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United States Government Information

This policy describes the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Library system. For Biddle Law Library's collection, see Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections, below.

I. Program Information

The University of Pennsylvania's Political Science, History, Earth and Environmental Science departments and Urban Studies program, Graduate School of Education, Wharton School of Business, and Law School all rely heavily upon publications and documents produced by the United States government. These programs, described in greater detail in individual subject-oriented collection development policies, entail research and instructional support in subject areas such as democracy, government (including public administration and bureaucracy), federal-state relations, United States foreign relations, and social policy, as well as commerce and trade, legislation, regulation, and jurisprudence. Research and instruction in these programs require both current, recent past, and historical United States government information.

The need for United States government-produced information extends beyond these primary user groups. All social science programs of the University of Pennsylvania make use of federal statistical and policy information. Indeed, given that the federal government provides almost one-third of the Penn's research funding, it is likely that all academic programs and most managerial positions in University Administration have some interest in the acquisition and campuswide dissemination of United States government information.

II. Collection Description

The Penn Libraries treat the focussed acquisition and management of current materials termed "government documents" or "public documents" and the general acquisition of government-produced information.

1. Government documents are items published wholly or in part at government expense and intended for public use. U.S. government documents are distributed through the U.S. Government Printing Office's Federal Depository Library Program; those documents held by the Penn Libraries belong to the United States government. These government documents are "on deposit" at the Penn Libraries for the use of Penn students, faculty, researchers, and staff and for the use of the inhabitants of the 2nd U.S. Congressional District, Pennsylvania. Rules governing record-keeping, access to documents, and retention policies are stipulated in USGPO's Federal Depository Library Manual and Instructions to Depository Libraries, updated by Administrative Notes.

The Penn Libraries collections have included government documents since their founding. An Act of Congress, December 27, 1813, authorized the distribution of U.S. House and Senate Journals and documents published under the orders of the two chambers to a number of libraries, including "each university and college in each State" (Annals, 13th Congress, col.2855), which undoubtedly included the University of Pennsylvania. Formal participation in the Federal Depository Library Program began in 1886, when the University Library took on the role of "Selective" depository (Depository number 0513B); only ten percent of current federal depositories were formally established by 1886. At present, the Penn Libraries select 42.87 percent of document items, i.e., documents of a particular agency grouped by title or by format, offered through the FDLP (June 2014). The Penn Libraries selection rate has remained stable over the years: in December 1998, the Library selected 42.8 percent. The Library's holdings are most complete in publications of Congress, Bureau of the Census, and U.S. Geological Survey.

The Penn Libraries federal depository collection is based in Van Pelt Library, where documents are processed by Serials staff for dissemination among the individual libraries according to subject-based collection policies. Most users seeking assistance in using government documents are served through the Van Pelt Library Research and Instructional Services Department. The bulk of the depository collection is held by Van Pelt and Lippincott Libraries.

The Penn Libraries generally assign Library of Congress classification numbers to paper documents and electronic documents on portable physical media (DVDs, CD-ROMs, diskettes) and shelve most paper documents in open stacks as part of the general collection. Current editions of many statistical and other yearbooks, recent bibliographies and directories, and other reference materials are held in Van Pelt's and other departmental library reference collections. Prior to the closing of the Van Pelt Reference Government Documents Room in Summer 2013, Congressional publications -- Congressional Record, House and Senate documents and reports, prints, and treaties -- as well as Federal Register, Weekly Papers of the President, and some difficult-to- manage paper documents (e.g., unbound numbers of U.S. Geological Survey Circulars) were held in Van Pelt Reference's Government Documents Room, from which they were periodically collected for binding for the general collection or weeded as cumulative compilations, acquired either through the federal depository program or through direct purchase, were added to the general collection. Today, these separate print items have been de-selected and replaced by selections for their online counterparts.

Recent federal policies have decreased the volume of government information offered in paper form, transferring many documents into electronic format. Government documents received on portable physical media are either held in Van Pelt's and other departmental library reference collections, with selected CD-ROMs held at LIBRA, the Penn Libraries high-density storage facility: location decisions are based upon the subject nature and likely user-demand for the individual document.

