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Government Information: Guides to U.S. Federal Resources - Past and Present

FIRST ANNUAL BANQUET [held by] GERMAN-AMERICAN DEMOCRACY OF COOK COUNTY [at] "TREMONT HOUSE, CHICAGO, IL" (HOT;), Digital ID 467376, New York Public LibraryFor a while now, it's been a pretty sure thing: U.S. Federal Government Documents are posted online, for anyone with Internet access to find. Or at least to look for - you can give the U.S. Government Printing Office (which we'll be calling the GPO) website a try. But if you might be researching older documents, you still may have to pay a visit to a U.S. Federal Government Depository Library like SIBL. And to help readers prepare for such a visit, this post will offer information about traditional resources we recommend to search for Government Documents in our library.

Sample Printing Machine., Digital ID 825955, New York Public LibrarySome ground rules: The call numbers for any books listed below may point to some of our open-shelf items. You'll recognize them by the *R and Library of Congress format. Other titles may need to be requested at our Access Services desk. When in doubt, check with one of our Reference Librarians for help.

The rest of this post will list key examples of four kinds of resources: Texts about accessing and using Government documents; Guides to select publications; Directories of Government Offices and Departments; and, Catalogs or Indexes of older (read: historical) U.S. Federal Government publications. If you need to know more, please pay us a visit at SIBL or contact our AskNYPL service.

[Printing machinery; bookbinding equipment], Digital ID 109749, New York Public LibraryTexts

  • Sears, J.L. & Moody, M.K. Using Government Information Sources (subject approach) - *R Z 1223 .Z7. S4 (request this at our Reference Desk)
  • Morehead, J. Introduction to United States Government Information Sources (sometimes verbose, but good for background information) - *R Z 1223 .M674 (request this at our Reference Desk)


  • Andriot, J.L. Guide to U.S. Government Publications (listing in Superintendent of Documents order, indexed by agency and title; useful also for tracing agencies’ histories) - *R Z 1223.Z7 A574 (request this at our Reference Desk)
  • List of Classes of U.S. Government Publications Available for Selection by Depository Libraries - *R Z 123.A7L57 (request this at our Reference Desk)
  • Guide to Popular U.S. Government Publications (subject and title indexes) - JBE 12-404 (request from our Access Services Desk)

Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington., Digital ID 1607769, New York Public LibraryDirectories (A Selection)

U. S. Printing Office, Washington, D. C., Digital ID 68696, New York Public LibraryCatalogs/Indexes

  • Poore Descriptive Catalogue...1774-1881 - *R Z 1223.U56 (Catalog title: A descriptive catalogue of the government publications of the United States, September 5, 1774-March 4, 1881) [Some online versions of this title may also be available.]
  • Ames Comprehensive Index...1881-1893 - *R Z 1223.U58 (Catalog title: Comprehensive index to the publications of the United States Government, 1881-1893) [Also available from the Hathi Trust as well as some other online locations.]
  • Checklist of U.S. Public Documents 1789-1909 - *R Z 1223.A113 [Some online versions of this title may also be available.]

And, the principal resource for twentieth century government documents: Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications:


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