Archive for category housekeeping

One way to verify non-distribution of docs

John Stevenson recently left a comment here on the Lost Docs blog that seems to provide a straightforward way of deducing whether GPO intends to distribute a document acquired by their acquisitions dept to Federal Depository Libraries. We thought his comment deserved wider exposure:


The presence of a title with a SuDocs classification number in CGP doesn’t mean that it will be distributed to FDLP libraries, so the “False Positive” category may need some tweaking to make sure we’re all on the same page.

As I understand it, GPO now produces brief, format-specific CGP records for titles it’s working with. These constitute acquisition records and titles which are accepted into the program receive full cataloging at a later point in time. This process allows people outside GPO to see that’s in the hopper to be cataloged and the titles that will not be distributed. It’s a wonderful tool which allows librarians to preview titles and make acquisitions decisions for their own libraries without the need to ask GPO.

When people see records with SuDocs classification numbers, the titles have undergone Acquisitions review and the FDLP decision is recorded in the record. When their decision is to distribute a title, the record receives an item number recorded in field 074. These records will be replaced with full cataloging later on. Titles which will not be distributed have that decision recorded in field 500 notes.  The records for non-distributed titles are essentially place holders and will not be upgraded by GPO staff as they do not represent titles in the program.

There are cases where GPO Acquisitions staff recorded the classification of a title which will not be distributed in tangible format but have no record for the online version. If an online version became available after their decision, it’s hoped that the online version might be accepted into the FDLP as a fugitive with the same SuDocs classification number as assigned by GPO staff when they reviewed the non-distributed print edition.

The presence of brief records created by FDLP Acquisitions staff is really very helpful. Electronic resource records displaying URLs instead of PURLs are essentially future “New Electronic Titles”.

We will try to keep these guidelines in mind as we evaluate future reports we receive.

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New Category: Explanation Needed

3/1/2010 – Updated to add criteria of non-distribution of tangible product to FDLP.

Thanks to some documents reported last month, we have a new category that needs explaining. The category is called “Explanation Needed.”

GPO lost docs receipts submitted to us will be assigned this category if:

1) Cataloging records exist for both tangible (Paper and/or microfiche) and online versions of the item submitted that were added to the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) earlier than the datestamp on the lost docs receipt.

2) The catalog record for the tangible version indicates that GPO cataloged the tangible version within five years of the publishing date of the item.

3) There is clear evidence from the bib record or depository librarian testimony that the tangible item was NOT offered to Federal Depository Libraries.

We have a five year limit because GPO Acquisitions staff have indicated they rarely have success in finding depository copies of tangible items more than five years old.

We at FGI don’t insist that GPO distribute a tangible item when that item is solely available in an online format, but when a tangible item is available and fits the program, it should be distributed.  GPO’s policy on dissemination, SOD 301, states (emphasis mine), “When the product is available both online and in a tangible format, GPO will disseminate the online version to depository libraries. Tangible versions will be offered as well, budget permitting.” Hopefully this means that most of the time the budget will permit this. If an item wasn’t distributed for budget reasons, GPO should note this in the print record.

Until the non-distribution of these tangible items is explained and obviously noted in the cataloging record for a given item, we’ll keep it here with a “Explanation Needed” tag. However, we will also continue to tag such items as “false positive” since we believe the primary focus of “lost docs” is documenting government publications that have escaped the National Bibliography GPO is required to maintain and because people do have access (at least now) to the online version.

We encourage depositories to report non-distribution of CGP-Cataloged documents through GPO help and not through the Lost Docs form.

Chat with GPO: Helping GPO Identify Fugitive Publications

If you’d like to hone your skills at locating and reporting fugitive documents, check out this e-mail from GPO:


From: Announcements from the Federal Depository Library Program
Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 12:40 PM
Subject: Chat with GPO: Helping GPO Identify Fugitive Publications

On Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 1:30PM EST, Joe McClane, Manager of
GPO's Content Acquisitions and Linda Nainis, GPO's Acquisitions
Librarian will discuss how documents librarians can help GPO identify
fugitive publications. 

The presentation will feature a 30-minute slideshow that explains how
GPO staff find fugitive documents and ways the community can help GPO
improve the researching and processing of new documents. Time will be
allocated at the end of the session for questions. 

Space is limited to the first 100 participants on a first come basis.
GPO recommends arriving at least 10 minutes early in order to reserve
your spot and test your connection.

Connect to the GPO OPAL Room:

For more information on GPO's OPAL implementation and OPAL requirements,
visit: <>.


If you have questions or comments, please use the askGPO help service
at: <>. When submitting a question,
please choose the category "Federal Depository Libraries" and the
appropriate subcategory, if any, in order to ensure that your question
is routed to the correct area.


If you have an interest in identifying fugitive publications, I strongly encourage you to attend this OPAL session. The better reports that GPO has, the faster any given item will be cataloged. This benefits everyone. Hope to see you there.


How Long Does It Take to Catalog A Fugitive?

We started the LostDocs blog back in September 2009 to collect e-mail receipts for items that were reported to GPO as “fugitive documents” — agency documents that should have made it into the Federal Depository Library Program and/or the Catalog of Government Publications.

In the process of running this blog, we have identified 40 documents reported since April 2008 that were cataloged by GPO after being reported as “fugitive documents.” These fall into the “found documents” category of our blog.

