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Government goldmine: American Indian materials in government documents

Jennie M. Burroughs (Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA)
Colleen Major (101 Butler Library, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 18 April 2008




The purpose of this article is to investigate government document collections to identify subject‐related materials and offer suggestions for making those materials more evident to researchers.


Using American Indian‐related materials as a case study, the authors conducted a keyword and subject heading analysis of federal government publications from 1976 through 2006, quantifying the publication patterns of various agencies. The researchers used the data to gain a better understanding of the distribution of subject matter throughout the collection and to identify key series.


The paper reveals that, in a traditional, Superintendent of Documents‐classified, federal publications collection, materials with a common subject matter are produced by a wide variety of agencies. This dispersed production leads to disconnected pockets of relevant information, which creates more work for information seekers.

Research limitations/implications

The case study analysis does not address materials produced prior to 1976 due to limited local cataloging. Future analyses could draw on catalogs with more extensive historical holdings.

Practical implications

Libraries can consider several means of drawing users' attention to subject‐related materials, including reclassifying collections, creating subject guides, and developing subject portals.


The paper is useful for those working with separate government information collections who are looking for a methodical approach to identifying unexpected sources of relevant information.



Burroughs, J.M. and Major, C. (2008), "Government goldmine: American Indian materials in government documents", Collection Building, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 52-55.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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