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Government Information

Guide for Current Government Information and Publications

Federal Government Repository Information at UWM Libraries

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About the Collection

The UWM Libraries is a 69% (2018) selective U.S. Federal Depository Library. Federal government resources are received in various formats, including online, paper, microformat, DVD and CD-ROM.  Resources are housed in various locations in the Golda Meir Library building and online, depending on format and subject, primarily cataloged within the Library of Congress classification system and all searchable through Search@UW. Links are also provided in the online catalog to important resources on the Internet.

The Library is also designated a partial depository for State of Wisconsin publications. All Wisconsin publications held by the Library are searchable through Search@UW, with physical items housed in the general collection. The Wisconsin Digital Archives includes Wisconsin resources online.

Collection Development Policy

Academic Program Support

Government information collections are administered by Research Services at the UWM Libraries, and provide access as needed by the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee community. The collection supports the curriculum and research in all areas, from the undergraduate level to the doctoral level and faculty research.

Access and service to the community and public is required by law (44 U.S. Code). The information needs of the community can range from basic reference requests to complex research assistance. The UWM Libraries is a selective federal depository library within the area served by the regional depository, the Milwaukee Public Library-Central. The collection is maintained in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Government Publishing Office's "Instructions to Depository Libraries." All documents are clearly marked with the depository stamp, date of processing, and records include the Superintendent of Documents classification code.

Collection Level

Documents are selected at a comprehensive level from the following U.S. Federal Government agencies: Agriculture Department; Commerce Department, particularly the Census Bureau; Department of Education; Interior Department, particularly the United States Geological Survey; Health and Human Services; and the Justice Department. Publications of other federal government departments are reviewed for suitability using the selection standards listed below.

Collection Profile and Selection Standards

The Government Information Librarian, in consultation with other librarians, is responsible for the selection of all government information resources. Purchases of non-depository government publications are made on the recommendation of the Government Information Librarian and Collection and Resource Management professionals to meet the needs of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee community.

Approximately 60% of the document-categories (aka Item Numbers) available through the Federal Depository Library Program are selected. The percentage of selected documents may change annually due to decisions to add or deselect documents based on the following factors:

  • The changing nature of the UWM's academic mission and programs
  • Historical research purposes
  • Availability of information in other sources
  • Geographic area covered by the material
  • User interest
  • Citizen information

Formats Selected

All government publications are selected in the most appropriate available format, taking into consideration content, user preferences, and library facilities. Formats may include, but are not limited to online/electronic, paper, micro-format, maps, and DVD/CD-ROM. New formats will be accommodated as feasible.

Special De-Selection Criteria

Publications which no longer fit the selection standards are withdrawn from the collection at the discretion of the designated Government Information Librarian as permitted by the U.S. Government Publishing Office's "Instructions to Depository Libraries."

Documents chosen for weeding include:

  • Preliminary reports (if final report has been received)
  • Meeting announcements
  • Newsletters
  • Single sheet items and pamphlets
  • Consumer information pamphlets/guides (except health related guides, unless outdated)
  • Dated/false information
  • Superseded publications

Documents which will be exempt from weeding include:

  • Bibliographies
  • Environmental impact statements, preliminary and final
  • Forest Service publications
  • Any material containing information on Wisconsin, the Great Lakes, or the region around Wisconsin (Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and the Midwest in general.)
  • Any publication that may be of value (present or historical) to any graduate degree program at UWM, particularly items that have actively circulated.


Gifts which meet the selections standards or which will fill gaps in the collection will be added at the discretion of the Government Information Librarian. Gift items which are not added to the collection will be offered to other depository libraries or discarded.

Federal Government Repository FAQ

Federal Government Information

What is government information?
Any publication issued by a governing body, federal or state, or one issued at government expense. U.S. government publications do not have copyright restrictions and therefore can be repackaged or sold by private publishers and individuals.

How many federal government publications are issued?
The United States Government is the largest publisher in the world. Approximately 50,000 titles are issued by the federal government every year. Formats include, paper, CD-ROM, and microfiche. More than 50% of those documents distributed to libraries are also available on the Internet.

Who prints and distributes these publications?
The Government Publishing Office (GPO)

Why use federal government publications?
They provide good primary source material (i.e., Congressional Record)

The information may be very current.

Sometimes they are the best, if not the only, source for that type of information (i.e., Geological Survey Topographic Maps or environmental impact statements)

What type of information do government publications contain?

  • research (information on health, science)
  • statistics (population information, labor)
  • standards (specifications for construction)
  • current events (U.S. policy and foreign relations)
  • laws (laws, rules and regulations governing the citizens and government of the U.S.)
  • presidential speeches and proclamations
  • maps and trail guides of national forests
  • consumer information
  • and much more....

How do I obtain government publications?

  • GPO sales program (purchase)
  • direct from the agency (purchase or gifted)
  • from your Senator or Representative
  • federal depository libraries (borrow)

What are federal depository libraries?
There are two types of federal depositories:

How do I find government publications at the UWM Libraries?
Use the Search@UW discovery service or one of the recommended research databases.