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Government Documents

Government Information: Key Online and Print Resources, by Arlene Sproles. Reprinted with permission from CHOICE, copyright by the American Library Association.

Government information is relevant to a variety of science, social science, and even humanities curricula. Most students doing research will encounter government-produced information at some point during their college careers. In the past decade, the format and distribution of information from the U.S. government have undergone radical change. Many print publications have ceased, including many standard reference sources. Only a few of these sources have been continued by private publishers. Most U.S. government information produced now is available only in an electronic format, introducing issues of access and permanency that were not present in a print-only environment.

This essay examines a variety of standard sources, both print and electronic, used to locate government information for a variety of topics. The first part of the essay presents tools to access U.S. government data on a wide range of topics. It begins with three sections: General Sources, Bibliographies and Indexes, and Statistical Sources. Following sections focus on Business, Scientific and Technical Information, Intellectual Property, Geographic Information, and Primary Source Documents. The second part examines resources related to the three branches of U.S. government: Legislative Branch Sources, Judicial Information, and Executive Branch Resources. Citations to print and online resources discussed in the essay may be found in separate Works Cited lists following the conclusion of the essay.

Part 1: Sources by Topic

General Sources

GPO Access, created in 1994 by the Government Printing Office (GPO), has provided electronic government information for over a decade. The site gathers many free databases and online documents and provides authentication for some sources. In early 2009, GPO released a new Federal Digital System, or FDsys. The GPO plans to migrate all the data from GPO Access to FDsys, which features an enhanced digital content management system. In addition to the materials found on GPO Access, FDsys will contain documents from Congress and federal agencies, harvesting from agency Web sites, and scans of print-only publications.

Complementing GPO Access as an online government educational source for children is Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids. Sponsored by the Superintendent of Documents, Ben's Guide focuses on the function of government for K-12 students, parents, and teachers. Through primary source documents, puzzles, games, and debate topics, students can learn about the election process, the legislative process, and the different branches of government.

In 2000, the General Services Administration premiered, linking millions of government Web pages. The site served as a starting point for locating government information for the average user. In response to feedback, GSA relaunched FirstGov as in 2006. Now the site boasts an enhanced search engine and a Spanish portal titled, and employs Web 2.0 tools such as RSS feeds and podcasts.

The United States Government Manual, known as the "official handbook of the federal government," provides agency and personnel information for all three branches of government. The Manual lists agency functions, contact information, Web addresses, and acronyms. Additionally, it lists quasi-government organizations, international agencies, and various committees, including defunct entities. While the U.S. Government Manual is still available in print, GPO Access hosts the 1995 and subsequent editions online.

Google's "Uncle Sam" search engine, U.S. Government Search, retrieves only federal, state, and local government Internet pages. It searches sites that end in .gov and .mil and other government-produced resources that end with .edu, .us, or .com.

To locate government information currently for sale, consult the GPO's U.S. Government Bookstore online. This Web site allows users to search for subjects, best sellers, and items on sale. The Bookstore provides information about forthcoming titles, superseded works, and out-of-print material, and it includes a special collection section, featuring items by topic or media type.

Based in Pueblo, Colorado, the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) provides citizens with information concerning consumer and government topics. Its most famous product, available in print or on the Web, is the Consumer Information Catalog, which lists over two hundred free or inexpensive government documents on a variety of topics. Most of the titles available through the catalog are also in full text online. The FCIC also staffs the National Contact Center, which answers specific questions concerning "federal agencies, programs, benefits, or services." Users can reach the National Contact Center by telephone, e-mail, or online chat.


Bibliographies and Indexes

The bible for finding government information remains the GPO's Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications, or MoCat. MoCat serves as the main finding aid to locate publications, both depository and nondepository, and serves as the national bibliography of U.S. government publications. The print version began in 1895 and ceased in 2004, making it now available only electronically. GPO offers a free version, updated daily from its Web site. Now known as the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP), it currently searches from 1976 to the present, and provides hot links to online documents. GPO plans to add records retrospectively back to 1895, eventually making MoCat completely electronic. The 1976 to present MoCat is also available from commercial vendors. Recently ProQuest created the electronic Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications, 1895-1976.

For the past hundred years, the standard print tool for locating early government documents has been the Checklist of United States Public Documents, 1789-1909, by Mary Ann Hartwell; it is now available online via the Internet Archive. The source provides a listing of the first documents issued by the government, along with their respective Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) classification number. Also, the print Cumulative Title Index to United States Public Documents, 1789-1976, by Daniel W. Lester et al., and the Cumulative Subject Index to the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications, 1900-1971, by William W. Buchanan and Edna M. Kanely, provide additional information about locating older depository materials.

