GPO Historic Shelflist

The GPO Historic Shelflist is the U.S. Government Printing Office's (GPO) historic card catalog covering U.S. Government documents from the 1870s to October 1992. It contains:

  • Over one million 3x5 cards arranged in Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) order;
  • Bibliographic information for U.S. Government documents from all three branches of the Government in a variety of formats including monographs, maps, serials, microfiche, and posters;
  • Cards representing documents that were distributed to libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and documents that were not distributed but required by the Cataloging and Indexing Program, as required by U.S.C. Title 44;
  • An estimated 455,000 OCLC cards that were produced by GPO through OCLC beginning in July 1976; and
  • An extensive collection of bibliographic information, but not a complete inventory of publications distributed through the FDLP.

Shelflist Projects and Descriptions

Project 1: Transcription of Cards (In Progress)

The GPO is working primarily with contract staff to transcribe the approximately 600,000 relevant cards into MARC 21 records. This record are then made available through Catalog of Government Publications (CGP). This process began in January 2010, and is ongoing. As part of the transcription, holdings and item records for serial issues are being created as well. GPO is also enhancing the records by adding one Library of Congress Subject Heading and one corporate name authority.

Project 2: Digitization of Cards (Complete)

As part of its records management requirement, GPO is planning for the eventual transfer of the Shelflist to the National Archives and Records Administration. By digitizing the Shelflist, GPO will be able to maintain a copy for any future internal processing needs. The digitization project was completed in April 2012.

Project 3: Cleaning Up the Catalog (In Progress)

GPO staff are working to create a clean and accurate resource in the CGP. This step involves the resolution of SuDoc classification problems and the identification and resolution of duplicate records that occur after Shelflist records are loaded to the CGP. This is an ongoing project, and will continue into the foreseeable future.

How to Locate Shelflist Records

The transcribed records are available through the CGP. The records are identifiable by the phrase "Historic Shelflist" in the 955 field of the MARC record display. Federal depository libraries are able to retrieve these records for their own use by searching the CGP, via Z39.50, or through the Catalog Record Distribution Program (CRDP).

Record Retrieval Using the CGP

To retrieve the records directly from the CGP:

    • Select "Historic Shelflist" from the list of "Catalogs to Search" on the Advanced search page. And/Or
    • Enter "Historic Shelflist" in any keyword search box.

Records may then be e-mailed to yourself in batches of 20. The Working with Results section of the CGP help page offers more information on selecting and e-mailing records.

Record Retrieval Using Z39.50

To retrieve the records using Z39.50 (depository libraries only), users can search using either the YAZ client or MarcEdit.

YAZ Client Options

  1. Issue a command using the Bib-1 Attribute 1016 (keyword anywhere) as follows: z> f @atter1-1016 Historic Shelflist. This search will retrieve all the records in the batch.
  2. Issue a command using Bib- Attribute 12 (local control number, i.e. Aleph system number) as follows:
    z> f @atter 1-12 000632902. This search will retrieve the record with that system number. Individual searches for the other system numbers in this batch will then need to be conducted to retrieve all the records.

MarcEdit Options

    1. Enter "Historic Shelflist" in the search box and select "keyword" from the pull-down menu. This search will retrieve all the records in the batch.
Example of a record retrieval using Z39.50 through the MarcEdit options options.


      Click image to enlarge.


          1. To search by Aleph system number, enter the system number in the search box and select "record number" from the pull-down menu. This search will retrieve the record with that system number.
        Example of a record retrieval using Z39.50 through the MarcEdit options.


            Click image to enlarge.

            Record Retrieval Through the CRDP

            CRDP participants may elect to receive shelflist records, either all records or those from specific agencies. For more information on the CRDP and how to select shelflist records, please see the CRDP page.

            Learn More about the Shelflist

            Watch the May 2010 OPAL presentation, which provides an overview of the GPO Historic Shelflist and includes a question and answer session between participants and GPO staff.