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

Are you looking for a unique idea for a Halloween costume this year? State and federal government agencies have some surprising resources for creating outfits ranging from the inexpensive to the elaborate.

Texas Endangered Species Animal Masks

The Texas Endangered Species Activity Book, published by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), contains many fun activities and projects to teach children about several endangered species in Texas. There is a wheel that spins to reveal the stages of a toad’s metamorphosis; a whooping crane mobile; instructions for drawing a bobcat and ocelot; bird pictures to color; a cut-out bat that you can hang in a window or on a shelf; and many other activities, accompanied by facts about the animals.

Included among these projects is a role-playing game that includes patterns for a couple of animal face masks. Color them, cut them out, and attach a popsicle stick handle to hold them in front of your face masquerade-ball style, and in minutes you can be a black-footed ferret or a prairie dog. ane mobile; instructions for drawing a bobcat and ocelot; bird pictures to color; a cut-out bat that you can hang in a window or on a shelf; and many other activities, accompanied by facts about the animals.

Texas Endangered Species Activity BookPrairie Dog Mask from Texas Endangered Species Activity BookHouston Toad Mask from TPWD Web site

The Texas Endangered Species Activity Book is available for checkout from the UNT Libraries Government Documents Department on the Third Floor of Willis Library. An electronic version in PDF format can be downloaded from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site.

Many more endangered species animal masks can be downloaded from the TPWD Publications for Kids page. There’s even a salamander hat!

U.S. Army “Blueprint Specials”

During World War II, the Special Services Division of the U.S. Army provided soldiers with do-it-yourself entertainment kits called “Blueprint Specials,” which contained a script, lyrics, music, dance routines, and detailed instructions for building sets, props, and costumes out of Army surplus, waste, and salvage materials — everything soldiers needed to create a musical variety show. These kits provided an early glimpse into the careers of such show-biz luminaries as Frank Loesser, Alex North, and José Limón.

The costume designs in these kits can still provide a handy guide to creating inexpensive outfits from T-shirts, crepe paper, and discarded clothing, although sometimes they may assume you have bits and pieces of WWII Army uniforms lying around! Because the casts of these shows were all-male or all-female (one Blueprint Special, P.F.C. Mary Brown, was written especially for the Women’s Army Corps), many of the costume designs provide opportunities for cross-dressing.

Hi, Yank! [cover illustration]P.F.C. Mary Brown costume designs

The UNT Libraries Government Documents Department has three Blueprint Specials that can be requested from Documents Reserve:


A Guide to Colonial Dress

Halloween costumes are usually meant for fun and by their nature are usually worn once and then discarded, so they rarely aspire to any degree of historical authenticity. If you are feeling especially ambitious, however, Clothing for Ladies and Gentlemen of Higher and Lower Standing: A Working Pamphlet to Aid the Imitators of New England Citizens of the Eighteenth Century is a tiny pamphlet that is packed with information.

And these outfits are not necessarily as difficult to make as they might seem at first glance — as the author explains, citizens living during this era had practical methods for constructing their wardrobe that are sometimes simpler than more modern techniques, even though their clothes may seem much more elaborate to us. The book has detailed instructions for creating several specific items of clothing, and also has some interesting advice for locating information about 18th century dress in primary sources. For example, newspaper announcements of missing persons often had detailed lists of what a person was wearing at the time he or she went missing.

By following the detailed instructions here, you can learn how to craft an 18th century style gown or jacket and breeches that is so accurate you might be mistaken for the ghost of Betsy Ross!

Patterns for 18th century gownsPattern for 18th century shirt

Clothing for Ladies and Gentlemen of Higher and Lower Standing is available for checkout from the UNT Libraries Government Documents Department on the Third Floor of Willis Library. An electronic version is available online at the Internet Archive.

These are just a few of the many government documents that can provide inspiration for your next costume. What are you planning to dress up as this Halloween?

Entry written by Bobby Griffith

Posted by & filed under Get Help, Hot Docs.

It’s happened—Congress has not agreed on a bill to fund government operations, time has run out, and now the U.S. federal government has shut down.

Whenever federal agencies and programs are not appropriated funds by Congress, they experience what is known as a “funding gap.” Under the Antideficiency Act, they are required by law to cease all operations except for emergency situations or what is specifically authorized by law to continue.

Because Congress and the President have failed to reach agreement on government funding measures in a timely manner for this fiscal year, the government is currently being forced to shut down until an agreement is reached.

