Posted by & filed under Data about Databases, Get Help, Inside the ECL.

The state of Texas has a rich, sometimes controversial, but always fascinating history, a variegated geography, and a multifaceted culture that brings together many traditions and experiences. Here are some of the most valuable and easily-accessible resources for learning about our state.

The Portal to Texas History

Portal to Texas History logo

The Portal to Texas History is a collaborative program that provides students, teachers, researchers, and lifelong learners with free online access to a plethora of rare, historical, and primary source materials held by participating libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, and private collections throughout the state of Texas. Ceaselessly growing, the Portal contains well over thirteen and a half million digital files and receives close to one and a half million hits every month.

Here you can find digital reproductions of every kind of historical treasure: not just books and other documents, but also photographs, maps, letters, newspapers, and miscellaneous realia such as Texas trade tokens.

Within the Portal, the Texas Digital Newspaper Program (TDNP) provides free access to a wide variety of Texas newspapers, some of which date back to the early nineteenth century. This resource has proved invaluable to researchers, librarians, teachers, students, genealogists, and history buffs.

The Portal’s Resources4 Educators pages provide lesson plans and other educational materials that comply with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards established by the State Board of Education. Many items from the Portal that are especially relevant to students and classroom teachers are highlighted here.

The Handbook of Texas

The New Handbook of Texas

This multidisciplinary encyclopedia, published by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), is the most comprehensive and authoritative single-stop source of information on Texas history, geography, and culture. You will find the entire history of Texas contained here, from the prehistoric era to the modern age, woven together in a compelling drama about our state’s diverse population and the roles Texans have played on the state, national, and world stages.

In its earliest form, The Handbook of Texas was a two-volume encyclopedia developed over twelve years and published in 1952. Conceived by the eminent historian and TSHA president Walter Prescott Webb, it was a joint project of the TSHA and the history department at The University of Texas, where Webb was also a faculty member. The primary responsibility for directing and editing was assigned to H. Bailey Carroll, who was the associate director of TSHA and also a faculty member at The University of Texas. A third, supplementary volume was added during the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.

The New Handbook of Texas was published in 1996 after thirteen years of preparation. Representing the combined labor of over 3000 authors, editors, and reviewers, its six massive volumes contain well over 23,000 articles, including detailed histories of every county and all the major cities in Texas and over 7000 biographies of famous and lesser-known Texans. Of particular value is the large amount of information on the African-American and Mexican-American communities in Texas and on the contributions of women and women’s organizations to Texas history and culture.

The Handbook of Texas Online went live on the Internet in 1999. It contained the complete text of the print edition of The New Handbook of Texas, with all the corrections that had been incorporated into the Handbook‘s second printing, plus about 400 articles that had not been included in the print edition because of space limitations. The Handbook of Texas Online contains over 27,000 articles and continues to receive updates as new information becomes available. Each article includes a bibliography of sources and a full citation to the article in Chicago style.

Texas Almanac

Texas Almanac

From its first edition, published by The Galveston News in 1857, to its current incarnation, the Texas Almanac has evolved from a series of pamphlets published once a year and focusing on Texas history and the workings of state government to an invaluable quick-reference tool, published in paper and online by the Texas State Historical Association and containing a wealth of data on resources, industries, commerce, history, government, population, and other subjects relating to the political, civic, and economic development of Texas.

An archive of Texas Almanacs from 1857 to 2005 is available to the public online and free of charge, courtesy of the Portal to Texas History.

Issues of the Texas Almanac from 2010 to the present are available online through a subscription service or at various public and college libraries, including the University of North Texas Libraries.

Paper copies are also available at various public and college libraries, although the specific holdings will vary by institution, and a library’s set of paper copies may have several gaps.

The title has varied somewhat over the years, making this resource rather tricky to look up in a library’s catalog, since it may be spread over several records:

Would You Like to Know More?

Contact the UNT Eagle Commons Library in Sycamore Hall if you would like more information about how to use the paper copies or the online versions of these invaluable Texas informational resources.

Article by Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Is That a Document?, Local Doings, Recipes, Special Days.

Union Coffee Cake

Mark your calendar and raid your pantry, because April 7th is National Coffee Cake Day. For those of us sheltering at home and feeling a little nostalgic for our days on campus, baking up this 8×8-inch cake is the perfect nod to our UNT culture and an excellent accompaniment to our next virtual coffee break.

