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Collection Development Policy

Government Documents

Government Publications
Written by Gloria Hamilton, July 2005

Updated by Emily Treptow, February 2017


Government publications are collected and maintained at the University of Chicago Library in keeping with its mission to “provide access to information resources in support of the research and teaching needs of the community."  Because the library is an official depository for documents from the United States Government Printing Office (GPO), the European Union, and several other international intergovernmental organizations, it is committed to providing free access to government information to its primary users and to the larger community as well.  Collection development and administration of government materials require cooperation from bibliographers, the Acquisitions and Cataloging Departments.

Title 44 U.S. Code chapter 19 sec. 1901 defines a government publication as “informational matter, which is published as an individual document at government expense or as required by law.”  Government information genres include:  annual reports, judicial decisions and opinions, bills and resolutions, hearings, laws and statutes, statistical documents, agency and commission reports, directories, journals, rules and regulations, bibliographies and lists, and investigative reports. In addition to depository materials, the collection of government publications at the University of Chicago includes materials from state and local governments from many foreign countries, provinces, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.


U.S. Government Publications

The United States Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) began in 1895.  It was established to distribute government documents to libraries throughout the United States to serve the needs of the public.  The University of Chicago has participated in the depository program since 1897 but has retrospective government documents dating back to colonial times.  It is one of more than 1,500 depository libraries in the United States, and its territories and one of fifteen selective depositories in the city of Chicago.

The Library selects over 6,000 FDLP items, which is approximately 81% of the items available for depositories. Participation in this program requires that the university make these documents available for the informational needs of the patrons of the First Congressional District of Illinois which is comprised of the Chicago community areas of Auburn-Gresham, Chatham, Englewood, Hyde Park/Kenwood, Morgan Park, West Englewood and Woodlawn and also includes the suburban areas: Alsip, Blue Island, Crestwood, Dixmoor, Evergreen Park, Markham, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Posen, Robbins, Tinley Park and Worth.

The library also acquires non-depository U.S. federal publications by purchase from the Government Printing Office and from commercial vendors. It also obtains some titles free from government agencies and commissions. 

Strengths of the federal documents collection at the University of Chicago include documents on foreign trade, national accounts, law, health and medicine, production, national defense, foreign relations, statistics, business and economics and social sciences.

The Assistant Director for Technical and Electronic Services serves as liaison with the Government Printing Office. The Periodicals and Government Publications staff is responsible for receipt and processing of all federal publications.


State and Municipal Governments

The library collects state and local publications that cover budgets, financial data, legislative and judicial materials, health and human services and demographic reports.

State Publications.  Materials are acquired from Illinois, from neighboring states as well as from New York, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas. The Library is not a depository for the State of Illinois but holdings include numerous historical and current Illinois government documents in paper, microform, maps, and electronic formats. (See  Chicago Public, Chicago State University, Loyola University, Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Poplar Creek Public and Governor’s State are Illinois depository libraries located in the Chicago Metropolitan area.

Local Publications. Local government publications in the collection focus primarily on current and historical materials from the City of Chicago and Cook County. Documents are chosen from executive departments and agencies from approximately fourteen other cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, and Houston.   The Library also collects from the Council of State Governments, a multibranch organization that provides research and serves elected officials in all 50 states.


Foreign Government Publications

The Library holds materials from many foreign national governments that are essential for research. From most countries the library maintains a comprehensive collection of statistical yearbooks, national bibliographies, serial publications, and censuses. Official publications also collected from foreign countries include constitutions, laws, regulations, treaties, agency reports, budgetary information, and statistical compilations. 

The library collects extensively from the Indian, Pakistani and Ceylon governments.  It selects materials from Europe, Latin and Central America, Asia and the Far East, from Russia, Slavic and East European Countries, Africa and the Middle East.  It acquires these materials through purchase, gifts and exchanges.

Great Britain.  From Great Britain the library collects current official publications disseminated through the Stationery Office.  The Library’s holdings include historical collections of legislative debates from 1066 to the present and holds the 19th Century House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, Sessional and Command papers, census data from 1801, statistical annuals from 1840 and other archival materials including the Rerum Britannicum. (For more information on British publications see:

Canadian Documents. The Library was a participant in the Canadian Depository Services Program (DSP) from 1927 to 2013, when the DSP program ended.  Before the University of Chicago entered into an agreement to participate in the Canadian depository program it already held retrospective collections of Canadian legislative debates from 1875, legislative documents from 1867, census materials from 1851, statistical annuals from 1886 and registers from 1862.  Many current Canadian documents disseminated by the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) formerly the National Library of Canada are no longer distributed in print.


