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Government Documents: Finding Government Documents

MSUB Library's Government Documents Collection

The MSU Billings Library has been a selective depository library in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) since 1958.  The collection provides access to government information in print, electronic, and microform formats.  The MSU Billings Library is also a State of Montana Depository Library.  The collection includes governments information at national, regional, state, county, and city levels.


There are a number of libraries in Montana that are a part of the Federal Depository Library Program.  A listing of these participating libraries can be found at Federal Depository Libraries.


The Government Information Research Guide at the University of Montana and the Government Documents Research Guide at Montana State University also contain a lot of helpful information and links.

Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) Classification System

While most items in the Library's collection use the Library of Congress Classification system, government document use the SuDoc Classification System.  You can find details of that system here: Superintendent of Documents Classification Scheme.  If you have any questions about finding government documents, please ask for help at the Ask Here desk on the second floor.

Governments Documents are Also Shelved by Congress

In addition to the SuDoc classification scheme many of the hearing, sessions, and reports of congress are organized by congressional sessions.  You can find information about the numbering of congressional sessions at the United States Senate.

How to read SuDoc Call Numbers

Washington State University has created a guide on how to read SuDoc call numbers and what they look like on the shelf.  Take a look at their How to Read Call Numbers guide for further information.

Why are government documents in so many formats?

GPO's entire history has been one of continuous adaptation to technological change. In the early years, this focused on the production side of the house with vast improvements to press efficiency and bindery capabilities and the introduction of typesetting machines in 1904 which rapidly transformed GPO to a fully industrial print shop.


Technology began to play a transformative role in dissemination in the mid-20th century when, alongside the expanding scope of the program, discussions began about the conversion of printed documents to microform.  Funds began to be authorized in the 1970s, and by the mid-1980s, many depository libraries saw a considerable percentage of their annual receipts in microfiche.


The first electronic publications included in the FDLP were Census Bureau publications issued on CD-ROM starting in 1989.  The digital publications derived from the printing files were made available on GPO Access and were joined in the next few years by a wide variety of publications from other agencies.


As GPO developed its ability to disseminate Government information online, the Superintendent of Documents sought methods to provide more and better access electronically.  In 2003, GPO implemented an online public access catalog (OPAC).  In January 2009, GPO unveiled its second generation of online information access, replacing GPO Access with its Federal Digital System (FDsys).  In 2018, FDsys made way for govinfo, with improved searching and expanded offerings including a wide variety of digitized historical publications available in searchable electronic form.


Today, the FDLP continues to coordinate distribution of tangible Government documents to the nearly 1,150 Federal depository libraries across the U.S. and its territories; provide high-quality searching, access, and retrieval to a wide variety of online information; and provide bibliographic control for all Government information within its statutory scope. With state-of-the-art systems, GPO is making a wider array of current information than ever freely accessible and is working to digitize retrospective Federal documents from across the Government.


The FDLP will continue to support its depository libraries in meeting new challenges to provide expert assistance, broad access to collections of both tangible and digital documents, and innovative solutions for preserving access to Government information into the future.