Formerly known as Andriot, Gale's yearly print annotated Guide to U.S. Government Publications traces depository publications through their various agency changes and all their assigned SuDoc numbers. Entries include title, publication history, ISSN, frequency of distribution, short descriptions, and notes about changes. The indexes for agency, title, and keyword in title are particularly helpful.

Public Documents Masterfile now provides federated searching across millions of federal documents (as well as state, local, and international public documents) from 1789 onward. Search fields include title, subject, author/agency, SuDoc and Monthly Catalog numbers. Public Documents Masterfile serves as a finding aid in government depository libraries and links to full text of documents online when available.

The ERIC database, available via the Education Resources Information Center and by commercial subscription, indexes a massive amount of education literature, including journal articles, books, conference proceedings, technical reports, and even gray literature. Although available from commercial vendors, the current free Web interface now supports many advanced search features, including a thesaurus. The online collection contains approximately 192,000 documents. ERIC is in the process of digitizing its legacy collection, dating back to 1966.

PAIS International database, now produced by ProQuest-CSA Social Sciences, indexes documents in public affairs, social policy, administration, and diplomacy. It is available with various subscription options, with coverage extending from 1915 to present. Materials indexed include "journal articles, books, government documents, statistical directories, gray literature, research reports, conference reports, publications of international agencies, microfiche, Internet material, and more." Government documents are searchable by document type and include PURL (Persistent Uniform Resource Locator) and SuDoc numbers.

One of the first products of President Obama's Open Government initiative is This site brings together varied "raw" data sets produced by government entities covering a multitude of subjects. The data sets are downloadable in feeds, XML, XLS, Text/CSV, ESRI Shapefile, or KML/KMZ formats. In addition, features a tool catalog supplying widgets, extraction tools, applications, and data mining for managing the raw data. As this site expands, it will become a key source of government-produced data.


Statistical Sources


Most likely, the United States' main supplier of statistical information is the Census Bureau. The bureau collects a myriad of information on population, housing, businesses, government, and agriculture. To quickly access the most current census information, consult the online American FactFinder (AFF). The AFF includes the Decennial Censuses, the Economic Censuses, and the American Community Survey (ACS) information, searchable by keyword or geography, can be retrieved as data sets, maps, tables, and reports.

Produced by the Census Bureau, the Statistical Abstract of the United States stands as the most famous government document reference tool. Published since 1878, the Statistical Abstract features data on many aspects of the population, the economy, the natural environment, and the government, garnered from a variety of government agencies. Recent editions are available both in print and electronically. The Census Bureau is currently digitizing the historical editions of theStatistical Abstract, making most available from its Web site.

In 2006, Cambridge University Press updated the popular Historical Statistics of the United States: Earliest Times to the Present, available in print and online. Previously compiled by the Census Bureau, this set has expanded to five volumes and includes over 37,000 data sets covering historical population, labor, economy, and government statistics. For more complete historical census data, consult the University of Virginia's online Historical Census Browser, which provides data on the national, state, and county level from 1790 through 1970. Information is digitized from the Census of Population and Housing. Data cannot be downloaded (instead consult ICPSR), and it contains no genealogical information.

Agency Statistical Sources

Most of the standard Department of Labor (DOL) publications are found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site. Familiar titles such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Monthly Labor Review, and the Occupational Outlook Quarterly are now online in full text. The DOL's Web site hosts additional statistical databases, tables, and calculators. The site contains an abundance of historical material, including time series on prices, productivity, and employment. Users can search across the entire site for data, or limit their search to a particular database or publication.

The print Digest of Education Statistics compiles numerous government-produced statistics on education. Beginning in 1962, the Digest covers preschool through doctorate-level education by categorizing the number of schools, government finance, economic trends, finance, educational attainment, and libraries. Digests from 1990 forward are available electronically via the National Center for Education Statistics Web site.

Many popular print Justice Department statistical publications are linked from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Web site, including Criminal Victimization, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (Crime in the United States and other annual publications), and the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. BJS gathers and disseminates information on crime and justice administration at all levels of government. Statistics concerning many aspects of law enforcement, courts, employment, offenders, and corrections can be found on its Web site.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) produces data concerning the health, mortality, disability, nutrition, disease, and health expenditures of the United States. Former and current print titles, such as Vital Statistics of the United States, Health, United States, and Healthy People 2010, are now available through the National Center for Health Statistics Web site. In addition, the site contains public use data files, results of NCHS surveys, and FastStats, which provides quick data on popular health-related issues.

The Federal Reserve System offers three digital collections about banking and the economy: FRASER (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research), FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data), and ALFRED (Archival Federal Reserve Economic Data). Highlights include current and historical data covering employment, consumer and producer price indexes, interest rates, inflation rates, and federal, state, city, and county financial data.