Microfiche depository documents are labelled with USGPO-assigned Superintendent of Documents ["SuDoc"] classification numbers, which are used to file the microfiche documents in Van Pelt Library's Microtext Center and departmental library collections.

Franklin, the Penn Library catalog, identifies and locates documents in the depository collection, regardless of format. However, users may find it necessary to supplement Franklin searching with USGPO's Catalog of U.S. Government Publications available online through GPO Access or as part of OCLC WorldCat. Electronic documents published online are linked through URLs in Franklin, where known. However, users may also find it necessary to consult the Penn Library Web's "Government Information" Subject Resources pages or USGPO's GPO Access Catalog of U.S. Government Publications and "FDsys" and "Pathfinder Services" websites.

2. The general collection of U.S. government information in the Penn Libraries supplements the depository document collection by providing historical depth, comprehensiveness, and easy access to the collection.

USGPO requires that depository libraries keep depository documents generally for five years unless superseded and offer those materials they wish to discard to other depository libraries. As an academic research library, Penn has chosen to retain most depository materials permanently. There is, therefore, very little retrospective collecting being done since the collection is already strong.

Significant historical components of the Library collection of U.S. government information include:

  • United States Serial Set and its predecessor American State Papers, both in print and microform (through 1980) and online; and Congressional Record and its predecessors.
  • Readex Depository Documents Microprint Collection, 1956-1980.
  • Decennial census publications in print (1790-present) and microform (1790-1980).
  • A collection of early- to mid-twentieth century Congressional hearings.
  • Foreign Relations of the United States (print, microfiche, online), and American Foreign Policy.
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service, 1978-1996 and Joint Publication Research Service, 1958-present, in print, microform, and online. These collections have been replaced by the online news service, World News Connection.
  • Declassified Documents Reference Collection (microform, online).
  • Current and historic U.S. Geological Survey topographical and geological maps, held at the High-Density Storage Facility.
  • National Archives and Library of Congress microform sets and third-party collections of archival or other primary-source materials: public papers of several antebellum presidents; decennial census manuscript schedules for Philadelphia, 1790-1920; nineteenth-century consular records; captured World War II German documents; post-World War II national security papers; FBI files on African American individuals and organizations; Yank and Stars and Stripes for the European theater of operation during World War II. Many NARA microform sets have also been purchased in online formats.
The location of these materials among the Penn Libraries facilities is determined by their subject. However, in most cases, materials purchased in microform will be held at Van Pelt Library, whose Microtext Center has the largest concentration of microform reader/printers and is the base of skilled microform staff.

Franklin provides information for identifying and locating materials in the general collection of U.S. government information. Publications acquired prior to 1968, e.g., older Congressional hearings, may be found through the Van Pelt Library card catalog. USGPO's Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications and its predecessors, shelved at LIBRA and also available online, are also used. Other useful access tools include the many CIS indexes to Congressional and Executive publications and statistical publications and PAIS, for which older volumes are shelved in Van Pelt Reference and other locations. Current versions of PAIS and the principal CIS indexes -- Congressional Compass and Statistical Universe -- are provided online through the Penn Library Web.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

Current depository documents. New document item numbers offered for selection by USGPO are considered by the Coordinator for Social Sciences Collections, with assistance from subject-oriented selectors. The continuous consideration of new item numbers is supplemented by annual review cycles occurring in early summer, when the selectors are permitted by USGPO to drop item number selections to reflect Penn's current research and instructional needs.

Non-depository government publications. Individual selectors will acquire government publications as part of their subject-based collection building, consulting the list of depository item selections as needed.

  1. Chronological

    No chronological limitations. Because of the nature of document publication, most acquisitions are recent in origin and cover current topics.

  2. Formats

    All formats collected, though in many cases choice is limited by USGPO. Whenever possible, printed materials are preferred. However, many depository documents are offered only in microfiche; Congressional hearings are selected in microfiche to complement Biddle Law Library's paper selection.

