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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:

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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 (next tab) 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

  • Library Catalog: The library catalog provides links to many online government publications as well as to hard-copy material here in the library. See limitations of the catalog further below.
  • Government Publishing Office (GPO): Provides several interfaces to access government publications, including the following.
    •  An electronic access point for current and recent authenticated US federal government publications. Strong on legal and legislative material.
    • Catalog of Government Publications (CGP): A finding tool for electronic and print federal government publications, serving as a bibliography of what's published by the federal government. Modern equivalent of the old Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. Some material is for sale through the U.S. Government Bookstore.
    • MetaLib: A federated search engine that searches multiple U.S. Federal government databases.
    • Basic Collection: Twenty titles required by the GPO's Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) for quick access by all depository libraries.
    • Partnerships: Libraries and federal agencies that provide permanent access to resources not available online from GPO. Examples include the Cybercemetery (selection of archived government web sites through ca. 2013), the Floppy Disc Project,  and Public Health Reports.
  • Legislative information (US federal):
    Has links to congressional committee websites. Our Legislative Process research guide adds insight.  The Popular Name Tool provides official legal citations for well-known U.S. laws. The non-governmental collects legislative information such as bill texts and voting records.
  • Scientific information:
    Searches for across many government agencies. Also, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) index can help locate millions of contractor reports going back many decades.
  • Statistical data: 
    A repository of digital datasets produced by participating agencies.
  • Consumer and popular information:
    Includes A-Z Index of U.S. Government Agencies.

Subject Specialist

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Carson Holloway
Librarian for Military History, History of Science and Technology, Britain, Ireland and Commonwealth

Perkins and Lilly Libraries



Your Librarian

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Mark Thomas
233C Perkins Library