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Creating Gov Doc “Libraries” in Google Books

Digitized Government Documents in Google Books has been written about quite a lot over here at the FGI (check them out) and I’d like to revisit this topic again but with a different focus.

I was searching for Civil War era government documents for a History Professor, and I realized that we did not own one of the documents he sought. Before suggesting that he interlibrary loan a copy of this document, I decided to search online for a full-text digitized version. Alas, it did not exist in the digital realm, but I did find some other digitized gov docs pertaining to his research needs in Google Books. We were both elated, he because I had found what he needed, and I because so many documents I found digitized on Google Books were the same documents we had lost to mold and water damage from Hurricane Rita!

Out of curiosity, I did a Google Book search for other types of government publications and found these gems:

Trial of the Conspirators, for the Assassination of President Lincoln

Illustrations of the Gross Morbid Anatomy of the Brain in the Insane (isn’t that a Cypress Hill song? Nevermind…) by the Government Hospital for the Insane.

How it Feels to be the Husband of a Suffragette
(not published by the Government Printing Office, but it is a book housed in the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection in the Library of Congress).

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion

Most of these documents were scanned at large research universities or depositories, but the quality is not always decent andcan sometimes border on the illegible. I was quite amused when I discovered a staff person’s hand digitized on this document’s cover:

However, there are bigger snafus than a digitized librarian’s hand. For example, despite government documents being in the public domain, Google Books treats most post-1922 (i.e. post-copyright law) government documents as copyrighted material by only allowing a limited view! For more details, please read James Jacobs’ post on this issue.

Despite all these issues (which have yet to be resolved), I decided to take advantage of the access to full-text, pre-1922 government documents and create a McNeese Gov Docs “Library”account in Google Books for my depository. The account also allows you to subscribe to updates of its holdings via an RSS feed. I put a link to the library account and the RSS feed on my depository’s homepage and our “Gov Guides” wiki. I’ll add more of these interesting and old documents as I come across them, especially those pertaining to Louisiana or documents that were lost to Hurricane Rita.

Here are some tips for finding gov docs in Google Books: Use Advanced Search, and in the Publisher field, type in Govt OR GPO OR “Government Printing Office”. You can also search by agency, (i.e. “Department of the Interior”) by typing the name of the agency in the Author field.

Have fun exploring and building your own digital collections, but please let me know if you find some really cool gov docs, ok?


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