University of Wisconsin - Madison

About U.S. Government Publications
at Memorial Library

Table of Contents

What are government publications?

Government publications are books, journals, pamphlets, reports, and other documents issued by government agencies for the general public. These publications (also called government documents) are produced in a variety of formats, including paper, microfiche, CD-ROM, Internet sites, and audiovisual materials.

The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)   FDLP logo

Memorial has participated in the Federal Depository Library Program since 1939. This program, administered by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), provides free federal government publications to depository libraries in exchange for the library's commitment to making the publications available to the public. As a selective depository, Memorial houses just some of the available depository titles.

Regional federal depository libraries accept all depository titles. The Wisconsin Historical Society Library was a regional depository until October 1, 2002, at which time Memorial Library took over as the regional depository. Almost all depository titles can be found somewhere on the UW-Madison campus.

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U.S. government publications collected by Memorial Library

By subject area

Many libraries on campus house some government publications. Memorial Library acquires publications in the broad areas of humanities and social sciences. More specifically, Memorial selects U.S. publications in the following areas:
  • area studies
  • demographics
  • economics
  • education--higher education, educational policy and administration
  • international relations
  • international trade
  • library science
  • political science
  • public administration
  • social policy
  • sociology

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By federal agency

Many of the U.S. publications that Memorial collects are published by the following agencies:

  • Dept of Commerce, especially:
    • Census Bureau
    • Economic Development Admin
    • Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • Dept of Defense
  • Dept of Education, especially:
    • National Center for Education Statistics
    • Office of Educational Research and Improvement
  • Dept of Health & Human Services
  • Inter-American Foundation
  • Department of the Interior, especially:
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs
    • National Park Service
  • Department of Labor, especially:
    • Bureau of Labor Statistics
    • Occupational Safety & Health Admin
  • Library of Congress
  • President of the United States
  • Dept of State
  • U.S. Institute of Peace

These are the agencies Memorial collects from most heavily. However, Memorial receives smaller numbers of government publications from many other federal agencies.

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Finding U.S. government publications at Memorial Library

Finding government information means:

  1. Identifying which publication is needed; and
  2. Locating a particular publication on campus or on the Internet. (Some government publications may not be available either on campus or on the Internet!)

The tools listed below are the primary tools used for identifying and locating U.S. publications at Memorial Library. Some tools perform only one function; others perform multiple functions.

red line

Main tools for finding U.S. government publications

Kinds of tools
Identifying tools

magnifying glass

Use to find the title, author, publisher, year published, or SuDocs number for a government publication on a specific subject, with a specific title, etc.
Identifying tools will NOT tell you where on campus to find a print copy of a publication.
Locating tools


Use to find a particular document on campus. Some government publications may not be available on campus.
Locating tools WILL tell you where on campus to find a print copy of a publication.
Tools with web links/addresses

World Wide Web icon

Use to find government information on the World Wide Web. Provides either a web link or web address. Some government publications may not be available via the web.
Tools containing some
full-text documents


Contain some full text documents. Documents may be in HTML, PDF, plain text, or other formats.

More information on the tools listed below and other tools can be found at Tools for Finding U.S. Government Publications.

  1. MadCat   identifying tool   locating tool   contains web links or addresses
    UW Madison's online library catalog can be used to identify and locate most U.S. government publications at Memorial Library. MadCat also has links to important resources on the Internet. See MadCat Help for assistance using MadCat.

  2. GPO Monthy Catalog of U.S. Government Publications   identifying tool   contains web links or addresses
    The GPO Monthly Catalog, also known as MOCAT, indexes publications of the United States Federal Government. This index is published in three different versions. Each version offers different dates of coverage. See GPO Monthy Catalog of U.S. Government Publications from the Tools for Finding U.S. Government Publications web page for details on each of the three versions. Once you have the information about the publication, you need to check MadCat to see if the publication is on campus.

