gov docs librarian? help me?

So I’m trying to figure out what a “GPO Item Number” is, and what it’s relationship to a “Sudoc number” etc is.

Contrary to the implications of ‘item number’, it looks like more than one document can share the same GPO Item Number. I think more than one document can also share the same SuDoc class mark? What do these things actually mean, what’s going on?

GPO Item Number is stored in MARC field 074, a field in fact reserved just for that. The MARC documentation tells me “The GPO item number is not the same as the unique number that identifies each entry in the Monthly Catalog of Government Publications, nor is it an order number.”

Okay, great, now I know what it’s NOT, but what the heck IS it? And why was this value chosen to be recorded in MARC instead of, say, “the unique number that identifies each entry in the Monthy Catalog”, which would seem to be a lot more useful to me, but which isn’t in fact recorded in our MARC (doesn’t even have a place to record).

Can anyone help me out there? Any gov docs librarians out there? Google isn’t doing much for me.


9 thoughts on “gov docs librarian? help me?”

  1. A GPO Item Number does apply to multiple documents. Depository libraries sign up to automatically receive certain types of documents, based on an “Item number” description.

    Item numbers can also be used to automatically obtain contract cataloging for every publication which is supposed to be shipped under that number. That’s a good reason for including the Item number in the MARC record, as it identifies which bibliographic records need to be shipped or received. The recipient library doesn’t necessarily know in advance of arrival of either the items themselves or the catalog records what the specific titles are which will be shipped. Depository library shipping lists list the Item Number as well as the title and the SuDoc number.

    I’ve been completely away from a depository library for several years now, and I’ve not worked directly with federal documents for a lot longer than this. Some of the specific details may have changed, but this should give you a general idea on how Item Numbers function.

  2. That is a very good question for the GPO.

    I’ve copy cataloged gov docs for almost 3 years and I never realized the Monthly Catalog had a unique number. The GPO and catalogers never utilize it, that I am aware of.

  3. Thanks pat and JLS. If anyone has a good contact at GPO to share with me, feel free.

    My current understanding, then, for anyone Googling or whatever, is:

    GPO Item Number actually represents a ‘selection unit’, or package of documents that gov doc depositories always acquire together, indivisibly. So if you know a GPO Item Number for a document, that’s sufficient to figure out which depositories hold that document. (Although which format they hold it in may vary, but there’s actually a suffix on ‘item number’ that identifies format (microform, print, online), so I guess that a depository will always hold all the documents in an Item Number package in the same format?). But not to identify a particular document in a catalog to find where it is on the shelf or electronically.

    Sudoc number, on the other hand, actually does uniquely identify a particular document. Sudoc is a kind of class number, meaning that it brings similar documents together when filed in order. “Similar” being more about department of origin, in the archival/records tradition. (‘provenance’!). But, when GPO assigns a sudoc, they add on an ‘arbitrary’ ‘book mark’ (ie ‘cutter number’) to ensure that each document gets a unique SuDoc mark. So a SuDoc mark is sufficient to identify a particular document in a retrieval system, and figure out it’s shelf location or URI for electronic access, etc.

    Phew. As always, correct me if I’m wrong.

  4. Also, it appears the same document (with the same SuDoc number) may have more than one GPO Item Number, which I guess it means it appears in more than one ‘selection package’.

    In those cases, it might (will?) end up with more than record in the GPO catalog, apparently.

    Search the GPO Catalog for Sudoc number “Y 4.SCI 2:110-109” for an example.

  5. Notice that the specific title in the example you’ve given is for two different versions of the same document: paper and online. A library would choose which version(s) they wished to obtain and catalog.

  6. Thanks, Pat.

    It’s confusing to me because it doesn’t seem entirely predictable. In this case, the document was listed twice, once print and once online. But in other cases, the same record (possibly with multiple GPO Item Numbers attached to that single record) is used for multiple formats.

    Check out SuDoc Y 1.1/8:107-242

    One single record, representing print, microform, and online. Why is it on single record there, but two different records for the other example?

    Also Y 1.1/8:107-242 has, depending on how you count, two or four GPO Item Numbers, but they’re all similar:

    1008-C (online)
    1008-D (MF)
    1008-D (online)

    If you look at the ‘locate in a library’ links, you can either search for 1008-C “paper or online” or 1008-D “microform or online”. Huh?

    Whereas the first example for SuDoc “Y 4.SCI 2:110-109″, split among two records, has:

    1025-A-03 (online)



    (which means ‘paper’ since it has no format suffix in parens).


  7. Cataloging policy change, or is the nature of the two records sufficiently different that the documents might therefore have been handled differently? I didn’t find Y 1.1/8:107-242 so I couldn’t compare.

    Did you look at the 005 fields in the MARC records for these various items to see how recently each had been edited?

    There’s always been the dilemma of whether it is in the user’s best interest to combine various formats of holdings on the same record or put them on separate records, so individual libraries might also choose different approaches. Suggest you contact GPO’s cataloging dept. for further information. Sorry, I don’t have any contacts.

  8. Thanks Kathy! That helps explain things somewhat.

    And also provides validation for my idea of a feature to add to Umlaut: When there’s a MARC record with a sudoc but without an 856, look up the sudoc in to see if there are any 856’s available, and if so add them on the fly to the display.

    I thought this was a cool idea, but wasn’t certain if it was actually helpful or not. But sounds like it is.

    Assuming the _sudoc_ will at least be the same for the same document in each format. Looking at examples in, I think it _usually_ is, but occasionally isn’t, which I don’t really understand.

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