MODULE 5: Additional Database Information Sources:
Section 2 of 3, SHOW AND TELL, page 3 of 7.


Government documents.

What is a government document?

Taken literally, a government document is a publication issued by a local, state, federal, or international government. When librarians speak of government documents, or gov docs for short, they almost always mean documents of the United States government.

While government documents (of all types) are frequently accessible online, this discussion will limit itself to U.S. gov docs.

The Library Catalog

In Module 3, Books as Information Sources, the Library Catalog is demonstrated in detail.


This is where you find the catalog! The catalog can be accessed from any of the TROY Library Web sites (Troy, Dothan, Montgomery, or Global Campus), or simply by selecting the Online Catalog link from the "Welcome to Troy University Libraries" main page <>.

The Online Catalog serves many purposes, including:

A search of the catalog for the term highway infrastructure...

...finds a few dozen items. Some are electronic books (eBooks), such as this one, which can be accessed via the NetLibrary database.

But mostly, the items that are found are government documents—gov docs. Sample listings below. While the Library keeps physical copies of many government documents (as indicated by the holdings notes, e.g., 1 copy available at Troy Campus Library in GOVDOC), copies of these documents may also be provided online. (Discussion continued below image.)

Let's take a look (below) at the detailed catalog record for one of these items.

The red arrows point out two powerful features of the Library Catalog.

The first is the subject headings. Click on a subject heading to find other materials that have been assigned that same subject.

(Discussion continued below image.)

The second feature is the Electronic access. Click on the access link to go to the document itself.

Yes, you can look up government documents in the Library Catalog and, in many cases, link to the documents themselves. The sample image in this tutorial has been designed to let you try it right from here (assuming you are online). Click on the Electronic access link and you will be taken to the government document itself.

Pretty slick!

The Library Catalog ... information without the cards.

Besides the Library Catalog, how else can you find government documents and other federal information?

Millions of documents and other forms of government information are readily accessible on the Internet.

The trick is knowing where to find them.

An excellent way is by using the TROY Library's databases page.

Two of the best databases for government information are:

GPO Access (Take a peek now at

Description from the site: GPO Access is a service of the U.S. Government Printing Office that provides free electronic access to a wealth of important information products produced by the Federal Government.

Thomas (Take a peek now at

Description from the site: THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress. The leadership of the 104th Congress directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time, THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include the features and content listed below.

  • Bills, Resolutions
  • Activity in Congress
  • Congressional Record
  • Schedules, Calendars
  • Committee Information
  • Presidential Nominations
  • Treaties
  • Government Resources
  • For Teachers
  • Help and Contact

How can you find government documents and other information for local, state, federal, foreign, and international governments?

One way is by using Internet search engines and other directories. These resources are discussed later in this module.

An excellent guide to government information is Government Resources on the Web provided online from the University of Michigan's Documents Center.


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