Mention coffee cake on campus today, and most students will picture the confections sold at Starbucks locations. However, if you search back issues of The North Texan alumni magazine—or even Pinterest—you can find a copy of a coffee cake recipe that brings waves of nostalgia for UNT alumni going as far back as the 1950s.

A Little History

In 1952, the first permanent Union Building at North Texas State College—as UNT was then known—was only three years old. It was called the Student Memorial Union Building, named in honor of the North Texas students who had given their lives in World War II. The cafeteria was not making a profit, as had been hoped, and so the campus foods director, Sadie Mae Bass, decided, along with her staff, to shut the cafeteria down.

Memorial Union Building Cafeteria

The facility was offered to the Institution Management classes to use as a laboratory. Because they wanted to keep it open for morning and afternoon coffee service, someone came up with the brilliant idea of selling some sort of coffee cake or hot bread to serve with the coffee and help with the expenses. Students in Marguerite Ross Armstrong’s home economics classes obtained a plain coffee cake recipe from Albertine Balsmeier, the dormitory dietician, and baked that as well as a dark, fruit-filled cake called bishop’s bread. The bishop’s bread has been lost in the corridors of time, but the UB [Union Building] Coffee Cake, as it was christened, was an instant hit and remained popular for over half a century. At one time it was even suggested that you could snag a husband just by implying that “you have the recipe for UB coffee cake and make a better coffee.” In the beginning the student bakers produced as many as twelve large cakes a day, but eventually they scaled back in order to diversify the menu with donuts and other pastries.

The Recipe

You can read the story and the original recipe in the June 1971 issue of The North Texan. The recipe was very slightly modified over time, and some bakers added their own personal embellishments. Here is the latest version of the complete recipe, as reprinted in the Spring 2004 issue of the The North Texan:

Recipe for UNT Union Coffee Cake

We mixed up this treat to try for ourselves and to imagine the days of UNT gone by.

The cake ingredients are fairly simple, and it would be easy to make a vegan version by finding an egg substitute.

Batter for UNT Union coffee cake

The latest version of the recipe does not list a specific baking time, but it does say if overbaked, the topping will crack when cut. (In our experiment, we found this to be true!) We recommend starting with around 20 minutes and then checking every few minutes afterwards to find the ideal bake time. Interestingly, the earlier version of the recipe recommends baking the cake for 40 minutes. Perhaps someone found this timing unreliable and decided to leave it to the cook to determine when the cake is ready.

Yet in spite of our cracked topping, we still found this to be a delicious accompaniment to a steamy cup of coffee for a mid-morning snack. The topping is a different take on a streusel topping—easy and tasty, but with the same cinnamon and butter flavor. It was an easy and satisfying treat baked as is, although we wouldn’t say no to the addition of a ribbon of cinnamon in the middle of each piece. Baker Harold Wren, who was responsible for baking the Union Coffee Cakes in the early 1970s, would create a marbling effect by mixing some of the topping into the batter before brushing butter over the dough and adding the rest of the topping. Yum!

Popular at School, but Perfect for Home

Since it makes a small cake, this recipe is perfect for current events such as self-isolating and sheltering at home. We hope that you, like Jane Austen, are enjoying the comforts of home during these strange and disorienting times.

However, since this is a simple recipe, we are confident you will quickly learn to bake the perfect Union Coffee Cake, and when we gather together again, you will have your friends swooning over your results.

Would You Like to Know More?

For more nostalgic recipes and baking tips see: Homemade Bread, Cake, and Pastry, a Farmers’ Bulletin from 1940.

For more UNT nostalgia, view past issues of the UNT yearbooks and newspapers via The Portal to Texas History.

Article and coffee cake photos by Erica Kaufman.

Photo of the Student Memorial Union Building from the UNT Digital Library.

Posted by & filed under Special Days.

The month of April is National Poetry Month, and what better time than now to hop into this particular art form? There are tons of different types of poetry to learn and read, and the time is ripe to fall in love with it.

National Poetry Month was first introduced in 1996 as a way to increase people’s awareness and their appreciation of poetry in all its forms. It was founded by the Academy of American Poets and is still run by them to this day. Over the years the month has grown into quite the event. There have been postage stamps made about and for it, posters, and all kinds of other materials. Poem a Day, hosted on, sprung up out of National Poetry Month. They also provide lesson plans, and have created opportunities through the Dear Poet Project for students to read poetry aloud and have it featured on the website.

