Introduction to the Classification Guidelines

The Superintendent of Documents Classification Guidelines were developed by staff in the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), Library Services and Content Management (LSCM), Library Technical Services section with assistance from staff throughout LSCM. These guidelines are a revision of the 1993 GPO Classification Manual. The ongoing maintenance and revision of the Superintendent of Documents Classification Guidelines are the responsibility of the Cataloging Policy and Documentation Committee, Superintendent of Documents Classification Subcommittee. The Subcommittee operates within LSCM’s Library Technical Services section.

GPO uses the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) classification system to classify Federal Government publications. The SuDocs Classification Guidelines describe how to apply that system to classify and organize Federal Government publications. The purpose of these guidelines is to convey the current policies for assigning SuDocs classification numbers. The principles of the SuDocs system apply to all U.S. Government publications, regardless of format.

The U. S. Government disseminates a large number of publications each year. These may be issued as books, serials, pamphlets, maps, or other document type and may be in paper, microfiche, tangible electronic (CDs, DVDs), digital and online, or other format. Under U.S.C. 44, all of these publications, with certain exceptions, are included in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). All U.S. documents that are identified, acquired, and processed through the Cataloging & Indexing (C&I) Program or the FDLP are assigned a unique SuDocs classification number and cataloged, whether or not they are distributed to Federal depository libraries.

The SuDocs system groups together the publications of all Government authors, with the various agencies, bureaus, and departments being considered the authors. It is based on the current organizational structure of the Federal Government; subordinate bureaus and divisions are grouped with the parent organization. Since the SuDocs system was introduced, new agencies have formed, older agencies have ceased, and organizational responsibilities have moved across agencies. Over time, the SuDocs system has been revised and expanded. As a result, publications of some issuing agencies may be located in multiple places in the scheme.

Guidelines covering the formation and structure of SuDocs classification numbers have also changed over time. Publications have been assigned SuDocs classification numbers based upon the guidelines in effect at the time of cataloging. The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications contains classification numbers created under different guidelines at different times.

The current SuDocs Classification Guidelines will be published online only. Each section will include the date published and date last updated for reference. If you choose to print individual sections, keep in mind that the online version remains the most current and authoritative source for classification policies. Select prior guidelines are available in the Resources section under ‘Superseded Guidance.’ The Resources section is available from the menu on every page of the Guidelines.