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Cowles Library


Government Documents: Home

A guide to U.S. federal government publications in Cowles Library

Federal Depository

How to find documents

Using the Catalog

Government publications have been cataloged in the online catalog since 2004.  They are listed by title, agency and subject.  Those with Superintendent of Documents call numbers are shelved in Tier 3.  Others are in the general collection by Library of Congress call number. For microfiche, ask at the Reference Desk or Help desk for someone to retrieve the microfiche. Older documents not in the catalog are listed by the Superintendent of Documents call number in the "Shelf List" cabinet in Tier 3.  Reference Librarians will help you use our resources such as the Monthly Catalog and Catalog of U.S. Government Publications for finding specific publications.

Electronic Documents

The government is posting more and more material on the Web. Some well established publications are listed in our catalog with a URL to link to the online publication. A number of government web sites specifically help you find online federal resources:


    Leads to the Government Publishing Office's new way of publishing, managing and preserving government sources from all three branches of government digitally. Includes presidential papers, budget, congressional hearings, regulations, etc.

    Search thousands of government pages by keyword, by topic or by agency.
  • Catalog of U.S. Government Publications

    Search for federal documents by subject, title keyword, or author. This online Catalog is slowly including all documents listed in the printed Monthly Catalog which dates from 1895-2004.
  • Declassified Documents Reference System

    Get online access to more than 500,000 pages of previously classified government documents. Covering major international events from the Cold War to the Vietnam War and beyond, this single source enables users to locate key information underpinning studies in international relations, American studies, United States foreign and domestic policy studies, journalism and more.


Cowles Library was designated a selective federal depository library in December 1966.  The library maintains a core collection of material in print.  With most new material being available online, we receive only a minimal number of new items in print.  The library is in the process of reducing its print collection in accordance with the proper FDLP guidelines by making withdrawn material available to be claimed by any other depository library within a set period of time.  

Cowles Library will provide access to federal government information made available through the Federal Depository Program.  This access will be freely available to both the Drake community and the general public for print material and online resources.  Most government materials in the building are arranged by the Superintendent of Documents Classification System.   Documents received since June 2004 as well as many older documents can be found listed in the Online Catalog.  Questions regarding government documents not found in the catalog can be addressed by the Reference Librarian on duty in person, by telephone (515-271-2111, email, or chat.  A shelf list by Superintendent of Document call numbers of the older government publications can be found in Tier 3.




General Guides

Cowles Government Related Databases

The following databases can be useful to people studying government issues, but are not part of our federal depository collection.  They are subscription based, open to Drake students, faculty and staff, who can log-on with his/her Drake ID and password when off-campus.

CQ Congress Collection

Find historical analyses of members of Congress, their legislative voting behavior, interest groups, and their interactions in crafting public policy.

CQ Public Affairs Collection

Organized by subject, pulls together historic documents and primary source materials, statistical overviews, directory contact information, and in-depth reporting on current affairs.

CQ Supreme Court Collection

Gives a historical analysis and summaries of the most important Supreme Court decisions together with justice biographies, statistics with news on current events and public opinion surrounding the Court's decisions.

CQ U.S. Historic Documents Collection

Digitization of the print "Historic Documents" series (1972-2016) - a one-stop source for commentary on primary source documents relating to each year's key events.

CQ Voting and Election Collection

Explores the campaign process and the election outcome for presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, and other elections with data down to the county and district level.

CQ Weekly

Covers the U.S. Congress; including status of bills, votes & amendments, floor & committee activity, backroom maneuvering from 1984 to date.

LexisNexis Congressional (Proquest)

Includes abstracts and indexing for congressional publications and legislative histories with citations for bills, public laws, Statutes at Large, and Legislative Histories. Full text is available to many Congressional Reports from the Serial Set.

Reference Librarian

Federal Library Depository Program

The Federal Depository Library Program was established by Congress to "ensure that the American public has access to its Government's information, the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) involves the acquisition, format conversion, and distribution of depository materials to libraries throughout the United States and the coordination of Federal depository libraries in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The mission of the FDLP is to disseminate information products from all three branches of the Government to about 1,250 libraries nationwide at no cost.

The U.S. Government Publishing Office administers the FDLP and serves to provide this network of libraries with the tools they need to keep America informed."