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Government Publications Department FAQ

What exactly are government documents?

They refer to publications produced by government agencies. The government is interested and involved in almost every aspect of our lives, and publishes a vast array of documents every year. The Federal Depository Library Program provides access to government information to citizens who fund these activities. The Government Collection includes California, San Francisco, U.S. Federal and International documents.

Why are they in a separate section of the library?

In exchange for providing public access to government information, there is no charge to the library for these documents. However, we must comply with Government Printing Office rules regarding cataloging, selection, and discarding of materials. For instance, we are required to keep everything that has been sent to us for at least 5 years, and we have to offer documents to other depository libraries before we discard them.

How come they have those weird call numbers?

Government documents are organized by AGENCY, unlike books in the Main Collection of the library, which are organized by SUBJECT. U.S. government documents have a SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents) number, which is composed of the agency, sub-agency, type of document, year, and publication number. If you see a colon in a call number, it's a government document.

The first letter is from the issuing agency:

PREXOffice of the President
X, YCongress

A number is added to distinguish subordinate bureaus and offices:

1Parent organization (inc. Secretary's & Administrator's office)
 A 1. Agriculture Department
2 & UpSubordinate bureaus and offices:
  A 13. Forest Service
A 21. Information Office
A 68. Rural Electrification Administration

Next, there's a number denoting series or type of publication:

1:Annual Reports
2:General Publications
6:Regulations, rules & instructions
8:Handbooks, Manuals, Guides
11:Maps and charts
14:Addresses, lectures, etc.

This number is followed by the unique document number.

Congressional Bills, Documents, and Reports are filed by numbered series, Congress, session, and individual number:

Y 1.1/3:Senate Documents
Y 1.1/5:Senate Reports
Y 1.1/7:House Documents
Y 1.1/8:House Reports
Y 1.4/1:Senate Bills
Y 1.4/2:Senate Resolutions
Y 1.4/3:Senate Joint Resolutions
Y 1.4/4:Senate Concurrent Resolutions
Y 1.4/6:House Bills
Y 1.4/7:House Resolutions
Y 1.4/8:House Joint Resolutions
Y 1.4/House Concurrent Resolutions

Publications of the President & Executive Office of the President:

PR 42Bill Clinton , 42nd President of the United States
PREXExecutive Office of the President
PREX 2Office of Management & Budget

Can we borrow them?

Yes, SFSU students, staff, and faculty can borrow government documents for 28 days.

What if SFSU doesn't have the document I want?

Government documents can be requested through Document Delivery. There are also many other depository libraries in the Bay Area. The largest collections are at the San Francisco Public Library, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University.

If you have other questions, contact either:

Nina Hagiwara
Depository Librarian
(415) 405-2517


Norma Villa
Operations Manager
(415) 338-2733

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