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Government Resources: Govt. Docs. Collection Development Policy

Federal and state sources for information


The University of Mary Washington, founded in 1908, is a coeducational, state-supported, liberal arts university with an enrollment of more than 4,000 students. The provision of instruction of the highest quality has been adopted as the most pervasive and important function of this primarily undergraduate institution. The University of Mary Washington provides broad liberal education based on freedom of inquiry, personal responsibility, and intellectual integrity believing it to be the best preparation for citizenship and career.

The University offers more than 40 undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, and in compatible professional fields leading to the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Liberal Studies and Bachelor of Nursing. UMW graduate programs offers degrees of Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, and Master of Science in Geospatial Analysis. UMW also offers Continuing & Professional Studies for your growth and development professionally, personally, and organizationally.

Simpson Library is a significant component of the educational mission of the University. The Library supports the mission of the University through a highly qualified staff using resources that have been assembled in accordance with the collection development goals of the Library. Since 1940 this Library has served as Depository #0633 of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP); it has been a Virginia State Depository since 1981. Library resources include more than 300,000 cataloged volumes. The local area served by the University and the Library is located in Congressional District One.

Fredericksburg has a population of 29,0360. Nearby Stafford, Spotsylvania, and King George counties have populations of 152,882; 136,215 and 26,836 respectively. Major employers and influences on the local economy include GEICO, Capital One, Silver Companies, Lee's Hill Partnership, Mary Washington Hospital and MediCorp Health Services, Free Lance Star, Dominion Virginia Power, McLane Mid-Atlantic, Intuit, Naval Surface Weapons Center, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Cox Communications, and the University of Mary Washington. Employees of these businesses and agencies, as well as other community citizens use federal government information. Many area residents commute to northern Virginia or Richmond, where they also have access to depository libraries. Student depository patrons include students of the University of Mary Washington, Germanna Community College, and Strayer University as well as undergraduate and graduate students of other institutions of higher education (such as University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and George Mason University) who live in the area.

In order to better identify and meet the Government informational needs of students, faculty, administration, citizens of Congressional District One, and the general public, this depository collection development policy has been formulated.

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Consistent with the Library's general collection policy statement, the priorities for the collection of government documents are to consider and support the course needs of students as well as the teaching and research needs of the faculty. In addition, per FDLP guidelines, this depository shall make demonstrable efforts to select and maintain a collection responsive to the identifiable needs of users in this geographic area, to promote document accessibility and use by the general public, and to cooperate with other libraries in making documents available.

Mandatory operational standards and performance requirements established by the federal government in Title 44 of the United States Code (Public Printing and Documents of the U.S.), Chapter 19 (Depository Library Program) along with the Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program (which replaces the Federal Depository Manual Handbook, Supplement 2: Guidelines for the Depository Library System/Instructions to Depository Libraries) will be understood and met.  The "Depository Library Public Service Guidelines for Government Information in Electronic Format" will be understood and met. (See appendix on Government Information in Electronic Format). The collection development effort of this depository is obligated to take into account these external requirements in addition to the normal concerns of the library.

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Responsibility For Selection

Responsibility for the selection and acquisition of materials for the Library lies ultimately with the University Librarian who, in turn, has delegated it to the Collection Services Librarian. Responsibility for federal selection lies initially with the Government Document Specialist, and, in turn, the Collection Services/Government Documents Librarian. Both have as their duty oversight of the depository collection, its development, and its maintenance, using mandatory operational standards and performance requirements as priority guidelines. The Collection Services Librarian is made aware of recommendations and considerations, many of which are the result of consultation with staff, faculty, students, and interested members of the university community.

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Standards And Guidelines For Selection

Special consideration is given to core lists such as:

Four guiding principles are used, as suggested by the Government Publishing Office, in the selections of documents:

  • We select documents that will serve the informational needs of our users. In order to determine these needs, this depository considers the University's mission, is familiar with the academic departments and courses of study, and is knowledgeable about the local area and its people.
  • User surveys, faculty/student/administration/other patron's requests, reference statistics, interlibrary loan requests, and circulation records are all helpful determinants in our selection process. Meeting established needs has led us to a collection strong in documents of a statistical nature dealing with a broad range of subjects (census, history, economics, etc.); in Congressional and Presidential materials; in codes, laws, and regulations; in education and higher education information; in heritage and historical conservation and preservations documents; and in publications dealing with political science, library science, health and art.
  • While making selections, we look for educational value and/or public interest in the document and accessibility of the information therein (we select the majority of the annual reports offered because they meet this criterion).
  • We determine who would be likely to need or use the publication. We are mindful of our responsibility as a depository to inform the public on the policies and programs of the Government; therefore, we look for selections which will fulfill this obligation.