The month celebrates enjoying poems all kinds of different ways. It pushes the reading and writing of poetry, and sharing it with friends and family. In celebration of all that, the staff and student assistants at ECL have come together to share some of their poetry in a number of different forms! We hope that you’ll find some enjoyment out of our works, and if you would like to get in on the fun, leave a comment with your own poetry written this month!

Staff and Student Assistant Poetry

Alone and Together-

Quiet of my house

It haunts my soul and my heart

The nothing loves me

The comfort of noise

The walls separate us now

Yet we aren’t alone

Quiet of my house

A melody of its own

Sung by the unseen

– Julsaint Sisters

Through the maze I browse

Books and lighted nooks and stairs

Yellow submarine

– Betty Monterroso

Bands of light across the plate:

through the wires

paper to bytes to digest

– Peter Kaiser

Students rapt in thought:

Only the chewing of ice

Disturbs their silence

Ants are on the march

Invading student spaces.

Who’s grass is greener?

– Bobby Griffith

The Quiet Library

A haven from the hurly-burly,

The Eagle Commons feels like home

To refugees from Willis. Surely

A haven from the hurly-burly

Beckons them over. Prematurely

Wearied by chatter, here they roam

A haven from the hurly-burly.

The Eagle Commons feels like home!

– Bobby Griffith

– Erica Kaufman

– Matina Newsom

Digital Resources and Inspiration

In addition to the poetry we’ve shared, below the poetry you’ll find a number of UNT Library and National Poetry Month resources listed to help you learn more about poetry, discover some new collections, and find other ways to celebrate this month!

Poetry Collections

LGBTQ fiction and poetry from Appalachia Edited by Jeff Mann & Julia Watts

Modern Sudanese poetry: an anthology Translated and edited by Adil Babikir

Wholesome Whole Poetry by J. Eileen

She’s not into poetry: mini-comics 1991-1996 by Tom Hart

Twentieth-century Russian poetry: reinventing the canon Edited by Katharine Hodgson, Joanne Shelton and Aexandra Smith

The complete poetry of Aime Cesaire Translated by A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman

John Donne and contemporary poetry: essays and poems Judith Scherer Herz, editor

The poetry of Weldon Kees: vanishing as presence John T. Irwin

About Poetry

Poetry: a very short introduction By Bernard O’Donoghue

Poetry: the basics By Jeffrey Wainwright

Pitch of poetry By Charles Bernstein

Using poetry to promote talking and healing By Pooky Knightsmith

Poetry and theology in the modernist period By Anthony Domestico

Basics of Hebrew poetry: theory and practice By Samuel T. S. Goh; foreword by Tremper Longman III

Poetry in Government Documents

Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature: a checklist- Library of Congress — General Reference and Bibliography Division

Poetry’s “catbird seat” at 60: a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the consultants in poetry in the and the poets laureate: a reading in the great hall of the Library of Congress– Library of Congress — Poetry Office

The imagination in the modern world Three lectures presented under the auspices of the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund by Stephen Spender

The battle line of democracy: prose and poetry of the world war, Published by the Committee on Public Information, George Creel, chairman United States — Committee on Public Information, Franklin K. Lane, and Guy Stanton

100 love sonnets = cien sonetos de amor By Pablo Neruda; translated by Stephen Tapscott

Sixty American poets, 1896-1944 Selected by Allen Tate

Other Resources

20th Century American Poetry

20th Century English Poetry

Poetry in America video Series

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month From Home

Poems Hosted by National Poetry Month

Poem A Day

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

census2020 logo Today, April 1, 2020, is Census Day the day when everyone in the U.S. gets counted. The requirement for a regular count of the U.S. population is codified in Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Census Day, which comes once every 10 years, is the day the U.S. government counts all current residents. The decennial census, the full count that occurs every 10 years, is important as it is used to allot the number of representatives each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. The count is also used to allocate the distribution of federal funding programs such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Supplemental Nutrition, and Head Start among others. This year is the first year the Census questionnaire can be completed online or by phone in addition to the traditional paper method. Every household should have received a mailer with their personal Census ID. Helpful information on how to respond as well as a sample questionnaire can be found at To help in celebrating Census Day 2020, here is a song, “Everyone Counts”: However, the best way to celebrate is by completing your Census questionnaire to help achieve a 100% response rate and be counted for our local communities.

