Government Documents


The Libraries collect United States Federal, New York State, New York City, and international governmental organization documents. It seeks to support the government document needs of all members of the Columbia community. As a United States Federal depository library, it must also provide the general public with access to its collections.

I. United States Federal Documents

  1. Purpose, Program Description and General Selection Guidelines

    The Columbia University Libraries (CUL) has been a depository for U.S. Federal documents since 1882. In 1922 CUL became a selective depository, generally receiving about 80% of item numbers from GPO. With the advent of online government documents in the 1990s, selection levels were reduced, and the current selection level is 57%. Pre-1976 documents are mostly located in Butler Library and are accessible via the Butler card catalog. Materials are received in many formats: paper, microfiche, CD-ROM, floppy disk, maps, video, and online. They include reference materials, monographs, periodicals and serials, manuals and handbooks, visual compilations, and databases. The materials are mostly in English, with a few titles also in Spanish or Braille.

    Some of the material received on depository post-1976 was cataloged and routed to other departmental libraries. Items go to all CUL libraries, the major recipients being Business, Butler, Engineering, Geoscience, Health Sciences, and Lehman. In general, the other departments receive only selected paper titles. The majority of post-1976 depository materials was housed in Lehman Library until 2008, when all of the print items were relocated to ReCAP. Microfiche and CD-ROMs still remain in Lehman Library.

    The 43% of available items not selected by DSC are categorized into three groups:

    1. Agencies less extensively selected – Agriculture Dept., Patent and Trademark Office, National Weather Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Education Dept., Farm Credit Administration, General Services Administration, Judiciary, National Credit Union Administration, Railroad Retirement Board.

    2. Types of publications not selected – Laws, Posters, Forms, Addresses, lectures, etc.

    3. Publications which are also available online, especially if they are distributed otherwise only in microfiche.

    We rely upon our regional (100%) depository, the New York State Library, in Albany, as a source for those items which we don’t select here. In practice, we will often send users to the New Jersey regional at the Newark Public Library. Additionally, we refer users to the New York Public Library for patent and trademark information.

    The (accelerating) trend in recent has been the electronic dissemination of Federal publications. CD-ROM production has increased dramatically in the 1990s, then peaked and declines in the 2000s. With the establishment of GPO Access in August 1994 and its successor, FDsys, in 2009, the Government Printing Office has been committing more resources to distribution via the internet. Currently, there are about 50 collections of government information distributed via FDsys, with thousands more available directly from the issuing agency websites. This growth is sure to continue, and the very structure of the depository program may well change significantly in the future.

  2. Specific Delimitations

    1. Formats Collected: We collect annuals, CD-ROMs, maps, monographs, other electronic tools, periodicals, and scholarly series extensively, audio-visual materials and reference tools selectively while dissertations, newspapers, and textbooks are excluded.

    2. Imprint Dates Collected: We collect current publications extensively, 20th century publications selectively while 19th and early century publications are excluded.

    3. Languages Collected: We collect publications in English extensively while all publications in other languages are excluded.

    4. Place of Publication: We collect materials published in the United States extensively while all other publications are excluded.

The Government Information Librarian created and maintains numerous LibraryWeb pages to facilitate the use of depository and other U.S. government publications and information.

II. New York State Documents

  1. Purpose, Program Description and General Selection Guidelines

    Lehman Library is a microfiche depository for New York State documents, 1983-1994. Unfortunately, New York State fiscal problems have regularly disrupted the depository program and our holdings are very incomplete. The Libraries also received a small number of core (reference) titles on paper depository, subject to the same disruptions. They are:

    1. Checklist of Official Publications of the State of New York
    2. Employment in New York State
    3. Employment Review
    4. Executive Budget of the State of New York
    5. Labor Area Summary & Monthly Statistical Review
    6. Legislative Trends
    7. New York State Business Statistics
    8. New York State Register
    9. New York State Statistical Yearbook
    10. Summary of Legislation
    11. Vital Statistics of New York State

    The Government Information Librarian also maintains a Library Web page on New York State documents.

  2. Specific Delimitations

    1. Formats Collected: We collect microfiche in our Microfiche Depository, annuals, CD-ROMs, maps, monographs, other electronic tools, periodicals, reference tools, and 12 core paper serial titles selectively. We exclude audio/visual materials, dissertations, newspapers, and textbooks.

    2. Imprint Dates Collected: We collect current publications extensively while all earlier publications are excluded.

    3. Languages Collected: We collect English publications extensively while all others are excluded.

    4. Place of Publication: We collect publications from the U.S., especially N.Y., extensively while all others are excluded.

III. New York City Documents

  1. Purpose, Program Description and General Selection Guidelines

    New York City documents collected many departmental libraries by subject, as appropriate. Avery, Business, Butler, Health Sciences, Lehman, and Social Work are the major library locations for paper copies of New York City documents. CUL also subscribes to an online database, Index to Current Urban Documents, which provides full text access to publications by NYC and other municipalities.

    The Government Information Librarian created and maintains a LibraryWeb page on New York City documents and also requests cataloging of major publications via the IRCR form.

  2. Specific Delimitations

    1. Formats Collected: We collect annuals, CD-ROMs, maps, monographs, other electronic tools, periodicals, reference tools, and scholarly serials selectively while audio/visual materials, dissertations, newspapers, and textbooks are excluded.

    2. Imprint Dates Collected: We collect current publications extensively and exclude all early century publications.

    3. Languages Collected: We collect English publications extensively while all other publications are excluded.

    4. Place of Publication: We collect publications from the U.S., especially from New York City, and exclude all other places of publication.

IV. International Governmental Organizations (IGO) Documents

  1. Purpose, Program Description and General Selection Guidelines

    IGO publications are collected in several departmental libraries by subject, as appropriate. Business, Butler, Law, and Lehman libraries are the major locations for these paper IGO publications. There are also subscriptions to major online collections of IGO publications and data, including AccessUN, FAOStat, IMF eLibrary, OECD iLibrary, UN Treaty Collection, UNdata, WDI Online and World Bank e-Library. Titles and web sites from other IGOs are often cataloged via the IRCR form.

  2. Specific Delimitations

    1. Formats Collected: We collect CD-ROMs and reference tools selectively.

    2. Imprint Dates Collected: We collect current publications extensively, 20th century publications selectively and early century publications are excluded.

    3. Languages Collected: We collect English publications extensively while all other publications are excluded.