Government Document Policies

Government Documents Collection Development Policy

The Goldman Law Library is a United States Federal Depository Library. We follow the INSTRUCTIONS TO DEPOSITORY LIBRARIES collection development guidelines. Although our selection percentage hovers around 3%, this is comparable to similarly situated academic law libraries. We work with commercial vendors; Yale’s other FDLP library, the Center for Science and Social Science Information (CSSSI); and other area depository libraries to provide patrons with access to virtually the entire catalog of U.S. government publications. Authenticated content and potential for use will be the primary consideration in the selection of an item.

The Library can provide access to information in any format currently available, including microform and electronic. Paper is the preferred format for core collection legal titles, if a choice is available.The Library considers selecting all items listed in the Suggested Core Collection by Library Type section of the Federal Depository Library Handbook, Appendix A (2008), in particular the portion on Law Libraries. In addition to a core collection, the Library will also determine which additional item numbers are needed to support the needs of the law school. Subject strengths of the collection include:

  • Congressional publications,
  • tax materials,
  • criminal justice, and judicial procedure guides.

Another selection tool used for collection development is the current issue of the List of Classes of United States Government Publications Available for Selection by Depository Libraries.  In addition, all shipping lists are reviewed by the Government Documents Librarian for potential new item numbers to add and to gain an overview of receipts under currently selected item numbers. Non-depository sources with collection development information include GOVDOC-L (an electronic discussion list for persons interested in government documents), DttP: Documents to the People, and reviews and “best” document lists in Library Journal and other professional publications from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the Government Documents Special Interest Section of AALL. Books such as Joe Morehead’s Introduction to United States Government Information Sources and Boyd and Rips United States Government Publications also provide overviews of current and historical publications and series.We select titles that are primary sources of law, are related to the lawmaking process or are of specific interest to our primary patrons (e.g., public policy materials). Documents unrelated to law are collected if they are general reference works (e.g. Statistical Abstract) or items in great demand by the public (e.g., Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance). 

Items that are bulky or pose preservation problems are not selected from GPO. Access to these materials is provided via online sources and archival access is ensured by purchase of microform versions of these materials.Superior reference assistance is provided to patrons using the government documents collection. To this end, we select numerous commercial finding aids, indexes and complements to the documents collection. We select some electronic or archival enhancements that allow us to supersede fragile or frequently used documents. We purchase multiple copies of items in heavy demand. The focus of the collection is on efficient and permanent access to a robust collection of law-related government documents. We serve as a depository for records and briefs from the Supreme Court of the United States.

We retain current materials in print and supersede them with commercially produced microfiche. We participated in a selective housing agreement with CSSSI to accept some Canadian government publications which supplement our foreign law collection; Canada no longer provides physical items. Access to international law materials is enhanced by referring patrons to CSSSI’s UN and FAO depository collections. Three traditional documents areas are outside the scope of our selection: CSSSI provides advanced census reference; Sterling Memorial Library’s Map Collection staff provide GIS and other cartographic reference; we work with CSSSI and our local PTDL, the Hartford Public Library, when patrons need advanced patent resources.

Items selected for the collection are cataloged in the library’s online system. When those resources or versions of those resources (856 second indicator 0 or 1) have a PURL available from GPO at the time of cataloging, it will be added to the catalog record. Links to items without PURLs will be added on a case-by-case basis. If an electronic-only document is in special demand, would be selected by the applicable subject area selector, and meets the criteria set out in the FDLP Binding Policy below, the Documents Librarian in consultation with the appropriate selector may determine that the document should be printed and bound. These documents will be printed and bound from the GPO PDF by our binding contractor. The material will be cataloged and added to the collection. In addition, the documents librarian monitors the Government Publishing Office’s “New Electronic Titles” lists as a selection tool for adding electronic-only titles to the Library’s catalog. Collection evaluation is done as part of the item number review in May-June and on an ongoing basis.

Throughout the year a list of item numbers to consider for selection or deselection is compiled by the Government Documents librarian.   Information about user needs is also gathered by the Reference Department. Circulation statistics indicate use of the collection. The Library’s website allows for users to send comments on materials and services provided by the library. We treat serial documents issued daily or weekly on a case-by-case basis.

