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Government Information:
Searching Print Directories

Why search the library catalog?

As a Regional Federal Depository Library, the University of Maryland system will have thousands of government documents that are not available as full text online. Many of these items can be borrowed just like any other item, while some, such as materials on microform, are restricted to library use. Even if you are not near any of the University of Maryland libraries, there are Federal Depository Libraries all across the country. All Federal Depository Libraries by law have to admit persons interested in looking at their government documents collections, even if it is a private institution. You can locate a federal depository library near you. In addition, materials located at a USMAI library can be sent to other USMAI libraries for pickup, or, can be mailed to you through our Book Delivery Service if you live outside Maryland, but in the continental United States. Materials that are available online will often have a link directly from the library catalog. Even though much current government information is now available online, for historical materials, you must still rely on print resources.

Tips and techniques for a successful search:

If you know the title or subject of the material, you can search for government information in the library catalog much the way you do for other materials. For example, a "title words beginning with" search in the catalog on Statistical Abstracts will take you right to the record for that document. While the catalog does not allow you to limit a search just to government information sources, one of the indications that something you found in the catalog is a government document is that it will have a different type of call number, called a SuDocs number. SuDocs will be discussed in the next section. You may also notice the author listed is usually not a person but an agency. In most cases in government information sources the author is the department, agency, division or branch that produced the document. This makes a search by author a convenient way to bring up all materials in the catalog produced by a specific agency. To find materials authored by the Internal Revenue Service, for example, go to the library catalog and search the Internal Revenue Service as the author.

Library catalog

Your search results will look like this:

Catalog record

Notice that the author is listed as the Internal Revenue Service and since this document is available full text online, a link is provided. A list of USMAI Libraries that own the print version of the document is also provided. For additional help in searching the library catalog, take the catalog tutorial.

How to find the material on the shelf?

In many libraries, government documents are located in a separate section, although some items may be shelved with the other library materials. The classification system used for shelving the materials is called SuDocs (Superintendent of Documents Classification System). Unlike the Library of Congress Classification System (used at USMAI) or the Dewey Decimal Classification System (used by many public libraries) materials are not grouped by subject. Materials are arranged by the agency or department that published the material. You may want to ask a librarian for assistance.

How Does SuDocs Work?

Basic tips to remember when locating materials using a SuDocs number is that each agency of the government is assigned a letter or letters for its designation. For example, all materials published by the Department of Agriculture begin with an "A," Congressional materials start with "Y," and Presidential materials start with "PR". It is NOT a decimal system. Each number after a form of punctuation is a whole number. For example, materials published by the Internal Revenue Service would be shelved like this:

T 22.2:T 71

T 22.15:R 15

T 22.44/2:55 B/2003

T 22.130/1:B 16

After the "T 22." the numbers are treated as whole numbers. Thus the order is 2, 15, 44, and 130.

The SuDocs number T 22.44/2:55 B/2003 can be interpreted in this way:

SuDoc numbers

Everything before the colon tells you who wrote it and everything after the colon identifies a specific item.

For an extremely detailed instruction manual on the SuDocs Classification System you can read the Classification Manual (1993).

More information about government documents at the University of Maryland libraries can be found in the Government Documents and Maps division at McKeldin Library.