The Federal Depository Library Program (FDL) is an information dissemination program of the Government Printing Office (GPO), and administered under the authority of Title 44, Chapter 19 of the U.S. Code. FDLs trace their roots to 1813 when Congress first authorized legislation ensuring one copy of the House and Senate Journals and other Congressional documents were disseminated to certain universities, historical societies, and state libraries. Over time laws have expanded the types of libraries eligible to participate in the program and the scope of materials provided to depository libraries. Eligibility for designation of these libraries resides in Title 44, Section 1909, U.S. Code:
|“||Only a library able to provide custody and service for depository materials and located in an area where it can best serve the public need, and within an area not already adequately served by existing depository libraries may be designated . . . as a depository of Government publications.||”|
Depository libraries are major partners with the Federal government in the dissemination of information and contribute significantly to the diversity of information resources available to the public. They provide a mechanism for wide distribution of government information to help guarantee basic availability to the public. Executive branch agencies support the depository library program, and work in concert with the GPO, as a means of informing the public about the government.
The five founding principles of the FDL program are:
- A well informed citizenry, cognizant of the policies and activities of its representative Government, is essential for the proper functioning of democracy.
- Information provided by government documents is a primary means for citizens to keep informed.
- The public has a right to information contained in government documents, which have been published at public expense.
- The Government has an obligation to ensure availability of and access to these documents at no cost.
- These documents are a permanent source of federal information.
Title 44, Section 1911 of the U.S. Code requires FDLs to make Federal government publications available for the free use of the general public. There are 1,270 FDLs delivering services and free local access to publications and information, in a variety of formats, from all three branches of the Federal government.
FDLs are located in every State, the District of Columbia, and the territories of the United States.