Weeding a Depository Collection


Materials distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program remain Federal property and must be disposed of according to specific rules and guidelines.

Discarding Depository Materials

Documents distributed through the FDLP are Government property. Selective depository libraries must consult with their regional library for specific instructions on the procedures to be followed when discarding depository materials. When discarding items, consider placing depository materials on the National Needs and Offers list. After this, offer depository materials to any public library or educational institution, or dispose of materials at your discretion, provided that the institution incurs no financial benefit from the disposal.

Use the same replacement policy that the library maintains for non-Government materials for depository materials. The depository must pay for replacement copies. Claims should not be made for this material.

Only the first copy of a depository publication is considered the depository copy; additional copies may be discarded. Duplicate copies do not require regional permission for withdrawal. Government publications received from sources other than the FDLP may be disposed of at the discretion of individual libraries. When in doubt as to weeding depository materials, contact your regional depository librarian for the procedures and best practices specific to your geographic area.

Regional Approval for Selective Libraries to Withdraw Materials

In managing the discards of selective libraries in their region, the regional depository library will issue instructions to selectives on the prescribed discard procedures, dealing only with procedures deemed necessary for the efficient operation of depositories within the jurisdiction. Regional libraries are also responsible for managing the withdrawal process in a timely and judicious manner.

If a withdrawal or disposal list is required, the regional library will check the list for any publications that may be missing from the regional depository collection and ensure that at least one copy of all depository publications, in paper, microfiche, or tangible electronic format, (except those authorized to be discarded by the Superintendent of Documents) is retained by a depository within the State or region.

In an effort to ensure broad-based access, regional depository libraries offer depository publications to other depository libraries in the state or region.

Superseded Publications

Depository material that meets the supersession criteria may be disposed of at any time without requesting permission to do so from a regional library. Note that if superseded publications continue to be useful to the library’s users, you may retain them for your library's collection.

Supersession Criteria

Your library may withdraw publications prior to the five-year retention period if they meet the following criteria.

  • After the expiration of the advertised event, libraries may discard the dated publication. Publications of a current awareness nature and likely to have a limited lifespan should be checked by your library staff for an expiration or effective date.
  • After a publication's effective expiration date has passed, your library may discard after expiration of the event. You may discard items that do not have a specific date on them 90 days after receipt.
  • Many publications contain statements on the cover(s) or in the prefatory material indicating that the publication revises or supersedes one or more previous editions.
  • Loose-leaf pages replaced by new pages are considered superseded and may be discarded.
  • A final environmental impact statement (EIS) does not supersede the draft version.
If a later edition is distributed through the FDLP, the superseded edition may be discarded by the depository, even if that depository has deselected the item number and does not possess the new edition.
These may be superseded and discarded only upon receipt of the bound volumes or cumulated issues or products.
A corrected copy replaces a publication previously distributed through the FDLP. The publication that was initially distributed should be removed from the collection and disposed of accordingly.
  • Upon receipt of a new issue, the previous issues of this type of publication may be superseded.
  • This does not apply to annual publications such as annual reports of departments and agencies, which cover the activities of the organization for a specific period of time.

Can tangible publications be superseded by an online version?

  • If the publication meets the supersession criteria, it can be superseded.
  • If there are discrepancies between the two versions, the tangible may not be superseded by the online version.

Do Floppy Disks, CD-ROMs and DVDs supersede?

  • If the tangible electronic product meets the supersession criteria, it can be superseded. Depositories must make sure that all the information contained on the floppy disk, CD-ROM, or DVD has been superseded.
  • Floppy disks included in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Floppy Disk Project are considered superseded by the partnership copies and may be discarded without further permission.

Superseded List and Guidelines

The Superseded List and Guidelines provides assistance in determining whether or not a depository resource is superseded. You may continue to use the 2002 Superseded List as a reference source for additional examples of the type of publications that are superseded if you wish to do so. The .pdf format of the 2002 Superseded List has explanatory content and notation included in the front. If you are using the .xls version of the list, refer to this explanatory content in order to apply the supersession rules appropriately in your library.

