U.S. Government Information


1850s  Congress authorizes distribution of legislative branch documents to libraries via mailing lists.

1861    Congress creates the Government Printing Office (GPO) to manage printing orders.  

1882    JHU is designated an official depository library by Maryland Senators Arthur Gorman and James Groome and
             begins to receive all publications made publicly available via agency mailing lists - mainly publications of the

1895   Congress passes the Comprehensive Printing Act and expands the role of the GPO to include printing, distribution,
            and indexing of government publications from the executive and judicial branches of government. Adelaide Hasse 
            introduces the Superintendent of Documents Classification systems (SuDoc).  In the years that followed, JHU
and other depository libraries struggle to manage the increased volume of distributed publications.  It takes Congress
            27 years before a restructuring of the depository library program so that libraries can select just the categories
            of documents they wish to receive. 

1922   Congress enacted a bill that enables the GPO to introduce the principle of selectivity that allowed libraries to tell
           GPO which classes of government publication the want to receive.   JHU becomes selective depository
focusing on collecting publications from Congress, the Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Department of
           State, and on topics such as education, health and human services, geography and geology.  On the JHU Homewood
           Campus government publications were housed in various departmental library collections.
1964   Following the opening of the Eisenhower Library building, efforts begin to bring JHU government publications
           collection together in one location using the SuDoc Classification system.  

1976    The GPO joins OCLC and begins creating MARC records for all materials distributed to depository libraries.  

1978    "Walton Report on the Future of Government Documents" at JHU is issued by Eisenhower Library Associate
              Director for Collection Development James Walton.  Key recommendations include:

  • Replace older, or in poor condition, print government publications with microforms.
  • Improve access to government publications via purchase of specialized commercial indexes and finding aids.
  • Enhance use of collection with greater reference support and instruction.
  • Incorporate the Eisenhower Library's map collection into a department renamed "Government Publications & Maps".

1981      Library's extensive collection of legal print materials is brought together with government publications and
              department is renamed  "Government Publications, Maps & Law"  (GPML).

1991      Library begins loading GPO MARC records, distributed by Marcive Inc. into online library catalog.  To assistance
              with retrospective conversion of library's card catalog files, Marcive Inc. delivers MARC records for  U.S.Government
              publications, 1976 -1991.

1993     GPO establishes GPOAccess as a permanent digital repository for government publications.  Renamed FDsys
(2010) then GovInfo (2017) 

2005     The GPO reports that over 50% of government publishing is now available in electronic formats and archived in
             GPO's permanent digital repository.  That percentage of archived government publications reaches over 99% by
             2023.  At JHU, to supplement GovInfo.gov  holdings, and replace microforms with digital access, library devotes
             additional resources to acquire electronic government publications backfiles sold by commercial publishers
             (i.e. ProQuest, Readex Inc., Gale, HeinOnline). 

2014     Congress changes name of GPO from Government Printing Office to Government Publishing Office. 

2015     In preperation for proposed renovation of the Eisenhower Library building, library staff embark on project to weed
             collection following GPO guidelines.  Upon completion in 2020, all holdings of print government p
             are housed at the library's off-site shelving facility, the Libraries Service Center (LSC).

2020     To expand access to U.S. Government publications for Johns Hopkins students, faculty, and staff at any location, the
             Library shifts to electronic only participation in the FDLP.  All newly published materials distributed via the FDLP
             (Ebooks, Ejournals, Emaps, datasets and videos are now fully accessable via the library's catalog and/or
             commercial databases.    

2023     JHU and GPO endorse a move to a digital dispository library program. See Feasibility of a Digital Federal
               Depository Library Program: Report of the GPO director's Task Force


Depository Library Coordinators

Pre 1964 unknown

1964 Harriet Meckfessel (moved on to the Phoneix Public Library)

1973   Yai-Yun Chiu (moved on to the Baltimore City Bar Library)

1976   J. Larry Murdock (moved on to Purdue Univesity Library)

1978   Diane Harvey (moved on to Johns Hopkins SAIS Library and later Duke Univesity Libraries)

1984   Jim Gillispie 
2010   Lynne Steward (retired)
2017   Yunshan Ye
2019   Jim Gillispie

Status of the Collection 2024

Finding U.S. Government Publications

  • Among Maryland depository libraries, the Sheridan Libraries are recognized as having the widest range of tools for finding print and electronic, full-text, government publications.
  • Catalyst, the library's online catalog and commercial databases are the primary tools for finding print and electronic government publications.
  • Bibliographic records for all newly published electronic government publications are loaded into Catalyst on a monthly basis. We purchase those records from Marcive Inc. via an ongoing subscription service. 
  • Unlike many depositlory libraries, the Sheridan Librarties have NO holdings of government publications on microfilm/microfiche, floppy disk, CD-ROM or DVD.
  • Since 2020, new receipts of U.S. Government publications are electronic only.  


Research Assistance and Training from the Depository Coordinator 

  • Jim Gillispie is the library's Federal Depository Library Program Coordinator.  He can help with any needed research assistance and training regarding U.S. Government publications. Contact Jim at jeg@jhu.edu.
  • Library services for government publications remain available during the renovation of the Eisenhower library building June 2024 - 2026. Contact Jim for assistance.  


JHU Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Participation

We have an unfailing interest in continuing our FDLP partnerships with the GPO as disseminators of Federal Government information. Johns Hopkins Libraries have a long and respected tradition of making available content and services tailored to the needs of our community. Patron demand for access to eBooks, eJournals, and other full-text electronic content is a powerful trend that libraries work hard to satisfy. Benefits accrued to FDLP participating libraries include training opportunities and the connections it offers to a community that fosters government information expertise.

As a component of FDLP participation, we have a vested interest in expanding our electronic offerings to include newly-published titles that currently only the GPO has to offer.  We also look forward to GPO's accelerated efforts to grow the National Collection of government publications with scanned digital versions of decades-old documents that GPO previously distributed through the FDLP.  Many of those print titles are only available to JHU folks via our holdings now shelved off-site at the JHU Libraries Service Center.