  • CONGRESSIONAL RECORD (DAILY EDITION): We do not select the Congressional Record (Daily Edition) in paper. We provide access to the Congressional Record (Daily Edition) through FDsys and commercial databases (mediating searches if needed for non-law school patrons). We retain a complete run of the bound volumes in microform and online. We retain predecessor titles in print and also provide access via the Library of Congress’s American Memory project.
  • FEDERAL REGISTER: We maintain a full run of the Register on microfiche from LLMC.  We also provide on-site access to an electronic version via HeinOnline, FDsys, Lexis, and Westlaw.
  • CALENDAR OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES and SENATE CALENDAR OF BUSINESS: We use online editions through FDsys as primary access.
  • WEEKLY COMPILATION OF PRESIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS: We retain a print collection for vols. 1-36 (when GPO stopped issuing to selectives in print). For archival access, we have a complete and current run in microfiche.  We also offer online access through HeinOnline, Fdsys, Lexis, and Westlaw. We also select and retain the PUBLIC PAPERS OF THE PRESIDENTS, and offer online access through the resources detailed above.

Executive Branch

We select a range of documents that support research into administrative law and public policy. Our focus is on departments and agencies of interest to faculty and students, as indicated by the larger collection development policy, e.g., Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, EPA, FCC, White House and executive offices (PREX and PR) and Department of Treasury. We do not select documents that are intended as general information for the lay public. We attempt not to select “general publications” item numbers because they tend to have a large volume of materials aimed at the lay public.

Legislative Branch

We do not select congressional hearings or reports in tangible format from GPO but print copies of Supreme Court nomination hearings will be purchased and retained. We provide on-site access to Congressional secondary materials though CIS fiche, ProQuest Congressional and other commercial services. We select materials related to librarianship from LC and GP.

Judicial Branch

We select almost comprehensively from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the Federal Judicial Center and the Supreme Court of the United States. We do not select Supreme Court slip opinions in tangible format. We provide immediate access to Court opinions through the Court’s web site. Print-on-demand copies of noteworthy slip opinions are provided by reference staff, although these are not retained. We select reporters from some non-article III courts.

Cataloging and Processing of Government Documents:

The Government Documents Librarian and the Library’s Cataloging Department work together to process all new tangible government documents. New titles received in tangible format are cataloged or checked-in in the Library’s on-line catalog. If available, links to online verisons are added to the bibliographic records. 

Public Service Policy for Government Information in Electronic Format:

Reference service includes assisting all patrons to locate government resources in the library’s collection and in other depository libraries. Reference service also includes assisting patrons with locating government information not currently in the FDLP. When these resources are located, they will be brought to the attention of the documents librarian who will make GPO aware of the item. This policy applies to information in both electronic and tangible formats. Reference service is provided at the same level for government information and commercial information, regardless of format.

The Library has paper-to-paper copiers, microform readers, reader/printers, and multiple scanners. There are five public photocopiers. Two are located at the Grove Street end of the main Reading Room. Others are located behind the elevator shaft on L4 of the stacks, on the UES, and on the LES. All machines contain 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper and 8-1/2 x 14 inch paper. The machines have the ability to reduce and enlarge copies.  Copies cost 15 cents per page if using cash.  There are copy card vending machines located in the area of the copy machines in the Reading Room and on the UES. A card may be purchased by inserting $1.00 into the encoder. A card is dispensed with $.60 on it. The cost of buying the card is $.40. Value may be added to a card by inserting a $1, $5 or $10 bill, at which time the cost of a copy is 10 cents. Directions for use of the vendacard machines are posted on the machines. Copy cards purchased at the Law Library are good for use at all libraries on campus.  There is a change machine on the Upper East Side, near the copy machine.

A variety of computing facilities are available in the Law Library. Workstations in the main Reading Room and on all stack levels, available to all library users, permit searching library catalogs and access to the Web for research of Government Documents. However, the public workstations in the documents area exceed the 2003 recommended specifications for non-cartographic use. Patrons may temporarily store files on the local drive while they are actively using the workstation. The library does not provide server access or long-term disk storage to any patron. Color and B&W printing is provided using a fee-for-print system that applies to all patrons. Public workstations are provided equally to all patrons.

Electrical and network connections, including guest wireless access, for laptop computers are available throughout the main Reading Room and in carrels in the stack levels (L4 and L5). A limited number of laptops are available for loan to law students at the Circulation Desk on a first-come first-served basis for short-term use (two hours); two laptops may be borrowed for up to five days. Laptops must be returned 30 minutes before the Circulation Desk closes.

