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How to Find Government Documents/Information

Government publications (or documents) provide information on a wide variety of topics, e.g., business, agriculture and gardening, education, health and nutrition, languages and literature, history, geography and geology. Any controversial topic might be the subject of Congressional hearings, which frequently contain primary source material and expert opinions. Government publications come in a variety of formats, e.g., books, pamphlets, posters, periodicals, maps, microfiche, recipe cards, magnets, videocassettes, CD-ROM/DVD discs, and Internet files.

UW-Whitewater's Andersen Library is a selective depository for U.S. government publications, receiving more than 45% of materials distributed to federal depository libraries by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (formerly the Government Printing Office). The Library also is a depository for documents from Wisconsin state government agencies, and has a very selective collection of international documents (which are either online or included in Library collections such as the 3rd-floor Main Collection). Andersen Library has access to all government information made freely available on the Internet. Many government agencies disseminate their information via their web sites and social media accounts (verify that a social media account is managed by a federal government agency at USA.gov). A Google search with site:.gov should limit results to government sites.

Identifying Useful Documents

The Library's catalog of holdings, Books, Media and More (UW Whitewater), can be used to identify most governments publications in Andersen Library (federal documents published since 1976, selected older federal documents, all Wisconsin documents, and all international and foreign materials). It also provides links to many online government publications.

The Library maintains a listing of especially useful Government Resources on the Internet.

Indexes to government publications may be used to identify useful documents regardless of whether they are available in Andersen Library (titles not available in-house may be available from other Wisconsin libraries).

  • Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) (U.S. Federal, 1976- )
    This online listing of federal government publications is from the U.S. Government Printing Office (records for materials older than 1976 are being added over time). The print catalog Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications (-1995), located at GP 3.8: in Documents Reference (ask at the Reference Desk), preceded the online version. It, and some other print titles near it on the shelves, go back much farther in time than the online catalog.
  • Document Depository Shipping List Index (Wisconsin, 2000- )
    This consists of the online listings of Wisconsin state government materials distributed to the designated depository libraries around the state, or provided online (lists have links in them for many of the titles that are available online). Andersen Library catalogs all of the Wisconsin documents it receives, so they are accessible in the Andersen Library catalog of holdings, Books, Media and More (UW Whitewater).
  • Monthly Checklist of State Publications (1960-1994) LC 30.9: in Federal (U.S.) Documents
  • CIS Index to Congressional Publications in Documents Reference (2nd Floor, ask at Reference Desk) or use the online version: ProQuest Congressional (ProQuest database access restricted to UW-W students, faculty & staff)
  • American Statistics Index (1974-1996, 1998) in Documents Reference (2nd Floor, ask at Reference Desk)
  • Military & Government Collection (EBSCOhost database access restricted to UW-W students, faculty & staff)
  • Index to U.S Government Periodicals (1970-1987)  in Documents Reference (2nd Floor, ask at Reference Desk)

Locating Documents Housed in Andersen Library

Most of the government documents are on shelves in the east half of the Library's Second/Main Floor (past the Reference Desk). Federal documents that are distributed in microfiche format are in the entryway leading to L2120 (in the center of the south wall of the 2nd/Main Floor). CD-ROMs are in locked cabinets; inquire at the Reference Desk for access.

Federal documents are shelved according to the U.S. Superintendent of Documents classification system, which groups publications by the agencies that created them. These classification numbers include periods, but do not include decimals; all numbers are treated as whole numbers, e.g.,
HE 20.2 precedes HE 20.1008.

Wisconsin documents are shelved on the east end of the Second/Main Floor (just past the Reference Desk).

International and foreign government publications are located in various Library collections, incluidng the 3rd-floor Main Collection and 1st-floor Periodicals; look for them through the Andersen Library catalog of holdings, Books, Media and More (UW Whitewater) for location and call number information.

Circulation Policy

Most documents, including microfiche, may be checked out at the Circulation Desk unless they are periodicals or reference materials such as laws and indexes. Circulation requires a current UW-Whitewater ID card, a Community Borrower's Card, or a valid ID card from another University of Wisconsin System campus. Most documents also may be borrowed by current registered students or faculty/staff from other University of Wisconsin campuses via UW Request. Most documents also are available to other patrons via Interlibrary Loan from their local/institution library.

Examples of Frequently Used government information sources

Government Activities | Law and Legislation | Business, Economy, and Industry | Education and Social Sciences

* means the current edition is at the Reference Desk. Documents are in the federal documents shelves unless another location is listed.

Government Activities


Law and Legislation


Business, Economy, and Industry


Education and Social Sciences

Last revised: BRB - April 28, 2014


Andersen Library
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
800 West Main Street
Whitewater, WI 53190-1790

Contact the Library

Circulation Desk: 262-472-5511
Reference Desk: 262-472-1032