Government Documents Librarianship: A Guide for the Neo‐Depository Era

Bob Duckett (Reference librarian (retired), Bradford, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 18 April 2008




Duckett, B. (2008), "Government Documents Librarianship: A Guide for the Neo‐Depository Era", Library Review, Vol. 57 No. 4, pp. 329-330.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Since 1789, the US Government has been “Keeping America Informed” by providing the public with unrestricted and no‐fee access to federal government information. The Government Printing Office (GPO) is responsible for the printing of documents produced by federal agencies, while the GPO's Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) is responsible for the distribution of documents in all formats to approximately 1,200 designated federal depositories in the USA. In their role as custodians, the depository libraries are required to receive, process, house, maintain, preserve, and provide access to the documents and to follow federal laws, rules and regulations in doing so. To ensure FDLP requirements are being met, the GPO has an inspection process. Arising out of her experiences of “turning around” a “non‐compliant library” and experiencing a lack of published guides to managing a government documents collection, Lisa Ennis has written her own guide to the GPO, the FDLP, and government documents librarianship.

Managing government publications could be thought of as one of the deadliest of jobs to do in a library: those mountains of indigestible reports in grey print, boring covers, and long cryptic identification numbers that no one ever uses! In the hands of Lisa Ennis, however, “the government documents collection sparkles” to use one of her own chapter sub‐titles. Rarely have I seen such enthusiasm, humour, and excitement in a librarianship textbook! Consider some of the other chapter sub‐titles: “The Sky's the Limit” to the chapter introducing government documents librarianship (with the first sub‐heading “Boundless Opportunities for the Fearless”); “Dragons and Beasts” to the chapter on FDLP requirements (first sub‐heading: “Slaying Dragons: Criticisms and Requirements”); “You Are Not Alone” to the chapter on Networking and Training; “The Big Picture” to the chapter on Managing and Administration; and “The Devil Is in the Detail” to the chapter on Technical Service Issues. This refreshing approach, which by no means obscures or overshadows serious and technical content, is a real tonic.

Government Documents Librarianship provides essential background on the GPO and Federal Deposit Libraries and also non‐depository libraries with government document collections. Among the topics discussed are the skills and traits needed; networking and training options; managing and administering people, paperwork and collections; and public and technical services issues. Also featured is the shift to a digital environment and publication of the new electronic FDL manual. Although not specifically a manual of practice itself, this guide breaks down the component elements of government document librarianship into manageable, easy‐to‐understand sections.

Just over half the book consists of appendices and end‐matter. Appendices cover websites and additional readings; the text of the biennial FDLP evaluative survey checklist for depository libraries; an example of Administrative Notes: Technical Supplement; and a “Self Study Template”, the preliminary FDLP questionnaire sent to depository libraries. There is a Bibliography and an Index. The whole volume is smartly packaged and attractively laid‐out. As indicated above, an enthusiastic “can‐do” approach is adopted which will appeal to any librarian considering, or already engaged in, government documents work. Lisa – you have brightened my day!

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