Federal Depository Library Program

Federal Depository Library Program issues within ALA

Assuring public access to government information is of great importance to the library community. Libraries of all types provide essential services by providing the public access to no-fee government documents, information and data, as well as e-government services.

Over many decades, ALA has supported and recognized, in particular, the importance of the Government Publishing Office’s (GPO) Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). FDLP libraries, as well as all other types of libraries, serve an essential role by providing public access to government information.

The FDLP is currently comprised of 1,207 libraries; 47 regionals and 1,160 selectives. Beginning in 1813, participating libraries have played an important role in “collecting, organizing, maintaining, preserving and assisting users with information from the Federal Government”. These libraries have ensured that future generations would have no-fee access to government information. Guided by the Federal Depository Library Council, GPO has through the FDLP, sent out paper and later digital products to libraries around the world.

Issue: The future of the FDLP has generated much debate in recent years, as the library community has had to address how best to transition into a more digital environment. Periodically, there have been vigorous debates within our association, sometimes with widely varying perspectives on how to move forward and address the future of the FDLP.

Now, there are also additional challenges engendered by the grave economic down turn, which has brought major cuts, sometimes even eliminating, budgets at the federal, state and local levels. These budget challenges have put additional pressures on the FDLP libraries and GPO in many different ways.

All kinds of questions are being asked: A partial, and certainly not fully inclusive list of questions, include:

  • How do we assure permanent public access to legacy print collections?
  • How do we balance these needs with the equally important need to assure access to all of the appropriate digital material generated by the federal government – but not automatically put into the FDLP?
  • How can GPO and the FDLP community keep up with the backlog of cataloguing and metadata activities needed to assure true access to the information and materials?
  • How do we balance our local budgets and resources with the needs of the public for government information?
  • What should be the mission of the Federal Digital System (FedSys) and what kind of funding is needed?
  • Do the current FDLP requirements for a selective or regional library need to be updated? How can we look at the future of the FDLP?
  • Should the FDLP be moved from the Government Printing Office to the Library of Congress?

Role of Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) and new proposals:
Within the last year and a half some participating FDLP libraries made proposals to the SuDoC seeking approval for changes in program organization. The Government Printing Office denied these two applications. (Find documents below)

Traditionally, ALA had much common ground on the need for ALA to support GPO and the FDLP. But now, in these current debates, many people have observed a wide range of opinions within ALA about the two proposals to GPO, debate over the SuDoc’s decisions, and concern over the future of the FDLP. Often the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) have been the most involved in these issues within ALA. But other units have also been – or may now want to become involved in this important discussion for ALA.


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List of related Materials

FDLP Legal Guidelines

Most recent proposals


Michigan / Minnesota

Related Correspondence

Committee on Legislation (COL)

Eva Poole, COL Chair November 4, 2011 letter (pdf)



Library Journal Articles

Other documents of interest:

If you feel that there are any items missing from this list, please let us know! We want this compilation to be as inclusive as possible of official communication. Contact jmcgilvray@alawash.org to make any suggestions.

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