Electronic government documents on removable media (CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, floppy disk) that are held in the library’s collections may be checked out in accordance with the library’s borrowing privileges policy. A room for viewing audio visual materials is available near the computer lab on L2. See the Reference Staff for assistance. Policies in this matter are based on Depository Library Public Service Guidelines For Government Information in Electronic Formats. Patrons who provide their own blank media may copy government-produced CD- or DVD-ROMs. The library maintains topical research pages that include links to government electronic resources. The library also provides access to commercially produced directories of electronic government information.

Reference librarians provide individual research guidance and training on specific resources. View the research page of the Law Library’s website for more information. Fax delivery of materials is not available. Email delivery is available, and librarians can scan non-copyrighted print or microform materials for email delivery. This policy is based on Depository Library Public Service Guidelines For Government Information in Electronic Formats, originally published in 19(11) ADMINISTRATIVE NOTES (1998), available at

FDLP Internet Use Policy

Patrons may access the internet to conduct legal research from any public workstation in the library. Legal research includes accessing the entire FDLP electronic collection and other databases that the library may make available. These workstations are unfiltered. There are no age or residency restrictions required for patrons to gain access to the library. This policy is based on Depository Library Public Service Guidelines For Government Information in Electronic Formats, originally published in 20(2) ADMINISTRATIVE NOTES (1999) (updated 2003), available at In addition, public patrons may use the unfiltered guest wireless network, in accordance with the university’s acceptable use guidelines, to access all online government information from their own computers (licensed databases are not available on this network).

Weeding Policy:

Weeding of the collection is done on an ongoing basis and as space limitations dictate. On a regular basis, superseded titles in both tangible and electronic formats are withdrawn from the collection. The Government Documents Department uses the Superseded List as an important part of its weeding effort. Notes are maintained in the bibliographic record for titles in which only the most recent edition is kept. In addition, the Yale Law Library follows the procedures set forth by the Regional/Connecticut State Library’s Revised Discard Procedures of 2008:

  • Titles identified in the Superseded List may be discarded upon receipt of a new edition or revision
  • Discard lists are not required for microfiche.
  • Fiche retained for 5 years may then be discarded as appropriate for our collection.
  • All other materials received through the Depository Library program must be retained for at least 5 years, and then the titles submitted to the Regional before disposal.
  • Each disposal list must include:  library name, date and a contact person, Sudoc number, title and date of publication. (List must be in Sudoc order).
  • Only one entry for each serial title including the suduoc stem, title and inclusive holdings statements.
  • No more than 5 pages of discards at one time.
  • Lists will be emailed to the regional documents librarian.

After the Regional completes its own review procedures, and no claims are made, the Law Library will be given authorization to dispose of the materials according to the Instructions to Depository Libraries. If a document is on a discard list that the Regional has already authorized for disposal, other selectives may also discard that item without creating and sending their own list to the Connecticut State Library.

Binding Policy:

The library binds softbound government documents when they meet all of the following criteria:The item will be in active use in the reference or reference desk collection or the item will circulate heavily. Primary access to the item is not via an electronic equivalent (e.g. Stat. Ab – primary access is via the print copy, not the online version.)The item is more than 100 pages long. The item will be retained in the collection indefinitely. The item is integrated into the main LC classified collection. Materials that do not meet all of the criteria may be bound if, in the opinion of the Documents Librarian, they will be in active use for the foreseeable future. If the library purchases additional hardbound copies of an item distributed as paperbound, the depository paperbound copy will not be rebound.

FDLP Replacement Policy:

The library will attempt to acquire a suitable replacement when a document integrated into the main collection is reported missing by staff or patrons. Suitable replacements will usually be a direct replacement copy purchased from GPO, a reprint publisher or used book dealer or transferred from another library via the needs and offers process. If a replacement is not available or reasonably priced, other existing sources already in the collection will be considered to determine if they are acceptable substitutes.For example, we hold many commercially complied legislative histories that reprint full documents, thus an individual document that could not be easily replaced will not be replaced. We will rely instead on the reprint contained in the legislative history set. If an item with duplicate content can not be found or purchased at a reasonable price, alternate formats (microform, electronic, bound photocopy) may be substituted. If no acceptable substitutes are available, the item will be withdrawn. If a document that is not integrated into the main collection is reported missing, an electronic equivalent will be substituted if available. If not, the item will be withdrawn.