GPO Index?
November 27, 2007 9:16 PM   Subscribe

The United States GPO (Government Printing Office) has printed thousands of texts over many decades. But there seems to be no index of what they've done, on or offline. True? False? Help!

Yes, has some indexing functions. But I find nothing that goes back to the 1970s, much less earlier. Am I missing something? Many thanks.
posted by eccnineten to Law & Government (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Good question. Not sure if I have the answer, but here's a couple things. I have no clue if these go back far enough, or are what you are looking for, but they might be of help.

Here's the consumer info catalog (PDF). It's not a full list, obviously.

The GPO Bookstore
has browsing and searching options.

Then, GPO Access has an A-Z list of topics.

Here's a list of agency publication indexes.
posted by The Deej at 9:29 PM on November 27, 2007

My understanding is that they're merely a publication (production) arm of the gov't and don't do the job of archiving, digesting, or any other meta-work since they're just not chartered for it. When there's enough need, publications are indexed by the private sector by reporters like Westlaw. My company (not WL), for instance, indexes the Federal Register (or parts of it) that the GPO puts out since there's no equivalent federal service.

From the wiki:
The U.S. federal government does not publish an official reporter for the federal courts at the circuit and district levels. However, just as the UK government uses the ICLR reporters by default, the U.S. courts use the unofficial West federal reporters, which are the Federal Reporter (for courts of appeals) and the Federal Supplement (for district courts). West also publishes several unofficial state-specific reporters for large states like California.

Some government agencies use (and require attorneys and agents practicing before them to cite to) certain unofficial reporters that specialize in the types of cases likely to be material to matters before the agency. For example, for both patent and trademark practice, the United States Patent and Trademark Office requires citation to the United States Patents Quarterly (USPQ).[1][2]

Today, both Westlaw and LexisNexis also publish a variety of official and unofficial reporters covering the decisions of many federal and state administrative agencies which possess quasi-judicial powers.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:30 PM on November 27, 2007

I have never found a comprehensive list. The only experience I have is with the UCLA library. UCLA is one of the many Federal Depository Libraries. The university library had to catalog and file all gov't documents and publications on its own. Many GPO-printed materials are not sent to FDLs. The libraries have to buy most of what they get from GPO, so they are selective. If you find a good Federal Depository Library, its own catalog should be the closest thing you will find to a comprehensive list--and it will fall far short of being comprehensive. Call or visit one of the larger libraries on this list and ask to speak with the government documents librarian (major libraries have one or more).
posted by HotPatatta at 9:34 PM on November 27, 2007

Uh, sorry, kinda diverged from your question. You should look for a (law) reporter for the specific industry or topic you're interested in. There are workplace safety reporters, industrial regulation reporters, criminal law reporters, etc. Also, whatever agency originated the documents (and commissioned the GPO to print them) may do their own reporting and archiving. GPO just makes copies.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:40 PM on November 27, 2007

Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, updated daily. I searched for 'Vietnam' and found documents dating back to 1900.
posted by eritain at 10:04 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I should add that before 1900 there are several paper indices as well.

The above was found via my university library's page on government documents, which was in turn found via Google with the 'site:' keyword. Any other Federal Depository Library with a website will be susceptible to the same methods. Looks like depository libraries don't necessarily receive the full package, but the indices are designed to be used by more than one library, so they'd have to be complete.

Oh, and if your nearest depository has browse-by-call-number, try to start browsing the SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents) calls beginning at A, and that'll give you a list of everything they have. Again, might not be every publication, but it'll be a lot.
posted by eritain at 10:14 PM on November 27, 2007

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