Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the category “Fictional Home and Work Life”

Librarians and Library Assistants (Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Librarians (Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Library Techs and Assistants  (Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Representative questions that can be answered with these resources:

  • What does a librarian actually do?
  • What kind of degree does one need to become a librarian?
  • What are the differences between school, public, and academic librarians?
  • How much do library assistants make?
  • What would a typical work schedule look like for a library assistant?

Librarian characters seem to be some of the most difficult to write without stereotypes creeping in.  Almost always a woman…either of worthy of the title of bombshell or frumpy with a super high I.Q.  Often we are portrayed as guardians of quiet spaces who spend most of our time reading books on the clock.  Yeah…not so much.

Also, not everyone who works in a library is a librarian.  I haven’t seen many library assistant characters in fiction, so adding one to your story might be a great way to try a new path.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook sites are good starts to building a librarian or library assistant character, but for more detail to get a good feel for the day-to-day realism you may want to check actual job descriptions.

https://mblc.state.ma.us/jobs/find_jobs/index.php   The site allows you to filter your results by type of library (academic, public, etc.) as well as education level since this particular site shows library assistant as well as librarian jobs.


Merchant Marines: Speak up if you want a section

The other night I ran into someone who had a Merchant Marine in their story. They were curious about what resources were available. I told them that although I didn’t have anything in the Writer’s Guide about Merchant marines, I’d do a quick check on what was available in gov info sources. I thought what I found might interest you as well:

If there was interest, I could provide full annotations for these resources and maybe find some other resources related to the Merchant Marines. So, if you have an interest in having more resources on this topic, please leave a comment. Also indicate whether you’re more interested in current life as a Merchant Marine or in the history of Merchant Marines.

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) – http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/stApIIch47.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some general sentencing guidelines under the UCMJ?
  • What state officials are covered under the “Contempt Towards Officials” provision of the UCMJ?
  • How is sodomy defined under the UCMJ?
  • What is the UCMJ definition of malingering?


This might come as a surprise, but the UCMJ is a creature of Congress. It’s not something that the military or the President dreamed up on their own. Various parts have been passed by Congress at different times and then codified into Title 10, Chapter 47 of the United States Code.

Much of the procedural and investigations of the UCMJ have been incorporated in the joint Manual for Courts-Martial discussed elsewhere. Where I think you should focus on here is Subchapter X – Punitive Articles, which lists the crimes that military members can face courts-martial for. Many of these crimes overlap with civilian crimes. Below is a very partial list of what I believe to be military specific crimes to put your military characters in jeopardy. See the UCMJ for other crimes to charge your character with.

  • § 882. Art. 82. Solicitation (to desert or aid enemy)
  • § 883. Art. 83. Fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation
  • § 888. Art. 88. Contempt toward officials
  • § 889. Art. 89. Disrespect toward superior commissioned officer
  • § 890. Art. 90. Assaulting or willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer
  • § 896. Art. 96. Releasing prisoner without proper authority
  • § 900. Art. 100. Subordinate compelling surrender
  • § 901. Art. 101. Improper use of countersign
  • § 914. Art. 114. Dueling
  • § 915. Art. 115. Malingering
  • § 917. Art. 117. Provoking speeches or gestures
  • § 925. Art. 125. Sodomy
  • § 933. Art. 133. Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman
  • § 934. Art. 134. General article

The “General Article” is interesting because it is such a catchall:

Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.

Basically, if you are a servicemember and you embarrass the military in an unusual way, you can be courtmartialed for it. This article may be the reason we don’t see a regular “Women of the Armed Forces” pictorial in Playboy.

Here I’ve cited the Cornell University copy of the United States Code. If you wish for something a little more authoritative, try this link from the Government Printing Office Federal Digital System: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionUScode.action?collectionCode=USCODE . From there you can browse to Title 10, Chapter 47 through a series of mouse clicks.

Military Working Dogs

Military Working Dogs – http://web.archive.org/web/20120508173047/http://www.lackland.af.mil/units/341stmwd/index.asp

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Who can adopt military working dogs?
  • What is the history of military working dogs?
  • What tasks are dogs given in combat situations?


