Work with all formats

  • Last Updated: January 22, 2024
  • Published: January 20, 2022

This article addresses the considerations for a depository library that works with both tangible and online formats in its historic and current collections.

Creating and Maintaining a Future Depository Collection

Envisioning the Future Depository Collection

Before making changes, your library staff will benefit from brainstorming what the future collection will look like. Future materials may be received in tangible formats, identified as online materials, or both. Brainstorming collection options will ensure that the process proceeds smoothly, as transitioning often involves coordination among various library units.

  • Identify staff that work with the depository selection profile and update them on the processes to be followed.
  • For online materials, discuss how online materials 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 workflows will be involved, what changes are needed?
    • Will the process be automated through vendor record services? Or 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?
  • If applicable, discuss the impact of ceasing titles in tangible formats.
    • Where will referrals for materials not received go?
    • What alternatives are available to provide access to material not available online?
  • What resources are needed for researchers to use online resources? What computer equipment, network access, facilities, and assistance will be needed?
  • What policies will need to be updated to reflect the change in format selection? Collection Development Policy? Public Access policy?
  • For tangible materials, review the same. Identify staffing, method of cataloging, impact of format selection (on users, shelf space, etc.), and what equipment will be needed for future use of material received in tangible formats.
  • How will public services staff be trained to locate and access online publications?
  • Who will maintain and update library subject guides and finding aids?
  • How will you communicate with other libraries and with patrons about the evolving content of the collection?

A well planned depository collection involves appropriate staff working together to figure out what users need and the best strategies for implementation and development. Careful planning and periodic review will ensure the collection is developed as needed. The development of any depository collection, online or otherwise, is a continuous process requiring commitment and attention.

Considerations when Selecting Online (EL) Item Numbers

Online materials are not distributed, and there is no requirement for libraries to select them. However, there are several reasons to consider selecting online (EL) item numbers.

  • Libraries can use online item numbers to facilitate receiving catalog records from a vendor. (Note: This is a requirement of the Cataloging Record Distribution Program)
  • Libraries may compare their selection profile with new online publications and their associated catalog records using the New Electronic Titles List (NET) in the CGP.
  • Libraries that use their item selection profile in a manner that assists them in cataloging or otherwise identifying new online content are strongly encouraged to regularly review new EL item numbers listed in WEBTech Notes and add any that are deemed relevant to their selection profiles.
  • The ability to view selection profiles helps other libraries in the FDLP understand your collection in relation to theirs.
Modifying the Existing Item Selection Profile

After brainstorming with your staff and sketching out what you want your future depository collection to look like by item number, you may opt to adjust your item selection profile accordingly.

  • Examine your current selection profile in Item Lister or the Depository Selection Information Management System (DSIMS).
  • Identify what is on your profile that is tangible (P, MF, DVD, CD, E, not specified), and flag item numbers for deselection
  • Identify dual EL/tangible format item numbers and flag them for deselection
  • Identify what EL item numbers need to be added to your selection profile using the List of Classes.
  • Inform other libraries that may be relying on your receipt and retention of particular titles of the change in formats.
    Log into DSIMS and deselect unwanted item numbers; add desired item numbers.
    *All item number deselections and online (EL) item number additions take effect immediately.
Maintaining the Online Collection

After adjusting your item selection profile, ongoing maintenance will be necessary to fully develop the online collection and ensure the appropriate resources are available, in a manner your patrons find usable, and staff are trained on them.

  • 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.
  • 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.
Processing and Maintaining New Tangible Receipts

Future 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 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 an offsite storage facility, 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.

Evaluating Your Current Tangible Holdings

When moving forward with the development of a depository collection, your library will also need to address the existing tangible holdings in the library. There are 3 options:

  • Keep all tangible depository material
  • Weed portions of the depository collection
  • Weed all of the depository collection

Whatever decision your library makes regarding weeding, you should plan on working through the topics outlined below.

Envisioning the Future of Your Tangible Holdings

To address the existing tangible collection held in your library, here are some questions to consider.

  • Working with subject specialists, identify:
    • What are the projected future needs of the institution? What information resources are critical to the mission of the institution?
    • What are the needs of the state or region?
    • What material needs to remain in a tangible format, if any?
    • For what resources will the online format suffice?
    • What online resources are available (pay close attention to the date range)?
    • If needed material is not available online, what will be done with the tangible format?
    • How ‘official’ does the online resource have to be? For example, GovInfo (fully authenticated on a government site) versus American Presidency (credible content on an academic institution’s Web site whose continuation is not guaranteed)
  • Identify what tangible holdings will be replaced with online resources.
Weeding and Substituting Material (Optional)

Should your library opt to withdraw all or portions of your tangible depository collection, you should:

  • Identify all tangible Federal depository resources in the library’s collections. Review holdings in all potential housing locations, including any selective housing sites and offsite storage facilities.
  • Consult with your regional depository about the general process to be followed.
  • Identify material that has been superseded and remove it from the collection.
  • Per regional instructions:
    • Prepare withdrawal list (for material over 5 years old).
    • Prepare Official Substitution List (for material older than one year), if appropriate.
  • Withdraw material remaining from the above lists after the weeding/discard process is complete and regional approval has been received.
  • Remove holdings from the catalog and/or shelflist as appropriate.
  • Consider offering major withdrawn publications through the FDLP eXchange website.
Maintaining a Historical Tangible Collection

Maintaining a historical tangible collection requires continuing consideration and maintenance, as well as providing access and reference services for the materials.

  • Examine the collection and its usage (analyze formats, subjects, and trends in usage) periodically. If the library is actively collecting depository material to fill in gaps in the collection or to strengthen an area of the collection, this should be reflected in a collection development policy. If cooperative collection development arrangements are in place, they should be documented.
  • The tangible collection must have bibliographic control. This might be an online catalog, an in-house inventory or database, or a shelflist.
  • Questions to consider include:
    • If using an online catalog, is the material identified as depository material for potential future weeding?
    • If using a shelflist, is it updated? How will patrons know of the existence of the shelflist and how to use it?
    • If using an in-house inventory or database, how will patrons know of its existence and how to use it?
    • Is it possible to retrospectively catalog the collection for greater visibility and use?
  • Consider the maintenance of the collection. This might include: preservation practices, shelving and housing options, helpful signage and arrangement, shelf reading, etc.
  • In the future, if you decide to weed the tangible historical collection, most cases require permission from the regional depository library. See the “Weeding and Substituting Material (Optional)” section above.
  • Libraries may have Selective Housing Agreements (SHA) in place or may wish to create them. A SHA is necessary when depository materials are stored in a location outside the purview of the depository library’s director.


Regardless of whether your library opts to retain or weed its older material and whether it opts to work with diverse formats or online formats for new material, the core tenet of participation in the FDLP remains the same – to Keep America Informed. We hope we’ve given you some constructive ways of approaching a major collection and services provision review. At the outset, having a good understanding of the local factors impacting your library operation, and a clear vision and goals for the collection, will help library staff successfully manage to steer the depository collection in its intended direction. Careful planning for the future workload will ensure the collection remains vital and relevant to library users now and in the future.

It may also be helpful to view the short webcast, Moving to a Mostly Online or All Online Depository.

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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