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Government Documents - U.S.

This guide was designed to help locate U.S. Government Documents, either in the American University Library collections or free online.

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Sarah Gilchrist
American University Library, B 46

Warning: Use only appropriate sources for Gov Docs

Many government documents are official documents. For this reason, their accuracy is very important. This is especially true for legal documents. While it may be convenient to use any search engine or Web site for finding government documents, for the documents themselves use only credible sources. These include official government agencies, widely accepted commercial vendors or publications, and academic organizations or enterprises.

Only reputable sources are included in this guide. When it comes to government documents, not all sources are equal.


GPO's FDsys: Federal Digital System from the U.S. Government Publishing Office
Free source for the official, published version of Federal Government documents.
The publications have visible digital signatures of authenticity. FDsys replaces GPO Access.
Site for recent legislation. This is the first source for legislative bills. Often links to documents in FDsys.
Searches websites with the .gov and .mil domains.

WRLC Catalog
Although the American University Library is not federal depository library, the American University Washington College of Law's Pence Library is a selective federal depository library. Within the Washington Research Library Consortium, George Mason University Library, George Washington University and Georgetown University Library are selective federal depository libraries. The federal depository library program is ----. Within the Washington, D.C. area, the Library of Congress and the University of Maryland, College Park are regional federal depository libraries. This means that they receive a copy of all printed U.S. Government printed documents. Here is a list of all federal depository libraries. Make sure to check the library's holdings and access policy before going to these libraries.

WorldCat (AU Community only)
Largest catalog in the world. Includes records from the Library of Congress.

HeinOnline (AU Community only)
Contains digitized copies of official U.S. Government documents and publications from all three branches of government. Excellent for historical publications.

ProQuest Congressional (AU Community only)
Major database of Congressional documents. These include:

  • Committee Prints & Misc. Publications (1830-present)
  • Congressional Record & Predecessors (1789-1997)
  • CRS Reports (1916-present)
  • Hearings (1824-present)
  • House & Senate Reports (1817-present)
  • Legislative Histories (1969-present)
  • Serial Set (1789-present)

Catalog of U.S. Government Publications from the U.S. Government Publishing Office
A catalog of historical and current government publications. Provides links to those that are available free online and allows the finding of nearby Federal Depository Library.
For publications issued prior to 1976, the printed Monthly Catalog should be consulted. Use as last resort to find older publications. Originally the online version of the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications, which was printed from 1895 (with the passage of the Printing Act of 1895) to 2004. AU Library has print copy of the 1930-1984, 1985-1994 (microfiche), 1993, 1995, 1996-2000.