Goodbye GPO Access, Hello FDsys

March 16, 2012

Guest blogger Kelly Seifert, Lead Planning Specialist for GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division, writes about the final switchover from GPO Access to FDsys, GPO’s state-of-the-art digital database of Federal information.

Farewell, GPO Access! GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) is here to stay and is better than ever.

Today, March 16, 2012, marks a momentous occasion for the Government Printing Office and its groundbreaking service, GPO Access. After 16 years of keeping America informed, the GPO Access website is shutting down and been replaced by its successor, GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys).

Image: Switchover notice from GPO Access to FDsys

All of the information the public had access to on GPO Access and more is available through FDsys (pronounced by “those in the know” as “F – D – sis”).

While not the traditional “Government book” discussed on this blog, we at GPO thought it only appropriate to blog about a service that provides free access to a vast number of Federal Government publications. FDsys provides the American public with free online access to about 50 different collections of U.S. Government information ranging from the Code of Federal Regulations to the U.S. Government Manual to the U.S. Budget.

Image: GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) home page, www.FDsys.gov

GPO Access introduced electronic access to Government information

In 1993, Congress passed the U.S. Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act (Public Law 103-40), which expanded GPO’s mission to provide access to Federal Government information not only in print, but also electronically. In June 1994, in response to that legislation, GPO launched GPO Access.

FDsys takes electronic access to new levels

Even the best of information systems have to evolve. Thus it was in January 2009 that GPO unveiled the next generation of Government information online with FDsys. The countdown to the shut-down of GPO Access began on December 20, 2010, when FDsys became GPO’s official system of record for free access to information and publications from all three branches of the Federal Government. In November 2011, GPO Access entered its “archive only” state and transitioned its status to historical reference archive. From that point forward, FDsys was GPO’s only resource for access to current, updated information, and now, GPO Access has shut down for good.

Image: FDSys Advanced Search results page

FDsys offers new, improved features to find Government publications

FDsys boasts key enhancements to GPO Access that allow users from librarians to scholars, researchers, lawyers and the public to:

  • Easily search across multiple Government publications;
  • Perform advanced searches against robust metadata about each publication;
  • Construct complex search queries;
  • Refine and narrow searches;
  • Retrieve individual Government documents and publications in seconds directly from each search result;
  • View more information about a publication and access multiple file formats for each search result;
  • Access metadata in standard XML formats;
  • Download content and metadata packaged together as a single ZIP file;
  • Browse FDsys alphabetically by collection, by Congressional committee, by date, and by Government author; and
  • Utilize extensive help tools and tutorials.

Image: List of collections of Federal Government publications available on FDSys

Links to printed versions of Government publications

In addition to providing free access to almost 50 different Government publications online, FDsys also directs you to GPO’s Online Bookstore, where you can buy those same publications, if you wish to have a bound and printed official copy.

As a GPO employee who has worked extensively with FDsys, I think you will really enjoy it and the new, enhanced features that are provided by FDsys for navigating Government information.

How do I find Federal Government publications?

  • Search GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) at www.FDsys.gov.
  • Search GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) at http://catalog.gpo.gov.
  • Shop GPO’s Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov/, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
  • Visit GPO’s Retail Bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday through Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays. Call (202) 512-0132 for more information.

A new history of GPO – hot off the press

June 15, 2011

As I mentioned some months ago, 2011 marks the U.S. Government Printing Office’s 150th anniversary. Since no history of the agency has been written since 100 GPO Years in 1961, and a great deal has happened to both GPO and the Nation since then, Keeping America Informed: The U.S. Government Printing Office, 150 Years of Service to the Nation is a welcome addition to a relatively sparse collection of books on the subject. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the editorial group that worked on this book and I wrote several of the sidebars scattered throughout – whew, glad to get that off my chest!)

Perhaps because GPO still is at its original location at the corner of North Capitol and H Streets Northwest, just down the street from the U.S. Capitol, it has a remarkable collection of photographs of its buildings, equipment, and especially people. Those photographs really make this new book something special. It’s impressive and oddly moving to see the printers of a century ago gazing solemnly at the camera, “getting the books out” just as we do here today. For many readers, these images will put a human face on a little-known but vital aspect of the Government.

The text is impressive, too. In the 50 year since the last GPO history was published, a lot has happened. There are triumphs (the transition from hot metal to computer typesetting, the advent of the digital age and the Internet, GPO Access and the Federal Digital System) and frank discussions of controversial matters (the McCarthy era investigations of GPO, the 1968 riots that disrupted nearby neighborhoods). There is also more information on aspects of the more distant past, such as GPO’s reluctant role in Theodore Roosevelt’s abortive attempt to simplify the spelling of words in Government documents – and the editorial cartoonists had just as much fun with it then as they would now!

Since I’ve referenced my own peripheral role, I would be lax if I didn’t mention that George Barnum, GPO’s Historian, and Andy Sherman, our Chief Communications Officer, used both primary and secondary sources to turn what easily could have been a turgid “official history” into a clear, readable narrative. George also did a great job of selecting the photos. One of the book’s key sources was a series of articles diligently researched by Dan MacGilvray, a former GPO Historian. Dean Gardei’s book design skills contributed mightily and GPO craftsmen produced a first-rate final product, as always. To quote Don Ritchie, the Senate Historian, “Congratulations on all this work, it’s a great achievement.” 

Above all, Keeping America Informed does a masterful job of showing how GPO has used the best technology available to ensure the dissemination of Federal Government information to the American people – from the original printings of the Emancipation Proclamation and the UN Charter to online versions of today’s Congressional Record and the Federal Register. You can get a copy here.  It’s also available via GPO’s Federal Digital System here. As to which sidebars I wrote, I’d be interested in your guesses!


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