This is 2012 archived version of the adoption page for Military Working Dogs who have either 1) completed service to the Department of Defense but who are still healthy enough to be adopted out or 2) failed to complete their training. Dogs are offered first to local law enforcement agencies, then to former handlers, and then to members of the general public who have pass a rigorous screening process.While the adoption program is ongoing, there no longer appears to be a stand alone website for it, only a few PDF files with much less information.

For a writer there are least two perspectives that this website can inform – writing about active Military Working Dogs or about what happens to them after adoption.

If your main interest is in active Duty Military Working Dogs, click on “See our Fact Sheet.” It is a history of Military Working Dogs that includes the breeds used, their traditional and current uses and goes into some detail about their training. One particularly interesting fact to me is that Military Working Dogs were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 to help with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The DoD was experimenting with a new form of training that allowed the dogs to roam off leash, unlike traditional bomb sniffing dogs. According to the Fact Sheet:

Since their initial fielding, these critical assets have been involved in nearly every major combat mission conducted across both theaters and have resulted in the detection, confiscation and destruction of literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of weapons, ordnance, explosives, and ammunition.

If your main interest is what happens to the dogs before, during, and after the adoption process, I would start with the Frequently Asked Questions. This three page document spells out why Military Working Dogs are being adopted along with the process. It also notes that 90% of dogs are adopted by their former handlers and that members of the public may wait as much as a year or more to adopt a dog.

After the Frequently Asked Questions, check out the “MWD Adoption News” as some of the stories relate to adoption and some of them are heart rending, mostly in a good way. I found Fallen Marine’s family adopts MWD to be particularly powerful.

Military Law Resources from Library of Congress

Military Law Resources from Library of Congress – http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/military-legal-resources-home.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What does the Geneva Convention have to say about the protection of cultural property?
  • Where can I learn more about the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces?
  • What was the Malmedy Massacre?


This site holds a selection of digitized materials from the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center & School Library. Notable materials include:

  • The Army Lawyer (1971-2011)
  • Military Law Review (1958-2011)
  • Geneva Conventions Materials
  • War Crimes Materials

This site also has a historical section, with selections from the eras of the Indian Wars, Civil War, World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Military Law Resources from Air War College

Military Law Resources from Air War College – http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-law.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find material related to military criminal investigations?
  • What are the current rules of engagement for US military forces?
  • What laws regulate the assistance that the US military can provide to civilian jurisdictions?


This site focuses on links to contemporary materials, including links to all of the Armed Forces Judge Advocate General (JAG) offices and the Manual for Courts-Martial. Of special interest to military mystery writers will be the sections on Evidence and Investigation, which focus on military specific procedures in these matters.

Military Careers from Occupational Outlook Handbook

Military Careers from Occupational Outlook Handbook – http://www.bls.gov/ooh/military/military-careers.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are the differences in duties between enlisted and officers working in public affairs?
  • What are the big picture differences between officers and enlisted?
  • What is the monthly pay of an E-6 with five years of service?


Provides an overview of the types of work done in the armed forces (more than fighting, you know) and has service breakdowns by rank and type of work. Might inspire you to have military characters in unusual roles.

Institute of Heraldry [Military Insignia, Coats of Arms and More]

Institute of Heraldry – http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/default.aspx

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How can a Legion of Merit be recognized?
  • What does the service medal for the US Kosovo Campaign look like?
  • How can an Army unit get its own insignia?


This is THE source for most military and government decorations, coats of arms and more. You’ll come here if you describe what your soldiers wear or what symbol your sailors sail under. From the website:

The Institute of Heraldry has a long and distinguished record of support to the United States Army. Its roots were firmly planted in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson directed the creation of the Heraldic Program Office under the War Department General Staff. Its purpose was to take responsibility for the coordination and approval of coats of arms and other insignia for Army organizations. By the end of World War II, its role expanded to include the other military services. In 1957 Public Law 85-263 directed the Secretary of the Army to furnish heraldic services to all branches of the federal government. The Institute’s wide range of heraldic services include decorations, flags, streamers, agency seals, coats of arms, badges, and other forms of official emblems and insignia.

The site is currently divided into the following sections:

  • Uniformed Services – Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, PHS Officer Corps, NOAA Officer Corps
  • Decorations & Medals – Military, Civilian
  • Federal Government – Presidential, Vice-Presidential seals and items from the Director of National Intelligence.
  • ROTC – ROTC Regulations, Sr. ROTC, and Jr ROTC

If you have sailors in your story, you’ll want to visit the U.S. Naval Ships Coat of Arms section of the site under the Navy. Each Coats of Arms page has a description of the Coat of Arms Elements and a discussion of the symbolism on the Coats of arms, as well as an image of the Coats of Arms themselves.

The FAQ section is worth visiting as well. It is divided into US Flag Etiquette; Army Flags, Guidons, Etc; Organizational Insignia; Insignia and Decorations; and general information.

If you want to use any of the current badges, insignia, decorations and medals in your book, you will need to have written permission from the Institute per their image use policy:

PLEASE NOTE: The images of all badges, insignia, decorations and medals on this web site are protected by Title 18, United States Code, Section 704 and the Code of Federal Regulations (32 CFR, Part 507). Permission to use these images for commercial purposes must be obtained from The Institute of Heraldry prior to their use.

This actually isn’t copyright law. It’s law dealing specifically about military decorations. Look up 18 USC 704 for yourself at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2010-title18/pdf/USCODE-2010-title18-partI-chap33-sec704.pdf .

FAS Military Analysis Network (US Weapons via FAS)

FAS Military Analysis Network (US Weapons via FAS) – http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/man/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is “angle of attack” in aviation?
  • What sort of missiles might one find on a US submarine?
  • What was the structure of the Japanese military in the 2000s?
  • What are some policy issues related to the militarization of space?


The Federation of American Scientists is a nonprofit group interested in government transparency and national security matters. Their Military Analysis Network documents weapons systems from the US and other nations. Some of the information may duplicate what you might find in the “fact files” of the various services, but if you don’t find something in those fact files, this site may help.

The Military Analysis Network is divided into the following sections:

  • US Munitions and Weapons Systems
  • Rest of the World Military Equipment (China, European Union, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Serbia.) – Equipment list intended to be representative, not exhaustive.
  • Historical Weapons Archives
  • Selected Country Military Summaries – Information appears to date between 2003 and 2006).
  • Weapons in Space
  • US Military Logistics
  • Military Equipment Tutorials
    • Aircraft for Amateurs
    • Airpower Overview
    • Boats for Beginners
    • Underwater Acoustics
    • United States Navy Ship Introduction
    • International Naval Forces Overview
    • World-Wide Land Combat Systems
    • Bullets for Beginners
    • Big Bullets for Beginners
    • Bullets for Beginners Background
    • Bugle Calls
    • Rockets for Rookies
    • Bombs for Beginners

The weapons pages will have pictures and often diagrams of equipment.
I highly recommend the Military Equipment Tutorials, even though most of them seem to be around a decade old. They can teach you the difference between a carbine and sub machine gun, what to play on the bugle when, how to identify NATO ammunition and more.

1968 M16 Comic Book Maintenance Manual

1968 M16 comic book maintenance manual – http://www.ep.tc/problems/25/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is the correct way to disassemble, then reassemble your character’s M16?
  • What should your character do if her M16 jams?
  • What does LSA stand for, and how does it help your character’s M16?
  • What are some ways to keep your character’s ammo magazines dry?


This particular maintenance guide was put together by Will Eisner. It does offer very specific and seemingly easy to follow guidance on maintaining a weapon and will familiarize you and your character with M16 parts and common problems.

Be cautioned that it is a product of its times and plays on racial (Vietnamese) and gender stereotypes to drum up interest for the army guys that were reading it.

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