Bibliographic Cataloging: Public and Private Laws

Public Laws

Most laws passed by Congress are public laws which affect society as a whole. Numbering consists of the Congress followed by the number of the individual law (e.g. Public Law 113-3 refers to the third law passed by the 113th Congress).

Public Laws often have a citation (or short) title in addition to a formal title. The citation title is usually but not always found in Section I of a Public Law. Such titles will be identified by the phrase: This Act may be cited as the “…” (e.g. Public Law 113-3: An Act to Ensure the Complete and Timely Payment of the Obligations of the United States Government until May 19, 2013, and for Other Purposes. SECTION I. SHORT TITLE: This Act may be cited as the “No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013.”).

When citing information from a Public Law in authority records record the page number of the law by its United States Statutes at Large designation found at the top of each page (e.g. 127 STAT. 51). For bibliographic records cite information found on other than the title page as, P. [1], not the STAT. designation.

Private Laws

Private Laws are rare and affect an individual, family, or small group. Such laws are enacted to assist citizens that have been injured by government programs or who are appealing an executive agency ruling such as deportation. Private Laws are numbered as Public Laws are (e.g. Private Law 112-1 refers to the first, and only, such law passed by the 112th Congress).

Private Laws do not have a citation title.


All laws are cataloged at full level and are exported to the CGP without GPO shipping list numbers. Copies of all laws are delivered in advance of processing to Congressional catalogers. After individual GPO shipping lists are compiled a designated staff member then adds the shipping list number to each OCLC and CGP record.

Public and Private Laws must be established in the LC name authority file under RDA rules. If necessary, accompanying corporate names, personal names, or subjects which the laws address will be established in their respective authority files.

Electronic versions of Public and Private Laws are posted on FDsys chronologically from the current Congress back to the 104th Congress. Since laws do not contain illustrative matter both the text and PDF versions are PURLed. Print and electronic bibliographical records are linked by 776 fields.