Resources for Government Documents Cataloging

A. The Nature of the Beast


General Resources


GODORT (Government Documents Round Table of ALA) has collected its own toolbox for Government Documents librarians. Most of the cataloging information is generic (MARC standards, Conser Manual, etc.). The links to information about SuDocs (Superintendent of Documents Classification)—interspersed throughout--and sources of GPO cataloging records are of potentially more interest.

·          Here is the official SuDocs Classification Manual (1993).

·          SuDocs for laypeople.

·          If you do a simple Google search on superintendent of documents classification, you will find many homegrown library pages that explain SuDocs for patrons. If you're charged with creating an explanation in the future, those examples can give you some ideas for how to structure your explanation.

Links to conference programs on the GODORT Cataloging Committee home page are also valuable.


If you have not taken Government Documents training, you should be aware of the major journals in this specialty: Journal of Government Information and Documents to the People (DttP) (full text of DttP is available through WilsonWeb Library Literature) which do occasionally address cataloging issues. The greatest focus in documents librarianship is on U.S. government documents, but state, local, international, tribal, and non-governmental organization documents also cross catalogers' desks. By browsing through the syllabi for LIS 525LE, you can find resources on some of these other jurisdictions.


Loading GPO (Government Publications Office) MARC record tapes and contracting with MARCIVE to enhance a library's catalog with government document records have been a big topic since the 1990s. The key article on the MARCIVE records is

Kulczak, Deborah, and Cathy Reineka: MARCIVE GPO Records and Authority Control: An Evaluation of Name and Subject Headings at the University of Arkansas Libraries, Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, 38, no. 1 (2004): 87-101.

Kulczak and Reineka tested the hypothesis that authority records supplied with MARCIVE records for government documents would allow their library's catalogers to dispense with upfront authority maintenance for the catalog. However, they found that for descriptive headings (many of which are obviously for governmental bodies), authority records had so many errors that they would have to continue to monitor descriptive headings in-house.

The conclusion: if you do government documents cataloging (and who doesn't?) you must understand how to construct and use authority records for jurisdictions.

B. Corporate Bodies and Jurisdictions

Corporate Body Main Entry or Not?

Highlights of AACR2 Chapter 21 rules for jurisdictions.

]        21.1B2

o        If the publication emanates from the jurisdiction, corporate body main entry is required for the following conditions

§          a) about the jurisdiction itself

§          b) legal works as given in 21.31-21.36

§          c) official statements on policy

§          f) cartographic materials created under the authority of that jurisdiction

]        21.31-36

o        21.31A For legislative enactments, decrees having the force of law

o        21.31B1 Laws of modern jurisdictions: under the jurisdiction (not the legislative body). Don't forget other bodies involved.

o        21.31B2 Compilations of laws for more than one jurisdiction: enter under title.

o        21.31B3 Bills and drafts of bills: under the legislative body.

o        21.31C   Ancient laws and pre-modern non-western laws go under uniform title

o        21.32A   Administrative regulations that are not law go under the agency

o        21.32B    Adminstrative regulations that are law go under the jurisdiction (a.e. under agency)

o        21.32C  Collections of regulations that are not law entered under title

o        21.33    Constitutions and charters work the same as laws

o        21.34    Court rules work much the same way

o        21.35A  International treaties and multilateral agreements depend on how many bodies are involved and how the treaty is worded

o        21.36  Court reports (collective) are entered under court only if published by its authority. For more complex court documents, it gets ugly—see the subrules in 21.36.

Constructing Headings/Authority Records for Government Jurisdictions and Governmental Corporate Bodies


24.17 ff. Government Bodies and Officials

24.18 “Government agencies entered subordinately”

Compare with regular old corporate bodies entered subordinately:



Type 1: Term implying subordination (by definition)

Type 1: Term implying subordination (by definition)

Type 2: Term normally implying subordination if higher body needed for identification

Type 2: Term normally implying subordination (in jurisdiction's terminology)

LCRI 24.18 gives a list of terms that imply subordination

Type 3: A name that is general in nature, only geographical, chronological or numbered/lettered

Type 3: A name that is general in nature, only geographical, chronological or numbered/lettered

LCRI 24.18 gives further guidance on this tortuous scenario

Type 4: A name that does not convey the idea of a corporate body

Type 4: An agency that doesn't convey the idea of a corporate body and doesn't contain the government's name

Type 5: A name of a university faculty, school, college, institute, lab, etc. that simply indicates a field of study

Type 5: A ministry or major executive body as defined by the government.

LCRI 24.18: national governments only!

Type 6: A name that includes the entire name of the higher or related body

Type 6: A legislative body (24.21)

LCRI 24.18 gives special guidance about local councils in Great Britain


Type 7: A court (24.23)


Type 8: A principal service of the armed forces (24.24)


Type 9: A head of state or government (24.20)


Type 10: An embassy, consulate (24.25)


Type 11: A delegation to an intl.body (24.26)

LCRI 24.18 gives special guidance about Unesco affiliates



LC Authorities

C. The Fixed Field

There 's an item (GPub) in the fixed field that reveals the government publication level of an item:

blank     Not a government publication

a              Autonomous or semiautonomous components. Autonomous or semiautonomous components of a country.

c               Multilocal. Regional combinations of jurisdictions below the state level.

f               Federal/National

i                International intergovernmental

l                Local

m            Multistate. Regional combinations of jurisdictions at the state, provincial and territorial level.

o              Government publication-level undetermined

s               State, provincial, territorial, dependent, etc.

u              Unknown if item is government publication

z               Other. The level cannot be specified by any other code.

D. It's All About Electronic Resources

GPO's policy on 300 fields for government electronic resources.

The web site for the Federal Depository Libraries Program information on cataloging policies.
Take a look at their new policy (June 2007) for creation of brief bibliographic records.