Posted by & filed under Data about Databases, Get Help, Is That a Document?, Recipes, Special Days.

MyPlate icon

100 Years of Nutrition Guidelines

For over a century the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been trying numerous strategies, charts, and diagrams to teach Americans how to maintain a healthy diet. In response to scientific discoveries about human nutrition, changing patterns in food consumption and physical activity, and political pressure from food industry lobbyists, adults and schoolchildren may have seen, depending on which generation they belong to, such guides as the Basic Seven food groups, the Four Food Groups, the Food Wheel, or the Food Guide Pyramid.

Since 2011, the reigning food guide icon has been MyPlate. It is a device to help visualize the correct proportions of servings in a balanced diet. Explanations of MyPlate are also available in other languages, and if you avoid animal products, MyVeganPlate adapts the MyPlate guidelines for vegans.

A Brief History of USDA Food Guides provides a quick overview of this historical development; for a more detailed account of how the USDA dietary guidelines have evolved, see Dietary Recommendations and How They Have Changed Over Time. The National Agricultural Libraries’ Historical Dietary Guidance Digital Collection provides access to over 1200 historical documents that have been created to educate the public about nutrition over the years.


Step into the MyPlate Kitchen and you’ll find a cornucopia filled with hundreds of recipes, USDA cookbooks, webinars and cooking videos, and other recipe resources to make healthy eating easy and delicious. You can even build your own cookbook!

Staying Healthy on a Budget

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create nutritious meals. Healthy Eating on a Budget provides tips for getting the most for your dollar when you shop for groceries. Here you can find menus, recipes, budgeting advice, and more.

If you rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help pay for your food, you can find SNAP Recipes specifically tailored to your culinary requirements.

Think Globally, Buy Locally

Are you a locavore? Purchasing locally-grown foods is good for the environment and the economy, and it keeps you in touch with your community. Foods that don’t spend a lot of time traveling to your door also taste better. MyPlate, My State shows you what foods your state or territory is known for. Celebrate your home town and local traditions while eating the freshest, most nutritious food available.

Don’t Be Fooled

The Internet and other media are filled with hucksters and self-appointed experts spreading misinformation to lead you astray. Check out USDA’s Fraud and Misinformation page to learn how to spot suspicious health claims and investigate food and nutrition myths. This page includes resources specific to weight loss diets and products.

Nutrition Around the World

Americans aren’t the only ones concerned about their nutrition. The article “A Global Review of Food-Based Dietary Guidelines,” published in the international journal Advances in Nutrition, assesses the similarities and differences in dietary guidelines promulgated by the governments of various countries around the world.

Article by Bobby Griffith.

MyPlate icon courtesy of USDA.

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

Terry Virts making Vulcan hand salute

Live Long and Prosper Day has been celebrated on Leonard Nimoy‘s birthday every year since 2017, when it was created by artist Matt McCarthy as a project for Make Up Your Own Holiday Day, also celebrated on March 26. It is a day to contemplate the Vulcan blessing and consider how it might apply to your own life. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few U.S. government publications that are related to Mr. Nimoy or to the Star Trek television and movie series, demonstrating how deeply embedded they have become in our American culture and consciousness.


Because of their common theme of space exploration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has had perhaps the most intimate connection with Star Trek of any government agency. NASA even has a section of its Web site dedicated to the relationship between NASA and Star Trek and, on the 50th anniversary of the show’s final episode, published an article detailing 50 Years of NASA and Star Trek Connections.

The first NASA space shuttle was called the Enterprise, named after the Star Fleet’s most famous ship in response to a letter-writing campaign from fans of the television show. The Star Trek cast and crew even visited NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Research Center for a photo opportunity when the Enterprise was rolled out.

