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Government Information

Background to the collection

Logo for US Federal Depository Library ProgramSwarthmore College Libraries are a selective depository for United States government publications and Pennsylvania State publications. We receive approximately 20% of the publications made available by the U.S. Government Printing Office through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The mission of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) is to provide free, ready, and permanent public access to federal government information.

Swarthmore 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 a selective housing site. Swarthmore's physical collection of government publications is on the Lower Level of McCabe Library.

Public access to the government documents collection is guaranteed by law (Title 44 United States Code).

Documents available in the TriCo

US Federal Government Documents

  • Find Documents

  • Paper / Physical Documents

    • Housed in Swarthmore's McCabe Library (Lower Level), Bryn Mawr's Canaday and Collier Libraries, and Haverford's Lutnick Library
    • Organized on shelves based on which government agency/entity created the document. (This is called the Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) classification, an alternative to Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal Classification.)

Pennsylvania Documents

  • Swarthmore is a depository for Pennsylvania state documents. We no longer receive print copies of new materials, but existing documents are shelved on the Lower Level of McCabe Library in the government documents section according to the Pennsylvania Documents (Penn Docs) classification system.
  • For help finding Pennsylvania documents, see the State page in this guide.

International Documents

  • For most researchers, your best bet for finding UN documents is to search the UN's Official Document System (ODS) or the United Nations Digital Library. See the International page in this guide.
  • Swarhmore has a collection of 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. Most of the physical documents in our collection date from before 2015.

What are Government Documents?

What are government documents?

Government documents are materials published by or for a government agency. These materials include books, journals, reports, maps, posters, transcripts of hearings, and databases, among others.

Who uses them?

Researchers in a wide variety of fields use government documents, including history, political science, and education. Many government documents are produced to inform members of the public and report on the activities of government agencies.

How can I find them?

You'll find that many government documents are available online. Library print collections and databases can help fill the gap. Finding relevant government documents can be complex. Library staff in the TriCo can help you navigate this process.