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U.S. Government Information: About

Guide to information resources by and about the federal government.

About the Federal Depository Library Program

The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was established by Congress to ensure that the American public has access to federal government information. The FDLP provides federal information at no cost to designated depository libraries throughout the country and territories. The libraries, in turn, provide free local access to that information in an impartial environment with professional assistance.

Other depository libraries in San Diego include San Diego Public Library, San Diego State University, Cal State San Marcos, University of San Diego, and San Diego Law Library. Find more information about these libraries' FDLP collections, or use this map to locate other depository libraries in the U.S.


Use Policies

Public access to documents received through the FDLP is guaranteed by U.S. law.

Please see the Library's Services to the Community and additional policies for general information or contact Kelly Smith, Government Information Librarian, with specific questions regarding the federal documents collection.

Federal Documents at UCSD Library

UCSD became a selective depository library for the 53rd California Congressional District in 1963. As a Federal Depository Library, we provide free access to and reference service for publications issued by the federal government.

The U.S. government issues a vast number of publications that reflect on almost all aspects of our daily lives, and UCSD selects those publications we believe to be of greatest use to our constituencies. UCSD currently receives 55% of the publications distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program, creating an interdisciplinary social science collection with an emphasis on U.S. demographics, public policy and legislation. These items come in various formats, including print volumes, microfiche, CD/DVD, and online.

Locating Federal Documents at UCSD

Most of our government documents are located in the west wing of the main floor of Geisel Library. Some documents are currently housed offsite at the library annex, but may be requested for delivery to Geisel Library. 

Call numbers for government documents may be found by using the library catalog, and most items may be checked out. To search the catalog by SuDoc number, click "browse search" at top then select "SUDOC call numbers" from the dropdown menu.

Note that we currently have two separate A-Z "runs" of federal documents, located adjacent to each other. Locations are designated in the catalog and on the shelves as "US Docs 1" and "US Docs 2." If you need help, please talk with staff at the Research Assistance Desk or the Geisel Front Desk.

Understanding Call Numbers

Unlike most print resources in the library, which are classified with the Library of Congress call number system, government documents are arranged by the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) call number system. The SuDocs system is a provenance arrangement—publications are organized based on the issuing agency. So, A call numbers are for the Department of Agriculture, C is Commerce, D is Defense, and so on. There are, of course, exceptions to the straightforward letters: X and Y are used for various Congressional publications.

One of the most confusing aspects of SuDocs numbers for those new to them is that the number does not read as a decimal, the way LC numbers do. Instead, the numbers before and after the dot are whole numbers. So, while D 19.18 would come before D 19.3 in LC order (because it reads as eight), it comes after D 19.3 in SuDocs order (because it reads as 19.eighteen). See MSU's Learning SuDocs Call Numbers for more guidance; use the List of Classes or UCSD's Browse by Call Number guide to see numbers associated with departments and subordinate offices.

A very basic break-down of a SuDocs number:

  • I 49.10:999 
  • First letter indicates issuing department (I=Department of the Interior)
  • First whole number before the dot indicates a subordinate office within that department (49=Fish & Wildlife Service)
  • First whole number after the dot indicates a category of publication, series, or serial title (10=directories; see below)
  • Numbers or letters and numbers after the colon represent individual publications, years, issues or editions (pub date=1999)

Full list of publication categories:

.1 Annual Reports
.2 General Publications
.3 Bulletins
.4 Circulars

.5 Laws
.6 Regulations, rules, and instructions
.7 Press releases
.8 Handbooks, manuals, and guides
.9 Bibliographies and lists of publications
.10 Directories
.11 Maps and charts
.12 Posters
.13 Forms
.14 Addresses