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Government Information

Background to the collection

Swarthmore College Library is a selective depository for United States government publications, currently selecting approximately 27 percent of the publications made available by the U.S. Government Printing Office through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The College is also a depository for Pennsylvania State documents.

Swarthmore College has been a depository for federal government publications since 1923. Since 2001, Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore have shared a depository collection, with Swarthmore as the main depository and Bryn Mawr as a selective housing site.

In addition to our print government documents collection, many government publications are available electronically. The resources listed on this guide will aid you in your search for current and historical government information.

What documents are available?

United States Government Documents:

Most documents are housed in Swarthmore's McCabe Library, Bryn Mawr's Canaday and Collier Libraries, and Haverford's Magill Library according to the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) classification scheme. Selected publications are shelved in the reference collections and regular stacks of each library according to Library of Congress call numbers. Electronic publications are accessible through Tripod and FDsys.

Pennsylvania Documents:

Swarthmore College receives regular shipments of Pennsylvania state documents. These are shelved on the Lower Level of McCabe Library in the government documents section, before the U.S. documents, according to the Pennsylvania Documents (Penn Docs) classification system.

International Documents:

We collect selected United Nations documents, British Parliamentary documents, and international governmental organization documents. These are shelved in the regular stacks of McCabe Library according to Library of Congress call numbers. The Tri-College Consortium subscribes to the United Nations Official Records, housed at Bryn Mawr's Canaday Library. To find United Nations information online, search the UN's Official Document System (ODS) or the United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBISnet).

What are Government Documents?

Government Documents are materials published by or for a government agency.  These materials cover a wide range of topics and come in a variety of formats such as books, journals, pamphlets, maps, posters, microfiche, CD-ROMs, and computer databases.

How are Government Documents classified?

Government Documents are organized using the SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents) Classification System.  Unlike the Library of Congress classification system, the SuDoc classification system is not based on subject but rather organized according to the agency that issues the publication.  For a more detailed explanation, see the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) Classification Scheme.

How do I find Government Documents?

First you must identify what's been published by the government. Then you must locate the items in the Tri-College Libraries, online, or through Interlibrary Loan.

Identify what's been published.

First choose a database in which to search, or use a print index.

Use the database or index to find documents on your topic. Many databases will even link directly to the full text of the item. If not, write down the full citation, including the title of the document. If there is a SuDocs call number available, write it down.

Locate the items.

Search for the title of the document in Tripod and write down the call number, or follow the link in the record. If you cannot find an item in Tripod, online, or in the government documents stacks using the SuDocs number, you may request the item through Interlibrary Loan. For additional assistance locating physical items, ask a librarian.