Skip to Main Content

MIT Libraries logo MIT Libraries

Massaschusetts Institute of Technology logo Search Account

Government Information: Collection Development Policy


The MIT Libraries have been designated a selective federal depository library since 1946 under the provisions of Title 44, United States Code. The MIT Libraries collect government information in all subject areas primarily to support the curricular and research needs of students, faculty, and staff. The MIT Libraries also support the federal information needs of residents of the 8th Massachusetts congressional district and the business community of the Kendall Square area of Cambridge. The federal depository collection is maintained in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Government Printing Office’s Federal Depository Library Handbook.

Collection Scope

The MIT Libraries’ federal government information collection reflects the subject strengths of the Institute’s academic programs. The strongest research-level collections of federal government information are in earth sciences, environmental sciences, nuclear science, economics, political science, and urban and regional planning. The MIT Libraries select most of the available depository offerings from the Bureau of the Census, Congress, the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the United States Geological Survey. Publications of many other government agencies are selected less comprehensively, depending on their importance to MIT.

Selection decisions for depository materials are the responsibility of subject librarians in each divisional and branch library. Materials are selected and physically distributed according to the subject parameters of the divisional and branch libraries at MIT. Most depository materials are cataloged, with full bibliographic records and physical locations included in Barton, the Libraries’ web-based catalog. Web links in the catalog provide direct access to electronic publications. Older, lesser-used materials are housed in two storage collections and are available for retrieval within 24-48 hours.

Collection Guidelines and Special Considerations

The Boston Public Library is the regional federal depository library for Massachusetts. Regionals receive 100% of depository items and retain all materials in perpetuity. The MIT Libraries select 46% of the items available for selection. As a selective federal depository library, the MIT Libraries rely on the regional and other selective depositories in the Boston area for retrospective materials and materials which are not selected. As a research institution collection, the MIT Libraries retain most federal depository materials beyond the five year mandatory retention period. Superseded materials are withdrawn if appropriate. Ephemeral and out-of-scope materials that are discarded after five years are first offered to the regional depository and other selective depositories. No depository material may be discarded until permission is received from the regional depository.

Federal depository materials are selected in all available formats, including print, microfiche, maps, and electronic. When determining formats to be selected, the decision is based on the content and purpose of the publication. Currently, the distribution of federal government information has become almost entirely electronic, with over 98% of depository selections electronic-only.

Tangible depository materials are shelved by their Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) numbers or by Library of Congress (LC) numbers in each divisional and branch library. Tangible depository materials are stamped with the date received, depository item number, and the MIT Libraries' depository number (0255).

In addition to materials received through the depository library program, the MIT Libraries also purchase commercially published monographs, serials, reference works, and databases that support the government information collection. Databases purchased include ProQuest Congressional, GeoRef, NTIS, and World News Connection. The MIT Libraries are also an institutional member of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, and MIT students and faculty have access to ICPSR data files of federal government information (e.g., census and election data) through the Harvard-MIT Data Center.

Social Science and Management Librarian

Profile Photo
Jennifer Greenleaf