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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.

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 in the bsement. Within the Government Documents Section, there are 3 separate collections: U.S. California and City/County/Regional These areas are clearly marked in the library basement. A few government documents are located in the Research Center Collection, 1st Floor North. 

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 The library also has a number of digital primary source collections and legal databases that contain government documents.

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 utilize the filter options on the left side of the screen to select Government Document under Format Type. You can also utilize the Advanced Search and search through the local 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 the link to retrieve the document online.

Can government documents be checked out?

Nearly all government documents in our collection can be checked out to patrons with circulation privileges. Members of the public wishing to access government documents within the depository collection are welcome to use this collection in person during library operating hours. As a general rule, documents that reside in a limited access area like University Archives & Special Collections or documents in a state of deterioration may have restricted circulation. To find out if a document can be checked out, check the STATUS on the library catalog record. If the STATUS is CHECK SHELVES, the document can be checked out. If the STATUS is LIB USE ONLY, it typically cannot be checked out. Many recent documents are freely available online with links provided directly within the catalog. 

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 over a thousand 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. 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 or purchased 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.