Issued by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the yearly Agricultural Statistics is available both online and in print. The source provides statistics on agricultural consumption, economics, supplies, facilities, and production and includes data from the Census of Agriculture.



Bernan Press's annual Business Statistics of the United States: Patterns of Economic Change compiles 3,500 economic time series since World War II, and features another 150 series that span back to 1929. Each chapter contains background notes and information about the data. This print source continues the now defunct Business Statistics produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. is another "one-stop shopping" government portal, designed to aid small businesses. Formed by a partnership of twenty-two government agencies, it helps entrepreneurs to identify grants and loans, start a small business, obtain licenses and permits, locate forms, and link to state and local information. The site recently added community forums that allow inquiry and discussion on a multitude of business-related topics.

Until 2002, government procurement needs were published in Commerce Business Daily. Since its discontinuation, contracting opportunities for more than $25,000 are now found through Users can search for general information, news, and contracting offers; registration is required to access some of the advanced features.

To locate grants and assistance programs available from the government, consult the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Each entry describes the type of program, eligibility requirements, and contact information. Available either in print or online, the CFDA is particularly useful for small business owners wishing to assess programs available from the Small Business Administration.

The Web-based O*NET OnLine system (Occupational Information Network) categorizes occupational qualifications and characteristics. O*NET replaced the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and includes the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is also available online. The system provides taxonomies for 820 different careers, updates new and emerging technologies, and offers career assessment tools and a Document Library.

The USAJobs Web site serves as the official listing for vacancies within the federal government. Users can search jobs by type and/or location, create an account, store resumés, and learn about the federal hiring process. USAJobs also details the hiring process for disabled, minority, and veteran workers.

The IRS's Forms and Publications Web site now serves as the official home of IRS tax products, although Reproducible Copies of Federal Tax Forms (print) and the IRS Tax Products CD-ROM are still available. Most forms are online from 1980 forward, including some with "fill-in" options since 1998. The site offers various search options, including search by number, type, and topic.


Scientific and Technical Information

NTIS, the National Technical Information Service database, sports a massive collection of scientific, technical, and research reports, including foreign sources, patents, periodicals, and data files. The database replaced Government Reports Announcements and Index (GRA&I), which ceased publication in 1996. NTIS contains over two million citations on a variety of topics. Although the database is freely available, the actual reports are not. However, NTIS offers limited free depository library access through DARTS ( NTIS/GPO FDLP Depository Access to Reports, Technical & Scientific), an online collection of approximately 240,000 reports. Another excellent database, the University of Maryland's Virtual Technical Reports Center, provides searchable abstracts or full text of over two million technical reports, the majority of which are government produced. is designed to easily direct the average user to government-produced scientific data on a variety of topics. Material from fourteen federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Interior, and Transportation, are featured. Now in its fifth version, the site searches across thirty-eight databases and 200 million Web pages. New enhanced features include advanced "Deep Web" search capabilities, which locate items not accessed by more common search engines. In addition, the site offers topic clustering, e-mailing of results, and an alerts service.

NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) is a collection of over one million citations related to aerospace technology. The database covers research and technical reports, conference papers, photographs, videos, patents, and journal articles. NTRS contains nearly 100,000 full-text items, including historical documents from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA (1915-58), as well as citations from the online NASA Image eXchange (NIX) for multimedia resources.

Another excellent scientific tool is Science Accelerator, from the Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI). This online resource's enhanced search capabilities simultaneously scan several DOE databases and allow for deep searching. Users can perform multi-database searches across OSTI's Information Bridge, Science Conference Proceedings, Federal R&D Project Summaries, Energy Science and Technology Software Center, EnergyFiles, the E-print Network, and DOepatents.

DTIC Online, a Web site of the Defense Technical Information Center, provides access to over two million military documents on a wide variety of subjects. A vast repository of technical reports and research can be found via the Public Scientific and Technical Information Network (STINET). Coverage begins in 1974, with many documents available in full text. The public STINET includes the online titles Research and Development Descriptive Summaries, Staff College Automated Military Periodical Index, Air University Library Index to Military Periodicals, and DoD Index to Specifications and Standards (DODISS). Access to the public section is unrestricted; however, classified materials in the private STINET section require authorization to access.

The National Climatic Data Center, the world's largest archive of weather data, collects current and historical weather data from a variety of sources including the National Weather Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the military, and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Most popular weather-related NOAA publications are now online, including Local Climatological Data, Climatological Data, ^ Storm Data, Hourly Precipitation Data, and Monthly Climatic Data for the World. Access is free from a .gov, .edu, .k12, or .mil domain and is available to other depository libraries with a password.

AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access), the catalog of the National Agricultural Library, indexes one of the world's largest repositories of agricultural information. The source covers food and nutrition, forestry, rural sociology, economics, genetics, and animal science. The database, available via the Web and subscription, covers books, theses, patents, and technical reports. In addition, an article citation section of the database indexes select journals and book chapters.

The National Library of Medicine's NLM Gateway allows for cross-searching of several medical-related databases, including MEDLINE, MedlinePlus, PubMed, TOXNET,, and the Household Products Database. The Gateway is designed for all levels of users from laypeople to medical professionals.


Intellectual Property

Intellectual property refers to ownership of one's creative endeavors. Laws in effect protect creators' works and allow them solely to benefit financially from their creations. These protections give creators legal rights against infringement, guarding their works and products from theft or misuse. The legal protections of copyright, trademarks, and patents are often confused and misunderstood by the general public.

Copyright gives the creator "exclusive rights" over original works for a limited period of time, after which the work enters the public domain. Copyright protects works such as books, music, photographs, art, and movies. In the electronic environment, there has been much debate about the interpretation and enforcement of copyright law. The Copyright Office provides basic information through Information Circulars and Factsheetsfound on its Web site. Formerly distributed in print, these publications cover what copyright is and how to protect original works.

To research the status and ownership of a copyright, consult the Catalog of Copyright Entries, which registers all claims received by the Copyright Office. The Catalog is available online from several different sources: U.S. Copyright Office Public Catalog searches 1978 forward, Project Gutenberg's Selected Copyright Renewal Registrations covers 1950-77, and Stanford University's Copyright Renewal Database indexes 1923-63.

A trademark refers to a word, symbol, name, or slogan that identifies a product or service. The trademark, in essence, signifies a company. Since 1872, trademarks registered with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) are published in the print Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademarks. The most recent year of the Official Gazette for Trademarks is also available from the PTO Web site. In addition, the site hosts the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), a database of both text and images of trademarks from 1984 to present. According to the site, "TESS contains more than 3 million pending, registered and dead federal trademarks."

Patents ensure inventors "exclusive rights" to make, distribute, or otherwise profit from their creation for a limited period of time. The invention needs to be novel, useful, and not commonly known. Patents are awarded by the PTO; summaries are published in the weekly print Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patents. The Official Gazette groups patents by classes and subclasses, inventor, and location of the inventor. The most recent year of the Official Gazette for Patents is online.

PTO's U.S. Patent Classification site provides classifications of all patents since 1790. Users can search directly by class or subclass number or browse class listings. To locate the actual patents, consult the online PATFT: Issued Patents, which contains complete patents, including images, from 1976 to present. These full-text patents are searchable by abstract, description, title, and inventor.

Since 2001, inventors' applications for patents have been searchable via the AppFT: Patent Applications database. The database contains full-text images of the patent application and includes details of the specifications of the invention, an abstract, and inventor and assignee's names.


Geographical Information

The electronic National Atlas of the United States, issued by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), supplies spatial data from over twenty federal agencies. In addition to the standard hard-copy maps of the paper editions, the National Atlas now allows downloading of GIS and other statistical data sets, and online custom mapping capabilities via a Map Maker tool. Downloadable data sets cover a wide variety of topics, such as Amphibian Distribution, Cancer Mortality, Congressional Districts of the United States, and Significant and Historic Earthquakes, to name a few.

Now available online and updated biweekly, the CIA's popular World Factbook provides detailed summaries of countries and dependencies recognized by the U.S. government. Information related to countries' geography, government, population, income, and military are listed. The CIA ceased print publication in 2008, although tangible copies can still be purchased from commercial vendors.

The USGS's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database serves as the de facto gazetteer for the U.S. This database gives official data about US place-names and features. Included are coordinates, variant spellings, classifications, historical information, and the name of the topographic quadrangle map for the feature.

An understanding of census geography is necessary to effectively analyze and interpret the demographic data. Census data is divided into either state, county, city, census tract, block groups, or blocks. From the Census Bureau Geography home page, users can download TIGERline shapefiles and Cartographic Boundary Files for use with GIS software packages. Additionally, the site offers guidance on finding census tract data and accessing Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) maps via State Data Centers. serves as the portal for the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS). The NRRS combines and synthesizes information for federally operated recreation areas to help users locate federal "parks, forests, lakes, museums, and other recreation sites" near a particular area and assist visitors in planning tours, locating accommodations, and making reservations. The site includes the Recreation Information Database (RIDB), which gathers current tourism information and statistics intended for state tourism agencies and recreation-related businesses.


