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The following tutorial will teach you about Government Information: What it is and how to find it and why you should use it.

What are Government Documents?

Have you ever used the Occupational Outlook Handbook for a career class? Or perhaps the Uniform Crime Reports for a law/criminal justice class? Have you ever gone to the IRS website to get tax forms or the Census home page to get statistics?

Then you have used a Government Document (or “Gov Doc”).

A “Gov Doc” is the term used to describe any government publication (ether printed or online) issued officially by a government agency. This also includes state and international documents, as well as federal.

Why should you use Government Documents in your reports/papers?

  1. Government Documents are authoritative, official information on hundreds of subjects. Unlike some random websites you might pull up using a web search, the source of the information is clearly defined. This makes such resources more reliable for use in papers and reports.
  2. The online government documents are available 24/7, as long as you have Internet access. This present authoritative information you can access even when the library is closed.
  3. Exercise your right to free government information.
Occupational Outlook 2004-05 Edition

What is a Depository Library?

The Federal Depository Library Program is rooted in an 1813 Congressional resolution to make available copies of the House and Senate Journals in select libraries and institutions outside of government agencies. The program has grown tremendously over the years and is now a network of libraries located throughout the United States and its territories. These libraries are called “Depository Libraries” and ensure free, public access to government publications and associated reference service.

Not every library is large enough to house every available publication. Therefore, each state has a regional library that receives 100% of items published by the United States Government. Other libraries, including the Ocean County College Library, are select depositories and receive only a fraction of available documents.

New Jersey’s Regional Library, is the Newark Public Library. The Ocean County College Library, as a selective depository, aims to receive between 15-20% of available federal documents. [It should be noted that the Ocean County College Library also serves as a full depository for New Jersey state documents, receiving 100% of available state documents.]

What does this mean for the Ocean County College Library?

What does this mean for OCC Library?

The Ocean County College Library was designated a federal depository in 1966, selecting items relevant to the needs of the staff and students of OCC, as well as the members of the third US Congressional District. The Library is proud to continue this mission today.

Since the Library serves as a select depository, government documents may be discarded after 5 years. This allows us to ensure collection relevance and viability. Some documents are kept beyond these 5 years, however, if they contribute to the college’s mission. Some of these older publications may not appear in our online catalog (though we are working steadily to add them to that catalog). Please feel free to contact our reference staff for assistance locating publications.

Collection Development

When making collection development decisions, the designated librarian uses the following documents for guidance:

How to Find Federal Government Documents at OCC Library

There are a variety of ways to find government documents. One way is to use the Online Catalog to locate items within the Ocean County College Library.

1. Use the Catalog

Many relevant Gov Docs are cataloged and placed in the regular collection of the library. Select Gov Docs from the first dropdown menu in the catalog to exclusively search that collection.

2. Use the US Government Publications Catalog

From the GPO catalog, you can search for items not available here at OCC.

3. Understand How the Upstairs Government Documents Area is Arranged

The Gov Docs located upstairs are NOT classified the same way as the other books in the library catalog. These items are arranged according to the Superintendent of Documents classification system (SuDoc).

SuDoc is very different from the Dewey Decimal system, which is how the rest of the library is arranged.

First of all, a SuDoc number begins with a letter or series of letters. Like so:

SuDoc number

Second – SuDoc is NOT a decimal system like Dewey. So the numbering might be a bit different from what you’re used to.

Dewey Example in order SuDoc Example in order
342.34 C 61.34: 987
342.347 C 61.64: 999
342.64 C 61.347: 2000
342.642 C 61.642: 2001

New Jersey Documents have their own separate section upstairs. Unlike the Federal Documents, there is no fancy numbering system for them. Instead, they are divided up by subject words and placed alphabetically according to subject.

New Jersey Documents

4. Finding Government Documents on the Internet

To search only government websites, enter after your search term. This will limit results to information found on official government sites.

Using Government Documents

Can I Check a Government Document Out?

If you are a currently enrolled student, faculty, staff or alumni – then yes. Although you still cannot check out any materials designated as Reference. Members of the public are free to photocopy or take notes from any Government Publication the library owns.

Citing a Government Document in a Bibliography or Works Cited Page

MLA Style Sample

Name of Government. Name of Agency. Title. Place: Publisher, Date.


  • United States. Cong. Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack. Hearings. 79th Cong.,1st and 2nd sess. 32 vols. Washington: GPO, 1946.
  • United States. Department of Labor. Child Carer: A Workforce Issue. Washington: GPO, 1988.

APA Style Sample

Government Institute as group author. (date). Title. Place of publication: Publisher.


  • National Institute of Mental Health. (1990). Clinical training in serious mental illness (DHHS Publication No. ADM 0-1679). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
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Style Manual
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For further information about citing a Government Document check out the Government Printing Office Style Manual which we also have in print in the Reference section, call # 808.02 U586s.

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