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Government publications: Where to start

Tips for searching government publications in the catalogue

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

The Library has a large print collection of government publications. This makes the library catalogue a useful starting point. 

The following tips may make your searching easier:

1)  Search government bodies and agencies as authors.

Keyword author searches often work best. Since the jurisdiction (eg. Canada; United States; Ontario) is usually added to the name, this can be a very useful keyword.

For example, the author keyword search "Ontario education" brings up the following in the author list to the left:

  • Ontario. Ministry of Education
  • Ontario. Dept. of Education
  • Ontario. Ministry of Education and Training
  • Ontario. Education Relations Commission
  • ... and more.

Note that over time government bodies may change name, split apart, recombine or go out of existence.

2)  For subject searches, use keywords (anywords).

Much of the older and foreign material in particular has no formal subject headings. You may need to first search by subject in indexes, publication catalogues, secondary sources, etc. in order to find precise titles that can then be searched in the catalogue.

3)  Some resources are included in large sets.

Many print resources are NOT listed individually in the catalogue, but are instead part of large sets.

Quick example: you cannot search individual statues by name (e.g. Chinese Immigration Act of 1923) because they are all part of the large Annual Statutes of Canada set.

If you do not find something in the catalogue, don't assume we don't have it - please ask library staff for assistance.

Many of the large sets are identified in this guide (see the country and IGO tabs) and other government publications guides.

Finding government publications on the shelf (Decoding CODOC)

Robarts Library has a sizeable Government Publications Collection on its 5th floor. It's organized according to a call number system called CODOC. In order to find a publication on the shelf, you have to decode the CODOC number as it appears in the catalogue:

... and turn it into the version that appears on the book label, in this case:

CA2ON
XC21
-2010 O52

This is not precisely intuitive!

Follow these steps:

1) Start from the beginning, until you get to a break (filled with periods) in the number/letter string - this will occur after two or three characters. This segment goes on the first line on the book label.

2) Start from the end, until you get to a break in the number/letter string. This may be periods, or the dash before the date. This segment goes on the third line of the book label.

3) Whatever else is left in the middle, goes on the second line of the book label (drop the periods). Hint: the middle section should consist of six characters, including periods.

Example 1:

becomes:

CA1
L
L13

Example 2:

becomes

US1
YC2
-1976A33

How CODOC works