Primary Source Documents

The Library of Congress American Memory Web site collects a vast digital repository of historical artifacts from many different subject areas. With over nine million items organized in over a hundred collections, users can locate historical "manuscripts, prints, photographs, posters, maps, sound recordings, motion pictures, books, pamphlets, and sheet music." Users can search within a single collection or across multiple collections, and technical documentation is provided.

George Washington University's online National Security Archive houses an enormous collection of over 80,000 declassified documents obtained chiefly through U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The collection emphasizes U.S. foreign policy since 1945 but also covers economic and military policy. A subscription version is available from ProQuest/Chadwyck-Healey.

The online Registry of U.S. Government Publication Digitization Projects lists collections from libraries, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies that contain digitized government documents. Each entry includes a description, information about the status of the project, and links to the digitized source.

Through a partnership with the GPO, the University of North Texas hosts the online CyberCemetery, an archive of defunct government Web sites. It includes pages formerly hosted by GPO and federal entities that have ceased operation.

A popular source for genealogists is ProQuest's HeritageQuest Online. This subscription database has searchable digitized census rolls from 1790 through 1930. It also contains several other genealogy collections, such as Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, the UMI Genealogy and Local History collection, and Freedman's Bank Records.

Part 2: Government Branch Sources

Legislative Branch Sources

One of the premier Internet sources for legislative information is THOMAS, administered by the Library of Congress. This site serves as the record of Congress, with some information dating back to 1973. Users can access bills and resolutions, the Congressional Record, committee information, roll call votes, treaties, and information about presidential appointees. Updated daily, THOMAS excels in tracking current legislation and compiling legislative histories. In addition, most House and Senate reports and public laws are available in full text.

Complementing THOMAS is GPO's online Legislative Branch Resources. GPO Access houses the official version of congressional documents, including ones found on THOMAS. GPO provides full-text documents concerning lawmaking, congressional materials, and other legislative branch documents. Users can also access the full text of United States Statutes at Large and the United States Code, also available in print. In addition, users can locate the online Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents and congressional hearings not found on THOMAS.

Congressional Quarterly is known for its many publications about United States government policy, politics, public affairs, and history. Available through various subscription options, CQ Press Electronic Library (CQEL) combines many of CQ's most popular titles online. The electronic library includes CQ Researcher, CQ Weekly, CQ Press Congress Collection, CQ Press Supreme Court Collection, CQ Press Public Affairs Collection, CQ Press Voting and Elections Collection, CQ Press Encyclopedia of American Government, and Congress and the Nation.

To become official, treaties and international agreements must, like laws, be approved by Congress and signed by the president. To locate treaties presently in force, consult Treaties in Force (TIF), available both in print and electronically. TIF lists all current bilateral and multilateral treaties. Senate Treaty Documents, available through depositories, THOMAS, GPO Access, or LexisNexis Congressional, contain the text of treaties. After a treaty is ratified, it appears officially in the print Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS), beginning in 1950. To locate pre-1950 treaties, examine the print titles Statutes at Large and Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949, also called "Bevans," after the compiler.

The LexisNexis Congressional database provides excellent historical coverage of legislative information. The database incorporates many print CIS Indexes and includes U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection, the Congressional Research Digital Collection, Congressional Hearings Digital Collection, Congressional Record Permanent Digital Collection, and Legislative Histories. Various subscription options allow users to access a retrospective collection of hearings (including unpublished hearings), prints, House and Senate documents, Senate executive reports, treaty documents, and Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports. Biographies, voting records, financial disclosures, and committee assignments are also available for members of Congress.

To locate official election returns, see the Federal Election Commission's Federal Elections, issued biennially in print and online. Federal Elections lists results for runoff, primary, and general elections for federal office. Election results and percentages can be located by state, party, and congressional district.

The United States Congressional Serial Set compiles Senate and House reports and other publications ordered by Congress. Beginning in 1789, the Serial Set contains a wealth of historical information. For example, users can find the American State Papers, reports of John Wesley Powell's expedition west, and inquiries into the sinking of the Titanic. To locate items in the Serial Set, use the CIS U.S. Serial Set Index, available both in print and electronically. The LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection, which integrates with LexisNexis Congressional, hosts both the Serial Set and the index online.

Basic information about state, local, and federal elected officials can be found in C-SPAN's online Congressional Directory. This directory provides contact information, committee appointments, staff, voting records, and PAC funding data for federal legislators. The president, federal agencies, and the Supreme Court are also covered in the directory.

