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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:

  • govinfo

    Provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government

    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.


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 The library is in the process of reducing its print collection in accordance with the proper FDLP guidelines by making withdrawn material available to be claimed by any other depository library within a set period of time.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.

Reference Librarian

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Mark Stumme

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."