Many Americans have been inspired to become astronauts after watching the Star Trek, and some astronauts have even made guest appearances on the show. The casting of African-American actress Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura broadcast a powerful message about the position of minorities and women during the height of the civil rights movement; Nichols even actively recruited a diverse crew of new astronauts in real life, including Guion Bluford (the first African-American astronaut), Sally Ride (the first female American astronaut), Judith Resnik (one of the first class of female astronauts, who perished during the launch of the Challenger on January 28, 1986), and Ronald McNair (the second African-American astronaut, and another victim of the Challenger accident). Mae Jemison was inspired to become the first African-American woman in space, and later Jemison became the first real astronaut to appear in a role on Star Trek when she played Lt. Palmer in 1993.

In his article The Science of Star Trek, NASA scientist David Allen Batchelor explores various features of Star Trek according to how scientifically accurate or inaccurate they are, and comments upon whether various of the show’s inventions are feasible or, in some cases, have already been achieved.

Library of Congress

Wonderful Inventions: Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound at the Library of Congress is an anthology of essays providing a taste of the varied holdings in the Library of Congress related to movies, television shows, radio programs, and recordings of music and the spoken word. The entire book is full of fascinating anecdotes and trenchant technical analyses, but one essay in particular is essential reading for Star Trek fans: Music for Star Trek: Scoring a Television Show in the Sixties is a first-hand account of how the soundtrack music was created for the three seasons of the original Star Trek series. Written by Fred Steiner, one of the eight composers who worked on a total of thirty episodes, the essay provides not only a detailed, insider’s account of how the music for each episode was composed, it also gives a lucid account of the complex process of scoring a typical television show in the 1960s. The essay is enhanced with photographic stills from the show and excerpts from the scores themselves, including a facsimile of the famous main title fanfare and theme composed by Alexander Courage.

Speaking of the main title, did you know that the music has lyrics? According to a blog post by Reference Specialist Paul Sommerfeld, producer Gene Roddenberry was concerned that the show would not be financially successful, so he wrote words under Courage’s melody and submitted this version of the score to the Copyright Office, listing himself as lyricist. This bit of legal subterfuge guaranteed that he would collect 50 percent of the proceeds every time the them song was performed in public, even if the words were not sung, but it also guaranteed that the composer would be bilked out of half of his earnings.

Smithsonian Institution

In May 2016, the Smithsonian Institution‘s Smithsonian Magazine celebrated the 50th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek with An Oral History of Star Trek, exploring the richness and persistent appeal of the television series in a collection of interviews excerpted from the book The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years, by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman. After this article came out, a second volume of the book was published, entitled The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek.

Here are a few examples of Star Trek–themed realia owned by the Smithsonian:


Immediately following the beloved actor’s death on February 27, 2015, there were many tributes and reminiscences shared by those who were inspired by his achievements both on and off the television and movie screen. U.S. Representative Adam B. Schiff submitted his personal Tribute to Leonard Nimoy to the Extensions of Remarks section of the March 2, 2015 Congressional Record.

On another occasion, Star Trek co-star William Shatner testified before Congress about the tinnitus he suffered after a “routine explosion” on the Star Trek set damaged his hearing. Shatner mentioned in his testimony that Nimoy was on the opposite side of the explosion and was also adversely affected by it.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Like so many Americans, Leonard Nimoy started smoking as a teenager because he thought is was “cool,” then he became addicted. He eventually gave up smoking when his first grandchild was born, but by then his lungs were permanently damaged, and eventually he passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). His family arranged for Leonard’s story to be told online through the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® campaign.

We hope you have enjoyed these stories about Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek, and we invite you to celebrate the day by sharing your own plans, reminiscences, or experiences. How has your own life been affected by Star Trek?

Article by Bobby Griffith

Image is of International Space Station astronaut Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) flashing a Vulcan hand salute from orbit as a tribute to Leonard Nimoy shortly after the actor died on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Cape Cod and Boston, Massachusetts, Nimoy’s home town, are visible through the station window. Image Credit: NASA

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

The office of the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue was established in 1862, and in 1913 a personal income tax was authorized by the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The mission of the Internal Revenue Service, according to the U.S. Government Manual, is to collect “the proper amount of tax revenue, at the least cost to the public, by efficiently applying the tax law with integrity and fairness.”

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of finances under King Louis XIV of France and a grand master in the art of revenue enhancement, put things a little more bluntly (the statement may have actually been made by his mentor, Cardinal Mazarin):

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”

We can’t guarantee that you won’t feel like a plucked goose when you file your tax return this season, but here are a few suggestions on your options for filing and for obtaining assistance in undertaking this annual onus:

Filing Electronically

Almost 90 percent of taxpayers now opt for the convenience and speediness of filing their tax returns electronically.