Regulations are written by the Executive Branch to administer laws passed by Congress. After a new law is passed, federal agencies develop proposed regulations, subject to public comment. These new rules, notices, executive orders, and presidential documents first appear in the Federal Register. After the public comment period, agencies craft a final rule, which becomes a regulation. Once a year, these final rules, regulations, changes, presidential publications, and other related materials are formulated into the Code of Federal Regulations. Once a regulation appears in the Code, it becomes enforceable and legally binding.

In addition to distributing the Federal Register in print, microfiche, and CD-ROM, the GPO hosts a version (1994-present) online. The GPO site is updated daily and hosts a variety of advanced search features. The GPO also offers the fifty titles of the Code of Federal Regulations in both print and electronic formats. Another source, provides rules from approximately three hundred federal agencies. Users can search for proposed rules, notices, and final rules, make comments, and submit documents. RSS feeds and e-mail alerts are available.


Judicial Information

Current information about Supreme Court justices, the docket, oral arguments, briefs, rules, and opinions can be accessed at the Web site of the Supreme Court of the United States. Initial decisions, called "slip" opinions, supply both majority and dissenting views. These opinions are no longer issued to depositories in paper but are published via the Supreme Court site on a Slip Opinions page. For official decisions, consult the United States Reports, which serve as the Supreme Court's official record. Here are found names of justices, tables of cases, and indexes. Earlier volumes were published by a private publisher, until the GPO assumed print publication in 1936. Accompanying the print, United States Reports after 1990 can now be accessed electronically. FindLaw: US Supreme Court Opinions date back to 1893. The database can be searched by year, Reports volume, citation, case title, or full text.

The Federal Judicial Center's online Biographical Directory of Federal Judges indexes all judges who have served in federal courts since 1789. Information includes birth and death dates, race, record of service, and links to outside sources. In addition, the site details impeachments, salaries, and selected milestones of service.

The Legal Research section of LexisNexis Academic is ideal for searching state and federal law. Users can access federal and state cases (including the Supreme Court), Shepard's Citations, federal and state codes, tax law, and patents. Additionally, LexisNexis Academic includes information about Canadian, European Union, Commonwealth and other foreign nations' legislation and court cases.

PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) houses case and docket information from federal district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts. Users can also locate the U.S. Party/Case Index, status updates, judgments, and other court documents. Although it is maintained by the federal government, access is cost based.


Executive Branch Sources

Established in 1994, serves as the official home page of the current presidential administration. Visitors can access official press releases, weekly addresses, news about nominations and appointments, and presidential actions. The president, vice president, first lady, and the wife of the vice president all host separate pages. The site also offers a history of the White House and presidents, links to other areas of government, and pages devoted to the president's stance on various issues. The Obama administration updated the site by employing several Web 2.0 tools, such as a blog, live streaming videos, and e-mail updates.

The Federal Yellow Book, available in print and online through various subscription sources, provides contact information for over 43,000 top executive branch and independent agency employees. The directory lists agency descriptions, types of appointment, addresses, telephone numbers, and some photos and biographies of top officials.

The Budget of the United States Government is issued as a series of documents throughout the fiscal year and details the president's plans for government spending. Issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), it is no longer sent to depository libraries in paper. GPO Access hosts the official online version. The site includes related materials, such as the Economic Report of the President and the Citizen's Guide to the Federal Budget.

To locate historical executive branch materials, consult the print sources CIS Index to U.S. Executive Branch Documents, 1789-1909 and CIS Index to U.S. Executive Branch Documents, 1910-1932. An index to the accompanying microfiche set, they serve as an annotated bibliography of circulars, general publications, rules, catalogs, and annual reports of agencies, excluding items listed in the Serial Set. To find speeches and papers of past presidents, use the University of Michigan's digitized The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United State for Presidents Hoover through Clinton. In addition to paper distribution, the GPO offers digitized volumes dated 2001 to present through GPO Access.l

The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series serves as the United States' official record of diplomacy. Beginning in 1861, the series covers diplomatic correspondence, memos, and other policy issues. Because foreign policy issues are often classified, most FRUS have at least a twenty-five-year embargo, depending on the topic. This series is still issued in print, with some of the most recent issues available online. The University of Wisconsin has digitized an incomplete run of FRUS starting in 1861 and plans to digitize the complete collection as it becomes available.

American Government Leaders: Major Elected and Appointed Officials, Federal, State and Local, 1776-2005, a book by Harris M. Lentz, lists key officials who have served in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Most entries provide brief biographical data. Some state and local politicians are included as well.



This essay is designed to locate some of the most common government information sources, many of which have ceased in print and only have an electronic version. Libraries face a new set of problems and opportunities in providing government documents reference in the online environment. Government information on the Internet constantly changes and is sometimes difficult to locate. On the positive side, many people who had limited or no access to this information can now use it on the Web. Libraries must develop new strategies to ensure permanent access to and preservation of this information.

