Services and Staffing at Depository Libraries

  • Last Updated: May 03, 2023
  • Published: October 15, 2012

In 2020, restrictions on physical access were allowed to address concerns about access to library resources during the COVID-19 lockdown. GPO recognized that libraries needed flexibility in access to their libraries and collections as local health guidelines were implemented and changed during the pandemic.

Since many restrictions on gatherings and building access have been lifted, temporary restrictions on physical access permitted during COVID-19 can be phased out. Please see the revised letter of January 10, 2023 here.

Expertise of library staff is key to the provision of good services.

Comparability of Access for Different User Groups

Library users will find experienced staff to assist with use of depository related material. Comparable reference and research services—in terms of hours of service, degree of assistance, and professional expertise of staff—must be extended to all. Library policies, practices, signage, and online information must reflect comparability or indicate exceptions for depository users. For example:

  • Libraries with networked printers must provide all users the ability to print or provide mediated printing. Costs associated with printing must be consistent for all patrons.
  • If the library has public service hours outside normal business hours, some weekend or evening hours should be available for depository users.
  • If your library requires patrons to log on to computers, signage or screen savers should advertise how those without login credentials may use computers.

Although not ideal, mediated access can serve as a workaround.

Please note: comparability does not extend to non-depository material, unless it has been substituted for depository material.

Circulation of Materials

Circulation of depository resources is not required. You do not have to lend depository resources to non-primary users who do not have borrowing privileges, unless you cannot provide access to depository materials in any other way. If you cannot install or run CDs or DVDs on library computers, then the library must allow for circulation of the material or provide another way for patrons to access the needed content.

It is important to inform depository users about any varying borrowing privileges through posted signage and online information.

Depository Staffing

The director of the library is responsible for ensuring that the depository operations abide by the legal and program requirements of the FDLP. This includes ensuring that all library employees are aware of the free, public access requirements of Federal depository libraries

One individual serves as the Federal depository library coordinator, who is the point of contact with GPO and is listed in the Federal Depository Library Directory. If the position is vacant within your library, an interim coordinator should be named.

Depository responsibilities are often shared between technical and public services staff. Professional, technical, or paraprofessional help should be sufficient to support the depository operation.

Expertise of Library Staff

Public services staff must be knowledgeable of the Federal depository services at your library and be prepared to provide basic reference assistance and publication retrieval. Guidance on the use of depository resources and access to relevant available secondary resources (indexes, databases, search engines, and other reference resources) is helpful.

Subject specialists in other areas within the library beyond U.S. Government information should assist patrons to the best of their knowledge and abilities.

If a patron’s information needs cannot be fulfilled with resources from the library’s depository collection or assistance by library staff, a referral to another library or to Government Information Online (GIO) is acceptable.

To develop appropriate expertise, a library should provide training and continuing education for all staff involved in depository operations. Cross training of staff should also take place to ensure depository operations continue without interruption in the absence of regular staff members. GPO training for government information and depository management can be found at FDLP Academy. Training is also available through local, state, and national government information groups, for example ALA GODORT. Other resources include electronic discussion groups, for example GOVDOC-L, DOCTECH-L, MAPS-L, LAWLIB-L, social media, etc.

Depository expertise includes an understanding of the Federal depository libraries in your region. Network with your colleagues at neighboring depositories to learn about subject strengths in their collections and to develop any cooperative efforts.  This will enhance your outreach to current and potential library users as well as save your library’s time and resources. Your regional depository library is a key source for collections, reference, and other services within your state or region.

Services in Libraries with Access Restrictions

Some depository libraries are located where physical access is limited. This typically includes libraries in Federal agencies, courts, and military bases.

Because facility access restrictions in such facilities are beyond the control of your library and physical access to your library building is not always convenient for depository users, library staff have latitude in providing access. Keep in mind that your depository must still provide for physical and electronic access to depository materials by the general public.

Work with your parent institution’s security office to make acceptable arrangements to ensure that public access to depository materials is met to the best of your organization’s ability. 

Access policies may suggest that library users make arrangements in advance before they visit the library. Through this contact, you may:

  • Explain the admission proces
  • Perform a reference interview to determine that your library has what the patron needs
  • Explain a requirement to show identification or have an escort within the facility, including the library
  • Advise a patron in need of immediate information where he or she may gain access to needed resources at other depositories

Your library must continue to assist depository patrons when you need to temporarily deny physical access to your library building because of security issues. You can use phone, email, fax, or other virtual means to provide this assistance. Scanning and electronic delivery of resources, resource sharing, or referrals to another nearby depository library where access is more readily available are all options.

Share any access limitations with your regional depository library and other depositories in the region to facilitate appropriate referrals.  Despite these limitations you are an important part of the FDL network.