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Government Documents

Federal Depository Library

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The Law Library is a congressionally-designated depository for U.S. Government documents. Public access to the government documents collection, including access to federal government information online, is guaranteed by public law. (Title 44 United States Code). The Library was designated a Selective U.S. Federal Depository Library in 1979. 

The Reading Room

The Government Documents & Microforms Reading Room is in Room 330 of the Law Library. Along with the library's microform collection, the reading room contains various indexes and guides for locating federal government information.

Microform readers in Room 330 can print or scan microforms to pdf. One microform reader is available for public use. A second reader is reserved for law students. A photocopier is available on the floor above and the floor below, and these can also scan pages to PDF. Visitors should bring their own thumb drive for downloading.

The Reading Room also has a computer and printer designated for accessing federal government information online or on disk. From this Public Access Workstation, library visitors can also use a variety of commercial subscription databases for locating legal and government information. 

The Public Access Workstation has limited Internet access, restricted to governmental and educational websites. Most sites ending in .com are not available. We are aware that some commercial websites may contain federal government information. If you require access to a blocked .com site for the purpose of government documents research, please contact the Depository Library Coordinator or Reference staff for assistance. 

Users of the Public Access Workstation are subject to CUA's Acceptable Use Policy (below).  There is a 30 minute time limit when others are waiting.

About the Collection

The Law Library's Federal government documents collection include print books and pamphlets, CD-ROMs, DVDs, microfilm and microfiche, and online resources. The majority of Congressional materials will be found in microfiche and/or online.

Print government documents are found throughout general library collection, organized by Library of Congress classification (e.g., KF 2345). A small number of ephemeral publications, such as pamphlets, brochures and flashcards, are shelved in the Government Documents and Microforms Reading Room (room 330) and organized by Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) classification number (e.g., Y 4. W 36:).

Government documents on microform are organized by SuDoc Classification number, in two groups. Congressional documents on microfiche (including publications of Congressional agencies) are further subdivided by Congressional session, beginning with microfiche cabinet no. 14.  Publications of federal executive agencies are organized by SuDoc number and filed in cabinets 32A and 32B.

CD-ROMS, DVDs and other tangible media are stored in a cabinet adjacent to the Public Access Workstation in room 330. These are also organized by LC Call Number.

Using the Library Catalog

Government documents in the Law Library collection, including many online resources, can be found in the Law Library Catalog, with the following exceptions:

  • Congressional reports and hearing transcripts on microfiche for the 1st through the 114th Congress do not appear in the library catalog, but can be found in the microfiche collection by means of the CIS accession number or the SuDoc classification number found in Proquest Congressional.
  • Some reports and decisions from executive agencies for the period 1980-2000 are available on microfiche but not found in the catalog. They can be located in microfiche drawers 32A and 32B using the SuDoc classification number for that Federal Agency.
  • Recently-published government documents may have been received but not yet found in the catalog. These documents are stored in Collection Services and are made available on request.

Online Congressional hearings from January 2010 onward can be found in the Law Library catalog, usually within a month or two of release.

Using Microfiche

How is the microfiche organized in the drawers?

Different collections of microfiche are organized in different ways. The best way to understand how items are filed is to look in the drawer.

Congressional microfiche is filed by Congress and Session (year), and then by either CIS Acccession number or SuDoc classification number. Congressional microfiche from the 96th through the 114th Congress (1979-2016) is arranged by SuDoc Number. Pre-1979 congressional materials are organized by CIS Accession number. More information about CIS Accession number. First, find the document's abstract in Proquest Congressional. If the document is not available full-text, use the following key to locate it in our microfiche collection.

  • Prior to 1980: Use the CIS Accession number from the abstract
  • 1980- 2016: Use the SuDoc Number from the abstract

Can I save or print information from microfiche?

Yes. Both microfiche readers have attached printers and allow you to scan fiche images to a USB drive. One reader is reserved for CUA students and requires a CUA logon. A second reader is available to the public but has no internet access. Bring a USB drive to save your information. You will not be able to email files to yourself. Do not save anything to these computers -- your files will be erased. 

How do I use the microfiche reader/computer set up to save images electronically?

Both microform readers are connected to a computer that will allow you to save files to a USB drive. Turn on the fiche viewer FIRST, then the computer.

What do I do with the fiche or film I have finished using? 

Please place film/fiche in the Used Fiche container located on the table on the far right of the microform reader-printers. There is no need to refile the fiche yourself. 

Classification Systems

What is SuDoc Classification?

The Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) number is the call number scheme used in depository libraries for their Federal documents collections. Because this classification scheme arranges materials by the authoring agency and type of publication, a SuDoc number fielded search allows one to locate similar resources by an agency. At least up to the stem of the SuDoc number must be entered for the search to be executed properly. The stem includes the initial letters and numbers up to and including the colon (:). Be sure to insert a space between letters and numbers unless there is intervening punctuation. No spaces precede or follow symbols. Do not use quotation marks (" ") in a SuDoc field search. For example:

EP 1.2:B 74/2 retrieves the specific document: Read this if you plan to breathe this summer : advisory for those with asthma breathing problems and for children, older adults, and people who work outdoors.

EP 1.2: retrieves other general publications from the Environmental Protection Agency.

What are CIS Accession Numbers?

Congressional Information Service (CIS) uses this numbering system to organize congressional microfiche. Within each calendar year, accession numbers are assigned to publications according to the issuing body, and by publication type within that body. 

Pre-1980 Hearings and Reports are organized by this classification system. Fiche are filed by year of publication then by CIS Accession number.

What are Serial Set Identification Numbers? 

Serial Set ID numbers are assigned by CIS to organize all documents in the Serial Set. Pre-1970 serial set microfiche is organized by this numbering system. Drawers are arranged by Congress number. Fiche are filed by Congressional session then by Serial Set ID. 

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