Handbook of Federal Librarianship

IV. Federal Depository Library Program

Brief History
FDLP Today
Federal Libraries
FDLP on the Web
Electronic Collection Plan
Legislative Mandates
FDLP Designation

by Sandy Schwalb

Federal librarians should know about the no cost availability of U.S. Federal Government information products both within and outside of agency libraries.

The Government Printing Office (GPO) through its Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) provides free government information products to designated depository libraries throughout the United States and its territories. These libraries, in turn, provide local, no-fee access in an impartial environment with professional assistance. They contain information on careers, business opportunities, consumer information, health and nutrition, legal and regulatory information, demographics, and countless other subjects reflecting the activity of the Government. The collections are in print, microform, CD-ROM, and online electronic media.

News, information, and communication for and about the FDLP can be found at:

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Brief History

The FDLP originated in the early 1800's by a joint resolution of Congress and the Printing Act of 1895 was a comprehensive and substantive revision of public printing laws. This act established the basic parameters for the current FDLP and GPO's role in providing distribution and cataloging services for U.S. government information. Of note to Federal librarians, it was this law that added:

  1. executive department documents to depository distribution
  2. libraries from executive branch departments and the military academies to the FDLP.
The Printing Act also relocated the Superintendent of Public Documents from the Department of the Interior to GPO. That position, now called the Superintendent of Documents, continues to be an important function of GPO in disseminating Federal government information products to the public through the FDLP and GPO's Documents Sales Program: http://bookstore.gpo.gov/index.html.

For more FDLP "highlights" see Keeping America Informed at,

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FDLP Today

The depository program has grown into a system of more than 1350 libraries consisting of public, academic, law, federal and other types of libraries designated by members of Congress or by law as official depositories. With a few exceptions, all congressional districts and territories of the United States have at least one federal depository library.

Categories of Depository Libraries: (as of January 1999)

  • Academic (general) libraries 50%
  • Public libraries 20%
  • Academic law libraries 11%
  • Community college libraries 5%
  • State and special libraries 5%
  • Federal and State court libraries 4%
  • Federal agency libraries 4%

There are 53 regional depository libraries which have agreed to receive all of the products available through the program and retain them for permanent public access. The majority of the depositories are selective, tailoring their selections of government information products to their community's primary needs. These libraries have limited retention responsibilities.

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Federal Libraries

There are 65 agency libraries in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches that are part of FDLP. See chart below:

Air University Air University Library AL
Alaska Resources Library & Information ARLIS Library AK
U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit Library CA
U.S. Naval Postgraduate School Dudley Knox Library CA
U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey Library CA
U.S. Courts of Appeals Tenth Circuit Library CO
Executive Office of the President Library DC
U.S. Department of State Law Library DC
U.S. Department of Education National Library of Education DC
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Headquarters Library DC
Department of the Army Pentagon Library DC
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Library DC
U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library MD
U.S. General Accounting Office Information Services Center DC
U.S. General Services Administration Library DC
U.S. Department of the Interior Departmental Library DC
Federal Election Commission Law Library DC
U.S. Department of Justice Main Library DC
U.S. Senate Library DC
U.S. Department of Labor Library DC
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System - Law Library DC
Navy Department Library Naval Historical Center DC
Library of Congress Serial and Government DC
U.S. Postal Service Library DC
U.S. Supreme Court Library DC
Library of Congress Congressional Research Service DC
U.S. Department of State Ralph J. Bunche Library DC
Federal Mine Safety, Health Review Library DC
U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Coast Guard Law Library DC
U.S. Department of the Treasury Library DC
U.S. Department of Transportation TASC Library DC
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Library DC
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Library DC
National Defense University Library Fort Lesley J. McNair DC
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Library DC
U.S. Information Agency Information Resource Center DC
U.S. Court of Appeals Federal Circuit Library DC
U.S. Court of Appeals Judges Library, Room 5518 DC
U.S. Department of Commerce Library DC
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Scientific & Technical Information VA
Comptroller of the Currency Library DC
U.S. Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit Library GA
U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit Library IL
U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Library LA
Uniformed Services, University of Health Sciences, Learning Resources MD
Naval Air Warfare Center Central Library MD
U.S. Department of Health & Human Service National Library of Medicine MD
U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit Library MD
U.S. Department of Commerce NOAA Central Library MD
U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit Library MA
U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit Library MO

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FDLP on the Web

GPO Access, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, the agency's legislatively-mandated online service, provides online access (Internet or dial up) to:

  • Federal Register
  • Congressional Record
  • Congressional bills introduced in the Congress
  • Code of Federal Regulations
  • Commerce Business Daily
  • public laws
  • over 70 official government databases

The Federal Bulletin Board (FBB) http://fedbbs.access.gpo.gov/ provides free access to thousands of files from more than 20 federal agencies representing all three branches of the federal government.

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Electronic Collection Plan

In recent years, the FDLP has grown increasingly reliant upon electronic information. GPO must ensure the same permanent public access to government electronic information products included in the FDLP as the program has provided for the print/tangible products distributed to depository libraries. Therefore, GPO developed and published a policy defining the management of the electronic government information products made available through the FDLP. This policy is contained in a paper called, Managing the FDLP Electronic Collection: A Policy and Planning Document http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fdlp/pubs/ecplan.html.

The FDLP Electronic Collection has four components.

  1. Core legislative and regulatory GPO Access products which will reside permanently on GPO servers;
  2. Other remotely accessible products managed by either GPO or other institutions with which GPO has established formal agreements;
  3. Remotely accessible electronic government information products that GPO identifies, describes, and links to but which remain under the control of the originating agencies; and
  4. Tangible electronic government information products distributed to federal depository libraries.

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Legislative Mandates

Chapter 19 of Title 44 USC is the authority for the establishment and operation of the depository program.
Among other things, this chapter gives the Superintendent of Documents responsibility for acquiring, classifying, cataloging, distributing to libraries and ensuring long-term permanent access of federal government information products. It and OMB Circular A-130 requires federal agencies to make all of their publications, in all formats, available to the Superintendent of Documents for distribution to depository libraries.

The Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993 (Public Law 103-40) is contained in Chapter 41 of Title 44 USC.
Commonly known as the "GPO Access Law," it was implemented in 1994 and requires the Superintendent of Documents to:

  • Maintain an electronic directory of Federal electronic information;
  • Provide a system of online access to the Congressional Record, Federal Register, and other appropriate publications distributed by the Superintendent of Documents;
  • Operate an electronic storage facility;
  • Maintain a Federal Bulletin Board.

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FDLP Designation

Designation Handbook for Federal Depository Libraries

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last update 12/30/99