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Federal Depository Library Program - Information for Selectives: Disposal of Publications

This page helps Missouri library members of the Federal Depository Library Program remain compliant with program regulations.

Guidelines for Disposal

Depository publications are federal property, and they remain so even after they have been delivered to libraries.  Through guidelines set forth in Chapter 19, Title 44 of the U. S. Code, the federal government has reserved the right to determine how and when documents may be removed from depository libraries.  Basically, the law delegates to Regional depositories the authority to permit Selective depositories to discard materials. 

The guidelines on this web page have been customized to fit the needs of our state, but they are in compliance with the Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program and with the Guidelines for Depository Libraries: Substituting Online for Tangible Versions of Depository Publications by Selectives.


Disposal Policy Overview

Disposal Policies

Securing Permission to Dispose of Documents

Alternative Disposal Procedures

Instructions for using the MOBIUS Courier

Disposal Policy Overview

The principle responsibility of a Regional depository library is to ensure the comprehensiveness and integrity of the government information resources in the state or region.  Regionals generally accomplish this by selecting items from exchange lists and incorporating them into their own collections rather than requiring Selectives to retain the material.  Selective depositories may suggest proposals for the transfer of their depository publications to other FDLP libraries and to libraries outside the program. 

MU Libraries have intrastate regional partnerships with Washington University, Missouri State University at Springfield, Saint Louis University, Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, and the Missouri Institute of Science and Technology in Rolla.  Each of these libraries holds portions of the Regional collection and only they can grant permission to discard in those areas.  See complete, alphabetical list of SuDoc numbers handled by these other institutions.  These depository coordinators are authorized to grant disposal requests in their respective areas:

Note: federal agency and judicial depository libraries in Missouri (such as the Federal Reserve Library, U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit Library and others) are not governed by the Regional library; however, they are encouraged to notify Missouri libraries of government publications targeted for disposal through the MODOC-L listserv or the Regional's MO Government Documents Exchange List Service.

Disposal Policies

I.   Documents which are up to five years old

Title 44, Chapter 19, Section 12 of the United States Code requires libraries to retain depository documents for at least five years.  However, there are three exceptions to this rule.  The following items can be discarded without seeking Regional permission:

A) Superseded items, such as those in the FDLP Superseded List
Documents that have been superseded may be discarded without seeking Regional permission. Note that the Superseded List has not been updated in several years.  Librarians are permitted to make supersede determinations on their own.  It is helpful to consult FDLP guidelines for determining superseded materials.

B) Documents which are secondary copies
Secondary copies include duplicates, preprints (meaning, documents that are later superseded), and unrequested documents sent directly to your library by agencies or from GPO by mistake. These materials may be discarded at the discretion of individual libraries without seeking permission from the Regional. 

C) Documents which fit criteria for electronic substitution
Based on GPO's Substituting Online for Tangible Versions of Depository Publications, a Selective depository is permitted to remove tangible versions and substitute with online equivalents after only one year, provided that the online version is:

  • Official (that is, your library catalog or website points to the version on the government site);
  • Complete
  • Accessible to the general public


II. Documents which have been in your library for at least five years

First, check the alphabetical list of SuDoc numbers  (opens pdf) for those which have been adopted by other libraries.  Only those libraries can provide permission to discard in those areas and you will need to contact them directly.  MU Libraries remains the regional for everything that remains; our instructions follow.

It is not necessary to ask MU permission to dispose of fiche that fall in our SuDoc areas, nor to offer it to other libraries.  Do however check with our regional partners if you have microfiche that falls under their domain (for example, Saint Louis University has all D300 call numbers, MSU has all S call numbers, etc.)

It is not necessary to ask for permission to dispose of optical discs (CDs, DVDs, etc.)  You may freely discard.

It is not necessary to ask for permission to discard floppy disks.  You may freely discard.  All FDLP floppy disks have been archived on the CIC Floppy Disk Project website.

The policy for disposal of print publications is based on the document's publication date. 

 * Documents dated from 1950 up until five years ago.

