An Introduction to Government Documents by Daniel Eells & Jerusha Shipstead
In 1787, James Wilson, in a debate on publishing the Journals of the House and Senate, stated that The people have a right to know what their Agents are doing or have done, and it should not be in the option of the Legislature to conceal their proceedings. (http://www.gpo.gov/100Years) In 2009, President Obama stated that Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public.(http://www.whitehouse.gov/TransparencyandOpenGovernment)
What are Government Publications According to: ALA ~ Any Publication originating in, or issued with the imprint of, or at the expense and by the authority of, any office or a legally organized government or international organization. Often called government document, public document, and document. (Smith, 1983) FDLP ~ A work of the United States Government, regardless of form or format, which is created or compiled in whole or in part at Government expense, or as required by law. (http://www.fdlp.gov/)
Who produces Government Publications Every level of government, from federal agencies to the local municipal authorities publishes. (Cassell & Hiremath, 2009, p. 249) The gathering and publishing of data occurs at all levels of government: local, state, national, and international. (Smith, 2011)
For example: Federal Executive Branch Compilation of Presidential Documents Judicial Branch Supreme Court of the United States Legislative Branch Congress State Kansas Local Emporia International France
How disseminate The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) provides publishing and dissemination services for the official and authentic government publications to Congress, Federal agencies, Federal depository libraries, and the American public. (http://www.gpo.gov/about/) is the largest information processing, printing and distribution facility in the world increasingly, most publications will be available only online. (Cassell & Hiremath, 2009, p. 250) recently transitioned to FDsys, which enables GPO to manage Government publications that are submitted in digital form, gathered from Federal Web sites, and created by scanning previously printed publications. Through FDsys, GPO is utilizing new technologies and methods for acquiring, authenticating, preserving, and providing access to Government publications in digital form. (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys)
How access Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Established by Congress to ensure that the American public has access to its Government's information. Safeguards the public's right to know by collecting, organizing, maintaining, preserving, and assisting users with information from the Federal Government. Provides Government information at no cost to designated depository libraries throughout the country and territories. These depository libraries, in turn, provide local, no-fee access to Government information in an impartial environment with professional assistance. (http://www.fdlp.gov/home/about)
Depository Libraries There are over 1,200 depository libraries, selective and regional, around the country that offer: information on topics such as health, business, careers, the military, science, technology, travel, nutrition, and more a variety of formats; books, maps, microfiche, journals, periodicals and more historical publications dating back to the early days of the republic. (http://www.gpo.gov/libraries/public)
Regional and selective depository libraries Emporia State is a selective depository which may choose to receive only specific categories of publications in a variety of formats to meet local needs of their clientele and Congressional District University of Kansas, Lawrence, has state’s only regional depository which receive all publications distributed through the Program for permanent retention to ensure that archival resource collections of Government documents remain available throughout the United States In return for receiving Government material at no cost, the depository libraries must make the information available to the public, and provide appropriate assistance to users. (McGarr, 1994)
Dr. Charles A. Seavey wrote We are moving into an era when every library in the country has the potential to become a depository in the sense that each one could potentially provide users with access to government information at a level previously unavailable. (Cassell & Hiremath, 2009, p. 251)
How organized Most common classification system used is SuDocs, named after the Superintendent of Documents. The GPO assigns call numbers dependent upon which agency produced the document. (Smith, 2011) Other systems can include LCC, DDC, or a mixture of all, depending on local practices.
Use in libraries Ready Reference When are my taxes due? http://www.irs.gov How can I apply for financial aid? http://www.fafsa.ed.gov What is the population of the U.S.? http://www.census.gov Research Questions What age, race is being affected most by the recession? How has migrations of the American population affected land use over the last 100 years? How many people graduated high school in 1987?
Evaluating Government Resources Because government documents are published by a governmental body, they are assumed to provide accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information. However, since some government information is also published by trade publishers, librarians will want to compare the products to see which will be the most useful to their clientele. (Cassell & Hiremath, 2009, p. 262) Evaluation criteria, for both print and electronic resources, to consider include: cost quality of content format ease of use
Fee or Free Fee-based or subscription resources include: CQ Encyclopedia of American Government Public Affairs Information Services International database CIS/Index to Publications of the United States Congress Government Periodicals Index all available through LexisNexis All listed throughout presentation are free resources including: http://www.gpo.gov http://www.usa.gov http://www.ourdocuments.gov http://www.google/unclesam In an attempt to cut cost on printing material, GPO is publishing a majority of its materials online. For users and reference librarians this means access to most government publications will be free and accessible anywhere. (Cassell & Hiremath, 2009)
Resources GPO resources Catalog of U.S. Government Publications Legislative Executive Judicial Resources for Kids Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids Kids.gov
Other useful resources Census Bureau Statistical Abstract of the United States Library of Congress THOMAS USA.gov United Nations World Government Data U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services U.S. Federal Government Information