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Government Information: Organization

Searching for government information

When looking for books, pamphlets or CDs published by a U.S. government agency it will often be organized using the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) Classification System. SuDocs is a system of organizing federal government publications by issuing department (i.e. publications written by the Department of Education are all together under the abbreviation ED). Because the information is organized by agency it is important to look for research tools that allow you to search acrosss agencies and locate government information by topic. One such tool is GIL, the Library's online catalog.

To limit your GIL search to government information owned by Georgia State University:

  1. From the search screen you will see a button in the lower right hand corner titled: Narrow My Search, click that button.
  2. From the Location Box scroll down and highlight: University Library Government Documents.
  3. To activate the limit click again on the button titled Narrow My Search (located above the language box)
  4. Completing step 3 will return you to the Search boxes. Above and to the right of the search box highlighted in blue, you should see the phrase: Search Limits Are In Effect! Enter your topic and click the Go button.

Caution: To return to searching without limits click on Clear Settings (the grey button in the lower right corner of the search boxes).  Also occasionally more heavily used documents may be in other Locations in the library or in the College of Law Library, and using this limit will eliminate those titles from the search. 


Locating government information on the shelf

When you locate information in the online catalog it will have an unusual call number. Here is an example:

Title: Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen, 2006

Location: Library South 4, Government Document 
Call Number: ED 1.2:H 36/5

Locating the item on the shelf:

It's a different organizing system so feel free to Ask A Librarian, but here's how you do it:

The letter(s) at the beginning of the call number are simply treated alphabetically. The ED documents from the Dept. of Education will come after the A documents from the Department of Agriculture. Again, these abbreviations represent the issuing government agencies.

After the initial letters(s), the numbers up to the slash (/) or the colon (:) are read as whole numbers, not decimals.

ED 20.6

Is shelved Before

ED 20.40:

Is Shelved Before

ED 20.108:

Is Shelved Before

ED 20.3016:

Periods, colons, and back slashes separate each section of the typical call number. Documents are first shelved alphabetically by the agency designation, and then numberically or alphabetically within each section of the number following the period, then numerically or alphabetically by any numbers following a colon or slash mark. Therefore, the examples below would be arranged as follows:


Y 4.AP6/2:


Y 4.AR5/2:


Y 4.V64/3:


Y 4.W36:

Your Librarian

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Lauren Bellard
Library South
Suite 542