note, Texas bats were hit hard by the recent winter storm, but the total population is expected to recover.) 



Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2


Emergence of Bat-Related Betacoronaviruses: Hazard and Risks

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not helped the bat’s reputation. Did the pandemic originate from bats? If so, could it happen again? Read this and other articles from the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database to keep up with the latest research.

Many other government agencies also have information on the potential connection between bats and SARS-CoV-2. For instance, a study from the U.S. Geological Survey with the catchy title Assessing the Risks Posed by SARS-CoV-2 in and via North American Bats: Decision Framing and Rapid Risk Assessment explores the possibility of whether infected humans might transmit the virus to American bats, and if those infected bats could serve as a source for new infection in humans, domesticated animals, or other wild animals—a terrifying scenario indeed, but also an opportunity to gain awareness and be prepared.


Would You Like to Know More?

We hope these resources have helped you gain some appreciation of the valuable contributions bats make to our lives. You can find many more federal and state government publications related to bats in the University of North Texas Libraries Catalog.

If you would like to know more about bats, or about any other topic, don’t hesitate to contact the Eagle Commons Library at 

Article by Jenne Turner and Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Special Days.

Annie Webb Blanton


Annie Webb Blanton got her education career off to an early start, taking a job as a teacher in a one-room rural schoolhouse as soon as she graduated from high school at the age of seventeen.

While earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, she continued to support herself by teaching elementary and high school, scheduling her college courses during the summers while school was out.

From 1901 to 1918, she taught English at North Texas State Normal College, an institution you may be more familiar with under its current name, the University of North Texas. Her no-nonsense textbook Review Outline and Exercises in English Grammar was adopted in classes across the country.

Blanton became active in the Texas State Teachers Association, and in 1916 she was elected its first female president.

With the help of fellow suffragists, who in 1918 had won the right to vote in Texas primaries, she ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction (forerunner of the current Texas Education Agency), defeated the incumbent by a large majority, and thus became the first woman in Texas elected to a statewide office.

Vote for Annie Webb Blanton for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

These are just a few of her myriad accomplishments as Superintendent:

  • Instituted a system of free textbooks
  • Revised teacher certification standards
  • Raised teacher salaries
  • Improved rural education
  • Promoted equality for women teachers

In 1920 she campaigned vigorously for the Better Schools Amendment, which amended the Texas Constitution to remove limitations on tax rates allowable by local school districts for support of their public schools, thereby reducing the state’s burden of the costs of public education.

After an unsuccessful run for Congress, Blanton earned a master’s degree at the University of Texas in Austin in 1923, then continued at UT as a member of the faculty. In 1926 she took a brief leave of absence to earn a PhD at Cornell, then returned to UT-Austin in 1927. In 1929 she founded the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International to promote the professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education. Blanton remained a member of the faculty at UT-Austin until her death in 1945. 

Would you like to know more?

  • Read more about Blanton’s extraordinary life in Pioneer Woman Educator: The Progressive Spirit of Annie Webb Blanton, by Debbie Mauldin Cottrell:
  • Read some of the works authored by Annie Webb Blanton: (This might be the perfect opportunity to review the basics of English grammar in case you’ve forgotten!)
  • Explore thousands of photos, letters, and other documents pertaining to Annie Webb Blanton in the Portal to Texas History:

“Everything that helps to wear away age-old prejudices contributes towards the advancement of women and of humanity.”
—Annie Webb Blanton

Article by Bobby Griffith.


Photo of Annie Webb Blanton circa 1900 – Collections, Special , Michelle Dotts, and Clio Admin. “Annie Webb Blanton Historical Marker.” Clio: Your Guide to History. December 19, 2016. Accessed March 25, 2021.

Campaign material – “Concerning the Race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction” Circa 1917-1918, Jane Y. McCallum Papers. AR.E.004, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Flyer – “Vote For Annie Webb Blanton for State Superintendent of Public Instruction,” Circa 1917-1918, AF – Biography – Blanton, Annie Webb, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. 


“Annie Webb Blanton,” Wikipedia, (accessed March 25, 2021).

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Blanton, Annie Webb,” Handbook of Texas Online 
(accessed March 25, 2021). Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

“Emancipation and Participation: Early Office Holders,” Austin History Center, (accessed march 25, 2021).

“Texas Originals: Annie Webb Blanton,” Humanities Texas,


Posted by & filed under Data about Databases, Get Help, Special Days.