International and Nongovernmental Organizations

International organizations cross national boundaries and are the results of cooperation among nations. Print and non-print information gathered from international intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are distributed for public use.   IGOs and NGOs in the collection provide users with research data on arms control and disarmament, agriculture, health, crime and criminal justice, business and economics, education, energy and the environment, government and politics, science and technology, human rights, labor, law, cultural studies, travel, trade and tourism.

United Nations. The University of Chicago was a designated United Nations depository from 1946 to 1997.  During that time it received all English language sales publications, all English language periodicals, the Official Records of the main organs, and the mimeographed documents available for general distribution.  It continues to collect U.N. documents through purchase of Readex microfiche. Other UN materials are available electronically through AccessUN an index that includes full-text access to current and historical UN documents (

European Union. The Library has a depository arrangement to receive free monographic and serial publications from the European Union (EU) -- see the Library's guide to EU resources. The EU, formerly the European Communities, is a supranational organization that provides information to its member countries in Central, Western and Eastern Europe. There are over forty-four EU depository libraries in the U.S. In addition to the University of Chicago, there are three other European Union depository libraries in Illinois – University of Illinois Law Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Northwestern University.   

Intergovernmental organizations and Nongovernmental Organizations. The Library is a depository or has standing orders for materials from the following IGOs or NGOs:

  • Asian Development Bank
  • Council of Europe
  • European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • European Central Bank.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • Inter American Development (IDB)
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • International Chamber of Commerce
  • North Atlantic Treat Organization (NATO)
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • Organization of American States (OAS)
  • Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Counties (OAPEC)
  • Organization of the petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
  • Pan American Health Organization
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • World Bank
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
  • World Trade Organization (WTO)


Selection Responsibility

Since no librarian has primary responsibility for government publications, selection and location decisions are the responsibility of bibliographers and area specialists who obtain government material for their geographical regions. Based on Collection Intensity Levels as defined by the Research Libraries (RLG) Conspectus, the library selects government publications at three levels:  basic, instructional and research.  For a description of these levels, see the general policy statement.  Faculty make selection suggestions and patrons use the Purchase Request Form to recommend acquisition of titles to be added to the collection.

Selecting Federal Publications. Subject specialists select federal documents based on item numbers designated by the U.S. Government Printing Office in the List of Classes of the United States Government Publications Available for Selection by Depository Libraries

Selecting Government Maps. Collecting governmental maps is the responsibility of the Bibliographer for Anthropology, Geography, and Maps. See the collection development policy for maps.


Collection Arrangements

At the University of Chicago, all government subject areas are integrated in the general library collection and are located in either the Regenstein Library or the appropriate satellite library—Crerar, Eckhart, SSA, and the D’Angelo Law Library. 

Bibliographic control of government publications is through OLE.  Most materials are cataloged and classed by the Library of Congress Classification scheme. There are a few documents arranged by the Dewey Classification number.  Congressional committee hearings and prints beginning with the 90th Congress are shelved by the Superintendent of Documents (Sudocs) number Y4.

Types of materials, Formats Collected

Along with agency reports and documents, the library collects newsletters, journals, bibliographies, pamphlets, bulletins, laws, regulations, magazines, directories, technical reports, addresses, lectures, and press releases. All government documents are acquired by deposit, gift, blanket order or purchase. Government publications are added to the collection in all formats—maps and charts, microforms, pamphlets, posters, looseleafs, forms, videos, diskettes, and electronic.  However, the library is no longer collecting documents in tangible formats when they are available electronically besides maps.

