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Finding U.S. Government Information: Home

Introduction to U.S. Government documents - how they work, what they are, and where to find them.


The University of Montana Mansfield Library is one of many Federal Depository Libraries across the country, meaning that UM students and members of the general public have in-library access to both new and historical government publications.  Some, but not all, government publications are available online, so people who need access may need to visit the library themselves.

Federal Depository Library







As a Federal Depository Library, Mansfield Library is dedicated to providing free and open public access to government documents and publications.  Many of these are available online and can be accessed through Mansfield Library's public internet terminals.  Some are only available in hard-copy, however, whether as a book, pamphlet, or microfilm/microfiche.  The library is currently working on entering back issues into the library catalog, but that project is not yet complete. The collection from 1976-present is up to date, but materials from earlier than that may be difficult to find.



The U.S. Government is a complex body of departments, agencies, organizations, and committees, and tracing the specific information you need can appear to be a huge task.  Seeking information is really a matter of starting broadly, then narrowing down your search.  This guide is designed to explain the broad structures of U.S. Government and give you the tools to start aiming your search in the right direction. 

This chart from the U.S. Government Printing Office maps out the major divisions of the government.

If you are not quite sure where to begin your search and asking a search engine gives you too many hits to find anything useful, try identifying which department or agency within the government may offer information on your topic. From there, you can search individual sites.

  • The U.S. Government Manual offers a brief explanation of the roles of each government entity and provides links to internet addresses. 
  • The Catalog of Government Publications can also be a useful tool.  It offers descriptions of historical and current government documents and links to those that are available online.  It also provides information for locating document in your local Federal Depository Library (Mansfield!) and can help you find SuDoc call numbers for hard-copy documents.
  • If you prefer to browse by subject area, try Vanderbilt University Library's Frequently Used Government Sites page.
  • To get a complete listing of government departments and agencies, look at Louisiana State University Library's Federal Agency Index.


This guide was created by Anna Doyle, practicum student of the University of British Columbia, in conjunction with Jennie Burroughs, former Government Documents Librarian. The page continues to be managed by Ben Chiewphasa, current Government Information Librarian.

Other Resources

For more information, talk to your Government Information Librarian or visit the Government Information Guide.