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Government Documents "SuDoc" Classification

Explains "SUperintendent of DOCuments numbers, the classification system by which U.S. Government publications are ordered.Provides examples and links to all federal agency websites.

Government Documents: Federal & State

Government documents (GovDocs) are items printed by federal, state, local or even international agencies. Booth Library is a federal and state depository of many items made available to the public through the free dispersal of certain classes of published government information. (So, there's no need to travel to Springfield, Illinois or Washington, DC to read them!) GovDocs are an invaluable source of information and do not just pertain to historical, legal, or political subjects: you can find all kinds of topics in our GovDocs room from ecology, fine arts, and health care to maps, medicine, science, and technology.  GovDocs are located on the 2000 level (second-floor), north, and have "Document" or "Document Reference" as the library location on the call number label.


State of Illinois documents: Whether you are looking for state historical facts in Illinois Heritage, cycling trails in Illinois Bicycling Guide, or state funding in Starting Your Business in Illinois Handbook , you will find them in the first two rows to the right/east when you enter the GovDocs room. Illinois State documents are shelved according to the Dewey Decimal Classification System by subject from 000-999.

United States Federal documents: Most of what you'll find in the rest of the GovDocs room contains U.S. Federal documents published by the United States Government Publishing Office/GPO, which just happens to be the largest printer in the the world. Here--items ranging from one-page pamphlets or posters, to series sets numbering in the hundreds of volumes--are publications on just about any subject you can think of, from the "Art of Michael L. Willcuts, Fine Art in Airbrush" in print, call # I 1.84:M58; to Bovine spongiform encephalopathy: an Overview - or Mad Cow Disease - online or in print, call # A 1.68:1705; or an official congressional hearing discussing Counterterrorism Policies and Priorities" online or in print, call # Y 4.F 76/2:S.HRG.113-135; or the pamphlet Lincoln Home Historic Site, Illinois, online or in print at call # I 29.6/6:L 63/3/999to statistical information found in 200 Years of U.S. Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990 found in print, call # C3.2:T93.

SuDocs Call Numbers

How to read a Federal SuDocs call number:
Federally produced documents are classified by a SuDocs--or Superintendent of Documents--call number. This number can be short and sweet, or long and meandering. You will find the call numbers depicted horizontally (in the above examples) in the library's online catalog and depicted vertically (as you will see in the quiz below) on the actual item's call number label. Taking the call number one step at a time, they are categorized and filed alphabetically by the agency that produces the document. This differs from the Dewey Decimal system or the Library of Congress / LC system (both used by Booth Library) which are both subject-oriented classification systemsAnother characteristic of SuDocs call numbers is that they include punctuation marks not seen in Dewey or LC.

[1.] the class stem includes all letters and numbers before the :colon. The class stem tells you who published the document, for example 'A' for the Department of Agriculture, 'C' for the Commerce Department or 'D' for Defense Department.

[2.] the book number includes everything after the :colon.  The book number details information about whether it is a monograph (a one-time publication) or part of a series, and the publication date or the year of congress it was developed.

This is a "quick and dirty" translation you need to find any Government Document (GovDoc). If you're interested in further details, take a look at the Superintendent of Documents Classification System which goes into greater length on SuDocs call numbers. If you're interested in more rules and regulations, the latest edition of the GPO Classification Manual has five chapters and 102 pages of classification explanation.

1) Before the colon :  includes the originating agency abbreviation and other identifying information up to and including a colon (which acts as a stopping point, a period, or end of sentence).

A document entitled The Future of Journalism with the call number Y 4 .C73/7:S.HRG.111-428  
Class Y indicates it is a document produced by Congress. Y 4 means the document is a House and Senate Congressional Committee Hearing.
.C73/7: means that a specific Senate subcommittee, the "Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation," is involved in the publishing of this document.

2) After the colon : all numbers and letters following the colon are the unique book number identifiying each published item, a series part, and the year or # of congress during which the item was published.
For the title Obamacare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Healthcare Coverage with a call number  of Y 4 .G74/7:113-78.

Before the colon
Y 4 is the issuing agency--the House and Senate Committee hearings
.G74/7: is a subcommittee, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform          

After the colon, the publication date is expressed as a year (or the number of the Congressional session under which it was created); and a series number.
113 denotes the one hundred thirteenth Congress during which the hearing originated
-78 is the series number (which would be followed by 113-79, 113-80, etc., if more hearings in the same series were published during the 113th congress)​.

