by Frank Wihbey, Head, Government Publications, Maps, GIS & Microforms
Tri-State Regional Document Depository
University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469-5729
These items are written in terms of our local situation,
but certainly may apply elsewhere in the Tri-State Region of Maine, New
Hampshire and Vermont.
· Other libraries are named here. Most of this information is derived from publicly available data about them. But honesty requires that I advise the reader and staff of those libraries that this is all recorded without their explicit permission. Suggestions for corrections, additions or deletions are welcome.
When we cannot immediately satisfy a patron request for a government publication but want to help, it is not always as simple as just sending them to Interlibrary Loan. Recommendation for the next steps is a little more complicated than for other publications, so it is much better if we can give prior advice, either to the patron or to ILL. While I have this information in mind due to a recent patron request, I thought I'd organize it in the form of a "referral tree" in order to share it. If anyone has more suggestions, please let me know.
Why Distinguish Between Pre- and Post-December 1963 documents?
We became a Regional (full) Federal Document Depository in December 1963. Obviously our U.S. document collection is weaker prior to that year as we selected (as best I can reconstruct it) somewhere between 30-50% of available depository items since we started (officially in 1907, but less officially even before that). However via periodic transfers from the 28 selective depositories in our tri-state region we have been developing our pre-1964 holdings over the past 45 years, and now hold over 2.3 million federal documents. Please keep in mind that many of the earlier documents are not reflected yet in our online catalog URSUS <ursus.maine.edu>. A thorough search of our Department's manual records (card file and other) should be done before disappointing a patron.
Prior to July 1, 1976 The Government Printing Office offered a single cataloging product, the hard-copy Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, with monthly and cumulated annual indexes. (Private organizations produced indexes with larger cumulations, e.g. Carrolton Press, CIS, Inc.)
On that date they joined OCLC, adopted MARC record format, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and AACRII standards for forms of corporate names and bibliographic description. They also invited other first-tier OCLC members to add to the records, so classification in LC, Dewey, NLM and other systems, along with contributions in other MARC fields are included. From then on they upload all new cataloging to OCLC. However (until just now) there hadn’t been an interest on GPO's part in retrospective cataloging, so achieving 100% retro is still a Holy Grail of document librarians. Based on recent experience the yield in OCLC may now be as high as 75 - 80% due to tireless efforts of member libraries, including us.. Benefitting from this we have an ongoing project of cataloging our pre-1976 resources, improving access for our patrons and increasing our transparency for the purpose of interlibrary loans.
Other Strong Collections by a Combination of Depository and Commercial
I hope this is not too forward of me to say, but some of the private colleges have purchased large commercial sets like the complete Readex depository and non-depository microprint collections, various CIS, Inc. retrospective collections for Congressional documents and the like. A search of their online catalogs is always a good idea, but be aware that they might have the same cataloging limitations as us. Also the search tools for such aggregations may be offline or restricted-access online. Don’t hesitate to contact their reference librarians as I think we all routinely trade favors.
I know that we are all depositories and
"we all get the same things." But the actual extents of our
collections of government documents collections go beyond that and may
include many non-depository documents and publications from regional
Largeacademic and public libraries in the Region could be checked as, customarily, donations of government documents from private individuals and retired government employees went to them.
Next level of referral - other Regionals...
In case our Regional collection cannot fill a patron's request, the next logical step is a regional depository that is even more complete than ours (there are not that many!) such as the Boston Public Library, and Connecticut State Library. I cannot speak for them, but from my own experience they welcome questions from other documents librarians. Be sure to mention that you have already consulted your own Regional Depository first.
Online Document-Related Compendia, Comprehensive Catalogs and Search
Efforts to date like Cybercemetry and the American Memory Project are of increasing value as they develop historical depth. WorldCat and GPO's new National Bibliography of Government Publications are always good for a try. Each of these offers search refinement by year(s) and other qualifications. Even Google searches have some success. Try typing in the first few words of the title, in quotes, and add site and format qualification as needed, e.g. "monthly weather review" 1951 site:gov filetype:pdf will bring up the text of issues of the old Weather Bureau periodical.
