“The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was established by Congress to ensure that the American public has access to its Government's information. Since 1813, depository libraries have safeguarded the public's right to know by collecting, organizing, maintaining, preserving, and assisting users with information from the Federal Government.”
— From GPO Access, “About the FDLP”
The Broward County Library has been part of the Federal Depository Library Program since 1967, when the federal documents collection was housed at the Fort Lauderdale Branch Library. In 1984, the federal documents collection was transferred to Broward County Main Library.
The staff members of the Reference Section of the Main Library are ready to help with your government information needs. Please call 954-357-7439 if you have any questions.
Searching for Federal Government Information
Most items issued by the federal government can be found in Broward County Library’s online Library Catalog either as a reference to an item in the print collection or as a direct link to an online copy of the document.
To those unfamiliar with federal government information and organization, finding specific items can be challenging. When searching for information directly from the internet, many of the most commonly requested items can be found at FDsys: GPO’s Federal Digital System or the U.S. Government’s official portal.
How is Federal Government Information Organized?
The federal government is divided into three main branches; the Executive, which includes the President and all Cabinet offices and agencies; the Legislative, which includes Congress and its supporting agencies; and the Judicial, which includes the Supreme Court, Circuit Courts, District Courts, Bankruptcy courts, and any additional support agencies.
For an in-depth look at the organization and responsibilities of individual agencies, see the United States Government Manual which includes an organization chart for the entire US government (with the exception of the various sub-agencies under the Cabinet Departments).
Federal government information is often arranged by the agency that issued the document. When searching the Library Catalog, you may see a call number for an item which seems unfamiliar. This is because the print collection is organized by the Superintendent of Documents Classification system, which arranges the items by the issuing agency. For example, the letter “C” indicates an item issued by the Commerce Department or one of its sub-agencies such as the Patent Office or the Bureau of the Census.
The Reference Section, located on the fifth floor of the Broward County Main Library, has a collection of print and microform materials, from many federal agencies, relating to a wide variety of subjects including economics, history, politics, science, and social sciences. In addition to current documents, the collection features special historical sets such as War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, and the Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (also known as the Warren Commission Report). Listings for most federal documents are now included in Broward County Library’s online Library Catalog.
Materials received through the depository program remain the property of the federal government. As such, they are maintained as reference materials. On occasion, documents may be checked out for a limited period of time. The circulation of these materials is at the discretion of the librarian, based on the needs of customers as well as the value, age, and condition of the item. Some items or portions of items may be faxed in accordance with standard Broward County Library policies.
Another source for federal documents is American Statistics Index Microfiche Library, from Congressional Information Service. Full-text documents are available in microfiche format. This collection also includes books that index and abstract the statistical publications of federal government agencies.
The Section also has special collections of historical sets such as the Papers of the Continental Congress, Confidential U.S. Diplomatic Post Records, Vietnam War Reports and Classified Histories, and National Security Files.
The Reference Section has a collection of topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and nautical charts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Various areas of Florida and the waters surrounding Florida are included in these map collections.
Topographic maps (or contour maps) have many uses related to earth sciences, geographic planning, and mining, but they also have recreational uses (hiking, orienteering, etc.). They are graphic representations of the surface features of the land, both natural and man-made. They show the elevation of land and include hills, valleys, forest cover, and buildings as well as streams and other bodies of water. Additional information on topographic maps may be found at the USGS website.
Nautical charts are essential tools for marine navigation. They are graphic representations of maritime areas and the adjacent coastal regions. They include natural features of the seabed as well as man-made structures such as harbors and bridges. They show the depths of water and information on tides and currents as well as details of the coastline
The library provides access to the following government-related databases:
FedForms (website) provides access to a wide variety of forms from federal government agencies.
FedStats (website) provides access to statistics compiled by federal government agencies.
GPO Monthly Catalog (website) provides the bibliographic records of federal documents from 1976 to the present. Many of the more recent documents include PURLS (Permanent Uniform Resource Locators) which link the user directly to the full text of the documents. (Look for the “Access” field in the bibliographic record and click on the link.)
Links to Federal Documents websites
Most current federal government documents are now available online through the websites of the government agencies that produce them. The following websites may be useful in locating federal documents.
ipl2: Information You Can Trust - website
This is a searchable and annotated subject directory of internet resources that provide accurate, factual information on many topics. Select “Government” and then “Federal (U.S.) Government” or type a keyword in the search box.
General Government Portals
FDsys: GPO’s Federal Digital System - website
GPO Access provides direct access to current editions of a wide variety of important federal government publications including the Congressional Record, United States Code, and Code of Federal Regulations.
USA.gov - website
This portal to the websites of all federal agencies is managed by the U.S. General Services Administration and provides one-stop access to online federal government resources. It allows the user to find government information without the need to know which agencies produce the information. Search by keyword or browse under “Featured Subjects”, “Interesting Topics”, branches of government, or state and local information.
Executive Branch Websites
Cabinet-Level Agencies and Offices