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U.S. Government Information: FDLP Access and Collection policies

Introduction to Government Documents at Williams

Description of Area Served

The John Griffith Ames Government Documents Collection at Williams College (Federal Depository Library #0259) is located in Williamstown, Massachusetts (2010 Census population 7,754 ), in northern Berkshire County (2010 Census population 131,219).

Although Berkshire County has experienced a decline in population in the 80s (-4%) and 90s (-4.5%) and 2000s (-1%) [source: American FactFinder, U.S. Census], the area has seen an increase in the past two decades in the number of high-tech firms located here. Tourism and the hospitality industry, however, dominate the local economy and many cultural activities highlight the Berkshire scene, including the Williamstown Theatre FestivalMass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. The area's past dependence on manufacturing has declined a great deal in the past 40 years.


Materials in the John Griffith Ames Government Documents Collection are housed in open stacks in Sawyer Library, Schow Science Center Library, and in off-site storage. Materials located in off-site storage can be retrieved by requesting at the Circulation Desk. Some maps and most monographs can be charged out to authorized borrowers. There is free access to all documents housed in Sawyer and Schow whenever the Libraries are openPhotocopiers and scanners are available. 

All government documents currently received, whether in paper or electronic format, are represented in the Libraries' online catalog.

No-fee public Internet access, including such finding aids as The Catalog of Government Publications, Congressional Publications and the Federal Digital System (FDsys) are available from workstations on the first floor. Reference service for all users, regardless of affiliation, is available during regular reference hours (normally 10-5 & 7-10 M-TH; 10-5 F; 1-5 Saturdays and 1-5 & 7-10 on Sundays) during the school year. Modified hours are in effect during academic breaks.

Government documents, including documents in the subscription database Congressional Publications can be lent to other libraries through Interlibrary Loan. Authorized borrowers can request titles which we do not hold through Interlibrary Loan. For general users, bibliographic assistance is provided with referral to the local public library for Interlibrary loan or to the Regional Depository

The Documents Librarian will plan and coordinate with the Electronic Services Librarian, the Electronic Resources Group and the Catalog librarians to ensure appropriate access via the online catalog and other Library webpages to online government resources.

Collection Development

As the overall administrator of the Federal depository collection, the librarian responsible for government documents coordinates operations with other library departments. Responsibility for selection rests with the documents librarian. Suggestions from academic department liaisons, faculty, students, library staff and the general public are sought and encouraged.

Item numbers offered through FDLP will be selected if they meet the following criteria:

  • support major aspects of the curriculum 
  • regularly support faculty or student research 
  • are in a format which can be supported at Williams; preference is for digital format 
  • are of high quality or suitability, as measured by: scope, intended audience, timeliness, and reference use

Titles will not be selected for which little demand is anticipated, or for which adequate housing or expertise is not available. Examples of such materials include patents, military specifications, highly technical reports, management and personnel manuals, home economics publications, consumer advisories, tourist maps, and promotional materials. 

As one of the first selective depository libraries in the country, The John Griffith Ames Government Documents collection has an unusually rich collection of older and valuable materials. For some of these materials, consideration is given to either housing them in remote storage or transferring them to the rare book collection. These transfers take place in consultation with the Special Collections Librarian.

When appropriate, selected documents may be housed in the general collection, the reference collection, or the Schow Science Center Library, which is part of Williams Libraries. Some of these documents are classified according to the Library of Congress schedules, others are classified by Superintendent of Documents number. The documents staff and the staff of the Science Library share maintenance of these collections; however, the FDLP Coordinator retains ultimate responsibility for these materials. Specific policies follow for special categories of documents:

  • Publications of the U. S. Geological Survey are housed in the Schow Science Center Library, including all geological maps. 
  • If a document is considered vital to the reference collection, the FDLP Coordinator, in consultation with the Head of Reference, determines whether to order a second copy or to transfer the document to the reference collection.

Rationale for Size and Scope

Williams College Libraries are committed to making depository items available to the public while serving its primary mission, the curricular needs of Williams College. Because of the limits of size and staffing, this depository depends on regional libraries for ready access to documents not in the collection; these libraries are the Boston Public Library, the New York State Library in Albany, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the government documents collection at SUNY Albany. In late 2011, the Berkshire Athenaeum will provide access to NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) archival material once housed at the now-closed regional NARA facility.

Because of the relative proximity of other Depository libraries, and because of the increase in Internet access to government information, almost 100% of public government information is available to users. Given these conditions, the John Griffith Ames Depository operates most efficiently selecting about 16% of the materials made available through the depository program.



Williams Libraries is a Congressionally-designated depository for U.S. Government documents. Public access to the government documents collection is guaranteed by Title 44 United States Code.

Outreach and Promotion

Outreach programs (such as workshops) and surveys may be used, both to publicize the Depository collection and to identify present and potential users. 

Outreach activities may include:

  • notification to faculty and library liaisons of significant new documents in their disciplines
  • featuring documents in displays 
  • inclusion of documents information in the faculty orientations 
  • inclusion of documents information in bibliographic instruction
  • orientation programs for local librarians, school librarians, as well as the faculty of other local colleges

All outreach programs will be considered in terms of their potential impact on service to the Williams College community.


This collection is administered and developed according to the requirements of Title 44, Chapter 19, of the United States Code and Legal Requirements & Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program issued by the Library Programs Service, Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office. The Libraries will maintain computer hardware that either meets or exceeds the technical standards set by the Federal Depository Library Program.


Item numbers will be reviewed annually to avoid unnecessary duplication, to make efficient use of the limited space available, and to optimize coverage of available depository items. Community and curricular needs are reviewed annually.

Methods of determining needs include: 

  • examination of the curriculum and requests from faculty and students 
  • actual use of documents, as evidenced by reference questions, circulation, in-house use, and interlibrary loan requests 
  • needs expressed by the local community 
  • examination of demographic profile of the 1st Congressional District

Most superseded documents are withdrawn. The few superseded titles that are kept are clearly marked "Superseded [date] - retained for historical purposes". Other documents may be reviewed for retention after five years. Those titles no longer needed will be offered to other libraries and/or discarded with the permission of the regional depository, in accordance with Legal Requirements & Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program

Worn documents will be evaluated for replacement or withdrawal. A deposit account is maintained with the Government Printing Office to supplement the depository collection and to replace lost or damaged materials. If a lost or damaged item is not available from the Government Printing Office, the Needs and Offers list is consulted.

Item selections will be reviewed annually. New titles offered will be evaluated in accordance with the criteria set forth in "Determining needs" (above) and the appropriate library liaisons will be consulted.