We lost some government documents dated 1950-present in the mold disaster.  If you wish to weed an item, check our MERLIN catalog.  If you see it in MU Libraries or MU Law Libraries’ collection with “AVAILABLE” or “CHECKED OUT” status, that is a good sign.  If it says “UNAVAILABLE,” especially if the location is “MU Depository” or “Annex,” that may be one that we lost to mold, and need a replacement copy. 

Government documents in our branches are part of the FDLP Regional collection.  Government documents housed at the State Historical Society are not part of the FDLP.  Over the years, our library has moved many docs out of the SuDoc classification and into Dewey or Library of Congress numbering systems.  For help finding them in our MERLIN catalog, see our handy list of reclassified series arranged by Sudoc.  This is not a complete list, but it includes some of the hardest to find in the UM LIBRARIES CATALOG.

* Documents dated prior to 1960

Missouri Selectives must request the Regional's permission to dispose of any publication dated before 1960.  However before you begin typing, call us!   We may be able to significantly reduce your listing requirements if we are contacted in advance.

Securing permission to dispose of documents

After having separated documents which do require permission to discard from those which you may discard freely without permission, you can begin the process of seeking permission to discard the latter set.  We will likely need an exchange list for those items.   (We call it an "exchange list" but it is also sometimes called a "weed list" or "discard list.") 

Guidelines for the creation of exchange lists

The header should include the following elements:

  • Your institution name and library name.
  • List number. The list number takes the following form:
    Depository Number--the two digit Year--the two digit List Number.
    For example, the list number for the fourth list of 2008 submitted by Missouri State University would be 0330B-08-04.
  • Submission date.
  • Name and email address of the contact person at your library.
  • Any special instructions or conditions.  Selective depository libraries ask for reimbursement for shipping costs that exceed a certain dollar amount.  An easy way to do this is to require a FedEx or UPS account number for reverse billing.  Regional libraries are exempt from reimbursing postage for materials sent by Selectives in the region.

All exchange lists must contain the following elements for each document:

  • SuDoc number.
    This should be a complete number; however, for serials it is sufficient to provide only the class stem, as long as the complete date range of listed publications is also included.
  • Document title (for monographs) or Series title.
    It is not necessary to list cover titles or title page titles on individual documents in a series.  Series titles such as "Bulletin" or "Circular" can be enough, but be sure to indicate the volume numbers and issue numbers.  
  • Publication date(s).
    For serials, you needn't list every single one, but you may indicate the inclusive dates of the issues along with a note of any gaps in chronological sequence. 

In addition, the following rules apply:

  1. Documents should be arranged on lists in call number order.
  2. Exchange lists may be submitted to the Regional by email as an attachment in .doc, .docx, .rtf, .csv or Excel format.   The address for submission is; please copy
  3. The words "Exchange List" should appear somewhere in the SUBJECT line of the message.
  4. The file name of the attachment should correspond with the list number (for example, 0321-08-01.rtf )

How it Works

Libraries in the St. Louis Sub-Regional Zone must also offer their materials to the Sub-Regional Coordinator, currently Tove Klovning at Washington University.   After WU makes its selections, they are offered to other libraries within the Zone before being offered to MU Libraries in Columbia and the other Regional partners if applicable.  After the Regional and its partners make its selections, materials can be offered to the rest of the state on the MODOC-L listserv.

For libraries not in the St. Louis Sub-Regional Zone, documents are offered first to the Regional and its partners.  In Missouri, the Regional collection is divided between six institutions.  After choosing what it needs for its collection, the Regional makes remainders available to Selective depository libraries in the state.  We accomplish this through the use of our Missouri Exchange List website.  Missouri libraries should be given precedence if more than one library makes a claim.  The Regional assigns a deadline on each list as we post them.  The deadline is usually one month but could be shorter or longer depending on list content.  Selective libraries may also offer items nationally using the FDLP eXchange site if they so choose. 

