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U.S. Government: Government Documents

Government Documents Introduction


Federal Government Documents are official publications of the U.S. federal government. They are the primary source documents for studying the processes of U.S. government. The documents come from the U.S. Congress, the President, the Executive Agencies, the Judiciary, and independent agencies. The subject matter may encompass any area in which the government creates laws and policy, so these publications cover a broad range of topics.

Bowdoin College Library has been a congressionally designated U.S. Depository Library since 1884 and is currently a participant in the Federal Depository Library Program. We have retained a collection of historical paper publications, while receiving our newer items in electronic format. The collection of tangible Government Documents (paper, microfiche, CD and DVD) is located on the lower level of the Library. Full text electronic documents can be found through the library's catalog, Compass, or through internet search engines.

SuDocs Call Numbers

Federal government publications in the Govt Doc, Govt Folio, Govt Micro, and Govt Reference collections use a special call number system specifically created for federal documents, called the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) system.

A SuDocs call number assigned to a document is based on the government agency which released the document. For example, a publication from the Department of Agriculture begins with an "A," such as A 1.114:92 and a publication from the Department of Education begins with the letters "ED," such as ED 1.209:Sp1. (See currently used SuDocs letter prefixes in the List of Classes.)

Agencies or bureaus under departments have the letter or letters for that department (the "parent agency") and are also assigned a number unique to the sub-agency or bureau. For example, "A 13" is the Forest Service and "A 93" is the Economic Research Service, both of which are agencies under the Department of Agriculture.

Major Databases

Catalog of Government Publications (CGP)
An index of U.S. government documents, ca. 1976-present. Many links to full text. To identify individual government publications at Bowdoin, first check Compass or MaineCat; then the Catalog of Government Publications for items published since ca. 1976. If paper or microfiche, make note of the SuDocs number to locate in one of the Government Documents collections.

The U.S. Government Publishing Office's authoritative, full text service for publications of the Congress, the President and the Judiciary. Coverage varies, but often back to 1995.

FedFlix  A joint venture between the National Technical Information Service and Public.Resource.Org  Films are available for reuse without any restrictions.