    As electronic-format documents proliferate both online and on portable physical media, past practice was to select every electronic item offered by USGPO. At present, the Penn Libraries continue to select aggressively electronic items, preferring to catalog online documents in Franklin rather than selecting their print counterparts through the FDLP. Electronic items on portable physical media are selected when the format benefits the subject- matter and -presentation (e.g., statistical or mapping data, or fulltext with searching capability). Where USGPO makes available as a depository item single-user access to an online electronic document, e.g., STAT-USA or World News Connection, the Penn Libraries have chosen to avoid selecting the document, preferring to pay for domain-level access for the Penn community.

  3. Geographical

    No geographical limitations. Government publications will be obtained if there is academic interest in the area being described. Although the Philadelphia region is the geographic area for which statistical information is most often sought, statistical data for certain geographies -- counties, metropolitan areas -- nationwide are also used heavily. As regional agency office reports or newsletters are generally treated by USGPO as handbooks or general materials, this policy does not allow for their selection.

  4. Language

    U.S. government publications are written almost exclusively in English. Many bilingual titles may be characterized as handbooks or general materials, and therefore this policy does not allow for their selection. However, any language would be appropriate if the subject matter had academic interest.

  5. Publication Dates

    Depository documents are collected immediately upon publication and dissemination by USGPO. Non-depository government publications may be acquired regardless of publication date.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

USGPO's depository program automatically supplies documents based upon the profile of item selections submitted by the Library. To supplement the depository profile, several USGPO serials are monitored: New Books: Publications for sale by the Government Printing Office (bimonthly), U.S. Government Books (quarterly list of popular publications), Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. Catalogs and publication lists from selected agencies -- Census and You, Monthly Product Announcement (Census Bureau), Reports and Testimony (General Accounting Office) -- and agency publication-list web pages are regularly reviewed. The online NTIS database provides bibliographic citations and ordering information for government-supported research and technical publications.

Several non-government serials provide coverage of U.S. government publishing. The most useful are DTTP: Documents to the People (ALA Government Documents Roundtable), Journal of Government Information (formerly Government Publications Review), and APDU Newsletter, in addition to the "Notable documents" issue of Library Journal.

U.S. Bureau of the Census general and Pennsylvania-related paper and electronic statistical publications are also received through Van Pelt Library's research affiliation with the Pennsylvania State Data Center.

Depository document "needs and offers" lists issued by the Pennsylvania State Library and the FDLP are monitored regularly to fill retrospective gaps.

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

 
U.S. government documents distributed through the USGPO Federal Depository Library Program are selected by item number, an agency-based arrangement that may commingle desirable and unwanted forms and subjects.

  1. Subjects: Major subject emphases of Penn Libraries government publications are:

    Business, crime, economics, education, environment, geology, history, medicine, politics and government, transportation.

    It must be remembered that this policy is source-oriented rather than subject-oriented. U.S. government publications treat an enormous range of subjects.

  2. Forms of materials emphasized:

    Annual reports, bibliographies, handbooks, periodicals, statistical sources, and yearbooks.
  3. Agencies emphasized: Congressional publications are collected comprehensively. Publications of other agencies are collected selectively according to subject-oriented collection development policies. The general disposition of agency publications by library is:

    Agency Collecting Library
    Bureau of the Census Lippincott (economy, trade, housing)
      Van Pelt (population)
    Bureau of Labor Statistics Lippincott
    Centers for Disease Control Biomedical
    Congress Van Pelt
    Department of Education Van Pelt
    Department of Energy Engineering
    Environmental Protection Agency Engineering (technical)
      Fine Arts (design)
      Van Pelt (reports)
    Geological Survey Van Pelt (reports)
      Map Collection (maps)
    Government Printing Office Van Pelt
    Health and Human Services Bioemdical (clinical, policy, statistics)
      Van Pelt (policy, statistics)
    Health Care Financing Administration Lippincott
    Housing and Urban Development Fine Arts (technical)
      Van Pelt (policy, statistics)
    International Trade Administration Lippincott
    Library of Congress Van Pelt
    National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration Engineering
    National Center for Education Statistics Van Pelt
    National Library of Medicine Biomedical
    National Science Foundation Van Pelt
    President Van Pelt
    State Department Van Pelt
    Treasury Department Lippincott
    Tranportation Department Engineering (technical)
      Fine Arts (planning)
      Lippincott (commerce)
      Van Pelt (statistics)

