Government Information and Media Services

FDLP logo

Government Information Resources

We have a separate information portal with an extensive database of resources on locating government information of all kinds.


Government Information and Media Services (GIMS) is located at the rear of the main floor (4th floor) of the Central Library. As you enter the building from the side facing Library Lawn, GIMS is on your right after you turn left at the elevator bank. You will see a service desk with a large sign featuring the Federal Depository Library Program logo (see logo to the left of this paragraph).

Media Services

The Government Information and Media Services (GIMS) department at Central Library provides both government information resources and assistance and public service for the Central Library's large and growing microfilm and media collection. For more information, see Media Services.

Federal Depository Library System

The Jane and Alexander Heard Libraries are one of over 1250 participating libraries that are part of the Federal Depository Library Program. As such, this library is a congressionally designated depository for U.S. Government documents. Public access to the library's government documents collection is guaranteed by public law (Title 44, United States Code).

This library is a selective depository. This means that we select which documents we receive from the federal government rather than being required to receive all documents that the federal government disseminates to the depository library system (those libraries are called regional depositories). The Government Publications Department at the Ned McWherter Library at the University of Memphis is the Regional Depository Library for the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee depositories have a shared regional holdings arrangement. Each of the six largest depositories (of which Vanderbilt is one) is a "subregional" responsible for different classes of documents. Central Library has been designated to hold publications from these government branches and agencies: the President (all SuDocs documents classed PR and PREX), the State Department (all S documents), Patent and Trademark Office, Energy Research Abstracts, Foreign Trade Reports, and all Congressional documents (all Y documents).

Along with the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University has been designated an Association of Sotheastern Research Libraries Center of Excellence. This desgination helps depository libraries that are part of the program to coordinate to enhance access to government documents by identifying and specifying which libraries in the ASERL system have the most complete collections for documents from specified government agencies. Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia share this designation for State Department documents (SuDocs classification S).

Government Information Collections at Vanderbilt

Central Library has been a selective depository for federal government publications since 1884, a United Nations depository since 1946, and a Food and Agriculture Depository since 1948. The Central depository selects about 63% of the almost 6000 categories (item numbers) offered by the US Government Printing Office. The department has approximately 900,000 paper, microfiche and CD-ROM holdings.

Other government information is available at other Vanderbilt libraries. The Alyne Queener Massey Law Library was designated as a selective federal depository library in 1976. The Stevenson Science and Engineering Library has been a Patent and Trademark depository since 1988.

Access to Government Information

The mission of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) is to assure current and permanent public access to the universe of information published by the United States Government. This universe includes all Government information products, regardless of format or medium, which are of public interest or educational value, except for those products which are for strictly administrative or operational purposes, classified for reasons of national security, or the use of which is constrained by privacy considerations.

The public is welcome to use the federal depository collection of Government Information and Media Services without charge. The Vanderbilt Libraries and Government Information and Media Services (GIMS) have a longstanding commitment to public access to information created by or for the federal government. The "right to know" is a cornerstone of government accountability and informed public participation. If you have any questions about access to government information, please ask a librarian.

During hours restricted to authorized card holders, patrons without card privileges wanting to use the depository collection can gain access by letting library staff know that they wish to use the library's depository resources.

Reference Services

Government Information and Media Services maintains a separate service desk to provide reference assistance with government information during all hours we are open. We have both printed and online reference sources -- indexes, bibliographies, and statistical yearbooks, for example. We will help you use these sources to find information in publications that are not listed in our online catalog. If you need in-depth assistance, you can set up an appointment with one of our specialists. Our phone number is 322-2838. You can also send government document e-mail reference questions to:

If the Vanderbilt Library system does not have the government publications you need, we will be able to help you identify other libraries that may have them and help you make an Interlibrary Loan request.

Class Instruction

Government Information and Media Services has an active library instruction program. We provide groups of patrons (for example, the members of a particular class) with demonstrations of relevant online databases and print sources appropriate to their research needs. Please contact Larry Romans at 322-2838 to set up a session.

Identifying and Locating Materials

Almost all US government publications published after 1976 are listed in Acorn, our online catalog. Some earlier US government publications are also listed, but many are not. The staff will be glad to assist you in finding government publications.

Food and Agriculture Organization publications and some United Nations publications are listed in Acorn. Ask us for help to find FAO, UN publications, and other international publications.

Government Publications on the Web

More and more government information is available on the web, and many publications are no longer available in printed form. A good beginning place for a search for government information online is Vanderbilt's Government Information resource database.

Most of the desktop workstations in the Central Library require a Vanderbilt ID for login. There are two workstations in the GIMS department designated for government information research that anyone can use. Please see the staff at the GIMS service desk to log onto these workstations.


Most government publications can be checked out for two weeks. Items are checked out from and returned to the main Circulation desk in the lobby. There are no overdue fines for missing government documents, but you may be billed for replacement and other costs if you do not return the item you have checked out.

These categories and locations of government publications do not circulate:

  • Annex
  • Annual reports
  • Census materials
  • Congressional Record and its predecessors, the Annals of Congress and the Congressional Globe
  • Materials which are easily photocopied (8 pages or less)
  • Legislative and administrative reference publications, such as the U.S. Code, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Statutes-at-Large, Federal Register
  • Microform
  • Office reference and other publications
  • Periodicals
  • Material in poor condition
  • Reference alcove materials
  • United Nations documents
  • Vertical file documents, which are usually pamphlets, are easily photocopied, and are difficult to barcode without covering up information
  • Yearbooks, statistical yearbooks, and other annual statistical compendiums


Larry Romans is the Head of Government Information and Media Services and is Political Science, Communication Studies, and Leisure Reading Bibliographer. He was Chair (1999-2000) of the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) of the American Library Association (ALA). He received the CIS/GODORT/ALA Documents to the People Award for "outstanding leadership" in 1995 and the James Bennett Childs Award for "lifetime contributions" in 2008. He began the GODORT Handout Exchange and is the Webmaster of the FDTF Government Information: Frequently Used Sites website. Romans has served on ALA Council since 1992. He is a member of the ALA Executive Board, 2007-2010.

Frank Lester is a government information librarian. He is also Media Coordinator and Film Studies Bibliographer. He has previously worked at the University of Michigan Documents Center and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Teri Bante is Library Associate. She manages the daily operations of the department, oversees the processing of incoming documents and media, and updates and corrects entries in Acorn, Vanderbilt's online catalog.

Will Stringfellow is Library Assistant III. He is our film, copyright, and microfilm equipment expert. He processes incoming media items, updates entries in Acorn, Vanderbilt's online catalog, maintains the Leisure Viewing Collection, manages all Central reserves, including media reserves, and assists faculty and students, and other patrons with film selection and microfilm equipment use.

Depository Identification

Federal Depository No. 580
Central Library, Vanderbilt University
Larry Romans, Frank Lester, Teri Bante, and Will Stringfellow
(615) 322-2838