Works Cited

Works with online versions are listed in the Online Resources section. Works available only in print follow in the Print Resources section.


Online Resources

AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) (CH, Mar'06, 43-3759)
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Also available by subscription from various publishers. Contact for pricing.

Agricultural Statistics (CH, Apr'06, 43-4389)
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)

Air University Library Index to Military Periodicals
U.S. Department of Defense

ALFRED (Archival Federal Reserve Economic Data)
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

American Community Survey (ACS)
U.S. Census Bureau

American FactFinder (AFF) (CH, Dec'05, 43-1925)
U.S. Census Bureau

American Memory (CH, Dec'05, 43-2404)
Library of Congress

AppFT: Patent Applications (USPTO; CH, Aug'07 44-6580)
U.S. Department of Commerce

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
U.S. Government Printing Office

Biographical Directory of Federal Judges
Federal Judicial Center

Budget of the United States Government
Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget

Bureau of Justice Statistics (CH, Sep'06, 44-0631)
U.S. Department of Justice

Bureau of Labor Statistics (CH, Sup'98, 35Sup-326)
U.S. Department of Labor (CH, Aug'08, 45-6524)
U.S. Small Business Administration

Cartographic Boundary Files
U.S. Department of Commerce

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
Office of Management and Budget

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

Census Bureau Geography
U.S. Department of Commerce

Citizen's Guide to the Federal Budget. Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996.

Climatological Data
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Climatic Data Center (CH, Apr'05, 42-4671)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Code of Federal Regulations. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949-.

Congressional Directory

Consumer Information Catalog
GSA Federal Citizen Information Center

Consumer Price Index (CPI Detailed Report)
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Copyright Renewal Database
Stanford University

Crime in the United States
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Criminal Victimization
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics

CQ Press Electronic Library (CQEL) (CH, Mar'03, 40-4286)
CQ Press
Contact publisher for pricing.

University of North Texas

DARTS (NTIS/GPO FDLP Depository Access to Reports, Technical & Scientific)
U.S. Department of Commerce (CH, Nov'09, 47-1201)
Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the United States

Digest of Education Statistics
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

DoD Index to Specifications and Standards (DODISS)
U.S. Department of Defense

U.S. Department of Energy

DTIC Online
U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Technical Information Center

Economic Report of the President
Executive Office of the President

EnergyFiles (CH, Jul'09, 46-6150)
U.S. Department of Energy

Energy Science and Technology Software Center
U.S. Department of Energy

E-print Network (CH, Feb'08, 45-2949)
U.S. Department of Energy

ERIC (CH, Aug'09, 46-6566)
U.S. Dept. of Education, Education Resources Information Center
Also available by subscription from various publishers. Contact for pricing.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

FDsys (Federal Digital System) (CH, Aug'09, 46-6567)
U.S. Government Printing Office
U.S. Department of Defense

Federal Elections
Federal Election Commission

Federal R&D Project Summaries
U.S. Department of Energy

Federal Register. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1936-.

FindLaw: US Supreme Court Opinions
Thomson Reuters Inc.

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) (CH, Sup'00, 37Sup-619)
U.S. Government Printing Office

Forms and Publications
U.S. Internal Revenue Service

FRASER (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research) (CH, Dec'05, 43-1935)
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) (CH, Dec'03, 41-2297)
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)
U.S. Department of the Interior

GLOBUS & NTDB (National Trade Data Bank)
U.S. General Services Administration

GPO Access (CH, Oct'04, 42-0647)
U.S. Government Printing Office

Hartwell, Mary Ann. Checklist of United States Public Documents, 1789 - 1909,Congressional: to Close of Sixtieth Congress; Departmental: to End of Calendar Year 1909. 3d ed., rev. and enl. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1911.
Available electronically via the Internet Archive.

Health, United States (2003 ed.; CH, Jun'04, 41-5646)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics

Healthy People 2010
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

HeritageQuest Online (CH, Sup'03, 40Sup-0512)
ProQuest LLC
Contact publisher for pricing.

Historical Census Browser (CH Oct'06, 44-0706)
University of Virginia Libraries

Historical Statistics of the United States: Earliest Times to the Present, ed. by Susan B. Carter et al. Millennial ed. Cambridge, 2006 (CH, Sep'06, 44-0054).
Also available electronically via Cambridge University Press.
Contact publisher for pricing.

Hourly Precipitation Data
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Climatic Data Center

Household Products Database (CH, Dec'07, 45-1789)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research)

Information Bridge
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Information Circulars and Factsheets
U.S. Copyright Office

Legislative Branch Resources
U.S. Government Printing Office

LexisNexis Academic (CH, Jun'08, 45-5305)
LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
Contact publisher for pricing.

