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Newsletter of the Federal Depository Library Program

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Cumulative Table of Contents Vol. 1 - present [ PDF ] ( includes current issue )

July 15, 2003

GP 3.16/3-2:23/03
(Vol. 24, no. 09)

Considerations in Selecting Online Publications

With the continuing transition to a more electronic Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), several questions have been raised about selection of publications distributed in online format. The following discussion attempts to provide depository library staff with additional information on which to base their selection decisions.

Where are online only publications found in the List of Classes?

Online publications that are assigned a unique SuDocs class stem are listed in the List of Classes and designated (EL). Other online publications are included in general category classes (i.e., General Publications and Handbooks, Manuals, and Guides) and in other classes that represent more than one title. These SuDocs classes do not have a specific format designation and generally include both online and tangible publications. Libraries are advised to review item numbers associated with these classes very carefully before processing a deselection to assure that desired tangible publications are not deselected.

The List of Classes reflects decisions made about format designations for class numbers. However, all decisions are subject to change, as Federal agencies change their publishing practices and make alternative formats available for the public and the FDLP.

What are the advantages to libraries of selecting item numbers for EL publications?

Depository libraries benefit in several ways when they include EL publications in their item selection profiles:

  • Receipt of new agency publications, in any format, from their inception. Occasionally, LPS adds new item numbers representing new publications to depository library profiles based on the librariesí current item selection profiles. This process avoids the wait until the next item selection update cycle for adding new item numbers. LPS makes the assumption that libraries will want publications similar to those they already select. Libraries that do not want the new publications may drop them at any time.

Libraries will receive these automatic additions, which might be in tangible format, only if they already select the original item number, which might be associated with an EL publication.

  • Receipt of publications in tangible formats when their designation changes from EL, without missing any issues. An agency may change a publicationís format from online to tangible, or LPS may change the format designation from EL to a tangible format if the agency discontinues posting the complete publication online. Libraries will receive the new format only if they select the item number for the online publication.
  • Free use of online subscription services that are otherwise fee-based.
  • For libraries which subscribe to cataloging records (and/or record updates) from third-party vendors (i.e., MARCIVE, AutoGraphics, OCLC), receipt of records for online publications. These subscription services may base their library profiles on the librariesí item number selections. Libraries that donít select the items for EL publications may not receive the cataloging records for them unless they specifically profile with the vendors to receive these.

What are the advantages to researchers when the library selects item numbers for EL publications?

The selection of item numbers for online publications assists those researchers using locator services such as the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, which link to libraries that select the item numbers for these publications. This "locate libraries" function can serve as a referral service of sorts for people who want related materials. For example, if a library selects Condition of Education (EL), they know this is a subject area in which the library collects materials, and they may come into the library seeking related materials that are not available online.

Implications for collection development

Libraries that choose not to select items for online publications should revise their collection development policy to reflect this decision. Library staff should consider how the library will provide bibliographic access to online publications so the public and the libraryís primary clientele know about these titles. (One way to do this is by reviewing New Electronic Titles and cataloging or linking to those matching the libraryís collection parameters.)

The true measure of a library's collection development success is no longer the actual number of item selections and relationship to the average selection rate for similar size and type of library, but whether the depository library is meeting the Federal government information needs of its community.


Documents Data Miner (DDM) databases, developed and operated through a GPO/Wichita State University partnership, and the Federal Bulletin Board (FBB) List of Classes are very useful tools for searching and developing a list of item selections by format. Several in the depository community have extracted data from a DDM or FBB database and sorted it in various ways, such as SuDocs class number, in order to have another tool for item selection review and collection development. Recent postings to documents discussion lists have included step-by-step instructions for achieving these results. Currently in DDM, one can simply search in the List of Classes by format "Electronic Library" and retrieve all online documents, including those online only and those associated with other formats.

As always, if you have any questions, please continue to utilize the askLPS service.

GPO will soon install its first Integrated Library System (ILS), which will allow LPS to provide new services related to item selection to depository libraries. Notices about new developments and services will be posted on FDLP-L and published in Administrative Notes.

Related information

Collection Development (FDLP Desktop)


Review of LPS positions on item selection rates

Administrative Notes v. 22, # 5, 3/15/01


Depository access to online subscription services


Item numbers added to Essential Titles

Administrative Notes, v. 24, # 6, 5/15/03


GPO Guidelines for online processing of depository documents

Administrative Notes, v. 16, # 17, 12/15/95