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U.S. Federal Government Publications: Getting Started

Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)

"Government Documents" is a term often used to refer to any sort of material produced by a goverment (legal, legislative, statistical data, books and reports, research studies, consumer guides, archival material) in any format (electronic, print, microform).

FDLP logoMost of the material in the Federal Documents Collection was received through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The collection includes over 1 million publications in paper, microfiche and electronic formats.

GovBookTalk from the Government Publishing Office (GPO) highlights some of the best publications from the Federal Government, past and present. Below are a few of the recent topics:


Library Catalog Limitations

Around one-third of the federal government hardcopy collection onsite at Perkins is not represented at all in the library catalog (much of the material published prior to 1976). This includes some important historical texts and statistical compilations.

You need to use one of the electronic or paper indexes (at right) to find a call number.  You can then:

  • first, check the library catalog to see if it's in there. If not,
  • check the legacy shelflist (the card catalog file on the 2nd floor that is in order by SuDoc call nubmber) to see if we ever got it and which issues we received, or
  • just look on the shelf to see if it's there, or
  • check with the Federal Documents Librarian.

Marterial stored offsite in the Library Service Center can be located through the library catalog.

Access Points for Recent Government Information

  • The Library Catalog provides links to many online government publications as well as to traditional hard-copy publications here in the library.
  • FDsys: The primary electronic access point for current and recent US federal government publications, from the Government Publishing Office (GPO).  Will eventually be superseded by the govinfo platform, currently in beta testing.
  • Legislative information (US federal):
    Has links to congressional committee websites. Perkins' Legislative Process research guide adds insight. supersedes the Library of Congress's THOMAS website. The Popular Name Tool provides official legal ciations for well-known U.S. laws.
  • Scientific information:
    Searches for across many government agencies.
  • Statistical data: FedStats is a gateway to statistical portals at the websites of many federal agencies. is a repository of digital datasets produced by participating agencies.
  • Consumer and popular information:
    Includes A-Z Index of U.S. Government Agencies.

Historical Publications Online (Selected Sources)

  • Library of Congress Guide to Law Listings of what's available online for free (titles and years available). Some sources will lack search interfaces, but are good for drilling down to known citations. Includes legislative, executive, and judicial branch publications.
  • ProQuest Congressional [and Executive Branch] Publications  Full text of most US Congressional titles 1789-present as well as Executive Branch publications through 1932. Congressional Record since 1985. Paper indexes are also available: Executive Branch.
  • U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994 Text of House and Senate Reports and Documents (and Journals 1953-1974); newer at FDsys
  • HeinOnline The text of publications since their inception, focusing on law and legislation, including the Congressional Record and predecessors
  • The American Presidency Project  At UC Santa Barbara, gathers together many different types of documents and transcripts of speeches and spoken statements related to the Office of the President
  • FRASER From the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, this free website contains hundreds of digitized US federal government publications relating to economics, banking, and public policy from the early 20th century to the present. Also includes some unpublished archival collections. Acrobat (.pdf) documents are fully searchable.
  • Digitization Projects Registry A listing of digitization projects of historical U.S. Government publications that were previously only available in print format.

Additional Specialized Access Points

Access to recent information and/or access or indexing to historical publications, archival information (unpublished records of government agencies and declassified documents), technical reports (quasi-governmental reports prepared by contractors), and statistical data.

Many of the databases listed are subscription services available only to Duke University users.

Subject Guide

Mark Thomas
233C Perkins Library
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