Federal Government Documents Tutorial Home

1. The Universe of Federal Government Information

2. Depository Libraries

3. SuDoc numbers

4. Federal Document Shelflist

5. The NCSU Libraries on-line catalog

6. Monthly Catalog

7. Monthly Catalog cumulative indexes

8. 1909 Checklist

9. CIS

10. Other Congressional Sources

11. Specialized Indexes

12. Patents and Trademarks

13. Periodical Indexes

14. Web sites

Guide to Government Information

Federal Government Documents Tutorial

Monthly Catalog

The Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications has been published since 1895.  You use various indexes to the Monthly Catalog to obtain an entry number (or page reference) on which the bibliographic information for a document of interest is printed.  Among the data given for each entry is the SuDoc number for the publication.  Next look up the SuDoc number in the federal documents shelflist to determine whether that call number is available in the library -- in paper, microfiche, or CD-Rom.  The Monthly Catalog is temporarily shelved in the Reference - U.S. Docs area in the second floor bookstacks, north, overlooking Hillsborough Street.

Over a period of more than one hundred years the Monthly Catalog has had its share of changes.

2006 to the present

In March 2006 GPO entered the 21st century with the introduction of its electronic Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP).  For best results, be sure to use its Advanced Search page.  The CGP includes records for documents cataloged after June 1976.  You can search the database using Boolean operators and limiting features.  Its results screens have links to complete bibliographic records in a tagged MARC layout, and links to .pdf versions of documents on GPO's purl server.  Users can sort results sets quickly by author, title, year published, and SuDoc number.  The CGP is a great leap forward over GPO's earlier attempts to provide electronic bibliographic control.

1996 to 2005

In 1996 the printed Monthly Catalog shrank in size when GPO began to produce a CD-Rom version of its bibliography.  DO NOT use the printed issues of the Monthly Catalog (1996 to the present) to do any sort of search.  The bibliographic portions of the catalog have only brief records with little more information than issuing agency, SuDoc number, title, date published, and pagination.  The index is a single keyword in context index that does not cumulate.

GPO finally in 1996 began to produce the same sort of electronic product that a number of commercial firms had been compiling since the mid-1970s.  This bibliography, titled the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP), was a GPO Access tool.  But it only included documents cataloged from 1994 forward, and posed no competition to the commercial products.

July 1976 - 1995

In the mid-1970s libraries were seeking ways to share data about the books that would appear in multiple libraries' catalogs.  If one library cataloged a book and shared that data with a network of other libraries, then many libraries would benefit by being able to put a copy of that same title on their shelves more efficiently.

A standard format to record the data you expect to find in library catalogs was developed, called MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging) records.  GPO began creating MARC cataloging records to use to produce the Monthly Catalog with the July 1976 issue, and stored the electronic records for the publications that have been cataloged since that date in a huge database called OCLC.  GPO records are a small subset of the OCLC database.

Commercial firms have used these electronic GPO records to create cumulative databases of federal document publications since July 1976, but for twenty years GPO only used the electronic data created by that office as source material for the compilation of a printed Monthly Catalog.  It was an impressive publication.

Each Monthly Catalog issue from this period was more than an inch thick.  In the first section the bibliography reproduced in full all the cataloging data pertaining to each listed publication.  These elements in each entry remain the most significant:

entry number Entry from page 1 of July 1976 Monthly Catalog

Entry from page 1 of July 1976 Monthly Catalog
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SuDoc number
subject headings

Each of these Monthly Catalog issues included a number of indexes which were cumulated annually.  The indexes were also cumulated in paper for two five-year periods (July 1976-1980, and 1981-1985).  You may consult indexes that are arranged by

author Entries from page I-2381 of 1992 Monthly Catalog

Entries from page I-2381 of 1992 Monthly Catalog

series/report number
contract number
stock number
classification number
title keyword

Each of the index entries contains the document's full title and SuDoc number, along with a unique entry number that allows you to locate the complete cataloging record in the Monthly Catalog's bibliographic section.

July 1924 - June 1976

There is no electronic version of the Monthly Catalog index for the period 1895 - July 1976.  You must use the printed indexes described below if you wish to search for federal documents issued during this time frame.

Bibliographic references in monthly issues were presented in a concise paragraph style.  The same significant pieces of information, entry number, SuDoc number, author, title, pagination, and subject headings, were included in the entries.

Jan.1976 Monthly Catalog

Entries from January 1976 Monthly Catalog

Unique entry numbers for documents recorded in the Monthly Catalog were introduced in July 1924.  Prior to this time citations in the indexes gave reference only to the page on which the bibliographic information for a document was to be found.

There is only a single, combined index available for searching the Monthly Catalog during the period 1895 - June 1976.  Like the more sophisticated indexes from the period beginning in the later 1970s, the combined index was issued monthly, and cumulated annually.  Multi-year cumulations were also made for the years 1941-1950, 1951-1960, 1961-1965, 1966-1970, 1971-6/1976.

The index entries for these early Monthly Catalogs were compiled manually by staff at GPO, and used a mix of entry formats.  Most common were main subjects and subject subdivisions, as "Census: business", or "Census: governments", used for Census of Business and Census of Governments entries.  These are followed by specific volume titles from the two censuses.

Combined Monthly Catalog

Entries from Combined Monthly Catalog
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Another commonly used index technique used during this period is shown by the entry

Census records, your name is somewhere, 1912

This represents a title, "Your name is somewhere (in) Census records," for which the indexer chose a significant title word as a subject term.  The title was permuted to bring "Census" to the primary position, the next word in the title became the subject subdivision (Census: records), and the first portion of the title was moved to the end of the title string.  This sort of index is now called a KWOC index, a Key Word Out-of-Context index.

1895 - June 1924

The Monthly Catalog's indexing for its first thirty years used the same single, combined index as described above.  Index references to the bibliographic sections of the catalog for this period are to pages, rather than to specific entries.  You need to browse the titles on a page to find the one you are tracing from the index.

In this period entries in the original Monthly Catalog issues did not include the SuDoc numbers of documents.  The Hill Library set of the Monthly Catalog contains reprint volumes from this period enhanced by the "Classes added edition" which added the SuDoc numbers throughout the volumes.

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