For decades, the Handbook of Texas—produced by the Texas State Historical Association in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin—has been one of the most popular sources of information about Texas history, geography, and culture. Its online incarnation has grown into the largest digital state encyclopedia in the country.

As with many popular historical and cultural resources, however, the contributions of women have too often been ignored or underrepresented. The Handbook of Texas Women takes a step toward correcting that imbalance by expanding and diversifying the contents of the Handbook of Texas with articles focusing on the historical and cultural achievements of Texas women. Today, International Women’s Day, provides the perfect moment to explore the rich resources of this unique reference work.

Entries in the Handbook of Texas Women, like all those in the Handbook of Texas, are researched and written by volunteer historians and professionals, reviewed by TSHA staff, vetted by scholars, and approved by TSHA’s Chief Historian before appearing online. New articles are developed as needed in response to current events, suggestions from users, and internal identification of topics that lack entries. These are all reviewed by the TSHA Chief Historian for consideration.

Authors make use of both primary and secondary sources—including materials such as books, census records, newspapers, military service records, obituaries, diaries, and letters—to create historically accurate entries.

The sources are compiled into a bibliography and updated regularly to provide readers with the most current scholarship. The editors on staff fact-check, copyedit, and format each submitted entry to for content, style, and accuracy, making sure that the language is appropriate for users at a middle school to college reading level.

eBook Series

Download these free Handbook of Texas Women eBooks to learn more about the contributions of Texas women:

Texas Women and the Vote: This eBook was released in 2020 to commemorate the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which was the federal amendment that recognized women’s right to vote. Read it to learn about the women who played a crucial role in woman suffrage and the longer voting rights movement.

Women Across Texas History, Vol. 1: Nineteenth Century and Before: This first volume in the Women Across Texas History series includes biographies of prominent women of early Texas, as well as numerous articles on the diverse ways women have contributed throughout the history of Texas. Pilots, activists, oil magnates, storytellers, scientists, ranchers, daughters, mothers — the number of women who have affected or influenced the history of our state is as vast as the Texas landscape itself.

Women Across Texas History, Vol. 2: Early Twentieth Century: This second volume continues the Women Across Texas History series, sharing the stories of women who fought for gender equality, shattered glass ceilings, and in myriad other ways have influenced the politics, economy, and culture of Texas. Texas women make Texas history, and their invaluable contributions in the past make it possible to build a stronger foundation for the future.

Content Bundles

These bundles feature curated content suitable to the needs and interests of several specific audiences.

Texas Educators Content Bundle: Teachers are in a unique position to tell the many stories from Texas women’s history to our state’s youth. Here you will find lesson plans, teacher workshops, webinars, reading lists, articles from Texas Almanac and Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and eBooks relating to Texas women’s history.

Texas Enthusiast Content Bundle: Texas enthusiasts are the TSHA’s most loyal constituency and are critical to helping spread and build on this content. Here you will find webinars, reading lists, articles from the Texas Almanac and Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and eBooks relating to Texas women’s history.

Texas Students Content Bundle: This bundle includes plenty of information to help you in your study of history both in and out of school. Here you will find webinars, eBooks related to women’s history, articles from the Texas Almanac, and student-written articles from the Texas Historian and Touchstone

Do You Want to Know More?

You can find many more resources related to women’s studies at the Eagle Commons Library. Our building is currently closed to the public because of the ongoing pandemic, but many of our physical publications can be requested at Willis Library, and electronic publications are available through the library catalog. Contact us directly at for answers to your questions or for help with your research needs. 

Article by Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Special Days.

Our national parks have partially reopened after being temporarily closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. This reopening comes just in time to celebrate the 100th birthday of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Hot Springs was officially designated a national park on March 4, but its history goes back thousands of years.

Over 10,000 years ago, native inhabitants of the area came to the Ouachita Mountains to quarry novaculite for their stone tools and weapons. In 1771 French explorer Jean Bernard Bossu encountered Native Americans who partook of the allegedly healing waters on the lower east slope of Hot Springs Mountain.

In 1804 President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Hunter-Dunbar Expedition to explore the to explore the “Washita” River and “the hot springs” in the southern reaches of the Louisiana Purchase, and in 1818 a treaty with the Quapaw Nation conveyed territory containing the hot springs to the United States. In 1832 the area was designated by Congress as Hot Springs Reservation, making it the oldest federally protected site in the country. Before long, the springs’ reputation spread, and a bustling spa city blossomed as visitors journeyed from across the United States to bathe in the or to “quaff the elixir.” On March 4, 1921, the name was officially changed to Hot Springs National Park.