LexisNexis Congressional (CH, Jan'08, 45-2389; CH, May'07, 44-4813)
LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
Contact publisher for pricing.

LexisNexis Statistical
LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
Contact publisher for pricing.

LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection (CH, Feb'10, 47-2950)
LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
Contact publisher for pricing.

Local Climatological Data (NCDC; CH, Nov'04, 42-1626)
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Climatic Data Center

MedlinePlus (CH, July'06, 43-6562)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Also available by subscription from various publishers. Contact for pricing.

Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications, 1895-1976
ProQuest LLC
Contact publisher for pricing.

Monthly Climatic Data for the World
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Climatic Data Center

Monthly Labor Review
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

NASA Image eXchange (NIX)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) (CH, Jul'07, 44-5984)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Atlas of the United States
U.S. Department of the Interior

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) (CH, Mar'06, 43-4062)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Contact Center
U.S. General Services Administration

National Security Archive (CH, Sup'98, 35Sup-456)
George Washington University
Version available by subscription from ProQuest/Chadwyck-Healey (CH, Dec'06, 44-1872).
Contact publisher for pricing.

NLM Gateway (National Library of Medicine)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

NTIS (National Technical Information Service) (CH, Jun'07, 44-5374)
U.S. Department of Commerce

Occupational Outlook Handbook (CH, Dec'01, 39-1964)
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Occupational Outlook Quarterly
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
U.S. Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office
Weekly Notices section available.

Official Gazette for Patents
U.S. Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office

Official Gazette for Trademarks
U.S. Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office

O*NET OnLine (CH, Jan'09, 46-2410)
U.S. Department of Labor

PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records)
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

PAIS International (CH, Feb'07, 44-3050)
ProQuest LLC
Contact publisher for pricing.

PATFT: Issued Patents (USPTO; CH, Aug'07 44-6580)
U.S. Dept. of Commerce

Public Documents Masterfile
Contact publisher for pricing.

The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956-. [Presidents Hoover through Clinton] [2001 to present]

Public Scientific and Technical Information Network (STINET) (CH, Jan'07, 44-2449)
U.S. Department of Defense

Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA)
U.S. Department of Commerce

PubMed (CH, Feb'06, 43-3422)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Defense

Recreation Information Database (RIDB)
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Registry of U.S. Government Publication Digitization Projects
U.S. Government Printing Office (CH, Feb'09, 46-2985)
U.S. eRulemaking Program and partner agencies

Research and Development Descriptive Summaries (RDDS)
U.S. Department of Defense

Science Accelerator
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Science Conference Proceedings
U.S. Department of Energy (CH, Apr'09, 46-4398)
U.S. Department of Energy

Selected Copyright Renewal Registrations
Project Gutenberg

Slip Opinions [of the Supreme Court of the United States]

Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (CH, Apr'99, 36-4267)
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics

Staff College Automated Military Periodical Index (SCAMPI)
U.S. Department of Defense

Statistical Abstract of the United States (CH, Dec'07, 45-1769)
Bureau of the Census

U.S. Department of Commerce
Free to users at U.S. Federal Depository libraries; other users are required to pay a fee.

Storm Data (NCDC; CH, Nov'04, 42-1626)
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Climatic Data Center

Supreme Court of the United States (CH, May'02, 39-5480)
United States Supreme Court

THOMAS (CH, Jan'07, 44-2483)
Library of Congress

TIGERline (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system)
U.S. Department of Commerce

TOXNET (CH, Sup'01, 38Sup-358)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
U.S. Department of Commerce

Treaties in Force: a List of Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States in Force on .... United States. Dept. of State. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941-.

Uniform Crime Reports
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States Code
U.S. Government Printing Office

United States Congressional Serial Set. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1817-.

United States Government Manual
Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973-.

United States Reports. Supreme Court. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1884.

United States Statutes at Large. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937-.

U.S. Copyright Office Public Catalog
U.S. Department of Commerce

U.S. Government Bookstore
U.S. Government Printing Office

U.S. Government Search (Uncle Sam)
Google Inc.

USA Trade Online
STAT-USA and the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division (CH, Oct'07, 45-0645)
U.S. General Services Administration

United States Office of Personnel Management

Virtual Technical Reports Center
University of Maryland Libraries

Vital Statistics of the United States
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents
U.S. Government Printing Office (CH, Sup'98, 35Sup-461)
U.S. Executive Office of the President

World Factbook (CH, Dec'09, 47-1794)
Central Intelligence Agency

[Print resources omitted.]

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