Join the FDLP as a mostly online selective depository library

  • Last Updated: May 04, 2023
  • Published: January 20, 2022

What does it mean to be a mostly online selective depository?

A mostly online depository is a selective depository library that emphasizes selection of and/or provision of access to online depository resources. They only select a few Federal depository resources in tangible (print, microfiche, CD/DVD, maps, etc.) formats.

Designation Information

Libraries wishing to join the Federal Depository Library Program as a mostly online depository will have to meet certain criteria:

  • The entire library collection must have minimum of 10,000 books. The count includes archival documents, technical reports, grey literature, microforms, and each individual issue of serial and periodical sets.
  • The library must be able and committed to provide free public access and service on site. This includes the ability to use computers to access online Federal resources and the capability to print those resources.
  • Libraries must comply with the Legal Requirement and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program.
  • Libraries must make their collection visible, using methods such as cataloging or online subject guides.

Federal Depository Library designation categories:

  • Congressional
    • Each member of Congress may designate up to two qualified libraries
      • Senator – in their state, if a vacancy exists for the Senator’s class
      • Representative – within their Congressional district if a vacancy exists
  • By-Law, special provisions of Title 44, United States Code
    • The Public Printer of the United States may designate:
      • Land-grant colleges and universities
      • The Highest Appellate Court of the state
      • Accredited law schools
      • State libraries
    • The Superintendent of Documents may designate:
      • Federal agencies
      • Military service academies

Public Services Requirements

Depositories that no longer receive tangibles are still expected to meet public service requirements of the FDLP. The following requirements should be addressed:

  • Access - bibliographic, physical building, onsite computer and Internet
  • Equipment – public access to computers, sufficient computers, stable Internet service, printers, ability to download files to external storage devices
  • Reference services, professional assistance, staff time
  • Promotion / Visibility
  • Access to electronic FDLP collections
  • Access to the FDLP Basic Collection
  • Indication of depository status on library Web site – FDLP emblem, statutory language, or other

Post Designation Work – Getting Started

There are several steps a library will go through after completing the designation process to become a new member of the Federal Depository Library Program. This list summarizes some of the resources and tools available for FDLP libraries, and some initial steps and considerations for libraries new to the program.

  • GPO assigns a library number and issues a depository password. These credentials will be used to access the tools provided to depository libraries.
  • Directory listing in the Federal Depository Library Directory (FDLD): Depository libraries must keep their directory listing current. Coordinators use the credentials provided to log into this system. The directory can also be used to look up nearby depositories, the regional library, or other libraries in the FDLP network.
  • Selective libraries are introduced to the regional depository coordinator in their state or region. The regional coordinator will contact the library separately to discuss weeding policies, access to withdrawal or needs and offers lists, and other depository resources available in the state or region.
  • Access to This website is a resource for all depository coordinators. The site provides links to tools, requirements and guidance, and instruction. Depository libraries are given accounts to log into the system for ordering promotional material. Promotional material can be requested free of charge by any depository library.
  • Depository Selection Information Management System (DSIMS): This tool is the system libraries use to create their selection profile. See this article on the Amending Your Library’s Selection Profile for more information.
    • Libraries will be provided with a DSIMS account, along with instructions on how to use DSIMS as well as how to access the List of Classes.
  • Online materials are not distributed, and there is no requirement for libraries to select the item numbers for them. Creating a selection profile for online item numbers is not a requirement for all online depositories. However, the article Amending Your Library’s Selection Profile provides a list of reasons why it is beneficial to develop an item selection profile even when a library intends to receive no tangible depository material.
  • Provide access to electronic and tangible collections: The depository coordinator will be expected to make informed decisions about what Federal resources would be of value to the community served by the library. Mostly online depositories must provide physical access to tangible material to all users, as well as make electronic Federal information available through either cataloging or creating web resource guides. Access to the FDLP Basic Collection is a requirement for all depositories. All depository libraries must include the FDLP emblem or statutory language, or otherwise indicate depository status on their library Web site and the entrances to their physical location. Libraries that choose to receive tangible depository material must retain and provide access to that material following FDLP regulations as well as the policies set by the regional depository coordinator in the state or region.