You can find our list of 40 (and counting) cataloged fugitives at This spreadsheet will be updated whenever we identify new GPO cataloging for items that had been reported as fugitive documents.

The results are interesting and somewhat disturbing, but not definitive.

The 40 items were cataloged in times varying from three days to 524 days. The mean cataloging time was 213 days. The median cataloging time was 184 days or about six months.

If the cataloging times above were typical of all documents reported through the LostDocs process, we think this would be a major problem for GPO that would require some serious soul searching and dialog about how this result could be changed and what tradeoffs and/or extra community involvement would be required as a result.

We are NOT making the claim that these cataloging times are typical for reported fugitive documents. We honestly do not know what is typical. Jim Jacobs, FGI’s resident data librarian, had this to say about our sample of cataloged documents:

As for sample size and relevance: the number of items in the sample can’t tell us the significance or accuracy of the results. We’d have to know two other things: the size of the universe (of all reported lost docs), and the accuracy of the sample.  Since the sample was self- selected (by those reporting) rather than random, and since we don’t know if the sample is 1% or 85% of all submitted lostdocs, we can’t claim that the findings necessarily reflect the status of the whole universe. (does that make sense? If only people w/ long waits reported to us, our sample does not accurately reflect all lostdocs.)

When we first thought about making lostdocs reports available to the community at large, we first approached GPO with a partnering opportunity. We would maintain the blog, and offer them the opportunity to comment on the blog whether something was out of scope for CGP or already in the catalog. In return, we asked them to modify their LostDocs form so that when they received a report, the blog would automatically get a copy. If this partnership had been accepted, then we would know the two facts Jim cited above that are needed to tell us whether we have typical results or not. GPO declined to accept our partnership agreement, citing their workload. We’re not questioning that they are overworked.

We do feel that the results above deserve further investigation. Perhaps GPO could prepare a report on documents cataloged as a result of fugitive reports over the past few years. Unless they’ve discarded the e-mail receipts (which would be defensible), they have the dates of when documents were reported. The CGP lists when an item was first added to the CGP. They could have an intern make a semester project of putting the two together and then posting the results to

If they have tossed previous e-mail receipts, they could start saving them for a year starting in January 2010 and do the analysis we propose above in 2011. But in either case we feel the analysis should be done. If it confirms our results then it will be good ammunition in Congress to procure more cataloging staff or to start cataloging collaborations with FDLP members. If the GPO analysis concludes that items reported to lost docs are in fact cataloged in a timely manner, then that will help build trust with the documents community and motivate more people to report fugitive documents. Either way it is a win-win for GPO.

Dates in Found Documents Fixed

All of the “date added to CGP” entries in our “Found Documents” categories have been reviewed and fixed. Where a document’s 008 field date was different from its 005 field date, it was flagged and changed to the 008 field date.

As mentioned in the previous post on this topic, the 008 field of an item’s MARC record carries the date when an item is first added to a library’s catalog and it does not change.

So, we feel that you can now confidently use the date we give for an item that has been cataloged.

Housekeeping: Dates on “Found” Documents being recalculated

Recently I realized I’ve been making an error in determining when a given publication was first entered into the Catalog of Government Publications. I had been using the date in the 005 field of the MARC record in the CGP. Closer examination has revealed that the date given in the 005 field reflects the last change made to that record.

In point of fact, it is the 008 field that carries the unchanging date of when an item is first added to a library’s catalog. Sometimes the date is the same, but more often it is not. In those cases, a 005 date will make a record look younger and in the case of this blog, make it seem like GPO took longer to catalog the item than it actually did. None of us at FGI want anything more or less than accurate data on how long it is taking GPO to catalog fugitive documents that have been reported to it. We regret any errors.

For the time being we ask you not to use Catalog of Government Publications dates on items marked “Found Document” until we announce that all dates have been corrected. Blog entries where the 008 varies from the 005 date will be flagged.

Thank you for your patience.

How to Report a Fugitive/Lost Document

Welcome to the Lost Docs Blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide a public listing of documents submitted to the Government Printing Office (GPO)’s Lost Docs Reporting Form for what are called fugitive documents. Fugitive documents are federal publications which have NOT been cataloged and/or disseminated through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP).

Reporting fugitive documents to GPO allows them to be cataloged and archived so their contents are not lost to history. Not all federal documents are within the scope of the FDLP, but nearly any published federal document qualifies for GPO’s national bibliography.

Help out GPO and your fellow government documents enthusiasts by reporting fugitive documents and let us know you did so. How? Follow these simple instructions:

  1. Make sure your government document is a US Federal title. GPO only catalogs publications of the US federal government.
  2. Search the title of your item in the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP).
  3. If you don’t find your item in the CGP, then search this blog by using the search box in the upper left hand corner. If you find your item here, use the comments link to add any additional information you might have about the item.
  4. If you don’t find your item in the CGP or this blog, fill out GPO’s Lost Docs form at GPO will e-mail you a receipt.
  5. When you receive GPO’s e-mail, e-mail your receipt lostdocs AT freegovinfo DOT info
  6. OPTIONAL: If you use delicious, please tag the document with “IADeposit”

If you are interested in what lost docs are being reported by other people, subscribe to our RSS feed at