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US Government Documents Fundamentals

A guide to basic information about finding, evaluating, and using government documents for assignments, research, and your own information.

COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 Updates

Pullman Libraries buildings remain closed to in-person visits. Please check our Remote Services during COVID-19 for available services.

Government Documents Library Guides @ WSU Libraries

What are government documents? Material produced or published by government entities, whether local, state, national, or international, is considered 'government information' or 'government documents.' This library guide focuses on documents published by the US federal government through the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The guides listed below provide information on more specialized types of federal information or documents produced by other governmental sources.

Note that government information permeates virtually all academic disciplines, so many of the other library guides available from the WSU Libraries may also contain government information.

How Federal Documents Are Organized (SuDocs Classification)

Library Services for Government Documents

Reference Service

Help with searching and finding government documents is available at the reference desks in Terrell Library and the Owen Science & Engineering Library.  Help via chat, e-mail, FAQ, and phone is available--see Ask a Question!

Library Instruction

Instruction on finding and using government documents is available for classes and groups and can be tailored to the needs of the students or audience.  Frequently requested topics include

  • finding documents through the WSU Libraries' catalog and the Internet
  • searching government databases
  • becoming familiar with government agencies/offices and their publications
  • governments statistics and how to find them
  • assessing government information and web sites
  • citing government documents

Classes can be scheduled for English Composition classes through Library Instruction on the scheduling page; classes in other departments can be arranged by contacting the Government Information Librarian, Lorena O'English (see box on the left).

Checking out Documents

Many government documents are available in electronic form, linked in the library catalog or available directly from government databases or the Internet.  The WSU Libraries has a large collection of circulating documents as well.  The table below provides loan information for these documents:

Loan periods for government documents
Format Owen Library Holland & Terrell Libraries
print 6 weeks 6 weeks [longer for honors students, graduate students, staff, and faculty]
periodical volumes 6 days 6 days
microfiche do not circulate do not circulate  [Reader/printers are available]
CD-ROM/DVD-ROM na 2 weeks
maps 7 days 2 weeks
documents in reference do not circulate .

Depository Libraries

The federal government established a system of depository libraries in 1813.  The WSU Libraries, #0643, became a depository in 1907 along with many other land grant institution libraries.  The FDLP symbol  undefined  is posted at the entryway to the Holland and Terrell Libraries and the Owen Science & Engineering Library as well as on the Libraries' home page.

The State of Washington also has a depository program, started in 1963.  The WSU Libraries is a full state depository and receives all of the documents distributed by the state government.

Lorena's COVID-19 Notes


If you need assistance, please use the "Schedule Appointment" link under my photo on the left side of this guide. You can also email me directly at - Lorena


  • Free and expanded electronic access for temporary online teaching and learning. During thw current period causing library closures, many publishers and library vendors are allowing special access to research databases and materials. Note that some of these will be invisible because they will be added to something we already have, like SAGE Research Methods or JStor.
  • Relevant highlights (although be sure to check the list for yourself!!): Publication Manual of the APA (6th and the new 7th editions); Paratext U.S. Documents MasterFile.
U.S. Government Coronavirus Resource Guide - from the Library of Congress. Includes relevant legislation, congressional action, presidential action, agency action, state government action, CRS reports, international reports,and more.
WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us