During its heyday, the springs attracted such illustrious visitors as Babe Ruth, Helen Keller and the gangster Al Capone. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or just into family fun, you too will something to enjoy at Hot Springs National Park.

Centennial Activities

If you happen to be in the park today or Saturday, you can participate in a number of celebratory activities:

For everyone’s safety, facemasks are required on federal lands and visitors are reminded to maintain social distancing wherever possible.

If you can’t be at the park in person, don’t fret! Whip up a batch of cupcakes and celebrate at home by watching a special anniversary video on social media that will be released by the Park on March 4 in conjunction with the event at the Fordyce. Interact with Hot Springs National Park on the following social media sites:

A centennial celebration such as this only occurs once every 100 years! Mark your calendars and make plans to join in on the celebrations all year long, either in person or online. For questions or additional information about the centennial, please contact Hot Springs National Park at (501) 620-6715 or visit the park online at

Selected Online Resources

Keep Up-to-Date on Events: Centennial events will be occuring throughout this entire year! Stay up to date on all the happenings in Hot Springs. From art and music to natural wonders, if you’re looking for something fun to do in Hot Springs, you’ll find it here

Request a Free Vacation Guide: Planning on taking an Hot Springs vacation this year? This free vacation-planning guide provides valuable information about Hot Springs National Park as well as lodging and places to stay attractions and fun things to do, an events calendar, and free discount coupons for Hot Springs hotels, restaurants, events, attractions and shops.

Get the Newsletter: Sign up for the Destination Hot Springs weekly newsletter for all the insider information on Hot Springs.

Follow the Blog: Read all sorts of interesting facts and stories about Hot Springs by following their official blog.

Explore the Media Room: Journalists and the general public can find press releases, free photos, logos, reports, and even downloadable Zoom backgrounds in the Hot Springs Media Room.

Visit the official Hot Springs National Park website at for many more online resources.

Selected Resources at the Eagle Commons Library

Check the UNT Libraries Catalog for our many resources related to Hot Springs National Park. These are only a few of the publications available at the Eagle Commons Library:

Hot Springs National Park [brochure]
I 29.21:H 79 

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas [map]
I 29.6:H 79/9/ 2020 

The Golden Age of Bathing at the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center, Hot Springs National Park
I 29.2:B 32/4

Junior Ranger Archeology Program
I 29.171:AR 2 
Also online at

Out of the Vapors: A Social and Architectural History of Bathhouse Row: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
I 29.2:B 32/3 

The Waters of Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas—Their Nature and Origin
I 19.16:1044-C 
Also online at

Article by Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Get Help.

image of tax forms

The 2021 Tax Season officially starts on February 12, 2020, meaning this is the first day the IRS will begin accepting tax returns (sorry to those that might have anxiously filed already). Here we will highlight a few things to know about this year’s tax season, how to get forms, help for filing, and a few other things of possible help or interest.

If you haven’t visited the IRS website in awhile, you should! has always been a one-stop-shop for all things tax related, although it hasn’t always been intuitive or easy to navigate. However, the site has undergone quite a facelift and is much easier to use. The most frequently accessed and timely tax-related activities of tax payers and businesses are now front and center. These include accessing tax forms, tracking your return, filing for your Economic Impact Payment, or requesting Coronavirus Tax Relief. If, in the past, you feared visiting, fear no more. 

Tax Forms

Tax forms and instructions can be accessed at The IRS has taken the care to put the most requested forms and instructions front and center. Tax filers needing forms beyond the most requested can search by form number or keyword. 

For those needing printed forms, many public libraries offer forms and instructions. Typically the most common or frequently requested forms are available at local public libraries.

If you’re in the city of Denton, Texas and would like paper forms, the Denton Public Library is here to help. At the time of drafting this post, the DPL is only offering curbside service. As a result of this service modification, the 1040 and 1040-SR Forms Booklet can be picked up at the front entrances of South Branch Library and Emily Fowler or at North Branch Library’s drive-through window from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This booklet contains Forms 1040 and 1040-SR, Schedules 1 through 3 and Schedule LEP. If you need other forms or instructions, call at least 30 minutes ahead. Staff will print them and have them ready before you arrive. (Call 940-349-8752 and choose the General Questions option.)

