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Government Documents Research Guide

Use this guide to find UNO library resources and other helpful research tools.

Nebraska Library Commission

The Nebraska Legislature authorized the Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) to create a depository library program in the early 1970s, and Criss Library joined in 1976.

The NLC distributed copies on microfiche cards, encompassing some 40,000 documents by 2005. The microfiche program ceased in 2005 after electronic distribution was established.

Several times each year, the NLC posts a list of recently acquired documents, and Criss Library uses these lists to identify and catalog Nebraska documents.  The catalog records include links to the online copies, which are hosted by the NLC.

Quick Search

Search Criss Library and beyond

Catalog Search Tips for Government Documents

Criss Library catalogs United States and Nebraska government documents just like books or other library materials. Government agencies address such a wide range of interests that almost any search may retrieve records pointing you to relevant government documents. Enter a search as you would for any topic, and then look to the left side of the results screen to find Filters that will refine the results by Author/Creator or Location. For example, a search for geological studies pertinent to Nebraska can be filtered like this:

Federal Depository Library Program


The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), administered by the U.S. Government Publishing Office, has distributed documents to libraries since the early 19th century. The rationale for the program rests with an idea proffered by James Madison in a letter written in 1822:

"A popular government without popular information, or means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."*

The widespread geographic distribution of government documents provides citizens with information about the workings of their government, and it also helps to insure the survival of documents over long periods of time.

Electronic distribution has proven a great benefit to public access, and Federal depository libraries continue to link people to government documents, whether physically in the library or via the Internet. 

*James Madison, Letter to W. T. Berry, Aug. 4, 1822, in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (Philip R. Fendall, ed., Lippincott, 1865), vol. III, p. 276.


govinfo is the official Internet portal of the U.S. Government Publishing Office, designed to provide free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government.

In addition to providing an advanced, metadata-powered search experience, govinfo also includes a content management system and a standards-compliant preservation repository.

These three components comprise GPO’s world-class system for the comprehensive management of electronic information:

  1. Public access - GPO combines modern search technology with extensive metadata creation to ensure the highest quality search experience. Users can easily access documents for free by searching or browsing the mobile-friendly website.
  2. Content management – GPO securely controls digital content throughout its lifecycle to ensure content integrity and authenticity. This includes the application of digital signatures to PDF files so users can verify documents have not been altered and are the official versions.
  3. Digital preservation – GPO’s standards-compliant preservation repository follows archival system standards and ensures content is preserved for future generations despite technical failure, aging of hardware, or technological change. GPO was the first Federal agency to be named as a Trustworthy Digital Repository for Government information through certification under ISO 16363.

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Jim Shaw
Government Documents Librarian
Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library
University of Nebraska at Omaha