Government Documents - Collection Development Policy

Revised December 2008

Table of contents


United States Federal Publications – Collection Development Policy

James Madison University Libraries: Federal Depository #0628B

The James Madison University Libraries has been a selective depository for United States government publications since 1973. These publications are in the public domain without copyright restrictions. This collection serves JMU students, faculty, and staff as well as the 6th Congressional District.


Purpose of the Policy

This policy supplements the Libraries’ general Collection Development Policy by addressing the unique elements of ownership, status, scope, official program profile, and maintenance responsibilities of the depository collection here. Should the JMU Libraries’ policies differ from federal depository law or regulation, the US requirements take precedence. This policy will be reviewed annually in August to update information and insure agreement with prevailing Government Printing Office (GPO) regulations and standards.



Depository Library Program

Established by Congress, the Depository Library Program ensures that the American public has access to its government's information. Chapter 19 of Title 44 of the U.S. Code is the authority for the establishment and operation of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The legal responsibilities of Federal depository libraries fall into two broad categories:


  1. Providing for free public access to government information.
  2. Providing for the proper maintenance of the depository materials.


Community Analysis

The government documents collection at JMU has two audiences: the JMU Community and the 6th Congressional District.  Of the two audiences, the JMU Community is the primary audience for the collection.  The university profile is outlined in the general Collection Development Policy


The 6th Congressional District, as the secondary audience for the collection, covers most of the counties of Allegany, Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Highland, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and the independent cities of Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Staunton, and Waynesboro, encompassing a total population of 643,450 (2000).  Other federal depository libraries are located at Bridgewater College, Hollins College, Washington & Lee University, and Roanoke College along with 13 other higher education institutions in Virginia. Although available to all, the JMU depository primarily serves the community users of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.


Scope of Collection

The government documents collection adheres to the Scope of Collections statement in the Libraries’ general Collection Development Policy.  The depository collection housed in Carrier Library is considered large by GPO standards. JMU Libraries collects 70% of publications distributed through the FDLP.

The current JMU Libraries federal depository collection is particularly strong in the areas of agriculture, defense, congress, business/commerce, energy, environment, health, geography, and geology. Significant resources include the U.S. Congressional Serial Set (print and microform), USGS Topological Maps, Congressional Hearings and prints (congressional staff studies), business and population statistical series, Government Accountability (GAO) Reports, legal series (U.S. Reports, U.S. Statutes, U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Professional and Water Papers (current and historical), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports.


Collection Guidelines

Selections in the government documents collection are selected based upon the subject interests of the depository users.  Although all areas of the United States are collected, there is a special emphasis on Virginia and the Middle Atlantic states, particularly as regards Census and Agriculture publications.  Almost all publications are in English, with the exception of some Treasury, Immigration, and State Department material in Spanish, Braille, or other languages.  Publications arrive in the format or formats designated by the issuing agency. It is common for some government sources to publish in dual formats such as Congress does with the hearings.

Depository Selections

The list below outlines the percent of publications currently selected by the JMU Libraries for specific government agencies through the depository library program.


  • Agriculture Department – 74%
  • Civil Rights Commission – 67%
  • Commerce Department – 80%
  • Congress – 70%
  • Defense Department – 37%
  • Education Department – 91%
  • Energy Department – 70%
  • Environmental Protection Agency – 85%
  • Executive Office of the President – 100%
  • Farm Credit Administration – 83%
  • Federal Communications Commission – 79%
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency – 50%
  • Federal Housing Financing Board – 0%
  • Federal Maritime Commission – 9%
  • Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service – 100%
  • Federal Reserve System Board of Governors – 100%
  • Federal Trade Commission – 95%
  • Fine Arts Commission – 100%
  • Foreign-Trade Zones Board – 100%
  • General Accounting Office – 76%
  • General Services Administration – 42%
  • Government Printing Office – 100%
  • Health and Human Services Department – 74%
  • Housing and Urban Development – 84%
  • Homeland Security – 40%
  • Interior Department – 48%
  • International Trade Commission – 94%
  • Interstate Commerce Commission – 100%
  • Judiciary – 84%
  • Justice Department – 90%
  • Labor Department – 65%
  • Library of Congress – 94%
  • Merit Systems Protection Board – 10%
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration – 66%
  • National Archives and Records Administration – 90%
  • National Capital Planning Commission – 100%
  • National Credit Union Administration – 25%
  • National Foundation on the Arts & the Humanities – 100%
  • National Labor Relations Board – 50%
  • National Mediation Board – 75%
  • National Science Foundation – 88%
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation – 100%
  • Peace Corps – 83%
  • Personnel Management Office – 45%
  • President of the United States – 100%
  • Railroad Retirement Board – 29%
  • Securities and Exchange Commission – 75%
  • Small Business Administration – 75%
  • Smithsonian Institution – 89%
  • Social Security Administration – 100%
  • State Department – 94%
  • Transportation Department – 47%
  • Treasury Department – 73%
  • U.S. Trade and Development Agency – 100%
  • United States Postal Service – 30%
  • Veterans Affairs – 56%
  • Vice President of the United States – 100%


[Source: Documents Data Miner: ]



Collection Arrangement and Access

The federal documents collection is housed on the fifth stack level of Carrier Library with executive agency publications as well as congressional publications.  Documents are arranged in the Superintendent of Documents numbering system, which is an agency-based arrangement. Some government publications are housed in different locations, such as the Current Periodicals Room or the Reference Area.

The JMU government documents collection may also be accessed through JMU Library Catalog and indexing tools, such as GPO Access, the GPO Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP), and the LexisNexis Congressional database. Most of our publications are accessible through LEO.

Since most government information is now accessible over the Internet, special care is taken to ensure that the Libraries provides sufficient access to users. The Libraries complies with the recommended specifications for public access workstations as provided by the Government Printing Office.  In compliance with the FDLP Internet Use Policy Guidelines, the Libraries offers free public access to online federal government information through all Library computer stations. In addition, the Library offers an assistive technology lab for users with disabilities from the JMU community. Details about the lab are outlined at




Collection Management

The Government Documents Librarian has the statutory responsibility for developing and managing the collection.  The Government Documents Librarian consults on decisions with liaison librarians as necessary.



The government documents collection adheres to the duplication policy outlined in the general Collection Development Policy.


Government publications generally follow the Libraries’ procedures for searching for and reporting lost or damaged documents, except for replacement. When an item is officially declared lost, a copy of the publication is obtained from other sources if possible (out of print and Needs & Offers List) and added to the collection. An exception is made for ephemera, or publications not deemed to be of significant value to warrant the expense of replacement.


All publications issued through the federal depository library system remain the property of the federal government. In accordance with the Instructions to Depository Libraries (, the Libraries maintains all publications for a minimum of five years. Discards are first offered to the Virginia Regional Library at the University of Virginia, then to other libraries in the state. Most publications are kept much longer than five years to match the historical needs and interests of our user community. Some publications, such as the decennial census publications, are kept in perpetuity.


The government documents collection adheres to the preservation policy outlined in the general Collection Development Policy.



Cooperative Collection Development

The JMU Libraries collaborates as appropriate with other Virginia depository libraries to ensure that materials will be available to users.  The University of Virginia’s Alderman Library is a complete depository for U.S. government publications, meaning that it collects all series and retains them on a permanent basis.  



Official Guidelines

See: U. S. Government Printing Office. Federal Depository Library Handbook


Author: Gerald Gill

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