We select documents with consideration given to the strengths and weaknesses of other libraries nearby. A number of other depository libraries exist approximately fifty miles north or south of this one in cities to which large numbers of local area residents commute to work. When considering documents for selections, we appreciate that good cooperation and coordination exists among the depositories. The online GPO Depository Union List of Item Selections allows us to quickly check holdings and then determine whether or not duplication is wise or necessary. We select all documents for which there is a likely or regular demand; however, patrons requesting material we cannot justify selecting are well served by interlibrary loans and referrals. The reasonable, mutual use of the interlibrary loan process is an effective way of being sure that documents are provided to the people. We keep in mind, also, that we are served by an excellent regional depository, Alderman Library of the University of Virginia.

We select documents with consideration given to internal factors such as space, budget and problem areas. Space considerations dictate that we must strongly consider electronic format rather than paper when feasible. Congressional hearings and prints are examples of the type of document which take up shelf space rapidly that we select in paper format. We  also choose paper copy for most reference volumes and frequently consulted material whenever possible. This includes maps, art, or color illustrations. Our microfiche collection bears with it the budget burden of supplying reader-printers, paper, toner, and servicing. The format in which we select any given document depends upon the format(s) made available by GPO; the format(s) that provide the greatest ease of access for our patrons; and considerations of space and budget. Also, we must consider that certain selections may entail the expense of purchasing commercially produced items. VIVA (Virtual Library of Virginia) helps to offset some of these financial constraints. We try to be aware of tools which aid in the retrieval of the subject matter within documents being considered for selection and determine whether or not the budget will allow purchase. If unable to purchase such tools, we must decide if the documents would be of use without the external aid. There are other circumstances which necessitate the purchase of documents.

For example, we purchase:

  • Replacement copies for lost or worn-out volumes after checking for them on the Needs and Offers List).
  • Second copies of much-used volumes, indexes and abstracts.
  • Individual documents of general interest.

Substitution Of Electronic Format

In deciding whether to substitute electronic format for tangible products, patron characteristics, usage patterns, community needs, and research requirements are considered. Specific issues of concern include:

  • In which format is the title most easily used?
  • What is its scope, purpose, and intended audience?
  • What is the date range or coverage?
  • Is the information time sensitive?
  • Is the title's electronic presentation comparable to the tangible version?

Government information in electronic format may require more staff time to assist patrons. Research librarians and Government Documents staff in Simpson Library decide together whether to make electronic substitutions. Web links are included in the online library catalog. The Library maintains a link for government information on the Library Home Page.

Retention of substituted materials follows the retention rules of a selective depository. Tangible products appearing in the Superseded List that are substituted with an electronic equivalent are superseded in the regular fashion (see section on weeding).

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Selection Issues

Several points must be considered during the selection process. The selection of an item number may result in receipt of a number of titles when actually we only have need for one. Fortunately, GPO is working toward breaking out problem items numbers. In the meantime, we must scrutinize each title to determine use and decide if it might not be more cost efficient to purchase the one needed title and forgo the burden of unwanted ones.

A similar problem lies in the selection of a general publications' item number under which the library then receives a multiplicity of documents. Before choosing such a number, we carefully peruse the Publications Reference File, the GPO Catalog, and Shipping Lists, familiarizing ourselves with the types of documents being issued. Thus, we can make an informed decision as to whether or not the selection would be a valuable, useful addition to our collection.

Periodical selections are made based on not only need but also on the availability of applicable indexes and abstracts. Considerations of format have already been discussed with respect to accessibility, usability and space. A problem during the selection of maps involves more than just the question of their serving a particular need; we must also consider our ability to afford proper housing in map cases for such documents. The lack of ideal housing, however, should not deter us from selecting maps for which there is a demonstrable need. Another problem is that certain item numbers are described without giving depositories enough information to allow us to be certain that the documents received will actually have much value as would appear to be the case. If we have reason to believe selection would serve our public, we order the item number; and then, we monitor documents as received so that we can expeditiously delete the selection should the choice prove to have been a poor one.

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Selection Tools

The List of Classes of United States Government Publications available for selection by Depository Libraries (GP 3.24:) is the preeminent listing of available selections. It is arranged by SuDocs classification number referencing series or item title and number.

Upon receipt of this list, we highlight or underline our selections in it. This process affords us the opportunity to review each offering and consider making additions or deletions as well as, upon completion, providing us with a "shelflist" which clearly indicates the subject area emphasis of our collection. Strengths and weaknesses can then be reviewed in light of our collection development goals.

Core Collection Lists are important selection tools. We periodically review the online version of the FDLP "Suggested Core Collection: Academic Library" to make sure that we have selected all documents useful to our patrons. Special attention is given to published lists such as GPO's New and Noteworthy and Best Sellers.