Selection Tools

Federal Depository Items:

  • List of Classes of U.S. Government Publications Available for Selection by Depository Libraries
  • Union List of Item Selections
  • Federal Depository Library Manual, Appendix A, "Suggested Core Collection Annotated for Small to Medium Public and Academic Libraries and for all Law Libraries."
  •  Union List of Item Selections
  • Federal Depository Library Manual, Appendix B, "Maps Available for Selection."
  • Federal Depository Library Manual, Appendix C, "Basic Collection."
  • Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications
  • Needs and Offers Lists
  • Superceded List
  • Inactive List
  • Substitution List:  Official FDLP Permanent Full-Text Databases

Federal Non-Depository Items:

  • Documents to the People (DttP)
  • Journal of Government Information
  • Government Reports Announcements and Index (NTIS)

State and Local publications:

  • Selecting and Organizing State Government Publications,
  • State Publications and Depository Libraries
  • Index to Current Urban Documents
  • Publications of the State of Illinois

Foreign Publications:

  • International Government Information and Country Information: a Subject Guide; How to Find It, How to Use It
  • Guide to Official Publications of Foreign Countries

International Documents:

  • Documents to the People DTTP Magazine

From Patrons:

The Library encourages patrons to recommend titles to be added to the collection via the Purchase Request Form.


Resource sharing

The University lends government publications to libraries in the United States and Canada through its Inter-Library Loan Department.  Federal publications not selected by the library can be borrowed from the Illinois State Library in Springfield and from other selectives in the Chicago Metropolitan area.   The State Library serves as a regional for federal and state documents. It retains all permanent copies of all U.S. and Illinois documents issued through the depository system. (

To eliminate duplication of titles that primarily concern legal issues, there is a close coordination with the D’Angelo Law librarians. The Law Library is a separate federal depository and is a depository for Organization of American States (OAS) publications.

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL), 6050 S. Kenwood, participates in cooperative programs with the University of Chicago that include government publications.  CRL maintains an extensive collection of documents from the fifty states and territories. It has monographic and serial publications from state governments, including financial reports and research studies through 1950.

Since the Chicago Public Library is a patent depository library, researchers are referred to them for patent and trademark assistance.

The Library's Government Documents Website links to Web pages of Intergovernmental Organizations and foreign governments.

The University is a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA).  Cooperation includes reciprocal borrowing; inter library loan and cooperative purchases.


Weeding and Maintenance

Because the library selects government documents comprehensively, it seldom withdraws materials once added to the collection. However the Preservation staff reviews government publications for preservation decisions based on the same criteria as for all titles in the collection.  All government publications are subject to collection review for retention in the collection by bibliographers.  The library’s binding policy for monographic government publications is the same as for all materials received in the collection.  Government serials and periodicals are bound following standard binding procedures.

Federal depository items are retained based on guidelines established by the Federal Depository Library Program.  All documents from these sources are stamped with a depository property stamp and identified by the addition of the GPO item number and the Superintendent of Documents (Sudoc) number. If federal documents are weeded, they must be offered to other depository libraries with permission from the regional depository in Springfield.  Federal items must be retained for a minimum of five years but can be discarded if they are covered in the Superseded List

When depository items are withdrawn they are housed in the Periodicals and Government Publications section until they can be discarded following established guidelines). Government materials that are lost, stolen, or deteriorating are replaced in accordance with the Library’s replacement policy.


Most government publications are integrated into the library’s general circulating collection, and are located in open stacks. Government publications circulate based on regular loan periods. All non-reference documents circulate to patrons with library privileges except maps, microfiche and electronic media designated for a specific workstation.

Depository materials are available to primary users and to members of the Illinois First Congressional District when the library is open.  Microfiche reader/printers and photocopiers are available for all users.  Reference librarians assist with locating and identifying government publications.  Reference service is provided during hours when the reference desk is staffed.

The library provides Internet access to patrons through public access workstations.  The library has appropriate hardware and software to provide access to information provided by the governmental agencies.

The library purchases commercial indexes support research of government publications such as: ASI, IIS, SRI indexes, PAIS International, CIS Index, CIS U.S. Serial Set Index, 1789-1969, CIS U.S. Congressional Committee Prints Index, CIS Index to U. S Senate Executive Orders and Reports, CIS, Federal Register Index, and the United National Documents Index.


Promotion Of Use Of Depository Publications

Promotion of government publications is done through bibliographic instruction of classes and via the Web page.  Professional and library staff participate in continuing education through conference attendance sponsored by the  Association of Research Libraries (ARL), American Library Association Annual and Mid-winter conferences, the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG), the Northern Illinois Depository Librarian (NIDL) group and the Special Libraries Association (SLA/ALA).




Business & Economics Librarian for Instruction & Outreach

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Emily Treptow
Regenstein Library Room 100B