Free File

If you are one of the 73 percent of Americans who made $69,000 or less last year, you are eligible to access brand-name tax preparation software or fillable online forms through the IRS Free File service to prepare and file your federal tax return online for free. Even if you made more than that, you are still allowed to use the fillable, electronic versions of the forms.

Tax Preparation Software

A number of commercial software programs are available for purchase to help you prepare your tax return and file it electronically. The IRS does not endorse or approve any of these companies, but if you’re not sure which one to use you can find reviews of the seven best tax software programs of 2020 at The Balance, a personal finance website.

Commercial Tax Preparers

You can pay a tax preparer in your local community to prepare and/or file your taxes online for you. They’re not always identifiable by Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty waving in front of the building, but you can enter your ZIP Code in the IRS Authorized IRS e-file Provider Locator to get a list of the nearest commercial tax preparers in your location who are authorized to file your taxes electronically.

Filing by Mail

Do you prefer the old-fashioned paper tax forms? You can still use them! Tax forms, instructions, and publications can be ordered online at the IRS Forms and Publications by U.S. Mail page, or ordered over the telephone by calling 1-800-829-3676.

For direct access to U.S. federal tax forms and publications, visit the IRS Forms, Instructions, and Publications page. At this site, you can scroll through a list of current IRS publications, select the document you need, and print it. You can also obtain forms and instructions for prior years, and there are some accessible forms and publications to accommodate people who use assistive technology or require accessible formats such as braille or large print.

The IRS website has instructions on where to file paper tax returns once they are filled out.

Need Help Filing?

Please don’t ask librarians tax law questions—they’re not tax law specialists. Instead, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 for answers to your tax questions. The following programs also provide free assistance with filling out and filing U.S. income tax forms:

Please note that many resources for obtaining in-person tax assistance may have been suspended because of the coronavirus emergency. Go to the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief webpage to find the latest updates about IRS services. The filing deadline has been extended to July 15.

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance)

The IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program offers free tax help to people who earn less than $52,000. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify, such as Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are usually located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations.

Denton County residents who qualify can get tax help from United Way’s VITA members at selected times and locations during the weeks before April 15 to help them fill out their forms and answer tax related questions. Be sure to bring the materials listed on the United Way VITA page.

TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly)

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program offers free tax help to taxpayers who are 60 and older and specializes in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. Most of the TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide Program. To locate the nearest TCE site or AARP Tax-Aide site and to find out if you qualify, use the AARP Site Locator Tool or call 888-227-7669 from January to April. During other months, call 1-800-829-1040 to find the VITA/TCE location and hours nearest your home.

MilTax: Tax Services for the Military

MilTax is a free tax service from Military OneSource and the Department of Defense that provides free tax preparation, free e-filing, and personalized support to address the special circumstances of military life. To help members of the Armed Forces make wise tax decisions, the IRS has prepared a compilation of Tax Information for Members of the Military. Military tax programs are overseen by the Armed Forces Tax Council, which consists of tax program coordinators for the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard.

Self-Help Tax Preparation

If you have a simple tax return and just need a little help or don’t have access to a computer, you can visit one of the participating VITA/TCE tax preparation sites, and an IRS-certified volunteer will guide you through the process.

Become a Volunteer and Make a Difference!

You can receive training in tax preparation and make a difference in your community by volunteering with the VITA or TCE programs. If you’re interested, send your contact information using the VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up form, and be sure to indicate the city and state where you would like to volunteer. Your information will be forwarded to the sponsoring organizations in your area for further contact.

TAS (Taxpayer Advocate Service)

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers resolve problems with the IRS and recommends changes that will prevent the problems in the future. If you’ve had problems with the IRS that you haven’t been able to get resolved, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TSE) may be able to help. Qualifying taxpayers who request assistance receive personalized service from a knowledgeable taxpayer advocate who will listen to their problems, help them understand what needs to be done to resolve the problems, and stay with them every step of the way until those problems are resolved.

