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Samford University Library Samford University Goverment Documents

Collection Development Policy for Federal Documents

The Government Documents Unit upholds the principles of the Library's Mission Statement and this collection development policy supports that mission.

Mission of the Government Documents Unit

To select, organize, maintain and preserve the government documents depository collection. To provide free and unhindered access to government information, in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Depository Library Program, United States Government Printing Office.

To provide unrestricted access and service to the collection for the Samford University faculty, staff and students and the citizens of the 6th Congressional District of Alabama, using electronic and print resources.

To support the curricular, research and service projects of Samford University.


The Government Documents Unit of the Harwell G. Davis Library at Samford University, located in the 6th U.S. Congressional District of the state of Alabama, was designated a selective federal depository in 1884. The unit supports the general collecting activities of the main library, whose primary customers are the students, faculty and staff of Samford University. In accordance with the requirements of Title 44, U.S. Code, this unit also serves the government information needs of the general public and those particularly of the 6th Congressional District.

There are two regional depository libraries in the state of Alabama. One is at Auburn University at Montgomery and the other at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. In addition to Davis Library there are three selective depositories in Birmingham: Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham Southern College, and Jefferson State Community College.

A formal selective housing agreement provides that certain publications will be housed in the Beeson Law Library after they are received and processed at Davis Library. All federal regulations for collecting, accessing and disposing of documents apply to the materials that are housed in the Law Library as well as those at Davis Library.


The Government Documents Librarian is responsible for the collection, in consultation with other librarians and faculty as deemed necessary. Acquisitions are primarily based on what will best support the needs of the university's curriculum. Quality choices, as best can be determined, are measured by scope, intended audience, value, and reference use. Selection, particularly of large series, is often restricted to certain geographic areas, such as Alabama or the Southeastern United States. Any new university program or courses should be factored into amendments made at each annual review. Sources to be consulted in this review process include "The List of Classes of U.S. Government Publications Available for Selection by Depository Libraries" and the Union List of Item Selections. Both are searchable on the web via the Documents Data Miner at Wichita State University. The Union List indicates which library selects which item numbers, an important consideration in selecting or deselecting. "Maps Available for Selection" is another aid and is periodically reviewed as the Geography Department's needs require. Reviews in publications such as the Journal of Government Information, Government Information Quarterly, and Documents to the People are other means of identifying possible additions to the collection, as are Subject Bibliographies and GOVDOC-L.

Publication types to avoid if possible are forms, in-house procedure manuals, very technical publications, posters, brochures, flyers, coloring books, promotional pamphlets, and military specifications.

Nondepository items, either requested or learned about by other means, are considered for inclusion. The Government Documents Librarian also identifies for possible purchase commercially published resources to support or to provide better access to the depository collection. These requests are passed on to the Collection Development Librarian, who then makes the final decision.

Little active effort has gone into retrospective collecting, primarily knowing that a full depository is an hour away. "Needs and Offers" lists and all gifts are evaluated to determine if someone else’s discards will fill in gaps in the collection or become valuable additions to strengthen what we have.

Areas of Concentration

Selection centers on the curriculum and focuses on, but is not limited to, publications from the following agencies: Census Bureau, Civil Rights Commission, Departments of Defense, Education, Health & Human Services, Justice, and the Judiciary, as well as Congressional publications. It may be necessary to increase the number of items we receive from the Environmental Protection Agency as the graduate program in Environmental Science continues to evolve.


When titles are available in more than one format (a combination of paper, fiche, and electronic), paper is usually selected. Frequency and ease of use, frequency of publication, storage capacity, cost of providing access, resource sharing and prior holdings all must be considered when deciding on format choice.

To date, most electronic products have been selected as additional selections, not alternatives. Available hardware and software, staff expertise, training and user support are factors to be considered when selecting CDs and/or DVDs. The library currently has one workstation with a CD tower exclusively for accessing depository compact discs. The Library's catalog does contain URLs for web publications, usually when the print copy is already in the collection.


The collection is arranged primarily by Superintendent of Document (SuDoc) numbers, in the Government Documents stacks. Exceptions include materials shelved in the vertical file -- usually pamphlets and other ephemeral items; a small number of reference materials, shelved by Library of Congress call number in the Government Documents Reference stacks; Ready Reference materials, shelved in SuDoc order near the Government Documents Service Desk; the Congressional Record, shelved at the beginning of the Government Documents stacks. Some materials are processed minimally and sent to other locations, particularly the Beeson Law Library, which receives the Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Code, Statutes at Large, and other legal and judicial items, and Special Collections of the University Library. which receives topographic maps of Alabama. The Library has a written selective housing agreement with the Beeson Law Library.


The Samford University Library Government Documents Collection is open to the general public during regular library hours. The majority of the collection is housed on the second floor in a separate open stack area arranged largely by SuDoc classification. Certain documents, among them the Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the United States Code, are housed in the Lucille Stewart Beeson Law Library. A small percentage of documents relating to Alabama have been incorporated into Special Collections. The remaining documents are housed in compact storage on the Lower Level of the University Library.