QUIZ - Test yourself on what you have learned

Just for fun...see if you can place these titles in the proper SuDoc call number order (answers at the bottom of the page after the next section).

This is the way the SuDoc call numbers will look on the item's call number label:



Current SuDoc Class Stems

You can tell what government agency produced a document by the "class stem" that begins the document's call number. For example, documents with call numbers beginning with HE are from the Department of Health and Human Services. documents with call numbers beginning with SSA are from the Social Security Administration. The following links go straight into the agency or department's website.

A Agriculture AE National Archives & Records Administration
B Broadcasting Board of Governors C Commerce Department
C 3 Census Bureau CC Federal Communications Commission
CR Civil Rights Commission CS Civil Service Commission
D Defense Department E Energy Department
ED Education Department EP Environmental Protection Agency
FA Fine Arts Commission FCA Farm Credit Administration
FEM Federal Emergency Management Administration FHF Federal Housing Finance Board
FMC Federal Maritime Commission FM Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service
FR Federal Reserve Board of Governors FT Federal Trade Commission
FTZ Foreign Trade Zones Board GA Government Accountability Office
GP Government Printing Office GS General Services Administration
HE Health and Human Services Department HH Housing and Urban Development
HS Homeland Security I Interior Department
I 19 U.S. Geological Survey ID U.S. Agency for International Development
IC Interstate Commerce Commission ITC International Trade Commission
J Justice Department JU Judiciary (Courts of the U.S.)
L Labor Department LC Library of Congress
LR National Labor Relations Board MS Merit Systems Protection Board
NA National Academy of Sciences NAS National Aeronautics & Space Administration
NC National Capital Planning Commission NCU National Credit Union Administration
NF National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities NMS National Mediation Board
NS National Science Foundation OP Overseas Private Investment Corporation
P United States Postal Service PE Peace Corps
PM Personnel Management Office PR President of the United States
PREX Executive Office of the President PRVP Vice President of the United States
RR Railroad Retirement Board S State Department
SBA Small Business Administration SE Securities and Exchange Commission
SI Smithsonian Institution SSA Social Security Administration
T Treasury Department T 22 Internal Revenue Service
TD Transportation Department TDA U.S. Trade and Development Agency
VA Veterans Affairs Department X and Y Congress
Y 1 House and Senate Reports & Documents Y 4 Congressional Committee Hearings

Punctuation helps . : / -

A few more helpful hints in your GovDocs hunt:

  • A colon is always in the middle of a SuDoc call number (no other classification system uses the colon)
  • Periods are not decimal points & numbers between any punctuation are whole numbers
  • 'Nothing' comes before 'Something'

               C 56.246/2:TC72-T20  is filed before
               C 56.246/2:TC72C1-6 because the -dash- is the "nothing" that is filed before the "something" of the letter C.

  • Years before 2000 have the first number dropped (1999 is 999, 1967 is 967, etc.); after 2000, years are depicted as usual, with 4-digits
  • Lastly, if more years, letters or numbers are added at the end...this is the order they should be on the shelf...
               Years, Letters, Numbers
                      Years come before letters 
                      Letters come before numbers
                      Numbers come last

(Senate Hearing before Senate Print)    (Year, 2006 before Number 113-24)      (2-11 is last/nothing before something)        

Answers to Quiz

Correct SuDocs call # order...

Document A 13.36/RG-R3-09-10  Prescott National Forest Atlas Quadrangle Topographic Maps 
Document A 13.36/2-6:R5-RG-158  Angeles National Forest Atlas Quadrangle Topographic Maps
Document B 1.2:EN3  VOA Special English Word Book
Document C 55.2:C81/4  NOAA Coral Reef Information System
Document D 214.20:26/1  Fortitudine / Bulletin of the Marine Corps Historical Program
Document E 2.2:IN8/2006  An Interstate Natural Gas Facility on My Land?
Document GP 3.29: P88/993  GPO Classification Manual 
Document GS 4.20:765  Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Indiana, 1862-1866
Document HE 22.43:1/1  Health Watch
Document HE 22.43:5/7  Health Watch
Document PREX 1.2:D84/16/996-2  Pulse Check: National Trends in Drug Abuse
Document Y 1.1/8:109-615   Al-Qaeda: The Many Faces of an Islamist Threat 
Document Y 3.C76/3:11-3 H33/5  Consumer Product Safety Alert
Document Y 3.C76/3:11-4/993/July  Consumer Product Safety Alert

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