Government Documents Department

B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library
C. W. Post Campus, Long Island University

Instruction to Academic Assistants
Government Documents Interns

by Masako Yukawa

Congratulations!  You have been chosen for an academic assistantship or Library Internship and assigned to work in the Government Documents Department. While you are working in this Department, we hope that you gain not only the benefit of tuition assistance, but also good practical experience in a real library. The experience of working with government documents is a most advantageous one to have when you start looking for a job. Try to gain as much understanding and knowledge as you possibly can in this specialized field.

The following are the general duties and responsibilities of Academic Assistants in the Government Documents Department, and basic tools and sources of information with which you should be familiar.  Test yourself about what you learned when you have finished all the sections below.

     Reference Services       Housekeeping  Shelving/SuDoc classification    Projects  Reading List
   Basic Reference Tools    New York State Docs.    Electronic Source   CD-ROMs      Internet

1.  Reference Services:

Provide service to our users by giving information as requested. In-person requests should be given your first priority, then telephone inquiries. In order to become an efficient information provider, you will be given basic instruction from the librarians. Try to increase your skills in handling government information reference work by examining basic bibliographic tools in print, CD-ROMs, and on-line when you are not busy. Examine basic reference sources which are shelved behind the librarians' desks, frequently used CD-ROMs kept in the drawers near our work-stations, the Department homepage on the web, and many useful Internet web sites that are bookmarked in the web browsers of our workstations.  By doing so, try to understand which sources provides the best information for certain reference inquiries.

2.  Housekeeping of the Department:

In order to run effectively, the Department must be well organized and properly maintained. You cannot efficiently provide information if our resources are not shelved properly.

    a.     Help shelve the books on the book cart when you are not busy.

    b.     Shelve all reference books back to where they belong after you use them. Keep any used documents in order on the book cart. This is especially important for those who work on Saturdays and Sundays. No one on duty can find anything quickly out of chaos.

    c.     Depository shipments of all formats are sent daily from the Government. They must be processed within a day. If you are asked by any of the staff to help process them, please cheerfully do so.

    d.     Keep your eyes on the book stacks, microfiche cabinets, and other equipment. If there is any problem, report it to the librarian right away. This includes shelving space problems.

2.A:  Shelving Instructions and Explanation of Superintendent Documents Classification (SuDoc)

        Unless documents are properly shelved, no matter how good your information search skills are, you can't provide information in a timely manner. The following is a guideline to how federal and state documents are shelved.

    Directions for Shelving:

     1.  No two documents have the same number.

     2.  Each letter stands for the department of the U.S. Government that issues a document.
            (A for Agriculture; C, Commerce; D, Defense; HE, Health and Human Services, etc.)

           SuDoc Number - Superintendent of Documents numbering system:
                For Example:
                a)  C 3.21/2: 28/2
                b)  HE 20.3208: AS 8 /2

      SuDoc Number a) is interpreted as:

         C          3          .21/2:          28      /2
Department of 
  Subordinate units: 
  3=Census Bureau.
 Other nos. are used
  for other units.
  Various  series of publications: 
      Annual Reports, General
      publications, Bulletins,
      Handbooks, etc.
Book number, or
vol. no.
  Issue no.
 or edition

      or b) is interpreted as:

         HE       20.3208:          As          8          /2
     Health and
  Human Services 
    National Heart,
    Lung and Blood
   Title key word
   begins with As
  The place among
  other publications
  with key word As
  Series no. or

     3Numbers always come before letters. HE 20.3208: 270 comes before HE 20.3208: As 8/2.

     4.  Each stack unit has several shelves.  If one shelf is used up, go down to the shelf below.

     5.  Shift books if they don't fit on the shelf. We have a special section in the stack area where
          we keep oversized and minisized documents.

    6.  Documents with the following special markings are shelved:

           REFERENCE- behind the Librarians' desks
           INDEX SHELF - on shelves outside in the study room
           ELECTRONIC- on left side of front computer tables
           RESERVE - on the first shelves before A.