Contacting a TAS Advocate

You can find the address and phone number for your local Taxpayer Advocate Service office on the TAS Web site. Other ways to reach a TSE advocate:

  • Call the TSE toll-free line at 1-877-777-4778
  • Fill out Form 911, Request for Taxpayer Advocate Assistance, which is available by phone at 1-800-829-3676, or online at
  • Ask an IRS employee (in person or over the phone) to complete the form for you
National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Reports to Congress

The leader of TAS, the National Taxpayer Advocate, submits two Reports to Congress each year.

  • The Annual Report, delivered each January, summarizes the 20 most serious problems encountered by taxpayers during the previous year, makes legislative and administrative recommendations for resolving those problems, and examines that year’s most frequently litigated issues.
  • The Objectives Report identifies the priority issues TAS will focus on during the upcoming fiscal year.
Tax Reform Suggestion Box

To further a dialogue about tax reform, TAS has established a Tax Reform Suggestion Box to receive taxpayers’ suggestions for tax reform. Take this opportunity to let your voice be heard! You can also read some suggestions that other taxpayers have made.

And finally, here’s one last bit of tax advice from an unnamed IRS Auditor (quoted in the April 2005 issue of The Reader’s Digest):

“The trick is to stop thinking of it as your money.”

Article by Bobby Griffith

Posted by & filed under Get Help, Make a Difference.

Information about the novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 seems to be constantly evolving and coming fast. Similarly, how communities are managing and responding to the growing outbreak changes rapidly. To help navigate some of the information and facts that are known about COVID-19, the UNT Libraries created a page to help you Help Yourself. This page offers information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Texas State Department of Health Services, the World Health Organization, publishers, and more. Included here is also what you need to know now and ways to get updates on the ever-changing information from UNT and beyond.

The University of North Texas cancelled all in-person classes from March 16-22. Instruction will resume on Monday, March 23. Students will receive an email update on March 19 about delivery of instruction. All UNT updates will be posted here:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a COVID-19 information site. This site provides information about COVID-19 symptoms, risks, and updates. The updates offer the latest guidance on best practices for trying to prevent the spread of the virus, like social distancing, self quarantining, and more.

The Texas State Department of Health Services (TSDHS) offers information about Texas response to COVID-19. This site provides similar information about symptoms and risks but includes information about where and how Texans can be tested for COVID-19. Testing sites are currently few and limited but services are expanding.

Many individuals are experiencing financial constraints as a result of COVID-19. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers information to help inform consumers and answer questions related consumer finances and shortfalls that people may experience over the coming weeks and months. Additionally, the federal government and the state of Texas are in the midst of expanding services and modifying policies to respond to the ever-evolving situation. Below is a limited list of resources and good information to know as of now. As the things related to the Coronavirus pandemic are ever-changing, plan to monitor reputable news organizations and check for updates at’s Government Response to Coronavirus. UNT students needing assistance can contact the Libraries’ AskUs service for information on available resources.

To help prevent the spread of Coronavirus/COVID-19 try to self-quarantine. If you go out practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, cough into your elbow, and avoid high-risk individuals.

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

Irish American Heritage Center

Every year since 1991, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation declaring the month of March to be Irish-American Heritage Month, honoring the contributions of Irish immigrants and their descendants to American life and culture. Here are just a few government publications to help you celebrate Irish-American culture today and throughout the month of March:


Cover of Four Dubliners, by Richard EllmannFour Dubliners—Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett: Richard Ellmann was a widely-respected American literary critic who wrote important biographies of several Irish authors. In 1982, he gave a series of lectures at the Library of Congress discussing the lives and careers of four of Ireland’s most important authors: Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. The lectures were originally published separately in four chapbooks, and then in 1986 they were revised and brought together in this collection, which also points out some intriguing connections among these authors. Audio recordings of the original lectures are available at the Library of Congress.

Some Irish Plays: A Selection: The Federal Theatre Project was a welfare measure set up during the Great Depression to support the dramatic arts as a social and educational force by providing jobs for out-of-work theatre professionals, and by providing affordable, enriching entertainment for the masses, especially those who could least afford to spend their meager income on artistic pursuits. This bibliography list several Irish plays, both classic and popular, written from 1899 to 1930, providing for each a brief synopsis and a list of the (usually modest) production requirements. Because of their educational value, simple sets, and small casts, these plays are ideal for staging by amateur and school groups.


