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Last Updated: Dec 16, 2014 URL: http://libguides.sfsu.edu/govpubs Print Guide RSS Updates

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Welcome to the Government Publications Department at San Francisco State University!

The J. Paul Leonard Library is one of 1300 Federal depository libraries that provide access to government information. It has been a selective federal depository library since 1955, and serves the 12th Congressional district. We select approximately 52% of available U.S. documents from the Government Printing Office (GPO). We also collect State of California documents and international documents from the United Nations.

Let us know if you need help, as our collection is not completely catalogued. Our contact numbers are: (415) 338-7325 and (415) 405-2517, or email Nina Hagiwara at ninah@sfsu.edu.


New Books

From the Government Book Talk blog:

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Search for Federal Government Information


Books@the SFSU Library

Most of the books here have been reviewed in the Government Book Talk blog.

Cover Art
Wings in orbit : scientific and engineering legacies of the space shuttle, 1971-2010 - NASA
The Government Book Talk blog features an interview with several of the editors and contributors to _Wings In Orbit_.

Cover Art
Afghanistan: Alone & Unafraid - Benhoff, David A.
Photos of the country and Afghan National Army by a Marine Corps field historian.

Cover Art
A Muslim archipelago : Islam and politics in Southeast Asia - Gross, Max L.
Information on the history of Islam in Southeast Asia, and a guide to extremist political groups, from the National Defense Intelligence College.

Cover Art
Bee Basics: An Introduction to our Native Bees - Beatriz Moisset, Ph.D. and Stephen Buchmann, Ph.D.
Native bees predate honey bees, which were brought by European settlers. Some of them pollinate only one crop, and many live alone in nests in the ground.


How to search for Government Information online

The main search engines for U.S. Government information are:

FDSys (Federal Digital System from the U.S. Government Printing Office)

FDSys provides access to official U.S. government publications from all three branches of government. It's more complicated to search than the Catalog of Government Publications, so the following tutorials may be helpful:

Basic Searching in FDSys

FDSys Educational Webinar Recordings. Most of these presentations are 1-1.5 hours long.
    -Introduction to GPO's Federal Digital System
    -Tracking Federal Regulation in FDSys
    -Navigating Government Information Using GPO's Federal Digital System
    -Advanced Navigation in GPO's Federal Digital System
    -Tracking Legislating in GPO's FDSys

Catalog of Government Publications (CGP, U.S. Government Printing Office)

"The CGP is the finding tool for federal publications that includes descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to those that are available online. Users can search by authoring agency, title, subject, and general key word, or click on 'Advanced Search' for more options." The Catalog of Government Publications has been superseded by FDSys, but it's still useful for searching for older publications.

USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web Portal

This website includes a detailed list of Federal, State, Local, and Tribal agencies, listed under the "Find Government Agencies" tab.



Google has quietly discontinued its U.S. Government (aka Google Uncle Sam) web search. There is no link on the Advanced Search page, and government information librarians noticed that it disappeared in mid-June 2011.

You can still use Google to find government information, by adding "site:gov" to your search. Or you could go to the Advanced Search and enter .gov in the "Search within a site or domain" box. Unfortunately, this will not replicate the old Google Uncle Sam search,which included state, county and military websites.

To search for California state documents, add "site:ca.gov" to the end of the search.

For San Francisco City & County documents, add "site:sfgov.org" to the end of the search.


Quick guide to finding government documents at the SFSU Library

Government information comes from federal, state, and local sources and offers a broad array of information formats.

Think about the following questions:
   1. Do you need U.S., state, local, or international government information?
   2. Do you need a specific type of information (statistics, hearings, environmental impact statements, patents, laws, treaties, scientific information, etc.)?
   3. Are you searching for information or data from a particular time period?

How to limit your search to Government Publications at SFSU:

From the Library home page, click on Library Catalog, under the "Quick Links" on the left sidebar.

Then click on the Advanced Search tab, next to the search box.

Find the Location box and click on Government Collection. That will limit your search to items from the Government Publications collection.

U.S. documents have SuDoc numbers in the Call # column.

All items must be requested online.

Turnaround time is estimated to be ~20 minutes. Pick up books on the shelf past the Book Checkout desk on the first floor.


Government Publications FAQs

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.

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:

A Agriculture
C Commerce
D Defense
ED Education
HE Health
J Justice
PREX Office of the President
X, Y Congress


A number is added to distinguish subordinate bureaus and offices:

1 Parent organization (inc. Secretary's & Administrator's office)
A 1. Agriculture Department
2 & Up Subordinate 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
3: Bulletins
4: Circulars
5: Laws
6: Regulations, rules & instructions
7: Releases
8: Handbooks, Manuals, Guides
9: Bibliographies
10: Directories
11: Maps and charts
12: Posters
13: Forms
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 42 Bill Clinton , 42nd President of the United States
PREX Executive Office of the President

Office 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


Irma Almaguer
Operations Manager
(415) 338-7325


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