DEFINITION of Federal Depository Libraries

Federal Depository Libraries through the United States and its territories where federal publications and other information products are made available for free public use. In addition to the publications, trained librarians are available to assist in their use. Columbia University, for example, has been a depository for U.S. Federal documents since 1882, and is a microfiche depository for New York State documents, 1983-1994.

BREAKING DOWN Federal Depository Libraries

The United States Government puts out mountains of documents and is the largest publisher in the world. It distributes materials in a variety of formats, including electronic, CD, microfiche, and paper. As part of its publishing program, the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) distributes certain classes of Government documents free of cost to designated libraries throughout the United States and its territories. These libraries are known as Federal depository libraries.

Federal Libraries

Federal depository libraries must offer free, public access to their Federal collections, even if the depository library is part of a private academic institution, according to the FLDP.  In addition, information specialists are available at these libraries to assist the public to locate Federal information.

Like the rest of the world, these libraries are moving to all-digital storage of information.  In August of 2014, GPO revised the rules so that FDLP selective depository libraries joining the FDLP can create a depository collection that is entirely comprised of online resources. Current selective libraries who have tangible publications in their collection may utilize established selection profile and weeding processes to shift to a more online focus within five years.

The core collection of these libraries includes the Budget of the United States Government, the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Congressional Directory, the daily Congressional Record, the daily Federal Register, the Statistical Abstract of the United States and the United States Code.

Together, these publications amount to a staggering amount of information. The Federal Register alone contains 780,349 documents just since 1994. In 2017, it published 61,950 pages of material including 3,281 rules, which was actually a 35% decrease from the previous year. The Register contains proposed new rules and regulations, final rules, changes to existing rules, notices of meetings and proceedings, presidential documents including Executive orders, proclamations and administrative orders.

The library contains the Congressional Record, first published in 1873, which chronicles the proceedings of the House and Senate. A single days issuance could be a few pages to hundreds of pages with multiple parts but In the past decade the range has been 15,000 to 30,000 pages per congressional session.