     7.  Put documents on shelf sideways with the number visible.

     8.  If you have any questions about shelving - PLEASE ASK. We would prefer to answer any
          (even silly) question rather than have a document shelved incorrectly.

     9.  Directions are posted for shelving Hearings, on the shelf in Y 4 Section)

   10.  Some documents are accumulated in binders on the shelves. Open up the binders and add
           those documents where they belong within the binder.

   11.  Some documents are superseded and the old copy may be thrown away. Read the note
          inserted in the document and follow the directions.

   12.  If you find an exact duplicate, or another document with exactly same SuDoc number,
          give it to the chief clerk.

   13.  Put all documents on the book cart in SUDOC order before shelving.

3.  Projects:

         We try to assign a project of a professional nature to each one of you, such as processing gift documents. This will provide you with good experience in bibliographic searching strategy, as well as an understanding of bibliographic sources other than the Monthly Catalog (for federal documents), and Checklist (for New York State documents.)  The projects include but are not limited to:

    a.     Updating our old "Quick Reference Sources" file.

    b.     Creating new bibliographies on current "hot" topics for our "Quick Reference" file.

    c.     Helping prepare bibliographies for general distribution.

    d.     Any good project you come up with-- please discuss with us.

Ask the librarians what projects you can undertake. Remember that the project you are working on is not the primary work to do while you are here, but can be worked on when all departmental work is done.

4.  Ask Questions:

Ask as many questions as you like of the librarians if you are not sure how to find information or you are not sure how to handle our basic reference tools. We know that some of the reference tools are a little more difficult to handle than others. Certain subjects, such as foreign trade statistics, legal and legislative questions, and Census queries, for example, need quite a bit of instruction and understanding of governmental structure. Do not hesitate to repeat the same questions more than once. You are here to learn various aspects of a library operation, and we are happy to assist you in every way we can.

5.  Some Basic Textbooks on Government Information:

There are quite a few textbooks published on various levels of government information. Following are some of the basic textbooks you should read so that you can better understand government operations, the depository system, and major information generated from various bodies of the government.

For the Federal Government:  A printed reditions of all the titles below are available in the Department and some of the titles which are not linked but with * may also be on the Internet. Try to find internet version if you please.

        Federal Depository Library Manual (and Supplements). (Periodically revised) Washington, Govt. Print.   Off. (Nov. 1993- )

        Morehead, Joe Introduction to United States Government Information Sources. 5th ed. (or later)  Englewood, Colorado:  Libraries Unlimited, Inc. 1996-

        Robinson, Judith Schiek Tapping the Government Grapevine: the user-friendly Guide to U. S. Government Information Sources. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1988.

       How Our Laws Are Made, Washington, DC:  U. S. Govt. Print. Office, the latest ed.

        *Legislative Procedural Flow. ________.

        *Our American Government.

        The United States Government Manual ________.

For State Government:

        New York State Documents: an Introductory Manual, written and compiled by Dorothy Butch. Albany, NY:  New York State Library, 1987.

        New York State Library: Document Depository Program, edited by Nancy Macomber, et. al.Albany, N,Y: 1989.

        The New York Red Book. New York, NY:  Legal Publishing, Corp., annual.

        Lawmaking and the Legislative Process: Committees, Connections, and Compromises, by Tommy Neal, National Conference of State Legislature.  Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1996.

Style Manual:

        Garner, Diane L. et. al. The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources:  a Manual for Writers & Librarians. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service, Inc., c1993, (or later ed. if available).

6.  Examine Basic Reference Tools:

          Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications. (paper, Internet in
                GPO  Access Monthly Catalog of Publications (MOCAT)  or WebSpirs, etc., and also our  CD-ROM).

        CIS Index/Abstracts. Bethesda, MD:  Congressional Information Service, 1970-

        CIS/Index User Handbook for Librarians and Researchers Using Congressional
                Publications.   ________   latest ed.

        ASI: American Statistics Index.   ________   latest ed.

        User Guide [to] American Statistics Index:  a Comprehensive Guide and Index to the
                Statistical Publications of the U. S. Government   ________   latest ed.