Any documents which remain unclaimed after the posting period may be given to non-FDLP libraries or to private citizens, or they may be discarded.  Most important is to remember that according to Chapter 5, Section 15 of the FDLP Handbook, "Libraries cannot materially or financially benefit from the sale, transfer, or disposal of depository holdings, as these materials remain Government property. After following the procedures... the depository materials entrusted to your library may be sold as publications or as waste paper. The proceeds of the sale, together with a letter of explanation, must be sent to the Superintendent of Documents. Depository materials may never be bartered for goods or services."   In other words, try to get unclaimed documents into appreciative hands if you can, but take care to ensure that your library does not profit by the disposition of this federal property.

In the unlikely event that the Regional does not give permission to dispose of a depository publication, the Selective may request permission again at a later date.

Alternative Disposal Procedures

The Regional recognizes that there may be circumstances where disposal procedures outlined here are impractical or onerous. In those cases, the Regional will consider proposals for alternatives. All such proposals will be given serious consideration.

(Effective: August 17, 2012)

Using the MOBIUS Courier

Instructions for using the MOBIUS courier
for moving government documents between institutions:


  1. Use the shipping labels MOBIUS provides:
  2. Boxes will need a label, but they don't need a barcode.
  3. Write the name of the intended recipient on the outside of the box, for example, “Attn. Marie Concannon, Government Documents.”
  4. For multiple boxes destined for a single department, write “Box 1 of 6,” “Box 2 of 6,” Box 3 of 6” etc on the outside of each box.
  5. To keep weight down, do not use boxes larger than about the size of a Xerox box.  Some Xerox boxes have handles.  They are preferable.
  6. Boxes should be sturdy enough to withstand heavier items stacked on top.  Boxes originally used to ship paper for restrooms are not strong enough.  Boxes used to ship books or computers to your library are the best.  Xerox boxes are OK if packed according to the instructions below.
  7. If using Xerox boxes,
    1. Pack books flat and fill to the point that books are level with the top of the box.  Halfway-filled Xerox boxes will crush if more boxes are piled on top.
    2. To prevent shifting of documents inside boxes during shipment, stuff newspaper into gaps.
    3. Reinforce the shortest side of the box with wide packing tape.  There are flaps on the short side of Xerox boxes that tend to pop open.  Use a generous amount that wraps around three sides. 
    4. Secure lids with wide packing tape. Use an amount of tape sufficient to wrap completely around all four sides of the Xerox box.
  8. MOBIUS courier trips are charged by the stop.  If you know you will have a lot to go to one place, it is more cost-effective to send many boxes all at once rather than to space it out over weeks.
  9. If the volume going out in one day is less than about five Xerox paper boxes’ worth, you can ship it without first notifying Scott Peterson at MOBIUS, however, you may wish to give your own Circulation, ILL or Mail Room people some advance notice. Check with your co-workers in these departments to see if certain days of the week are less busy for them.
  10. For quantities of 5-20 boxes, it is necessary to notify Scott Peterson of the MOBIUS office in advance.  His role is to make sure the van will be big enough to take the shipment. His contact info:

        Scott Peterson
        Systems Librarian
        HDI Certified Support Center Analyst
        Mobius Consortium Office
        111 E. Broadway, Suite 220
        Columbia, MO 65203
        (573) 234-6196
        Toll free (877) 366-2487
  11. MOBIUS’ black nylon bags are acceptable too, under certain conditions:
    1. Generally, avoid mixing in a single bag both items intended for your Docs librarian and items that are intended for a Circulation or ILL dept
    2. If you have only one thing to send and you must send it in a MOBIUS bag with other things, make sure the item intended for the Docs librarian is clearly distinguishable from the rest, either by placing the doc inside a large envelope addressed to the particular librarian’s attention, or by putting a streamer in that item with a name, department, and instructions to route to that person.
    3. When packing a MOBIUS bag containing 100% documents, place a note inside the bag indicating the person to whom the contents should be delivered, AND put a streamer in each book intended for the Docs librarian.  Some locations receive so many MOBIUS bags that they could unpack them all without noticing messages, and the situation could become confusing.  Alternatively, you can wrap all the documents together very well with string, and a tuck a note securely under the strong that indicates the mini-package should be given to the Docs librarian.