Government Documents and Information

Guide to Government Documents and Information

Depository Library Program

Depository Library Program Background

Depository Libraries are designated repositories of government information.  One of the oldest depository programs is operated by the U.S. Federal Government.  Established in 1813, selected government documents have been systematically disseminated to participating libraries for the use of the general public free of charge for over 200 years.  The authority for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and the legal obligations of designated Federal depository libraries are found in 44 United States Code §§1901‐1916 .  The Federal Depository Program, administered by the Government Printing Office, currently has over 1200 participating libraries in the United States and its territories.  Over time the program has evolved.  Traditionally there were two types of depositories:  Regionals who received 100% of available depository documents, and Selectives that received materials tailored to their clientele’s needs.  All materials received through the depository program remain the property of the U.S. Federal Government.  Until recently each state had a regional depository and a number of selective depository libraries generally at universities, colleges, law schools, and public libraries.  These depositories contained tangible as well as electronic format materials.  Recently a third option has emerged - the electronic only selective depository.  In the future, more and more depositories may opt for some form of this format thus changing the face of the Federal Depository Program for the first time in over 40 years.

Besides the federal program, most states run depository programs for their state documents.  Ohio’s is administered by the State Library of Ohio.  Foreign governments and international agencies also frequently have depository programs to varying degrees.  The larger the government entity, the more likely it is to have a formal depository program.

OSU's Depository Program

The Ohio State University is home to two depository programs – Thompson Library and the Moritz Law Library.   For over 100 years Thompson Library has been actively and systematically acquiring government documents.  In 1901 Congressman J. H. Bromwell designated it to replace the Wyoming Public Library – a Federal Depository Library which had been absorbed by the then Cincinnati Public Library system.  In 1907 it became a permanent Depository Library when all land grant college libraries were granted depository status.  In 1984, the Moritz Law Library on the main campus of The Ohio State University became a Depository Library in its own right and is in the process of becoming a Selective Digital Library.  

Besides being a Selective Federal Depository, since 1959, OSU Libraries has been a Selective Depository for the State of Ohio.  It is also a depository for European Union documents.  In addition, OSU Libraries receives selected Ohio county and city publications, and it purchases additional government publications, non-depository documents, and indexes to aid in locating government information.

Further Reading

“The Document Collection of the University Library”.  Charles Wells Reeder.  Ohio State University Monthly.  January 1913, p.22-23.

Federal Depository Library Program:  Issues for Congress.  R. Eric Petersen, Jennifer E. Manning, and Christina M. Bailey.  Washington, D.C.:  Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2012. 

Snapshots of the Federal Depository Library Program.  Sheila M. McGarr.  FDLP Desktop. [Somewhat dated, but still relevant]