The Superintendent of Documents Classification System: An Explanation of the SuDoc Numbers
What You Really Need to Know
Filing Rules for U.S. Government Publications at Porter Henderson Library (because if you know “the rules” you can find the document)
Parts of a SuDocs Class Number (Class Stem, Series Designations, Book Number)
Putting It All Together
For More Information …
Superintendent of Documents Classification System (Agencies/Departments/Commissions)
The Porter Henderson Library receives federal document materials in paper, microfiche, CD-ROM, and video format. The Library uses the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) classification system to organize these materials. The SuDocs classification system is designed specifically for United States government documents and is assigned by the office of the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) of the Government Printing Office.
Unlike most classification systems, SuDoc numbers are not based on subject. The system is straightforward, on the surface – A for Agriculture, C for Commerce, D for Defense, E for Energy, GP for Government Printing Office, T for Treasury Department, and so on. The logic behind the SuDocs system is the grouping of subordinate units with the parent organization so that each full notation reveals the responsible issuing agency for the type of publication being classified. This type of system is called a provenance system – it organizes publications based upon issuing agency.
There are exceptions to the straightforward letters, of course: Y 1; call numbers are general publications of Congress – House and Senate Documents and Reports,Y 3; call numbers are independent boards and commissions, and Y 4 call numbers are House and Senate Committee hearings and publications.
Because the classification system is based on the current organizational status of the government author, it changes as the organizational structure of the federal government changes. Thus, publications of some issuing agencies may be located in as many as three different places in the system.
SuDoc numbers can be quite simple or very complex. For instance,
- I 1.1:917 Reports of the Department of the Interior. 1918.
- I 29.6/6:F 75/988 Ford’s Theatre and the House Where Lincoln Died. 1988.
- I 53.11/4:43109-E1-TM-100/991 Ramshorn, Wyoming Surface Management Map. 1991.
However, before going into greater detail about SuDoc numbers we must focus on the three things you really need to know:
SuDocs is NOT a decimal system
The number after the period is a WHOLE number. (There is always a space between letters and numbers in the SuDoc system — unless there is punctuation between them. Punctuation in a SuDoc number always acts as a divider, not as a decimal point.)
Remember: Years, Letters, Numbers!
If the call number is the same to a certain point, then varies, the order is: Years, Letters, Numbers. Until the year 2000, the first number was dropped from years, so those years have 3 digits. Beginning with the year 2000, years will be 4 digits.
Correct Call Number Order
A 1.35:999 (year, 3-digit)
A 1.35:2004 (year, 4-digit)
A 1.35:R 42/995
A 1.35:R 42/2
EP 1.23:A 62
Slashes and Dashes
If the class stem (the numbers before the colon) has numbers slashed onto the base number, the base number comes first, followed by the slashed numbers in order. The same rule applies to numbers dashed onto other numbers or letters.
Correct Call Number Order
Filing rules differ from library to library. These are the rules we follow at the Porter Henderson Library.
- File punctuation as though nothing were there.
- Nothing, including spaces and punctuation (except for the colon), files before something. For example:
- C 56.246/2:TC72-T20
- C 56.246/2:TC72C1-6
Before the colon:
- File by the letter or letters at the beginning of the classification number.
- File next by the whole number up to the period.
- File next by the whole number up to the separation mark (the slash or colon).
In general, the order of filing punctuation before the colon is:
To read a SuDoc number, you must begin by recognizing the three major elements: author symbol, series designation, and book number. SuDoc numbers are divided, usually at the colon, into two parts – the class stem (composed of the author symbol and the series designation) and the book number – which then combine to make a complete SuDoc number. We’ll use I 29.6/6:F 75/988 as an example.
All SuDoc numbers begin with one to three letters. Each department or independent agency of the United States government is assigned a letter or combination of letters of the alphabet based on the name of the agency. For instance, the Commerce Department has been assigned the C. The Defense Department uses the D, the Justice Department the J, etc. X and Y are reserved for Congress. Newer agencies tend to be assigned multi-letter designations – the newly independent Social Security Administration, for instance, has been assigned SSA. The new cabinet-level department, the Department of Homeland Security, has been assigned HS.