Free File and Tax Prep Assistance

Free File

Though tax season hasn’t officially started, Free File is OPEN! As a reminder, Free File is a partnership between the IRS and many tax preparation filing websites. Free File is available to anyone though those earning over $72,000 per year have fewer free options. Here’s a breakdown of what’s available for those earning under and over $72,000.

Income $72,000 and below Income above $72,000
  • Free federal tax filing on an IRS partner site
  • State tax filing (free with some offers)
  • Guided preparation – simply answer questions
  • Online service does all the math
  • More about IRS Free File
  • Free electronic forms you fill out and file yourself
  • No state tax filing
  • You should know how to prepare paper forms 
  • Basic calculations with limited guidance

Free File Fillable Forms: Opens February 12, 2021

Free Tax Prep Assistance

The Denton County United Way is back this year with their VITA Tax Preparation service, which provides tax prep assistance to those that earned up to $58,000. The service kicks off on February 8, 2021 and will be completely virtual. 

For information about other free tax preparation services as well as services for specific populations, visit my colleague Bobby Griffith’s tax services post from March 2020.

Economic Impact Payments: what to know

If you haven’t received any or all of your COVID-related economic stimulus payments, you can check your payment status at If you find that you have not received your payment, or if you do not normally file taxes, you  may qualify for the credit. See Recovery Rebate Credit for more information.

Taxes can be confusing and stressful, but they don’t have to be. If you find yourself in need of help, reach out to UNT’s Government Information Connection for help. If we don’t have the answer, we can connect you to someone that does. 

Posted by & filed under Local Doings, Make a Difference, Special Days.

MLK Day of Service

Many of us take a day off from work or classes on the third Monday in January to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This day has been designated a national holiday since 1983, but since 1994 it has also been designated a national day of service.

The MLK Day of Service provides an opportunity for all Americans to help bring Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community” a little closer to reality by engaging in action that helps solve social problems, working against the triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism to create a society where all people can share in the wealth of the earth, and conflicts are resolved peacefully through a mutual commitment to King’s principles, philosophy, and techniques of nonviolence.

How You Can Be Involved

Learn More About Martin Luther King, Jr.

More information about Dr. King and his philosophy can be found at The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Shortly after Dr. King’s assassination, his widow Coretta Scott King established this nongovernmental, nonprofit organization to provide research, education, and training in King’s principles, philosophy, and techniques of nonviolence. The Center champions the causes of freedom, justice, and equality by working to eliminate poverty, build community, and foster peace. 

Other resources, including a large collection of online documents, are available at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

Other Ways You Can Make a Difference

Service to your community doesn’t have to be limited to one day a year! Learn more about ways you can become active in your national, state, and local community at the UNT Libraries Civic Engagement Portal.

Let’s each take some time on this special day to make a contribution to our community, keeping in mind these immortal words of Dr. King:

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?

Article by Bobby Griffith

Posted by & filed under Local Doings, Special Days.

texas state capitol chamber

It’s been a tragic and tumultuous few weeks for national politics and the United States. As a result of national goings-on, it might be easy to forget that today is the start of the 87th Texas Legislative session.

The 87th Texas Legislative convenes today, January 21 and ends on May 31, 2021. In light of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week and on going concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus, security at the Texas capitol has been increased and many lawmakers are sitting out the swearing in ceremony and considering the safest way to carry out the business of legislating.

So, what’s in store for the 87th Texas Legislative session? Of course, the budget. And redistricting of the Texas political boundaries. The 2020 Decennial Census, which serves as the basis for state redistricting, has been hampered by lawsuits, deadline changes, and a myriad of other issues hamper, including COVID-19. As a result, the release of the 2020 Census counts is still unclear. Despite these challenges, the 2020 Census was the first to provide opportunity to respond to the survey online. The Pew Research Center offers a synopsis of the challenges surrounding the 2020 Decennial Census.

In addition to these two massive undertakings — budget and redistricting — Texas lawmakers filed 1427 bills and resolutions they hope to be heard and decided during the 2021 legislative session. As residents of Texas, we can likely expect to see legislation and debates around local government authority, elections, police reform, property taxes, and marijuana legalization among many other issues.

There is no doubt, this session will be one to watch.

Here are a few resources to learn more about the 87th Texas Legislative Session and to follow goings-on at the Capitol: