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U.S. Federal Government Documents are those publications issued at U.S. Government expense or by the authority of a U.S. government body. These documents cover a wide range of subject matter as the government is involved in all aspects of our society.
Last Updated: Jun 4, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Citing Government Documents

Search for government publications

 All Rowan depository print publications received between 2010 and 2015 have been cataloged and may be found by searching the library's online catalog (author, title, or keyword).

Government Documents are the publications put out by government agencies – federal, state, local, and international. They do not deal solely with law and politics, but are reports on every aspect of life whether involving current events, education, science, technology, sociology, medical, etc. They are often the best, and sometimes the only source of statistical information on a given topic.

Most recently published government documents are available on the internet. However, many important documents are still only available in other formats, such as books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, maps, and video (either DVD or VHS). Not everything can be found using a Web search engine.

Public access to government documents is guaranteed by law and is your right as a citizen.



1.  Do a subject search in ProfSearch or the Library Catalog

        (a)  Record found will have a Call Number beginning with DOC. (if received between 2010 and 2015)

             Example:  DOC. D 101.74:C 73/5 (This document would be found on the library's first floor, on the  moveable shelves labelled Government Documents.)

        (b) Records received in 2015 or later will be electronic.  Click on the PURL following the heading:   Links: 

             Example:  Links:

2.  Check Catalog of Government Publication (CGP) (below)  --- OR from Library Homepage --- Click on E-Resources, then letter C

         Keyword search - must use (AND, OR, NOT)

             Example:  vietnamese and conflict and communications

                    If URL is given - click on PURL for full-text of document


1.  Use the online search engines listed below.

2.  Each agency of the U.S. Government publishes its own documents through the Government Printing Office (GPO) or through links on its homepage.  Find information about each Government Agency by consulting the United States Government Manual (AE 2.108/2) in Room 245 or online via the link given below.  Here you will find information about what the agency does, address, phone numbers, and web address, etc.

     Search the agency's webpage using the search box provided.

     Look for links to publications, statistics, and subagencies that deal with your subject.


  • GPO
    FDsys provides free online access to official publicaations from all three branches of the Federal Government. The content in FDsys is available in multiple formats including PDF, XML, audio, and photographs. FDsys provides access to digitized historical content and serial publications that are updated daily.
  • Catalog of U.S. Government Publications
    A searchable database providing bibliographic information for U.S. Government publications beginning with January 1994. Includes links to electronic titles. When looking for a particular document, search by typing the title in "quotes".
  • MetaLib
    Federated search tool that is a service of the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. Use to retrieve reports, articles, and citations by simultaneously searching across multiple databases. The initial release of MetaLib contains fifty-three Federal Government databases. Over time, the collection will grow based on recommendations from the GPO MetaLib team as well as public suggestions
  • Government Information on the Web Subject Index!
    Provides a single portal to link collections on particular subjects, and has been designated an official Service Partner of the Government Printing Office, one of a handful of operations nationwide that "assist GPO to provide enhanced services to Federal depository libraries."
  • LSU Libraries Federal Agencies Directory
    Lists current/active/existing U. S. Federal Government agencies as represented in the United States Government Manual
  • United States Government Manual
    Each department of the U.S. Government, its internet address, directors, and information about what it does (latest print copy in Reference, 2nd floor,
    REF ZA 5075 G68)
  • is the U.S. government's official web portal
  • Federal Agencies with Statistical Programs
    Links to home pages of agencies that publish significant amounts of statistics.
  • Hathitrust Digital Library
    The libraries of the CIC universities (Committee on Institutional Cooperation) have partnered with Google to digitize a comprehensive collection of U.S. Federal Documents. It is believed this collection will comprise between 1 and 1.5 million volumes.
  • U.S. government channel on YouTube
    Features more than 200 videos from 25 agencies, including health and nutrition videos; footage of the ocean floor; how-to videos on applying for benefits; and more!

Government Documents

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Ella Strattis

Brief History of GPO and FDLP

In the Act of 1813, Congress first authorized legislation to provide for the distribution of   one copy of the House and Senate Journals and other Congressional documents to certain universities, historical societies, state libraries, etc.  


In 1857, the Secretary of the Interior began to oversee government printing and the designation of depositories that would receive these publications or documents. By a joint resolution of Congress in 1858, each representative could designate a depository from his district as well as the delegates from each territory. In 1859, each Senator gained the authority to designate one depository in his state.


In 1860, GPO (The Government Printing Office) was established in order to consolidate Congressional printing. Prior to that date, printing had been handled entirely by private firms.


In 1869, an appropriations act established a Superintendent of Public Printing within the Department of the Interior. This position was the forerunner of the current Superintendent of Documents.   An 1876 law changed the title of the "Superintendent of Public Printing" to "Public Printer" and the office became a presidential appointed position, subject to Senate confirmation. Davita Vance-Cooks was approved by the U.S. Senate to become the 27th Public Printer of the United States on August 2, 2013.  She is the first African American and the first woman to be nominated and confirmed for the leadership of the GPO.


The Printing Act of 1895, the direct antecedent of Title 44, United States Code, collected and organized all of the extant printing laws.


In 1895, when Congress established the office of Superintendent of Documents within the Government Printing Office, the Superintendent became responsible for the sale and depository library distribution of Government publications. In 1895 there were 420 depository libraries.


Between 1895 and 1903 the Superintendent of Document (SuDocs) classification system was developed by GPO Librarian Adelaide Hasse. Based on publishing agency, the SuDocs system still arranges documents in most depository collections today.


Until 1922, every depository library had to receive every publication from the United States Government.  Changes to Title 44 in 1922 allowed libraries to become “a selective depository,” where the library does not need to receive all publications, but can select only the publications that they want to receive.  Campbell Library is a selective depository, receiving about 30% of what GPO distributes. 


The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) distributes GPO’s publications although providing Government information to selective libraries antedates the founding of GPO.


For the FDLP, the United States is divided into regions, generally by state, and each region has a regional depository that receives every publication from the United States and provides a variety of services to the selective depositories in their region.  In New Jersey, the regional depository is the Newark Public Library.


In 1993, GPO Access was created, one of the first government information databases.  Since 1996, the United States has been moving to a more electronic Federal Depository Library Program.  GPO created a free online catalog of official government documents from 1976 to the present and has recently released the Federal Digital System (FDSys)

which should grow into an even greater database of government publications for the 21st century.


For more information, please consult:

or Snapshots of the Federal Depository Library Program,


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