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Government Documents: FAQs

United States, California, County/City/Regional, and International

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a government document?

A government document is a publication issued by or for a government agency. It looks just like a book or journal except that the author or publisher is a government agency--for example, the U.S. Department of Labor. Government documents come in all formats: print, online, CD, and microfiche or microfilm.

How do I cite a government document in APA or MLA style?

DocsCite (Arizona State University): Citation generator for APA and MLA format. DocsCite is a step-by-step guide to putting government publication citations into proper style format.

Complete guide to citing government information resources, by Debora Cheney (2002, 3rd ed. rev.) May be a trifle dated, but provides format and examples for citing Federal Register, hearings, Statutes at Large, United States Reports, online sources, and more.

Also useful: U.S. Government Printing Office. Style Manual: an official guide to the form and style of Federal Government printing (2008, 30th ed.)

Where are the government documents located in the Library?

While viewing the catalog record, check the LOCATION to find where a document is shelved. Most government documents are located in the Government Documents Section, currently on the 6th floor south. Within the Government Documents Section, there are 4 separate collections: U.S. California International City/County/Regional These 4 areas are clearly marked on the 6th Floor. A few government documents are located in the Reference Section, 1st Floor South. Examples of government documents that are shelved in the Reference Section are U.S. Reports (Supreme Court opinions) and Statistical Abstract of the United States.

What subjects are in the Government Documents Collection?

Government documents have been published on just about every subject. Pollak Library collects documents in all subject areas that support the CSUF academic curriculum and the needs of our academic community and surrounding public. Business statistics, census data, endangered species reports, cancer research, education research and many more subjects are well covered in the Government Documents Collection. Congressional hearings, public laws, Surgeon General reports, and Supreme Court opinions are also included. Many congressional documents are now available online through or a Google search with a restricted domain of

How do I find government documents on my topic?

To find government documents in Pollak Library:
Search the Library Catalog by keyword, title, subject, or author and change the default from All Collections to Government Documents Collections Only.
Note: Many recent documents that are found in the Library Catalog include links to full text online. If there is a link Access on Internet, click on this link to retrieve the document online.

To find Census information: See the Census tab under Special Topics on this guide.
You can also use several electronic databases to locate documents. For example, Academic Search Premier provides full-text access to several U.S. government periodicals including Alcohol Research & Health, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, and FDA Consumer.
To find the many government publications that are freely available to the general public on the Internet: FDsys GPO's Federal Digital System provides free online access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government. Other excellent resources are the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications  , and Ben's guide to U.S. Government for kids which is designed for K-12 students, teachers and parents.

Can government documents be checked out?

Many government documents can be checked out. As a general rule, any document that is mostly statistics or that is issued as a periodical (monthly or annually) is not allowed to be checked out, but exceptions can be made depending on document condition. To find out if a document can be checked out, check the STATUS on it's record in the Library Catalog record. If the STATUS is CHECK SHELVES, the document can be checked out. If the STATUS is LIB USE ONLY, it cannot be checked out. Or look at the inside back cover: If there is a red stamp NOT FOR CIRCULATION near the barcode, the document cannot be checked out. Many recent documents are freely available online and are readily accessible from your home computer. If a catalog record shows a link Access on Internet, click on the link to view the document. Documents are checked out on the First Floor at the Circulation Desk.

How are government documents arranged on the shelf?

U.S. and California documents are shelved by government department. The first letter of the call number is the first letter of the department that issued the document. For example, a call number starting with 'A' indicates that the document was issued by the Department of Agriculture, 'C' by the Department of Commerce. International documents are shelved by subject using Library of Congress call numbers, the same call number system used in the Main Collection.

Where do government documents come from?

U.S. Documents
Pollak Library is one of 1250 libraries in the United States designated as a Federal Depository Library. The Federal Depository Library Program was established by Congress in 1813 to guarantee the public free access to government information. The documents are received free of charge, but Pollak Library must provide access, storage, equipment, and reference service. Pollak Library receives about 50% of the documents issued by the federal government. Selection of documents is based on the needs of the academic curriculum and the needs of the local community.  Pollak Library staff provide access to depository collections and assist the public in navigating the Federal information infrastructure.

California Documents
Pollak Library is also a participant in the California Depository Library Program, a similar program at the state level.

City/County/Regional and International Documents
City/County/Regional Documents and International documents are requested from government agencies.

How do I get more help?

For assistance in finding documents, go to the Get Help tab at the top the library website. If you would like an appointment for a research consultation, go to Get Help and click on Research Assistance Appointments.