Government shutdowns such as this result in hundreds of thousands of federal employees being furloughed, require many government activities to be reduced or to stop completely, and have a negative effect on many sectors of our economy.

Here are some resources to help explain how this happened, what the effects will be, and what is being done to resolve the issue:


What is a government shutdown, and what exactly is being shut down?

A guide in plain English from the Wonkblog at The Washington Post purports to tell you “Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work.”, the official Web portal of the U.S. federal government, has a brief summary of which services will be affected by the shutdown on its Government Shutdown Services page.

For more detailed information about the specific activities of federal agencies, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted a list of Agency Contingency Plans.

Where can I get help during the shutdown?

Many government agencies will not have staff available to answer the phones or respond to questions posted on their Web sites or through their e-mail services.

Call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636) for answers to your government questions. This phone number will continue to operate during the government shutdown, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday through Friday (Eastern Time).


What is being done to end the shutdown?

Follow live coverage of the progress of Congress (or lack thereof) in resolving this issue on C-SPAN.

Where can I find more information about government shutdowns?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, has produced several reports about government shutdowns:

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects (CRS Report RL34680) Discusses the causes of funding gaps and shutdowns of the federal government, the processes that are associated with shutdowns, and how agency operations may be affected by shutdowns; also discusses some potential issues for Congress.

Government Shutdown: Operations of the Department of Defense During a Lapse in Appropriations (CRS Report R41745) Analyzes potential effects of a shutdown on the Department of Defense.

Government Procurement in Times of Fiscal Uncertainty (CRS Report R42469) Discusses the government’s contractual rights and how these might be used in the event of a shutdown.

Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview (CRS Report RS20348)Analyzes the funding gaps that occurred between FY1977 and FY2010, as well as the events surrounding them, and related legislation.

Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources (CRS Report R41759) Annotated list of historical documents and other resources related to past government shutdowns, with links to the full text of some of these documents.


And finally, you might like to read the official memo that shut the government down.

The federal government shutdown will have serious consequences for some, while others may hardly notice it. How are you being affected by the shutdown?


Entry written by Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Guest Posts.

Greetings and Welcome to the UNT DocsBlog

Although we weren’t expecting the inaugural post of our government information blog to coincide with a federal government shutdown, that’s just the nature of government: surprises can happen at any moment! We hope this blog can be another way of finding the information you need for your UNT project, your business or professional research, your personal life, or any other reason.

This blog is maintained by the Government Documents Department within the University of North Texas Libraries. As a Federal and Texas State Depository Library, we provide access to government information (in both paper and electronic format) to anyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a UNT student, a member of the local Denton community, or even a resident of a foreign country: we will help you find the government information you need. See our departmental Web page to learn more about the Federal Depository Library Program.

What you can expect to find here:


  •  We’ll keep you up to date on the latest breaking government-related news.
  •  We’ll let give you a heads up on important and interesting documents recently added to our collection.
  •  We’ll let you know about upcoming special events hosted by our department.


Tips and Suggestions

  • We’ll offer timely tips and suggestions on how you can participate effectively in seasonal government events such as elections and income tax filing.
  • We’ll highlight some of the more popular resources in our collection and provide tips and suggestions on how to use them effectively.
  • We’ll provide guides on how to use government documents to do your student projects and assignments.


Fun stuff

  • Government documents are not boring! (Well, not all of them.) We’ll occasionally highlight some of the more fun or unusual items in our collection—things that you might not necessarily think of as government information, such as comic books, musical scores, posters, and art exhibition catalogs.
  • We’ll also highlight some life-enhancing resources that can contribute to your personal enjoyment of life: fun stuff such as cookbooks, travel guides, and bird-watching handbooks, as well as more practical information, such as how to help your child do better in school, or how to obtain financial assistance.


Let us know what you think

We invite you to subscribe to this blog, and encourage you to post comments and ask questions.

We can provide you with information and assistance in the following areas:

  • Strategies and sources for finding information on a specific topic
  • Information about how to use indexes, online databases, and other research tools
  • Information about what we have in our collection

Keep in mind that we’re not lawyers or doctors, though—we can’t provide legal, medical, business, or tax advice; nor do we directly provide statistical data, which is so often open to interpretation; but we can direct you to the appropriate sources of such information.

If you would like help in finding government information, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Article by Jesse Silva.