Everybody's digitizing older publications, not just libraries. So try Google's special government search engine. I was able to find a pdf of the 1947 Minerals Yearbook in just a few seconds using this.
Next Level of Referral - Federal Agency and Department Libraries, Including
Military... Even better, and online search of a given department or
agency's or bureau's name followed by the word library should usually work:
Here are some examples. The Special Libraries Association maintains a
web listing of
military libraries in the U.S.
At this “branch” of the tree, over time I've found the best results by contacting the pertinent agency or department library listed in the Directory of federal libraries (Reference Z731 .E93 1993). Despite its age it is still very useful since information for such institutions is usually stable and can always be verified on their respective websites. American Library Directory is arranged by state then city, but I caution that the headquarters libraries of federal agencies are not all in DC. Some are in MD or VA, etc. Searching the name index with a focus on an agency name or parent federal department might help.
Subject oriented lists can be found on the web
Even better, and online search of a given department or agency's or bureau's name followed by the word library should usually work:labor statistics library brings up the Department of Labor Library website.
. Here are some examples. The Special Libraries Association maintains a web listing of military libraries in the U.S.
The other good strategy is to contact the regional office of the agency, if there is one. Without fail they have been friendlier, and require less levels of bureaucracy to wade through than their parent offices in the DC area. Many of ours are clustered in Boston. The following exact search string: regional office federal boston OR massachusetts in the usa.gov search facility should capture almost all of them. Some even have their own libraries. My recollection is that most are not OCLC members, so it never hurts to ask if they have a library and if they will lend or photocopy. (The number and/or usefulness of these is slowly decreasing due to successive Administrations' mandates to privatize or eliminate information dissemination. This could change under the new Administration in Washington.)
Keep in mind that though the following libraries and archives may be able to help sometimes, they are mission driven and have different rules about serving the public. (For their purposes we librarians are considered part of the public!)
The National Archives and Records Service (NARA) is an archive, and not organized for library-like service. However they do have a NARA regional facility in Waltham, Massachusetts, which is at least closer than DC for our Northern New England patrons. They usually can borrow film copies from headquarters in College Park, Maryland for on-site use there in Waltham.
Don’t be put off by the
words “regional facility”, as, in their own right they have very developed
collections. Though Waltham
staff may try to be very helpful, be aware that their mission involves them
well beyond the universe of “government publications”, so they are not an
automatic source for unsatisfied requests. Ask ahead. Equivalent services may be offered by
consortia or networks among agencies or even within agencies:
National Library Network and the
Data Clearinghouse. The
Presidential Libraries, while holding many government documents are
organize more like archives. I have no experience with requests to
them, but would appreciate advice from anybody who has.
As we are often reminded, the Library of Congress serves Congress first. More mission-oriented libraries like the National Library of Agriculture, the National Library of Medicine, National Library of Education, National for the Environment and the National Transportation Library are better bets for service than the LC.
Equivalent services may be offered by
consortia or networks among agencies or even within agencies:
National Library Network and the
The Presidential Libraries, while holding many government documents are organize more like archives. I have no experience with requests to them, but would appreciate advice from anybody who has.
The Web Some searches for government information are best conducted on the
internet. My prime example is a patron looking for images of any kind
from government sources. The is one such site.
Google makes the
search easy. Click on "images"
in the upper left of the screen, type in your keywords and add "site:.gov"
(without quotes). Another example is when the patron wants only .pdf
documents. Again Google helps: add "filetype:pdf" to your
keyword search. Also you can start with a federal source that is
devoted to the particular medium, for example the
National Image Library
National Digital Map Library.
Some searches for government information are best conducted on the internet. My prime example is a patron looking for images of any kind from government sources. The is one such site. Google makes the search easy. Click on "images" in the upper left of the screen, type in your keywords and add "site:.gov" (without quotes). Another example is when the patron wants only .pdf documents. Again Google helps: add "filetype:pdf" to your keyword search. Also you can start with a federal source that is devoted to the particular medium, for example the National Image Library or the National Digital Map Library.
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