More than 100 years of information outreach: Auburn University Libraries and the Federal Depository Library Program

Published: March 23, 2015
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Most members of the Auburn University Family know about the Auburn University Libraries' mission as a research and study destination for students, faculty and staff. What many don't know is that AUL also has a wider mission that dates back 108 years: that of a Federal depository library.

The groundwork for the modern Federal Depository Library Program, or FDLP, dates back to an 1813 Congressional Joint Resolution that mandated certain publications of the government be distributed to libraries and made available to the public. Today, the law the libraries operate under is the Depository Library Act of 1962.

As a designated depository library, AUL receives government documents on a wide variety of subjects from the U.S. Government Publishing Office – the world's biggest publisher – at no charge. In exchange, AUL agrees to maintain the documents for public use – one of the reasons why AUL does not require any type of library card or fee for the public to enter the library and do research on the premises.

Since its designation as a depository library in 1907, AUL has garnered a positive reputation in the FDLP system. As part of a collaboration with other member libraries of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries, or ASERL, it is a "Center of Excellence" in the fields of agriculture and aviation history. As such, it holds the most comprehensive collection of government documents in the region on these subjects – both current and historical.

AUL's Government Documents Department has been headed by Liza Weisbrod for the last nine years. She is proud not only of AUL's designation as a center of excellence but also of having a wide selection of government documents readily available for anyone doing research at the library.

"It has been fun over the years to see what comes out of the GPO," said Weisbrod. "Sometimes the titles, especially of the historical documents, make you wonder 'Why did they print that?', but the information contained in the publications, both historical and current, always are in response to a perceived need at the time."

As a Federal depository library, AUL must periodically submit to a Public Access Assessment by the GPO to ensure it is fulfilling its mission to make government documents available to the public. In its most recent evaluation conducted in January of 2015, the GPO team found AUL in full compliance with its responsibilities as a Federal depository library, and in its report wrote, "The library has a strong Federal depository operation and multiple services that support free, public access to the depository collection. Led by knowledgeable depository coordinator and staff, several library staff work regularly with Federal depository resources and contribute to its success."

The AUL government documents collection is open during all regular library hours and more than 90 percent of new government documents are available directly online. What you'll find in the collection ranges from Congressional Acts to census date and from extension manuals to maps. All of it free to use by all members of the public and cataloged for ease of use and maintained by one of the many departments of Auburn University Libraries dedicated to supporting the tradition of excellence in research that Auburn is famous for. To search the AUL government documents collection, visit the main library page at: http://www.lib.auburn.edu/. To get a glimpse into the world of government documents at AUL, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/AuburnUniversityLibrariesGovDocs.

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