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Celebrating 60 years in the Federal Depository Library Program

Myrin Library at Ursinus College is celebrating 60 years in the Federal Depository Library Program!

Myrin Library was designated a selective federal depository library for the 13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania (now 4th Congressional District) on October 7, 1963, and started acquiring federal documents free of charge, published by the Government Printing Office, now known as the Government Publishing Office (GPO). The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was established by Congress in 1813 to ensure public access to Government information in depository libraries throughout the United States of America and its territories. It has been administered by the GPO since 1895. There are currently over 1,100 designated federal depository libraries. Pennsylvania has 43 selective federal depository libraries, including Myrin Library, and they are overseen by one regional federal depository library, the State Library of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. Federal depository libraries collect government documents free of charge, and are governed by rules and regulations, specifically by United States Code, 2018 ed., Supplement 3: Title 44, Chapter 19, “Public Printing and Documents”. These rules and regulations state how the government documents in federal depository libraries are processed, maintained, promoted, retained, and withdrawn. Federal Depository Libraries must submit completed surveys about the depository’s condition every two years, provide public access and expert assistance to the publications, promote the federal depository library’s collection, and undergo a public access assessment on its conditions by the Federal Depository Library Program outreach staff every ten years. Myrin Library’s selection rate of federal government documents has fluctuated over time. At one point in the 2000’s, Myrin Library had a selection rate of 19%. Today the selection rate of materials is less than 2%.

The Federal Depository Library Program is moving towards a digital future, and at this point, over 95% of the Government Publishing Office’s publications can be found online. Government information from the three branches of the United States federal government is found at GovInfo and via the GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications. Links to these sources as well as other online government information websites are found on Myrin Library’s Libguide: U.S. Government Information. In 2022, a GPO-directed Task Force produced recommendations for transitioning the Federal Depository Library Program into a digital one, and these recommendations were broadly adopted by the GPO’s Director, Hugh Nathanial Halpern, on February 7, 2023.

The current display at Myrin Library in the lobby on the main level features samples of print federal government publications that have been collected over the past 60 years. The Statistical Abstract of the United States was a popular serial collected at the time that Myrin Library became a federal depository library, and apparently this serial propelled the librarians’ interests in joining the federal depository library program in 1963. Other important serials and sets that have been collected over time include: United States Code, United States Reports, Foreign Relations of the United States and Public Papers of the Presidents. For the most part, federal government publications collected by Myrin Library support social science and science disciplines, especially: business, economics, education, environmental sciences, geology, international relations, and politics, but publications of local and historical interest plus other humanities subjects have been acquired as well. Myrin Library has kept popular print government publication serials and sets on its shelves for numerous years but have withdrawn other publications after a mandate of 5 years retention due to their becoming superseded by authentic, online versions, or becoming outdated. Currently Myrin Library has an estimated 5,000 volumes of print government publications that are part of the federal depository library program, and they are in Myrin Library’s OneSearch system by typing “GOVDOC” in the keyword search box and then selecting the filter “Ursinus College Myrin Library”. In the past, Myrin Library had also collected documents from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but stopped receiving routine distributions during the 2010’s.

Myrin Library’s U.S. Government Information Libguide can be consulted for finding online government information from the United States Federal Government, federal government agencies, and Pennsylvania State information. Contact Kerry Gibson, Collection Management Librarian and Federal Depository Library Coordinator for finding government information in the library building as well as online. The exhibit, “Celebrating 60 years of the Federal Depository Library Program” is on display in Myrin Library from October 9-October 20, 2023.

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Kerry Gibson, Collection Management Librarian,
Myrin Library, kgibson@ursinus.edu

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