Information for Regional Libraries

  • If your library is a regional depository, you must permanently retain at least one tangible copy of every publication received through depository distribution, except for those publications that meet the supersession criteria defined in these guidelines.
  • Some regional depositories have agreed that some superseded materials should be retained for long-term public access. This is a consensus agreement between the regionals, not a legal requirement of 44 U.S.C. §1912. If the regional depository library is collecting superseded publications, this information should be noted for the selectives in the state plan or discard procedures.

Official Substitution of Depository Materials


Tangible Substitution

  • Tangible depository holdings replaced by tangible products must be offered to the regional depository library. Regional depositories engaging in tangible substitution should keep the interests of the state or region they serve in mind.
  • Substituted material must have proper reading equipment available, be properly referenced, and easily accessible to all users.
  • Any material retained in lieu of the depository copy will then be treated as depository materials for the period of time that the library would have retained the original publications and they will be subject to the same requirements that govern the care, treatment, and public access requirements during that time period.


Electronic Substitution

  • Selective depository libraries are permitted to replace tangible versions of depository material with online equivalents provided the publication has been held for at least one year, the regional depository has approved the disposal of the tangibles, and the online version is:
    • Official.
    • Complete.
    • Free of charge to the user.
  • No library is required to substitute online versions for tangible materials.


Working With Your Regional

Selectives must work with and seek approval from their regional to substitute depository resources. Regional depository coordinators may handle substitutions differently. Options include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Substitution guidelines may be incorporated into the State Plan.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding between the Regional and another depository is a mechanism to ensure that a tangible copy is available in perpetuity.
  • A regional's disposal guidelines should include cooperation among depositories to ensure that one or more libraries in a state or region retain a tangible version.

If you are uncertain about supersession of a particular publication, please contact your regional depository library for guidance.


Determining If A Publication Meets The Substitution Criteria

  • Its content is published by the Federal Government, at Government expense, or as required by law.
  • GPO only catalogs official Government publications, so a quick check of the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) will help you determine “officialness”.
  • If it is not in the CGP, look at the information that would be included in the statement of responsibility of its cataloging record to determine the publication’s origin.
  • There is no definitive way to determine if an online version is complete without comparing it to the tangible publication.
  • Depository coordinators should use their professional judgment in determining titles that can be substituted.
  • Retention of substituted materials must follow discard procedures for the given depository.
  • If permission to substitute is not granted, the selective must keep the tangible material but may apply at a later date for approval to dispose of the tangible products.
  • If permission to substitute is granted, the tangible materials must be offered to the regional and other selectives through disposal or withdrawal lists following the practice for materials older than 5 years.
Guidelines for Depository Libraries: Substituting Online for Tangible Versions of Depository Publications by Selectives is to be applied to Federal depository materials held by a selective depository for at least one year and are not otherwise covered by the superseded guidelines. Tangible products appearing in the Superseded List or eligible for supersession in accordance with the Superseded Guidelines may be superseded in the normal fashion.

Discards by Libraries without a Regional

Selective depository libraries not served by a designated regional depository library must permanently retain one copy of all Federal government publications selected and received.

Exceptions are made for superseded publications and those issued later in another format (bound, microfiche, or electronic media).

Discards by Federal Libraries

Federal libraries wishing to dispose of depository materials should contact the Exchange and Gift Division of the Library of Congress for directions on discarding.

Specific instructions must be obtained from the following address:

Receiving and Routing Section
Exchange and Gift Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4280
P: (202) 707-9514
F: (202) 707-2086

Discards by Highest State Appellate Court Libraries

Highest State Appellate Court libraries do not need to retain publications for five years before discarding nor do they have to discard depository materials through the regional depository library. However, all depository materials remain the property of the United States Government.

Superseded List and Guidelines