  3. GPO Access   identifying tool     contains web links or addresses   contains full-text documents
    This federal government site provides Web access to more than 70 full-text databases published by the United States government.

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Where Memorial's U.S. government publications are located

U.S. publications are found throughout Memorial Library. Location information for specific publications are provided in MadCat, the library online catalog. To locate a specific publication, you will need the Location, Call Number and Status information from the online catalog screen.

This list explains some of the locations that appear in MadCat. If you have any problems locating an item, please ask a librarian for help.

Regular Stacks

Most of Memorial's government publications are located in the regular stacks, shelved with other materials. Government publications in the regular stacks generally can be checked out.
Guides to the regular stacks are:

Reference Department
(Room 262)

Publications shelved here tend to be items that are frequently used or are of a ready-reference nature. Often, a current edition will be located in the Reference Department, while older editions will be in the regular stacks. Items in the Reference Dept cannot be checked out. Within the Reference Dept, there are several locations, including:
Reference CD-ROM Station Rm 262
Located behind the Reference Desk. Contains CD-ROMs and floppy disks. The room also has several computer workstations available for using the electronic media.
Reference Stacks
Book stacks next to the Reference Room. Contain current editions of almanacs, directories, encylopedias, handbooks, indexes, and other books.
Memorial Library Documents (far end of 2M South Stacks)
Memorial's small collection of documents shelved by SuDocs number (non-current reference books are also on 2M South, as are some publications from other governments).

Media Center (Room 443)

Houses most of Memorial's U.S. government publications that are published in microfiche.

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Borrowing U.S. government publications

Many of the government publications in Memorial Library may be checked out at the Circulation Desk by presenting a current UW-Madison I.D. However, some government publications are "non-circulating," which means they must be used in the library building, and may not be checked out.

In general,

Document located in... Can you check it out?
Regular Stacks Yes
Reference Dept.
(Ref. Stacks/Room/Desk)
Memorial Library Documents
(2M South Stacks)
Some can be checked out,
at the Reference Desk. Short publications and pamphlets generally cannot checked out.

Don't have a UW-Madison ID? You can still use Memorial's U.S. government publications. Also, you may be able to check out government publications if...

For more information on borrowing materials from Memorial Library, see Memorial's Borrowing Information page, at

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Hours and services

Government publications are available during Memorial Library's regular hours.

Reference assistance

Assistance with government publications is available at the Reference Desk, Rm 262, during Reference Desk hours. Hours may vary during holidays and intersessions.

In-depth reference assistance with government publications is usually available at the Reference Desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. If possible, please make an appointment with the government documents reference librarian, Beth Harper, by calling (608) 262-9852 or emailing Beth.


Faculty and instructional staff on the UW-Madison campus may arrange course-related instruction for their students on government publications related to a particular discipline or class project. To arrange for government publications instructional sessions in Memorial Library, call Beth Harper at (608) 262-9852 or send an email to Beth.

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Contact information

To arrange an appointment for in-depth reference assistance, or to arrange for course-related instruction in government documents in Memorial Library, please contact:
Beth Harper
Government Publications Reference Librarian
(608) 262-9852
Email link

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U.S. government publications at other UW-Madison libraries

Checking MadCat, the UW-Madison Libraries' online catalog, is always the first step in locating a particular government publication on campus. Memorial Library is one of many libraries on campus that have U.S. publications.

Other Federal Depository Libraries on campus include:

In addition, the following libraries contain large government publications collections. Please see each library for extensive assistance in identifying, locating and using materials.

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U.S. Government Publications at Memorial Library | Government Documents at Memorial Library |
Memorial Library Home Page | UW-Madison Libraries

Page created 11/15/99; last updated 7/6/07.

Created by:
Beth Harper & Willa Kowalski
Maintained by:
Beth Harper
Government Documents Reference Librarian
276 Memorial Library
728 State St, Madison, WI 53706
(608) 262-9852