7.  New York State Documents & the Classification System:

New York State has established a state documents depository program since 1950's.  The current program was revised in the 1980's and implemented from 1989. For detail, see:  New York State Library: Document Depository Program
The B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library is a New York State Research Depository Library, one of twenty in the state. Research Depositories received a complete microfiche collection of all documents listed in the Checklist of Official Publications of The State of New York  from 1989 to1995. The Checklist continues to be published in printed format and it is kept on the New York State Reference shelves. The Library also receives paper editions of major reference publications, and the basic bibliographic tools necessary to access the collection

Microfiche editions of the New York State publications ceased with the 1995 products. For the publications starting from 1996 the New York State Library has been digitizing all the New York State publications and making them available on the Web via the Library's home page.  The Library also keeps bibliographic records of New York State publications in Excelsior, their public access catalog that is accessible on the web.  TryNew York State Library Home Page

In spite of the transition from microfiche collection to the virtual library dissemination over the Internet, we still receive a number of serial and monographs in paper. Check our NYS documents catalog.

New York State Documents Classification System:

Both microfiche and paper collections of documents are arranged by the New York State Document Classification scheme. This system is very loosely based on the Federal SuDocs classification. Each department, legislative committee, office, bureau, and division is assigned a 3 letter/3 digit code. The three digit code is followed by a dash and one of 4 numbers: l for annual reports, 2 for hearings, 3 for serials, and 4 for monographs. Reports and hearings receive only a date as the third element in the number. Thus, the Annual Report of the Department of Labor is assigned:


Monographs and serials are assigned a five letter code based on the title:

    The First 3 letters of the first word and the first letter of the second and third words (articles, prepositions, and conjunctions excluded.) Thus, the serial, Labor Area Summary, is designated:


A five digit fourth element, consisting of 2 digits for the year and a sequentially assigned access number, is an internal control number.

      Confused?  Ask lthe ibrarians

8. How to Use Electronic Resources:

More and more government information has been migrating from the traditional formats of publication, such as ink on paper or microfilms,  to electronic disseminatio via compact discs (CDs) and/or the Internet. Many of the major titles are no longer published in tangibnle formats but only on the Internet, such as Current Population Report (series), Current Industrial Report (series), etc. Most of current happenings are posted on the government web sites before they are published in other formats.

8 A.  Compact Discs:

In spite of the current trend to make much information available via the Internet, there are still a good many publications only available in CD-ROM format.  Some of the popular titles of these are kept near the computer workstations and many more are kept in a large cabinet in the back of our office.  Each compact disc operates with different software and we installed software of the most frequently used compact discs on the hard drives of the two staff workstations.  Learn to use major CD-ROMs such as NCJR (Criminal Justice), Census of Population, Economic Census, etc.

8 B.  Electronic Library for Government Information Sources:

The information world is rapidly moving into the electronic age, and over 60% of the information generated by the Federal Government, and 100% of the New York State Government are  migrating into Internet distribution. Anyone who has access to the Internet can access government informaion via the Internet, free of charge including the full-text of the original publication. with few exceptions.  For the Internet sites excluded from the free access such as National Trade Data Base, each depository received a password so that it can provide access to this information to the users who visit the depository library.

If you do not know a URL (Uniform Resources Locator),  you can search government  informaton by using any commercial search engines such as Yahoo, Google, etc., or use government generated search engine inbedded in each government site.  How can you become an expert on information searching on the Internet?  By understanding the government structure by familializing yourself with which unit of each government is in charge of what subject areas.  And, practice, practice, and practice!

In order to learn how to locate government information on the Internet, and to get a taste of how to navigate on the Web, try the Electronic Library section of this Department Home page.  Learn basic skills and familiarize yourself with major information sources on the web sites. If you found any dead link, please kindly let Masako Know.

9. Test

10. Evaluation:

Write your comments and evaluation of this program below. Please include your name and e-mail address.

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Copyright: (Last revised June, 2001)

Masako Yukawa
Head, Government Documents Dept.
B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library
C. W. Post Campus, Long University
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