If you’ve ever looked for an electronic version of a government document, if you had the full title, you found it via a Google search. But did you know that, as a member of the depository library program, K-State actually catalogs all of the government documents we receive or access—yes, even those in electronic-only format—and they can be accessed from the OPAC record? These hyperlinks or PURLs (persistent uniform resource locators) basically ensure that even if the URL changes, the link to the document remains stable.
Take a look at this example:
In 1993, since the passage of the Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993, the Government Printing Office’s (GPO) mandate to provide access to government information was updated to include the creation and dissemination of government documents in electronic format. Since then, there has been a marked decline in the number of print documents issued while the number of electronic titles have increased. By 2005, approximately 90% of the titles available to depository libraries through GPO were available in electronic format. You might wonder why the Libraries would bother to catalog titles that are freely available via the Internet. Well, part of our responsibility as a depository library requires us to “provide custody and service for depository materials”. That just means that we agree to maintain a collection of government documents and that we help our users find and access the information. In the case of older documents, PURLs provide an additonal means of access to government information. K-State Libraries imports an average of 500 PURLs a month to the online catalog.
Jaeger, P. T., Bertot, J. C., & Shuler, J. A. (2010). The federal depository library program (FDLP), academic libraries, and access to government information. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(6), 469-478.
U.S. Government Printing Office, (2009). Legal Requirements and Program Regulations, 2.
Submitted by Regina Beard, Government Documents coordinator