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Question

Q: How can I find a government document on the shelf?

Answer

Government publications are arranged differently on the shelf than books in the general collection of the library. The collection is arranged by Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) numbers.   Unlike most classification systems, SuDoc numbers are not based on subject. Instead they are based on the agency which issued the publication. Each executive department and agency, the Judiciary, Congress, and other major independent establishments are assigned a unique alphabetical identifier, based on the name of the organization, e.g., "A" for Agriculture Department and "HS" for Homeland Security.   The letters "X" and "Y" are reserved for Congress. The current lettering for SuDoc numbers can be found here

The documents are shelved alphabetically by the first letters in the class number, then numerically.   Treat numbers on either side of the decimal "point" as WHOLE numbers when searching for federal documents (ex. HS 1.2: comes before HS 1.15:). 

Focus on the Three Things You Really Need to Know

1. It is not a decimal system. The number after the point is a whole number

Decimal vs. SuDocs Order
Decimal Order SuDocs Order
D 1.1: D 1.1:
D 1.12: D 1.3:
D 1.122: D 1.12:
D 1.3: D 1.33:
D 1.33: D 1.122:

2. If the call number is the same to a certain point, then varies, the order is: Years, Letters, Numbers. Until the year 2000, the first number was dropped from years, so those years have 3 digits. Beginning with the year 2000, years will be 4 digits.

Years/Letters/Numbers Order
Example 1 Example 2
A 1.35:993 EP 1.23:998
A 1.35:R 42 EP 1.23:A 62
A 1.35:R 42/995 EP 1.23:91-44
A 1.35:R 42/2 EP 1.23:600/998-103
A 1.35:321 EP 1.23:600/R-98-23

3. If the call number stem (the numbers before the colon) has numbers slashed onto the base number, the base number comes first, followed by the slashed numbers in order. The same rule applies to numbers dashed onto other numbers or letters.

Slashes/Dashes Order
Example 1 Example 2
C 3.186: EP 1.23:
C 3.186/2: EP 1.23/A:
C 3.186/7: EP 1.23/A-2:
C 3.186/7-3: EP 1.23/2:
C 3.186/9: EP 1.23/2-2:

(https://www.lib.msu.edu/branches/gov/sudocs-basics/)

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Last Updated

Last Updated

Jul 18, 2017

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