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Government Documents Resources Online

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The SuDoc

Government call numbers can seem intimidating to some because they are different from other items in libraries that use other organizational systems.  Although it is true that you could go into great detail understanding them completely, you do not need to know all the details to find a book on the shelf.

Here are a just few simple things you need to know to confidently find a book in the Government Document's room.   

1.  The letters at the beginning of a SuDoc number stand for a Government agency.  All of the 

collection is organized by agencies whose members wrote about the topics you need for research.

The letters: ED stand for the Department of Education, whereas I stands for the Department of the Interior.  

2.  There is always a colon in the number.  To find a book, it is necessary to look at everything before the colon (the stem) and then everything after it.  Cover part of the SuDoc with your thumb if you need to, in order to focus on what occurs before or after the colon.

An alphabetical and logical numerical sequence will follow.

The Stem:

Take this example, for instance: C 1.88/2:992/10/CD-ROM 

The stem is C 1.88/2:

Alphabetically on the shelves, C will comes before a call number beginning with ED but it comes after AE.  Our shelving starts with A.  Look at the ends of the ranges for labels.  Go past A and AE to find C. Once you have found the range, look at other parts of the SuDoc.

A period in the call number is just a separation point.  IT IS NOT A DECIMAL, and has no numerical value. 

The number after the agency letter  comes before a period, and it is numerical . So  C 1. comes before C 3 because 1 comes before 3 when we count. The numerical sequencing continues through the stem:  C 1.88: comes before  C 3.277:   because the number 88 comes before 277.  Find the C 1's and then find C 1.88.  Further down the range you will  find the C 3's and then C 3.277.

If a number contains a slash, it always comes after a similar one on the shelf numerically. A slash means "in addition to."  It is used when someone has written on a topic similar to the topic that is linked to that number, but it is not exactly the same. It is unique enough to need a different number from the first one, so the slash creates a new number built on the old one. 

3.  Other things you need to know about a SuDoc number is that after the colon, you may have a date or an abbreviated word. 992 in our example refers to 1992.  After 2000, the GPO had to use 4 digits for a date. 

Words appear at the end.  The main ones are S.Hrg. which stands for Senate Hearings or S. Prt.. for Senate print. You may have a complete word such as CD-Rom for the type of document it is, or ERRATA, which means that the item is a correction that replaces something else.

These are the main things you need to know about a  Sudoc number to use it to find a book on the shelf.  An excellent, more detailed explanation with a Quiz you can take was created by Michigan State University.  Go to this site, read more and take the quiz. 

Please remember that our staff is always happy to assist you in finding a Government Document in Newton Gresham Library.


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