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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 )

September 15, 2003

GP 3.16/3-2:24/11
(Vol. 24, no. 11)

Readers Exchange

Acquiring Federal Depository Status

By Ray Dickinson
Government Documents Specialist
Ferris State University

In July 2001, Ferris State University, in Big Rapids, Michigan was awarded Federal depository status after a pursuit of almost 30 years. We understood the rules and procedures for acquiring such status, but because there were already two Congressionally designated depository libraries in our Congressional District, (one at Central Michigan University, and one at Alma College) we knew that something extraordinary would have to happen before we could hope for depository status.

This came in April of 2001 when Alma College decided to withdraw from the depository system. Mrs. Anne Marie Sanders, the Regional Depository Librarian at the Library of Michigan in Lansing, gave me a call as soon as she heard the news, and told me that if we wanted to become a Federal depository library we would have to move very quickly to acquire it. The reason for the speed was that Michigan had lost a seat in the House of Representatives, and redistricting by Governor John Engler was imminent. We had to put everything into motion before that happened. In order to get our request in to our Congressman, Representative David Camp of Midland, we would have to move quickly.

Part of my job was to convince the administration of Ferris that acquiring Federal status was good for the university. It wasn't that they were opposed to the change, rather that they wanted to see some savings in resources and an increase in service to our students, faculty and staff. While I was writing a proposal to the Dean of the Library, Dr. Richard Cochran, and to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Barbara Chapman, Mrs. Sanders was contacting necessary state personnel who could assist us in this endeavor. She contacted the remaining depository in our Congressional District, Mr. David Shirley at Central Michigan University, and got a letter of his approval for the designation for Ferris, and she also contacted the State Librarian, Ms. Christie Pearson Brandau and received her approval.

Once I had convinced the administration at Ferris that acquiring Federal depository status would be beneficial to the university, I then had to contact Mr. David Camp's representative in Midland to see if Mr. Camp would write a letter to the Superintendent of Documents, Mr. Francis Buckley, in support of the transfer of depository status from Alma to Ferris. I was assured that Mr. Camp would be happy to assist us.

Most of this work was done in May of 2001, while we were under the gun of a possible change in the Congressional district's map. We did not know if all of our work would be in vain, or if we in fact would be able to meet an invisible deadline.

As it turned out, we did, and all of the support that we sought from various librarians and others around the state of Michigan was given wholeheartedly. In July 2001, Mr. Buckley signed the designation papers, and we became a Federally Designated Depository Library at last.

Pre-Depository Status

At the time of our designation, Ferris had been in existence for 117 years. We were founded by Mr. Woodbridge N. Ferris (who later was Governor of the State of Michigan, 1913-1917 and U.S. Senator, 1922-1928) in 1884 as the Big Rapids Industrial School. We became a state school in 1949 after a number of name changes. We have also been called Ferris Institute, Ferris State College (starting in 1965), and in 1986, Ferris State University.

We began acquiring U.S. and Michigan government documents in the early 1960's. Our first Government Documents Librarian, Mr. Glenn Fox would order government documents from the Monthly Catalog, submit his list to the Director of the Library, Mrs. Goldie Nott for approval, and then order from various individual Federal departments. When I came on board in 1968, I was not involved with documents at all, but had other jobs in the library, i.e., cataloging, and serving in the multi-media area. When Mr. Fox retired, I was asked to replace him. This was in 1976. At that time, we became a State of Michigan Depository Library, and have continued with this designation ever since.

The quality of the material published in U.S. and Michigan government publications greatly impressed me, and I worked to provide as many appropriate materials as I could find that were published by the government. I not only selected the documents, I also cataloged them, so I became much more familiar with the subject matter and other specifics of the documents.

In 1985 we became a depository library for the Bureau of the Census, and in 1991 we became the third Patent and Trademark Depository Library in the State of Michigan, the other two being the Detroit Public Library and the Engineering Library at the University of Michigan.

For many years I collected government publications from wherever I could, however I could. Sometimes I got on a mailing list for a certain agency, and would receive everything they published, and sometimes, as with the U.S. General Accounting Office, I would receive a monthly listing, and then order specific reports that would be of interest to our students and others. There were a couple of years when I added between 12,000 and 16,000 documents each year. This also included cataloging them, and this was before OCLC and its automated cataloging services that are now used by most academic libraries. The cataloging of all government documents has generated significant interlibrary loan traffic for our library.

GPO is not the only provider of documents to libraries. What I have found over the years, i.e., 1976-2003, is that government agencies that produce documents are very happy to share their work with libraries that want their documents. They will send them free of charge, and postage free.

Surfing the Internet via GPO Access, or Google Unclesam, etc., will find many documents, both in paper and in electronic format. We add many electronic-format-only documents to our OPAC, as well as adding URL's to cataloging for paper or microfiche documents.

If anyone wants more information about how to go about acquiring non-Federal depository government publications, please feel free to contact me. My phone number is: 231-591-3730. My email address is: <dickinsr@ferris.edu>.