The Government Documents department web page provides an additional service point for users of government information, directing them to government sites that have been identified as useful and supportive of the Samford University curriculum.

Maps, the Decennial census, and Congressional Record are in special locations with the remainder of the collection in SuDoc order on shelves, in microfiche cabinets, or in a vertical file. Topographic maps of Alabama are housed in Special Collection. There are two microfiche readers and one fiche reader/printer available in the unit.

CD-ROMs are available on a stand-alone workstation near the Documents Service Counter. CD-ROMs that are not currently loaded will be installed for the patrons' use the day requested if a regular depository staff member is available. Otherwise access to the CD-ROM will be provided the next regular work day.

Government Documents holdings since 1976 are included in the online catalog. Tapes of newly received cataloged publications are loaded each month. There is a small reference collection (Library of Congress classified) of privately published support materials. Samford University Library also has subscriptions to the CIS Serial Set Index and Congressional Universe, which allow greater access to Congressional publications.

The Library provides free access to its Government Documents Collection regardless of format. Fees for photocopying print and microform materials are consistent with other library collections. Currently, there is no charge for printing electronic materials. Electronic materials include resources available through the Internet, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and floppy diskettes.

Brochures about government documents, signs, logos and the department’s web page promote the collection. Articles in the faculty newsletter and the student newspaper are other means of communicating with the university community. The Government Documents Librarian provides instruction and information about documents as a classroom presentation if requested by faculty. Presentations off campus would be welcomed.

Most documents circulate to the Samford community; documents which do not circulate are the Congressional Record, Decennial Census, Serial Set and other Congressional Reports and Documents, Reference and Ready Reference titles, periodicals, and microfiche. CD-ROMs generally do not circulate, although exceptions can be made.

Collection Evaluation

Over the years the government documents collection has been compared to standard lists, such as the Basic Collection List and Minimum Standards for Depository Libraries. Holdings are checked against relevant Subject Bibliographies, specialized bibliographies (such as debate topics), and class needs (ie maps).

Actual in-house use as evidenced by reference questions, circulation and reshelving needs, as well as Interlibrary Loan requests, serve as another means of evaluation.

This unit has made no statistical analysis of circulation patterns. Our old library system could not separate documents from monographs in the circulation reports. When we have access to better reports, there will be value in looking at the circulation activity of subject areas and at the status of the borrowers. Tally sheets kept by the staff have only informally measured in-house use of materials. To date no survey of patron satisfaction has been taken. Zero-based collection review is implemented at every annual selection.

Weeding and Maintenance

The collection is maintained in accordance with the guidelines set out in the "Instructions to Depository Libraries". An item/piece specific record is kept either on Kardex (currently just Law Library selections) or online using individual item records or check in notations for receipt of serials and periodicals. Superseded documents are withdrawn using the "Superseded List" as a guide. All documents can be reviewed for disposal once they have been in the collection for five years. This is done when space demands require a review. Use, historical value, currency of information, physical condition, relevance to the curriculum, and availability in another format are all factors to consider before any action is taken.

Duplicate copies are not kept unless there is special demand for the material, or the work is useful in more than one format (Statistical Abstract, for example).

Weeding of the collection, in all formats, should be done on an ongoing basis or at least every two years, in order to keep the collection within a limited shelving space, to rid the collection of unused or damaged materials, and to keep the collection attractive, organized, and easy to use. The Government Documents Librarian weeds the collection, but may ask for advice from Library staff. The most important criteria for weeding material are the currency and the relevance of the material to the curriculum. Lists of weeded materials are mailed to the Regional Libraries, and then distributed to Alabama depositories.

The vertical file should be weeded once a year. In order to keep the vertical file collection manageable, all documents in the file older than 5 years should be pulled. The documents librarian will decide the item's value and relevance to the collection. Certain items will be pulled & discarded as they are superseded.

Samford University Library is not a research library, therefore most superseded items are not retained. Exceptions are materials kept in the Beeson Law Library (such as the CFR, Federal Register and US Code) and in the Special Collections Department, (Alabama topographical maps.)

Little has been done in the area of preservation. A small number of books have been identified and should be placed in boxes for protection. Preservation activities should increase.

Resource Sharing

With a regional depository library at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa nearby, the Birmingham Public Library, and smaller selective depositories at Birmingham Southern College and Jefferson State Community College in town, the responsibility for providing for the needs of the general public is shared. The two regional depository libraries are always helpful, supportive and prompt in response to inquiries. However, there is little formal networking and no cooperative collection development plan to reduce duplication, optimize coverage, allow for more efficient use of space and increase wider access. Birmingham Public Library is a Patent and Trademark Depository site, therefore little is collected in the area of patents.

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