Therefore, in our example, we know from the “I” that the Department of the Interior issued the publication.
The author symbol of the class stem is the letter and number up to the period. Subordinate bureaus within each agency are assigned numbers beginning with 2. The number 1 is reserved for the parent organization. Thus, “I 29.” is the author symbol in our example and stands for the National Park Service, the 28th bureau of the Department of the Interior. The bureau number is then divided from the rest of the SuDoc number by a period.
Following the period, each series issued by that bureau is also assigned a number. New series which are closely related to an existing series are “attached” to the existing series by putting a slash after the existing series number and then adding another letter or number. For instance:
- I 29.6: National Parks Information Circulars
- I 29.6/2: National Seashores, Information Circulars
- I 29.6/3: National Lakeshores, Information Circulars
- I 29.6/4: National Rivers, Information Circulars
- I 29.6/5: National Scenic Trails, Information Circulars
Sometimes the number after the period can be rather complicated, involving both slashes and dashes to relate series to each other. The class stem then usually ends with a colon.
In our example, I 29.6/6: stands for the National Historic Site Information Circulars series from the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior.
The following numbers are assigned for the types of publications common to most Government offices:
- Annual reports
- General publications (unnumbered publications of a miscellaneous nature)
- Laws (administered by the agency and published by it)
- Regulations, rules, and instructions
- Handbooks, manuals, guides
- Bibliographies and lists of publications
- Maps and charts
- Addresses, lectures, etc.
A list of all the current series available from the United States Government Printing Office can be found in the List of Classes of United States Government Publications Available For Selection by Depository Libraries. An historical list of all the series that have been created by the Government Printing Office can be found in Andriot’s Guide to US Government Publications (Documents/Reference Z1223.Z7 A572)
After the class stem, each individual issue or publication in a series is assigned a unique identifier, called a book number, following the colon. Serials, numbered monographic series, and unnumbered monographs, all have different types of identifiers.
For unnumbered monographs, the identifier is usually an alphanumeric Cutter number (like those used for the book number in Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal classification) based on the subject.
for the first edition, just the Cutter number
J 1.8/2:R 11 (the original edition of Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO): A Manual for Federal Prosecutors), or
for later editions, the Cutter number/year
J 1.8/2:R 11/988 (the 1988 edition of Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO): A Manual for Federal Prosecutors)
For numbered series, the identifier usually is:
for first edition, the report number
A 1.76:709 (Agricultural Handbook 709 – Dwarf Mistletoes: Biology, Pathology, and Systematics)
for revised editions, the report number/year
A 1.76:643/989 (Agriculture Handbook 643 – Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS): Analysis of Forage Quality. 1989 edition)
At one time, GPO designated revisions of numbered publications by a slash and additional numbers beginning with “2.” For example: A 1.35:381/2. This practice proved to be confusing, so now the last three numbers of the year of revision are used.
A - Department of Agriculture
22 - Office of Statistics
.1 - Genre: annual reports
831/ - Publication number
2000 - Year of revision
GPO may add -rev for a slight revision. The addition of -2 means the item is a reprint.
For serials (magazines, journals, annual reports, etc.), the identifier is usually:
the volume and issue number
LC 1.32/5:14/11 (volume 14, number 11 of Fedlink Technical Notes)
E 3.9:96/10 (the October 1996 issue of the Monthly Energy Review)
the year or combination of years (for annual or biennial reports)
SI 1.1:865 (the 1865 edition of the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution)
C 55.32:988/89 (the 1988/1989 edition of the Biennial Report to the Congress on Coastal Zone Management)
Putting It All Together
Returning to our original example, we have learned that I 29.6/6:F 75/988 stands for the 1988 edition of Ford’s Theater and the House Where Lincoln Died in the series National Historic Site Information Circulars from the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior of the United States of America.
… and “practice” understanding the SuDocs classification numbers, use the Online tutorials below:
- SuDocs Call Number Interactive Quiz
- An Introduction to Government Information Sources, Part 3: How do SuDoc Numbers Work?