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U.S. Government Documents Research Guide

The Washburn Law Library is a selective depository for approximately 33% of the 9,000 plus items made available for selection by the U.S. Government Printing Office. Approximately 1/3 of the items received by our depository are housed at Mabee Library. The Law Library retains those documents pertinent to the study and research of law. All available working papers of Congress, including all public laws and the U.S. Code plus many administrative publications, regulations and decisions are received at the Law Library.

Su Doc Numbers

Most depository documents in the Washburn School of Law Library are shelved according to the Superintendent of Documents (Su Doc) classification scheme and are housed on the main floor of the Law Library unless otherwise noted. Some major federal reference publications are cataloged and shelved in Reference or in the general collection.

The Su Doc classification number is composed of three major elements: (1) the issuing agency symbol, (2) the series designation before the colon, and (3) the identifying numbers and letters after the colon which give the publication its unique identification. The first letter or letters designate the issuing agency. The letter(s) are followed by a number representing the agency as a whole or a sub-agency. The number after the period designates the series or type, for example:

  • .1 — annual report
  • .2 — general publication
  • .3 — bulletins
  • .4 — circulars
  • .5 — laws
  • .6 — regulations, rules & instructions
  • .7 — press releases
  • .8 — handbooks, manuals, guides

The letters and/or numbers after the colon identify the individual document.

The documents are shelved in alpha-numeric order, beginning with A (Agriculture Department) in the Government Documents area on second floor and in the microforms room, depending on format.

Indexes and Finding Aids

Several indexes are available to assist you in finding the Su Doc number for the desired agency or title. These are shelved directly before the depository collection unless otherwise noted.

Catalog of U.S. Government Publications: Provides an index to print and electronic publications created by Federal agencies from 1994 to the present. The catalog links to the full text of the document when available.

MarciveWeb DOCS: This search engine allows users to search government documents from 1976 to the present. Users may search by keyword, title, or SuDoc, Technical, Stock, GPO Monthly Catalog, or OCLC number.

The law library owns the Monthly Catalog (GP 3.8/8:). This indexes government documents from 1895 to 2004. This is located in the Government Documents section on the second floor.

Cumulative Title Index to United States Public Documents, 1789-1976 (US Doc Index J 83 .L47) — This 16-volume set is the most comprehensive title index of U.S. government documents available at this time. It consists of a single-alphabet listing of the titles of publications contained in the Public Documents Library of the Government Printing Office. Each citation contains a title, publication date and Su Doc number. Since many document titles are descriptive, the Cumulative Title Index may be useful in doing subject searches, as well as in finding the Su Doc number when the title of a document is known.

Index to U.S. Government Periodicals (US Docs Index Z 1223 .Z9 I5): Indexes over 170 major government periodicals by subject and author. A list of periodicals indexed and Su Doc classification numbers appear in the front of the annual bound volumes. There have been no updates since 1987.

The U.S. Government Bookstore allows users to search for and order Government information products currently available from the Superintendent of Documents. Users can also find forthcoming material, as well as titles that have been recently superseded or have gone out of print. Available media include printed items, CD-ROMs, diskettes, microfiche, videotapes, and more. It is updated daily.

Online Resources

Library of Congress Catalog: Check here to a place to go to find out if a document even exists.

Bernan Online Catalog is the largest private distributor of U.S. government publications. Bernan offers access to government and international agency books, journals, and CD-ROMs.

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