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Government Documents Policy and Procedure Guide: Shelflist

History and Contents of the Shelflist


(and how we are trying to move into the 21st century)

We use a shelflist card file in Government Documents because in many cases, it is the only way we can tell we own a document. I estimate that about a quarter of the collection on 1 East may be uncataloged. Our shelflist not only shows such items, but tells if it is located elsewhere (upstairs under a Dewey or LC number, in a branch, in microfiche format, etc.) By checking the shelflist, we save the library interlibrary loan costs, and it helps us authorize selective depositories to discard materials. Sometimes we send other libraries Xeroxes of check-in cards to assist them in compiling weed lists.

Here is a timeline of Ellis Library cataloging practices for documents. It underscores the fact that just because a document doesn’t seem to turn up in the UM LIBRARIES CATALOG, it does not mean that we do not own a copy! It seems the most problematic time period is 1950-1973.

  • 1892: Academic Hall burns to the ground, taking the library with it.
  • 1896-1949: documents received full cataloging and cards were made for the public card catalog.
  • 1950-1959: Some documents received partial cataloging (author cards only.) Other documents were assigned a SuDoc number and shelved, but never catalogued. (There they remain to this day.)
  • 1960-1973: Some documents received full cataloging and some partial, but for some no records were made.
  • 1973: The Government Documents shelflist was started up. This card file provides access only by SuDoc number. Users are expected to use the print Monthly Catalog of Government Publications, get a SuDoc number, and check the shelflist to see whether we own it. This is still the method we use to answer some reference questions.
  • 1987: We become a regional and start accepting docs from other libraries to fill gaps in our collection. We make shelflist cards for these newly received but historic materials. This explains why the shelflist contains many records of items pre-dating 1973.
  • 1991: Monograph records from GPO tapes started being added to LUMIN (predecessor to MERLIN.)
  • 1999 to the present: We purchase catalog records for government documents from Marcive.

Cataloging has been making a systematic effort to get all of the documents in 1 East into MERLIN. It is a long term project that has been underway for perhaps 10 years. They have been working backwards through the SuDoc collection, starting with Y (congressional) call numbers and working down. They have reached the SuDoc number I (Department of Interior.) Since Mizzou Advantage has become important, I have asked them to skip directly to the Department of Energy (E) collection. Cataloging keeps a list of its progress on their website.