What’s the big deal? Every single day, federal government agencies post an enormous number of publications to their official websites, all of which are part of the official record of the work of the U.S. government. Many of these publications could eventually vanish from the public record if they are not captured and cataloged.

What’s a fugitive document? Any federal information dissemination product that is within scope of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and has NOT been cataloged by the Government Publishing Office (GPO) could potentially be a fugitive document. While this project is focused on collecting born-digital publications from federal agency websites, there are an uncountable number of print fugitive documents out there too.

There are at least two major reasons why a particular document could be a “lost” document: some agencies are notorious in failing to share information about their publishing to GPO (and they can be seen in the Lostdocs tag cloud on the front page!), and the publications of regional offices and other small entities don’t always make it onto GPO’s radar. Often the latter are of particular interest to a specific state or region, which is an excellent reason to invest time in locating and capturing them.

What’s the scope of the FDLP? GPO’s official definition of scope is “Government Information Products Included in the Cataloging and Indexing Program and Disseminated Through the Federal Depository Library Program” (for more, see GPO Depository Collection and Development). Out of scope products include those classified for reasons of national security and those where the use is constrained by privacy considerations. In conclusion, if it’s a publication on a federal website, it is probably in scope.

Okay, so how does this lost document collection business work? To join the project, download the free Zotero client. Create a Zotero account (also free!), then submit a request to join the Everyday Electronic Materials (EEMs) group.

When you find a suspected lost document, search the Catalog of Government Publications for the item. If you can’t find a record and a PURL for it there, create a record for it in your Zotero account, attach the document to the Zotero record, and add it to the EEM group library. Be sure to tag the record with the agency and some relevant keywords.

A script will pass your lost documents report along to GPO and post a copy to the Lost Docs Blog. Once GPO staff have cataloged the document, you can access and retrieve the bibliographic record in whatever manner you choose. For more information on the process, check out this post: Want to be a fugitive hunter?.

How can I learn more about using Zotero? James R. Jacobs posted a workshop outline with additional resources here: http://bit.ly/zotero-workshop.

What if there’s a record for the print version but not the digital version? As long as the digital version is hosted on a federal agency website, report it! Include the CGP system number in the notes field of the Zotero entry.

What if the document is more than just a single PDF? This workflow is intended for documents that are single PDFs. If you come across a multipart publication with a number of PDFs or HTML files, these can be reported as a cataloging request to AskGPO. Use the category “Cataloging” for these requests.

If you come across a multipart publication with a CGP serial or annual record and wish to confirm that the publication has been harvested by GPO, you can submit a request in AskGPO to verify whether the full document has been harvested. Use the category “PURL/URL Issue” for these requests, and include the CGP system number.

What if I’m worried that a document will disappear before it’s cataloged? As a bonus step, you can install a Wayback Machine bookmarklet in your browser (like this one: http://www.gyford.com/misc/wayback.html) and use it to see if our friends at the Internet Archive has already captured the document. If it’s not captured, go to the Wayback Machine’s homepage (or use the bookmarklet!) and submit the URL in the “Save Page Now” box. Keep in mind that while GPO staff save a copy of the digital object to GPO’s server, it’s best to save a separate copy somewhere else. If your library has a digital repository or other server space available, you can always keep a copy for your local collection.

How can I find out what’s happening? Join the freenode IRC channel #fdlp to chat with project participants. See this post for more information about #fdlp on IRC. Also, keep an eye on govdoc-l for updates and scheduled hosted chat sessions AKA the “virtual coffee klatch” series.

Contact James R. Jacobs for more questions (jrjacobs AT stanford DOT edu).

Last updated 4/30/2015 by Shari Laster (Thanks Shari!!)