Envisioning the Future Collection

Before getting started building an online collection, your library staff will benefit from brainstorming what the future collection will look like. This will ensure that the process proceeds smoothly, and provides access to users in a usable, comprehensive, and accessible manner.

Staff in various units may be involved in the following:

  • Determine what information the library will choose to receive in tangible or online formats and how the library will provide bibliographic access, physical access, and online access to those resources.
  • Identify staff that work with the depository operations and train them on the processes to be followed.
  • Discuss how the resources will be made available and visible to users: cataloging, online resource guides/Web pages, etc. Some questions to consider:
    • Who are the staff that will be involved, what new workflows will be involved, and so on?
    • Will the process be automated through vendor record services?
    • Will a subject specialist review New Electronic Titles on a monthly basis for resources to copy catalog?
    • Will the library’s item selection profile include online (EL) item numbers, or will the strategy employed to identify, incorporate, and maintain online resources in the collection not require selection of online item numbers?
  • What resources are needed for researchers to use the resources? What computer equipment, network access, facilities, and assistance will be needed?
  • What policies will need to be updated to reflect the addition of new depository material being selected? Collection Development Policy? Public Access policy?

Choosing How to Create an Online Collection

Libraries have options for how they decide to provide access to online Federal resources, and each option has benefits. It is up to the library to determine the best method for providing visibility and access to resources to its patrons. Libraries may choose to create an item selection profile to use in tandem with vendor services, copy catalog records from OCLC or the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, or create online resources guides using LibGuides or other content management systems.

For Libraries Working with Their Selection Profile

Libraries who choose to receive any tangible publications through the depository program must develop an item selection profile. Creating an item selection profile for online depository publications is encouraged. Careful planning and periodic review will ensure the collection is developed as needed. The development of an online and tangible collection is a continuous process requiring commitment and attention. See the articles Item Number System and Amending Your Library’s Item Selection Profile for more information.

Processing and Maintaining New Tangible Receipts

  • Tangible depository receipts should be processed, cataloged, and made available for public access and reference in a timely manner. Remember that these publications are Federal property.
  • The tangible collection must have bibliographic control. Usually this is done through an online catalog. Some libraries use an in-house inventory or database.
  • Consider what staff time will be needed for the processing, cataloging, and maintenance of depository materials.
    • Which staff will perform the duties?
    • How will staff training and cross-training be provided?
    • Will student workers contribute?
  • Review where all the tangible depository publications are housed.
    • If a Selective Housing Agreement (SHA) is or will be in place, where will the materials be processed and/or how will they be transferred?
    • If the collection is or will be housed in closed stacks or in an offsite storage facilities, the publications must all be cataloged or information about the publications housed there must be described in detail for free public access.
  • Document processing procedures and workflows.
  • Regularly review the item selection profile and adjust as needed. Review new item numbers through WebTech Notes.
  • Create a collection development plan or policy, including a community profile, and update regularly.
  • Analyze collection use.

Maintaining the Collection

After creating your item selection profile, ongoing maintenance will be necessary to fully develop the collection.

  • If applicable, update the library’s catalog record profile with a bibliographic record vendor so the records received reflect the library’s selection profile.
  • Review WEBTech Notes for new item numbers and add appropriate item numbers to your selection profile.
  • Reevaluate workflow processes with staff to assess if adjustments need to be made.
  • Follow the guidelines for supersession, substitution and weeding to keep your collection clean and current.
  • Evaluate statistics needed to gauge online resource usage, and how to best gather such data.
  • Keep online resources linked to and/or cataloged up-to-date.
  • Conduct outreach or promotion with subject specialists and other interested parties to inform them of the availability of resources, how to find them, where to get help in using them, etc.
  • Assess training needs of staff who use or teach online resources. Where, through who, and when is training available?
  • Maintain the visibility of the online resources, periodically posting on library social media, etc.


Each selective depository library should evaluate its own goals, institutional mission and strategic values, and user communities to determine what materials to select or make accessible through the FDLP, and determine how to make the selected resources available. There are many ways to reach the same goal, which is to provide free, public access to Federal information to all users.

It may also be helpful to view the short webcast, Joining the FDLP as an All Online or Mostly Online Selective Depository Library.

Contact GPO for Assistance

At any time, remember that you can contact LSCM’s Office of Outreach & Support for consultation or assistance.

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U.S. Government Publishing Office
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