Cover of Ethnic Recordings in America by the American Folklife CenterIrish Ethnic Recordings and the Irish-American Imagination,” in Ethnic Recordings in America: A Neglected Heritage: The American Folklife Center was established by Congress in 1976 “to preserve and present American folklife.” Their first major public event was a conference discussing sound recordings of various ethnic musical traditions in the United States. The presentations at that conference became the basis of a 1982 book. Irish-American folklorist and musician Mick Moloney’s chapter on Irish recordings explores several strains of Irish-American music, including works by Irish-American composers trained in the western European classical tradition, vaudeville comedy numbers and similar “stage-Irish” songs, traditional Irish dance tunes, and hybrid forms that combine these strains with traits of American popular music. He also discusses the surge of American interest in Irish folk music during the 1960s and 70s that was stimulated by the popularity of Irish performers such as the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews: Irish and Jewish Influences on the Music of Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley: In 2009, Mick Moloney gave an illustrated talk on a largely forgotten, yet highly influential, period in American popular music. This Web site provides a summary of the lecture and a recording of the Webcast.

Irish Tin-Whistle Instruction Books: A Bibliography: The tin-whistle, also known as the penny-whistle, among other names, is inexpensive (although it does cost a bit more than a penny!) and easy to play, making it one of the most popular instruments for playing traditional Irish folk music. This historic reference aid from the American Folklife Center lists several instruction books that were published in the 1970s in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


These articles from Smithsonian magazine provide background on the history and traditions of Irish cuisine and also include some delicious recipes to give you a taste of traditional Irish culture.

Classic Irish Soda Bread: Learn how to make authentic Irish soda bread in the traditional way, with out all the fancy extras.

A Brief History of Ireland’s Fortune-Telling Mashed Potato Dish: Colcannon, a side dish combining mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale, is traditionally eaten at Halloween, but its green hue also makes it perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

Eating Irish Moss: This Irish seaweed makes a tasty pudding, salad, or even lasagna!


Article by Bobby Griffith.

Photo credit: Irish American Heritage Center in Irving Park, Chicago, IL, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by & filed under Data about Databases, Get Help, Local Doings, Make a Difference.

Texas Music Office logo

Texans love music, and for thirty years, the Texas Music Office (TMO) has played a crucial role in promoting the Texas music industry. If your ambition is to make a living in this competitive field, whether as a songwriter, performer, publisher, booking agent, manager, venue owner, event planner, recording engineer, or in one of its other myriad roles, the Texas Music Office website has a plethora of resources to help you make connections, learn best practices, and encourage your business to thrive. Here are just a few of these invaluable resources:

Texas Music Industry Directory: The most important job of the TMO is to provide a referral service linking music professionals to each other and encouraging growth in the music industry. The Texas Music Industry Directory has been published since the agency’s inception and provides a comprehensive list of businesses, musicians, radio stations, colleges and universities, music libraries and archives, and private music schools and instructors, Instructions are also provided for adding yourself or your business to the directory.

Music Business Guides: A whole library of useful guides is available to show you step-by-step how to do just about anything related to the music industry. For example, there are guides to creating a presskit, getting started in entertainment law, finding capitalfinding a digital music distributor, using social media, and more.

Event Calendar: Find a list of musical events occuring throughout the state, listed in chronological order and sortable by genre.

Music Friendly Communities: Cities in Texas that have been officially designated as “Music Friendly Communities” are those that have a proven track record of attracting and developing musicians and other music industry professionals.

Texas Music License Plate: By purchasing a Texas music themed vanity license plate, you can help provide opportunities for the next generation of Texas musicians and provide support for music programming in under-served and under-resourced communities. You can also donate to the License Plate Grant fund without buying the license plate.

Texas Music Trails: The TMO is in the process of creating a series of self-guided tours of various regions in Texas, using itineraries and maps to highlight locations and organizations that have been historically significant to state’s unique and dynamic musical heritage. The first of these “Texas Music Trails” is entitled Amarillo by Morning, and takes the musically-minded tourist through the Panhandle Plains Region.

Are you a music professional, or do you have hopes of becoming successful in the music industry in Texas? South by Southwest, sadly, has been cancelled this year, but with the help of the Texas Music Office you can still find networking opportunities and educational resources online. Let us know if you have found any these resources to be helpful.

Article by Bobby Griffith.