The Annotated GPO Depository Union List of Item Sections entitled File Libraries, Listing of Files in UNIONL [database] (GP 3:32/2:) is particularly useful in that it provides item numbers, agency, class stem, survey number/data, and a description, as well as listing the numbers of all depositories selecting the item number. One can check selections of nearby libraries and coordinate holdings whenever desirable. These listings are now available online at the FDLP website.

The Sales Product Catalog - GP (3.22/7:) - is a fine selection and current awareness source; however, it is limited to publications for sale by GPO. User access is excellent by means of stock number, SuDoc number, or dictionary index of interfiled titles, series, key words, key phrases, subjects, and personal authors. A web link is included in the Library catalog.

The Catalog of United States Government Publications (GP 3.8/8-9:) is an extremely important tool. It lists all government publications, GPO and non-GPO. Indexes are cumulative and include author, title, subject, series/report, contract number, and title keyword. A web link is included in the library catalog. 
Entries are arranged by SuDoc number and contain bibliographical information as entered into the OCLC data base. U.S. Government Subscriptions (GP3.9:) offers for selection those periodicals for which subscriptions are taken by the Superintendent of Documents. It also includes manuals and similar materials sold on a subscription basis. It is revised quarterly. It is a listing of over 1,000 popular U.S. Government publications available from the Superintendent of Documents.

In May of each year, we are notified when GPO is ready to accept new selections to our profile at the FDLP web-site. This is the only time of year we are allowed to make selections, but we can drop items at this site at any time in order to refine our collection. We look at the process of reconciling active item numbers as preparing for this 'end of year' activity and allowing an opportunity to once again critically review our collection. The time set aside for this is from June 1st to July 31st of each year. During the year we can be making a list of item #s we want to consider for addition at this time.

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The process of deselection is to be the careful application of the same guiding principles set for the selection process, only with a reverse intent.

Basically, four groups of criteria are to be used in making weeding decisions:

  • Government regulations
  • Usage
  • Values or Quality
  • Physical condition

Discarding of depository items is to be conducted in accordance with the policy outlined by the FDLP as stated in "Requirements & Guidance " under Weeding a Depository Collection. We are a selective depository served by a designated Regional Depository and as such, may draw up discard lists consisting of documents which have been retained for at least five years which are no longer relevant to our patrons. Permission for discarding and guidance have been worked out between our Regional Library and GPO. The "Procedures for the withdrawal of U.S. Government Depository Publications for Libraries in the Virginia Region" is published online by the Regional Library.

Any publication that is a duplicate copy or has been superceded can, and should, be discarded. For a listing of many documents which become obsolete see the "List of Superceded Depository Documents". Other candidates for weeding are:

  • Long-held documents which no evidence of use can be determined or foreseen
  • Incomplete runs having major gaps not likely to be filled
  • Documents that are outdated and of no historical interest
  • Documents damaged beyond repair

Weeding of this federal depository collection is to be an on-going process. We maintain a complete title check-in dated listing of all documents received. During the weeding process we work our way from titles received for A 1….: through Y 10….: and start over as documents have been held for a period of five years.

Consultation with the library staff and faculty is as much a part of deselection as of selection.

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Collection Policy Evaluation and Revision

Annually the collection development policy should be evaluated to ascertain how current and relevant it is and to what extent it enables us to meet the information requirements of the patrons served by this depository library. The review process allows for necessary revision to take place as changes come about in areas such as: funding, space, administration, curriculum, and mission. It also is a time for looking again at:

  • Performance measures taken over the year (periodic samplings of documents requested and their availability)
  • Impact measures (statistics taken periodically showing the extent to which the collection is used)
  • Items selected and added to the collection
  • Number of Bibliographic Instruction classes in which government documents are taught

Evaluation with possible revision is essential so that this policy can continue to offer utilitarian guidance in collection development and is to be instrumental in assuring a useful collection in the future.

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As a member of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the University of Mary Washington follows The Legal Requirements & Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program. This policy affirms the University of Mary Washington's adherence to these federal guidelines for unimpeded use of electronic documents by public patrons.

  • There is no-fee access to all Simpson Library computer workstations with government information on CD-Roms, diskettes, and the internet.
  • Simpson Library makes both tangible and electronic products available to users in a timely manner.
  • Simpson Library provides Internet access to government information at no cost to the general public. Access includes downloading capabilities and email transmission of electronic data. Printing of documents is available at the same cost as printing of other materials.
  • Simpson Library maintains a link to government information from the Library Home Page <>.
  • Simpson Library provides appropriate reference service and help for the general public to use electronic government information. Public service computer workstations are located adjacent to the Information Desk.
  • Simpson Library has no restrictions (such as age, residence status, or filtering software) for access to the FDLP electronic collection or other electronic government information. No patron identification is required.

Government Documents

Federal Depository Library


Cindy Su-chin Lu
Head, Collections Services
Government Documents Librarian

Phyllis Johnson
Government Documents Assistant