Improving access to government information in all library branches has been the focus of one large public library. Our December Spotlight Depository, Contra Costa County Library in Pleasant Hill, California focuses on collecting materials that can be made freely available to all of its twenty-five branches. Contra Costa County Library (“Contra Costa”) has focused its efforts on making government documents available from multiple access points, including the library’s public catalog.
Contra Costa publicizes its public access policy. A statement on the library’s Web site explains that “The Library's mission is to make government publications freely available for the use of the general public, and to meet the government information needs of the people who live and work in greater Contra Costa County.” The library also provides assistive technology in all its branches to help those with disabilities access the information and materials available.
To facilitate access in all branches, the library has emphasized its Government Guide which is available through the library’s web page and contains government subject guides with information and links. These subject guides are usable by reference staff throughout the county and users at home.
An online user can reach links to government information by clicking on the Government Guide from the Library’s home page or by browsing through the library’s guides alphabetically, by subject, or by guide owner. Links on the government Web pages are updated periodically and a good mix of topics are presented under the Government heading. These include Local Government, State Government, Federal Government, and Government Documents.
The Government Documents page features links to the U.S. Government Printing Office’s home page; the Federal Register; the Federal Digital System (FDSys); books published by the GPO that are available at Contra Costa; GovPulse and links to popular government documents. Featured on this page is a section that provides information about the designation of Contra Costa as a selective depository and information about its history.
In addition to links readily available through the Government Guide, Contra Costa has made newly published electronic Federal documents available through their online catalog enabling patrons to locate and access government documents on a topic through a simple search of the library’s public catalog. Librarians also guide users to electronic Federal documents to assist them in researching topics during the hours that the library is closed. Approximately 3,250 electronic Federal documents have been accessed from the library’s catalog over the past twelve months.
Following its stated mission to make materials available online, Contra Costa has made its Collection Development Plan available online. The policy provides readers with useful information such as Contra Costa’s status as a Federal depository library; the formats the library collects; who is responsible for the collection; its emphases; branch government document collections; and notes that a specific government documents collection development policy is provided in the appendix.
The Government Documents Collection Development Policy includes information about the geography and population the library is serving and includes a government publications collection profile. The profile is especially helpful as it details the individuals responsible for selection, criteria for selection, collection level, formats, evaluation tools and more. The policy also addresses issues such as resource sharing, collection evaluation, retention, disposal and access.
The Contra Costa library staff exceed legal and Program requirements in making accessible and promoting access to the library’s depository collection to its users. The increased emphasis on obtaining and promoting materials available online through multiple access points and through the library’s catalog make Contra Costa a shining example of how a public library or any type of library can increase awareness and use of its depository collection. Libraries wanting to emulate Contra Costa’s example can take advantage of the library’s Collection Development Plan and Government Documents Collection Development Policy.