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Library Policies and Practices: Government Information Policies

Library Policy Number E:24


The purpose of the federal depository library program is to provide federal government information to libraries for the free and unimpeded access of the public. Watson Library was designated as a Federal Depository in 1887. The majority of the Federal Documents collection is located in the Government Documents Reading Room (Room 111) of Watson Library; however some documents have been reclassed and are part of the reference, circulating, and serials collections.

It is the policy of the library to serve anyone who needs its services. There are no restrictions on who may use the library. The library's primary clientele are the students, faculty, and staff of the Northwestern State University. Since many of our distance education students live outside the immediate area, our services reflect the need to get material to people working and taking classes off-campus. Watson Library also serves the Natchitoches community and surrounding area.

Users from the NSU community present a NSU ID/One card to check out materials. Persons not from NSU must join the Friends of the Library and receive an official ID before they may check out materials or use the databases remotely. No fee is charged to check out library materials, however, overdue fines of $1.00 per item per day are assessed on all users.  For users who do not wish to check library material out, the library provides access to a scanner.  There is no charge to use the scanner, and library users can save scanned documents in a variety of formats. 

Government documents in print follow the same circulation policies as library books -  Microfiche documents typically do not circulate, but there are free reader/printers available in the Serials/Media Division.  CDs only circulate on a case-by-case basis, but the Reference/Government Information Coordinator will make a free copy of a CD upon request.  Maps circulate on a limited basis because the only place to get an oversized copy made is at a off-campus location.

Anyone may use the library's online catalog and databases in the library. Anyone may access the library's online catalog and the Government Documents Department home page from off campus.  Only users who are affiliated with NSU or have joined the Friends of the Library may access the subscription databases from off-campus.

Library Policy Nunber E:28



This policy serves as a guide to assist the Library staff in developing and maintaining the government documents collection.

The Watson Library at Northwestern State University (NSU) was designated a selective federal depository library in 1887. The Library selects approximately 35% of available items.

The Library's primary users are students, faculty, and staff of Northwestern State University. NSU’s student body is approximately 10,000 and includes many distance education students.  NSU is primarily an undergraduate institution focusing on degree programs in Education, Nursing, and Business. In addition to NSU faculty, staff, and students, the library serves the Natchitoches community and the surrounding area.

As a selective depository, NSU Watson Library’s mission is to provide free and open access to government information to faculty, staff, students, Friends of the Library, and members of the community in accordance regulations established by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and distributed in Instructions to Depository Libraries.

Selection Responsibility and Methods

The Government Information/Reference Librarian is solely responsible for selecting materials for the collection; however, input from library patrons and staff is taken into consideration. The Government Information/Reference Librarian reviews the Library's list of item number selections annually to ensure that the library is receiving materials it needs and not those which are of little or no use to our primary patrons. Sources to be consulted in this review process include the List of Classes, U.S. Government Subscriptions, and the suggested core collections listed in the Federal Depository Library Manual. Other materials which may provide ideas include Subject Bibliographies, Documents to the People, Census and You, advertisements, book reviews, interlibrary loan requests, reference questions, government documents shelving statistics, and sources mentioned on GOVDOC-L or the Internet.

Collection Focus

Selection centers on the curriculum, and focuses on, but is not limited to, business, education, and health. Also included are Census publications, publications from the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and other materials of general research value. As part of the library’s mission to serve the general public, the government documents collection includes publications from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and NASA.

Collection Arrangement

The majority of the government documents collection (approximately 85%) is shelved on the first floor of Watson Library in the Government Documents Reading Room (Room 111). These documents are shelved or filed in SuDocs number order. Maps, CD-ROMs, and other Audio Visual materials are filed by SuDocs number in appropriate cabinets in the reference room. Some documents (approximately 15%) have been reclassed and are now shelved in the reference, general circulating, serials, or branch library collections.

Collection Evaluation

Circulation figures for government publications can be obtained from the Library's ILMS (integrated library management system). A zero-based collection review is practiced so that only relevant material is selected and so government funds are not wasted. Core collections in the Federal Depository Library Manual are also checked.

Library Policy Number E:26


All unified workstations (UWS) are available for use by all patrons during normal library hours.  From these computers, anyone who comes into the library can access all library resources including government documents listed in our online catalog and the government information web page/LibGuide.  From this LibGuide, patrons can access many government information resources including In addition to these workstations, there is a 50+ computer lab located in the library, which is restricted to student use only. 

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, the library is longer able to provide a workstation dedicated to the use of electronic government information.  Students have access to numerous computer labs on campus, and the government information librarian can provide mediated searching for non-University patrons.


The Government Documents Department will provide access to electronic information it selects as a federal depository library. This may include floppy disks, CD-ROMs DVDs, mini-CD's, and Internet formats.


The Government Documents Department will process tangible electronic products it selects in a timely manner and in keeping with the Government Printing Office directive of "available for public use within 10 days after receipt".  Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is available for government documents not owned by Watson Library. The Government Information Librarian will fax or email documents to off-campus users.  Public access CD-Roms, DVDs, floppy diskettes, and other electronic media are stored in locked cabinets in the reference room. A key to this cabinet is stored in the key box behind the reference desk so that these cabinets are accessible by reference staff at all times.

Users may come to the reference desk for assistance during all the hours the library is open. If the reference librarian on duty is unable to help the patron, that patron is directed to the Government Information Librarian. If this librarian is not available, the patron may make an appointment to return at a later time or date.

If a patron wishes to copy a CD-ROM, blank CD-Rs are available free of charge from the Government Information Librarian.

Electronic documents in tangible format do not circulate except by special permission from the Government Information Librarian.  The library’s Government Information LibGuide page provides links to many government information resources, and there are several users’ guides which provide information on locating government information in the library and on the Internet.