Michigan State University

Depository Library Public Service Guidelines for Government Information in Electronic Formats


The Michigan State University's Main Library is a depository library for federal and Michigan government documents and is obligated by law to provide public access to depository receipts, including electronic government information products.

Arguably, as the nation's first land-grant university, Michigan State University has a history of service to the entire state. The University Libraries do not require any fee for access, circulation or lending of materials regardless of the patron's affiliation with the University. The University Libraries also serve as the library of last resort for the entire state for the purposes of interlibrary loan. The Main Library has been a federal documents depository since 1907. The Government Documents Unit selects a high percentage of items available (ca. 80%) and therefore serves the government information needs of most patrons, both university and community, with materials held in the collection. Primarily, our focus of service is to the University community and the citizens and businesses of the Eighth Congressional District of Michigan.

At the Federal level, the United States Public Printer has approved public use guidelines with respect to electronic formats of government information which fit within the statutory framework of Title 44 of the U.S. Code. Depository libraries have statutory obligation under section 1911 to make paper and microform publication "available for the free use of the general public;" these guidelines articulate the logical extension of that historic obligation into the electronic information area. The General Counsel to the Public Printer states "any library selecting items in electronic formats must maintain capability to allow for unimpeded use of those documents by its public patrons."

At Michigan State University, all government CD-ROMS, diskettes, and Internet resources that are selected are available for use to all patrons of the library whether or not they are affiliated with the University.


1. The Main Library provides access for University patrons and the general public to in-house computer workstations supporting selected depository CD-ROMS, diskettes, and Government Internet resources, equal to services provided for other library materials. No fee is charged for these services and no restrictions are enforced concerning age or residency status.

2. In order to provide access to government information in electronic formats, high-end workstations are available for patron use.

3. The Main Library makes tangible electronic products and services (CD-ROMS, DVDs, diskettes) available for use in a timely manner. If not loaded, these products are available for circulation.

4. Internet access to government information is available with no identification requirements, and free of charge at Selected Resources computer stations. Given that the MSU Libraries policy requires a login for full access to the Internet, the Selected Resources computers are set up to provide access to Government resources without a login. The MSU Libraries policy requiring a login for access to the Internet was implemented to meet the University's responsibility to promote security and accountability on the Internet through no anonymous access, a responsibility imposed by external networks to which MSU is connected.

5. Government Documents Unit staff routinely check for electronic government information falling outside of the permitted sites on the Selected Resources computer stations.

6. If a patron is unable to access an electronic government resource from one of the Selected Resources computer stations, a screen stating, "Access to this resource is not possible from this workstation. Please ask at the Reference Desk for assistance. For unlimited access to the web, please use your MSUNet ID to log on at one of the Full Web or Full Set of Applications workstations." is presented. Additionally, a sign is posted stating, "…Please ask for assistance at the Reference Desk if you are unable to access a resource." Reference staff will assist any user regardless of residency status or affiliation with the University. Mediated searching will be performed to assist the user.

7. The Main Library (//www.lib.msu.edu/) and the Government Documents Unit (/branches/gov/index.jsp) maintain web pages pointing to prominent or useful government sites. CD-ROM, DVD, diskette and many Internet titles can be found in MSU Libraries' catalog.

8. The Main Library has the capability to fax or e-mail government information to distance users.

9. The Main Library provides the ability to download and print electronic government information. Costs associated with printing and downloading are consistent with other public service provisions of the Library.

10. Reference service for Internet and tangible electronic government information are consistent with other public service provisions of the Library.

11. The Main Library offers training for users through pre-arranged specific instructional sessions, such as course-related sessions and generalized presentations, such as those on administrative law or statistical sources.

12. Service for disabled users is provided through the Assistive Technology Center at the Main Library. Assistance is provided in using the Michigan State University's online catalog, as well as with retrieval of materials and photocopying. In addition, special equipment is supplied for those with visual, auditory and mobility disabilities.