VI. Subjects Excluded

Agriculture is collected primarily as it intersects with the major subject emphases.

Military affairs is collected in relation to Politics and Government and, to a lesser degree, History, rather than as Military Science.

Most federal agency internal publications are not appropriate for the Penn Library collection. Documents offered by USGPO in the following categories are generally not selected:

General publications; Regulations, rules, instructions; Handbooks, manuals (except codebooks and technical manuals relating to statistical programs), guides; Maps and charts (except U.S. Geological Survey maps); Leaflets; Telephone directories; Posters.

Among non-depository government publications, reprinted documents and document-like publications are generally excluded. However, publications anthologizing several documents arranged thematically, and publications reproducing documents and providing enhanced value or convenience may be collected.

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

The Biddle Law Library of the University of Pennsylvania's Law School participates in the USGPO Federal Depository Library Program as an "Academic Law" depository (Depository number 0513C) independent of the Penn Libraries depository, selecting 11.61% percent of USGPO's items offered (6/2014). Biddle's U.S. depository documents selection emphasizes legislation and regulation, judicial procedures, and related matters.

Biddle's U.S. documents collection overlaps considerably the Library collection -- 17.1 percent of Penn Libraries item selections is also selected by Biddle, 63.2 percent of Biddle selections is also selected by the Penn Libraries -- with redundancy in Congressional publications, Justice publications containing statistics and research, State publications on international human rights, Labor, Commerce, and NLRB publications on workforce, wages, compensation, and income, Commerce publications on international trade, Executive regulatory and budgetary publications, and library-related publications from National Archives, USGPO, and Library of Congress.

For its core group of federal agencies (e.g., Justice, GAO, Executive), Biddle selects general publications and handbooks, formats generally excluded by the Penn Libraries. Biddle preferentially selects Congressional publications in paper format, where the Penn Libraries hold Congressional hearings on microfiche. Biddle selects Slip Laws and Congressional Bills, where the Library selects and retains Congressional Bills only.

Biddle retains back years of Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations, as well as alternative editions of statutory and regulatory codes. Biddle holds CIS microfiche library, complete collection, CIS US Supreme Court Records & Briefs, and Records of the US Judicial Conference: Committees on Rules of Practice and Procedures microform collections.

With the advent of electronic distribution for government documents, Biddle and the Library no longer cooperatively exchange certain depository materials. In the past, Biddle's depository copy of Index Medicus was donated to Veterinary Library, and Van Pelt Library donated its depository copy of some legal titles, including Slip Laws, to Biddle.

The Philadelphia region is well-served by libraries collecting U.S. government information, with three dozen federal depository libraries within driving distance of Penn. The largest U.S. government documents collection in Philadelphia historically has been the Free Library of Philadelphia's Government Publications Department (Depository number 0515), with 75.6 percent of USGPO's depository items selected in December 1998. However, the Free Library's depository selection rate has dropped to 37.2% (June 2014). The Free Library historically subscribed to many CIS microform series, including nondepository statistical publications (now on permanent loan to the Penn Libraries), unpublished Congressional hearings, and older Executive branch documents. The Free Library also serves as the region's full patent depository, having obtained the Franklin Institute's historic patent collection and currently participating in U.S.Patent and Trademark Office's depository program.

The State Library of Pennsylvania, according to legend the oldest federal depository, serves as the "Regional" depository (Depository number 0508) for the Commonwealth and as such provides Library users with access to a comprehensive current and historic collection of depository documents through interlibrary loan.

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