About the Federal Documents Collection

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Northwestern University Library (NUL) has been a depository for U.S. government publications since May 26, 1876, thanks to designation by U.S. Senator John A. Logan — who represented Illinois at that time. The Library is a selective depository and currently receives about 75 percent of the items distributed by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) through its Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) that is administered by the Director of the Government Publishing Office.

This large selective depository library is served by the state's regional depository library at the Illinois State Library in Springfield. The State Library receives all publications distributed through the FDLP. It is also possible to purchase government publications through the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

Most materials received by NUL through this program are in the Library's Government and Geographic Information and Data Services. In addition to having depository resources, the Library also purchases privately produced online and hard copy materials that support government information identification and retrieval. Collection materials are available in various formats including monographs, maps, periodicals, pamphlets, CD-ROM, and microfiche. An increasing amount of government information, especially current or recent documents, is accessible online.

This diverse, broad and deep collection is intended to help fulfill the research, information, and curricular needs of the general public with priority going to the Northwestern University community. The collection contains:

  • Historical materials dated before NUL became a depository library, as well as contemporary materials added almost daily.
  • Information on virtually every topic of almost every type.
  • Publications that provide information and statistics about the government and its activities such as federal laws and regulations, official reports and annual reports of the U.S. government.
  • Educational and general interest materials on topics like civil rights, small businesses, the population, the economy, health, education and women.
  • Information about U.S. government services.
  • Materials produced by various federal agencies, departments and units. In fact, most agencies, past and present, are represented in the collection. These include the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Labor, and War, the U.S. Congress, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Social Security Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Civil Rights Commission.