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General Research Guides

Superintendent of Documents Classification System Overview

The government publications collection is shelved by SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents) classification number. The basis of this system is to group together government publications by author, author meaning the department, commission, or agency that issued the publication. It is an alphanumeric system.

An Explanation of the Superintendent of Documents Classification System This is an official publication of the U.S. federal government. It describes the Superintendent of Documents Classification System in detail. The hypertext version of this publication is made available by Thomas G. Tyler at Denver University.


Details of the SuDoc Classification System

The government publications collection is shelved by SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents) classification number. The basis of this system is to group together Government Publications by author, author meaning the department, commission, or agency that issued the publication. It is an alphanumeric system.

How it works

A sample number is J 1.14/7:983. Each agency, commission, department, congress, et. al. is assigned a letter designation usually based on the name of the agency.

  • A = Department of Agriculture
  • C = Department of Commerce
  • X, Y = Congressional Publications
These letter designations place the material on shelves by department or agency in A - Y order.

The letter designation is generally followed by a set of numbers. These numbers specify the particular agency within the department, the type of publication, and the specific publication number or edition.

For example, J 1.14/7:983 is the SuDoc call number for the 1983 edition of Uniform Crime Reports.
J = Parent agency (in this case the Department of Justice)
1.14 = The subagency (in this case the Federal Bureau of Investigation)
7 = Type of publication (in this case the Uniform Crime Reports)
983 = Specific publication (in this case the 1983 edition)

Another example, L 2.3:1757, is the call number for the Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin no. 1757.
L = Parent Agency (Department of Labor)
2 = Subagency (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
3 = Type of publication (in this case a bulletin)
1757= Specific publication (Bulletin #1757)

There are some government agencies which receive special treatment in the assignment of SuDoc numbers. One of the most common of these is Congress and its working commitees. The working committees of congress such as the appropriations, judiciary, etc. are assigned a combination letter/number designation.

For example, Y 4.J 89/2:AR 5/5 designates a publication entitled The Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Y = Congress
J 89 = Commitee on Judiciary
2 = Senate Judiciary (1 stands for House)
AR 5/5 = represents the specific publication - the AR is taken from the most significant word of the title, in this case "arms."

In order to find a piece on the shelf, it is important to know that numbers are always treated as whole numbers (not decimals as in the Dewey or LC classification systems) and that any punctuation (periods, slashes) separates whole numbers from each other. Letters within distinct parts of a call number are shelved alphabetically. For example:

1.201: is shelved before 2.2:

1.3: is shelved before 1.201:

12.2: is shelved before 12.2/2:

Y4.AP6/2: is shelved before Y4.AR5/2:

Y4.V64/3: is shelved before Y4.W36: