Is Your Library Prepared for Service Disruptions?

Federal depository libraries (FDLs) experience disruptions in access and services from time to time. Disruptions for building, remodeling, or moving are coordinated and planned. Sometimes they are completely unexpected, as with natural or manmade disasters. Regardless of the cause, depositories should be prepared to provide alternative access to depository resources for FDL users.

All depositories should have a strategy for ensuring patrons have continual access to Federal depository resources in all formats. Federal depository libraries have a fundamental responsibility to keep depository services available to the public. Unless the entire library closes, public services for Federal depository materials must remain available. Publications may not be placed into storage without a plan in place for retrieval of requested publications. Access to all formats must be maintained, so public access computers and microfiche readers must also be available along with printing for both.

Notify the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and your Regional Depository Library

When it is safe to do so after a disaster or prior to an extended service interruption, it is important to inform GPO and your regional depository coordinator.

Contact GPO in several ways:

  • Phone: 202-512-1119
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • askGPO
  • Fax: 202-512-0016

We will be interested to know if tangible depository resources have been damaged or destroyed and if GPO needs to temporarily halt or redirect your depository shipments.

GPO is aware that disruptions in service, planned or not, are very time-consuming for you and your colleagues. However, after the immediate disaster response, please provide your regional and GPO with updates as circumstances change; transmit a contingency plan in writing, providing more information about which tangible materials were damaged or destroyed.

Please note: When depository library materials are badly damaged or decomposed as the result of a natural or manmade disaster, the regional depository coordinator may authorize the bulk disposal of such materials. You are not required to offer damaged materials to other depositories.

Plan Ahead Now

We encourage you to plan ahead for closures and disruptions. Gaining additional resource sharing and assistance from your regional and neighboring depository libraries is one strategy for ensuring continued access and service.

To mitigate the effects of a disaster, develop a disaster preparedness plan that includes the depository collection and services, share it with staff, and maintain it in a safe but accessible place(s).

As with any issue, you are encouraged to consult with GPO and your regional depository regarding any questions about potential actions before submitting a notice.

Contingency Plans

When a temporary disruption occurs, GPO asks for a contingency plan that describes how the library will provide access to depository services and collections for all library users during that time. A contingency plan may be as short as one page. If major changes to the plan occur, simply update GPO and your regional depository coordinator.

Contingency plans can include:

  • Institution name and depository number
  • Expected beginning and ending dates of closure
  • Contact name at your institution for depository questions
  • Extent of the curtailment of service
  • Alternative strategies to be employed to fulfill Government information requests, including where the next closest FDL is located. This may include activities such as:
    • Searching online to see if an electronic equivalent is available to use in lieu of a tangible copy housed in a temporary housing location
    • Gaining assistance from your regional depository library and other depositories to acquire copies of publications, if this process is more timely than retrieval from a temporary storage location
    • Arranging to set up public access computers and microfiche readers and printers in a new location
    • Notifying library users where they may find alternate access to Federal depository publications in all formats and related reference and other services
  • Techniques for notifying primary clientele, other libraries (both depository and non-depository), and the general public of changes in service, including but not limited to:
    • Updating Web page(s)
    • Recording a new telephone message
    • Posting signage in the library
    • Changing a standard email response
    • Sending a message to a local library discussion list
  • How your library will continue to check in new depository receipts or if shipments need to be temporarily halted
  • How the temporary disruption will impact interlibrary loan (ILL)
    • Will you be able to send, receive, or contribute to any ILL?
    • Will your ILL operational status need to be temporarily changed?
  • Description of any backlog of work that you anticipate and strategies for addressing the backlog

After the contingency plan is drafted, please submit copies of the plan to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and to your regional library. A GPO librarian will review each notification and respond as soon as possible.

Notify GPO and your regional depository when normal operations resume.


  • Share a successful contingency plan in the FDLP Community File Sharing site as a resource for other libraries to emulate.
  • Add a Public Note in the Federal Depository Library Directory (FDLD) to alert Catalog of U.S. Government Publications and FDLD users to the temporary change in access and service. You may include a URL referencing a library Web page where all up-to-date information about the disruption is shared.
  • Communicate and consult with your regional depository coordinator if you have experienced a loss of tangible publications during a disaster or are seeking advice how to communicate with other libraries within the state or region.