Bibliographic Control

  • Last Updated: April 01, 2024
  • Published: October 15, 2012

Classifying and Organizing Depository Material

Arrangement of depository materials should conform to professionally accepted library standards. The arrangement should facilitate the practical use and access to the depository collection.

Libraries may arrange resources according to the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) classification system, other classification systems, or a combination of systems. The location of the depository material will likely influence your choice of classification system. You may integrate depository material into other collections such as a general or reference collection, or you may keep it as a separate collection, or a mixture of both.

Piece Level Accounting (for tangible depository materials)

All depositories are the legally responsible custodians of Federal Government property received through the FDLP. As such, each depository will maintain a record to the piece level of all depository selections received in tangible format. Piece level accounting means that each receipt is accounted for and is individually identifiable. You can accomplish this accounting through full cataloging, creation of a shelflist in paper or electronic format, or a combination of the two. A shelflist—a file of bibliographic records arranged in the same order as the corresponding materials on the shelves--may be a separate entity or integrated with other library shelflists. Determine which process works best to meet the needs of your community of users.

For serial publications you must be able to identify all of your library’s holdings including gaps within the record. Holding statements (for example, "volume 1, numbers 3-7, 9-12”) need to identify missing materials.

For maps, there are several ways a library may record piece level accounting for maps:

  • Individually catalog all maps
  • Maintain a series record for the map series with your holdings indicated in the OPAC, a shelflist, or an index map

Shipping lists are not meant for bibliographic control. Therefore, annotated shipping lists do not constitute a record of the library’s depository holdings.

If your library does not have piece level accounting of all tangible depository publications, a retrospective piece level accounting project must be completed. Many libraries perform a collection review to identify materials without piece level accounting.

Libraries that use a card catalog or shelflist for piece level accounting should keep those finding aids up to date to accurately reflect the holdings of the depository collection. GPO recommends comprehensive cataloging in the OPAC as the best way to achieve piece level accounting. As materials are retroactively cataloged or withdrawn, consider making references on the card or removing the card. 

Catalog Requirement for Tangible Depository Materials

All depository materials that you select are deemed to be a valuable part of your library collection and worthy of cataloging to increase visibility and usage.

Piece level accounting of depository publications has always been required of depository libraries. Legal Requirements & Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program regulation #13, effective January 2012, requires depository libraries to catalog all current tangible depository receipts. Publications received prior to 2012 are not required to be retrospectively cataloged; however, GPO strongly recommends it.

How you catalog the FDLP tangible materials or physical receipts is an individual decision. The conventional option is to add MARC records to your library’s online catalog. Other options such as tracking in a spreadsheet or database are acceptable. These methods of bibliographic access help your community discover the information that you have specifically selected to meet their needs.

Including your library’s depository holdings in OCLC enhances access and facilitates resource sharing. If you use vendor-supplied cataloging records, tailor the record load to your library's item selection profile and check it against actual receipts.

Bibliographic records with attached item records meet both the piece level accounting and cataloging requirements. Libraries have the option to use holdings statements (within the public or staff view) to meet the piece level requirement. Holdings statements should identify any missing issues and show the latest issue received. See the table below for acceptable and unacceptable holdings statements. 


Acceptable holdings statement Unacceptable holdings statement
 A 1.1:1909 – 2015  A 1.1:1909 – present
A 1.1:1909-1935, 1940-2011 A 1.1:1909-2011, some years missing
A 1.2:AC 1; AC 1/2002; C 32 A 1.2:AC 1 - C 32

An alternative for serial receipts, libraries may use a serial bibliographic catalog record and maintain the piece level accounting in a separate detailed shelflist.

The cataloging regulation has flexibility built into it for libraries to adapt to their local circumstances. GPO's goal for this regulation is for your library to make depository materials more visible and accessible to the public. Please contact GPO if your library has questions about alternatives to a standard MARC records in an online catalog.

Catalog Requirement for Digital Depository Materials

You are not required to catalog online only or (EL) material, but are strongly encouraged to do so. Some libraries choose to provide access to this material through a LibGuide or other finding aids. For more information about digital depository collections see the All or Mostly Online Federal Depository Libraries guidance article.

Sources of Catalog Records

There are several ways to acquire catalog records; most of these options are available at no cost to the library.

  • FDLP Data Manager (FDM) is a tool that combines List of Classes information, selection profile information, and GPO-created MARC catalog records. Depository libraries may freely download catalog records in .mrc format. Filters are available to limit record sets, including limiting records to those that match the library’s current item selection profile.
  • The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) can email up to 20 catalog records per email at no cost to the library. Libraries may select from various email formats, including MARC format. Another option is to use Z39.50 through the CGP if your library catalog is Z39.50 compliant. Users can import up to 10,000 catalog records per session at no cost to the library. See the Z39.50 FAQ Instructions.
  • OCLC is available for copy cataloging for a fee.
  • Cataloging Record Distribution Project - Libraries can acquire bibliographic records that match a profile in a batch load; this project is a partnership between GPO and MARCIVE, Inc. This streamlined method of getting records in a monthly record load requires registering during the annual open period. It is available at no cost to the library.
  • Libraries may also purchase bibliographic records from commercial bibliographic record vendors.

In addition to the above list, some libraries conduct original cataloging for depository publications.

Catalog Record Considerations

Library staff members that acquire and add new materials to the government information collection must be well informed about the following policy considerations:

  • the nature of the catalog records being acquired
  • the timeline of the cataloging process
  • decisions regarding which materials receive or do not receive cataloging treatment

Staff should be familiar with any local or historic considerations as these factors may impact the staff's decisions about the development of their collection.

The source of a catalog record will determine the level of completeness of the record, the format(s) included in the record, and other technical considerations. GPO follows a separate catalog record policy, which means that GPO creates catalog records for each format of a government publication. GPO’s catalog record for the paper format will not have a PURL to the electronic format. Library staff members who wish to catalog both formats will need to copy catalog both versions of the publication, with the PURL in the 856 field in the online version record only. For more information on cataloging at GPO, please view the cataloging guidelines. (Please note: catalog records created before 2008 were created based on single record approach. While some records have been updated based on the separate record approach, others with correct bibliographic metadata have not been updated).

Discovery of Digital Resources and (EL) Item Numbers

You can use FDLP Data Manager (FDM)  or the New Electronic Titles List (NET) to review digital resources recently cataloged by GPO. Some library staff members refer to the (EL) item numbers in their item selection profile to help discover or identify appropriate digital resources. You can also use the online or (EL) format item numbers in your item selection profile to facilitate receiving catalog records from a vendor. Please note, online only or (EL) item numbers can be quickly identified in the List of Classes Online Only Items downloadable file.

Changes to Catalog Records

GPO notifies libraries of changes or corrections to FDLP distributed material via the WEBTech Notes application. WEBTech Notes provides the most recent changes to the List of Classes and lets you correct call numbers, item numbers, add information to catalog records about publications ceasing or changing, and related technical issues.

Commercially Produced/Secondary Resources

Consider acquiring or providing access to appropriate commercial/secondary resources such as databases and indexes. These resources will support bibliographic access to and use of the Federal Government information products.