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The Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) number is primarily used as the unique identifier for retrieving United States Government Documents.

The numbers are based on a provenance based classification scheme derived by Adelaide Rosalie Hasse for the Government Printing Office (GPO) between 1895 and 1903.

The following table indicates the initial letters of a SuDoc number, and to which government entity it applies. Note that since this is a provenance based organization scheme that items are not grouped by subject. SuDoc numbers starting with "J" may include publications with crime statistics, or coloring books of McGriff, the Crime Dog. In both cases, the disseminating agency would be the Department of Justice.

A    Agriculture Department 
AC   Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 
AE   National Archives and Records Administration 
C    Commerce Department 
CC   Federal Communications Commission 
CR   Civil Rights Commission 
D    Defense Department 
E    Energy Department 
E 2. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 
E 3. Energy Information Administration 
E 4. Economic Regulatory Administration 
E 5. Bonneville Power Administration 
E 6. Western Area Power Administration 
E 7. Alaska Power Administration 
ED   Education Department 
EP   Environmental Protection Agency 
FA   Fine Arts Commission 
FCA  Farm Credit Administration 
FEM  Federal Emergency Management Agency 
FHF  Federal Housing Financing Board 
FHL  Federal Home Loan Bank Board 
FM   Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service 
FMC  Federal Maritime Commission 
FR   Federal Reserve System Board of Governors 
FT   Federal Trade Commission 
FTZ  Foreign-Trade Zones Board 
GA   General Accounting Office 
GP   Government Printing Office 
GS   General Services Administration 
HE   Health and Human Services Department 
HH   Housing and Urban Development Department 
I    Interior Department 
IA   U.S. Information Agency 
IC   Interstate Commerce Commission 
ITC  International Trade Commission 
J    Justice Department 
JU   Judiciary 
L    Labor Department 
LC   Library of Congress 
LR   National Labor Relations Board 
MS   Merit Systems Protection Board 
NAS  National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
NC   National Capital Planning Commission 
NCU  National Credit Union Administration 
NF   National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities 
NMB  National Mediation Board 
NS   National Science Foundation 
OP   Overseas Private Investment Corporation 
P    United States Postal Service 
PE   Peace Corps 
PM   Personnel Management Office 
PR   President of the United States 
PREX Executive Office of the President 
PRVP Vice President of the United States 
RR   Railroad Retirement Board 
S    State Department 
SBA  Small Business Administration 
SE   Securities and Exchange Commission 
SI   Smithsonian Institution 
T    Treasury Department 
TC   International Trade Commission 
TD   Transportation Department 
VA   Veterans Affairs Department 
X    Congress 
Y    Congress 
The Superintendent of Documents Classification System (SuDocs) was developed by Adelaide Rosalie Hasse for the Government Printing Office (GPO) around the turn of the century. Unlike classification systems such as the Dewey Decimal System (DDC) or the Library of Congress Classification System (LC), SuDocs was developed for a narrow and specific purpose: to classify publications of the U.S. government produced and distributed by the GPO.

Where you are most likely to encounter the SuDocs system is in the government documents section of a Federal Depository Library. A Depository Library is an institution which receives a selection of all material produced by the GPO at regular intervals. While the documents could be integrated into the main collection and organized by DDC or LC, government publications come in a wide variety of formats: pamphlets, microfilm, maps, etc. instead of mostly books as in a typical library collection. Also, patrons approach government information with different needs and search strategies than they approach the general collection.

Unlike DDC and LC, where materials are organized by subject, in SuDocs, government publications are organized by the government agency which responsible for producing them. This has two drawbacks. Information on a particular topic is sometimes scattered in different places in the collection. Also, when an agency is transferred from one department of the government to another, the SuDoc number changes as a result. Documents from several agencies that have changed hands many times are found in different places. However, the efficiency and convenience of the SuDocs organizational structure outweigh these minor drawbacks.

A SuDocs call number consists of three elements: the author symbol, the series designation, and the book number. The author symbol and the series designation together are called the class stem.

The author symbol

The author symbol does not designate "author" in the traditional sense, i.e. the person who actually wrote the publication. Here, the "author" is the department and agency of the US government which produced the publication. The symbol begins with one or two letters designating the department (see list of classes above), usually the first letter(s) in the name of that department. For example, A is the Department of Agriculture, C is the Department of Commerce, HE is the Department of Health and Human Services, JU is the judiciary and PR is the presidency. X and Y are reserved for Congress, and Z is unused. The designation for the new cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security has not been decided yet, but it will probably be something like H or HS, though I am hoping for HO or even KGB myself.

A number follows which indicates the organization within that agency. A 1 indicates the parent organization. In some classes, numbers were assigned alphabetically, with newly created agencies tacked onto the end. For example, A1 is the Department of Agriculture, A13 is the Forest Service, and A68 is the Rural Electrification Administration. In others, such as the Department of Defense (D) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HE), the classes have been reorganized in a hierarchical manner to reflect the structure of that department instead of an arbitrary numerical designation.

An exception to this is PR, the presidency. The number following PR designates which president. PR42 would be Bill Clinton, the 42nd president.

The series designation

The series designation denotes the type of publication. They following are reserved series designations, though SuDocs is not limited to these alone:

.1: Annual reports
.2: General publications
.3: Bulletins
.4: Circulars
.5: Laws
.6: Regulations, rules, and instructions
.7: Press releases
.8: Handbooks, manuals, guides
.9: Bibliographies and lists of publications
.10: Directories
.11: Maps and charts
.12: Posters
.13: Forms
.14: Addresses, lectures, etc.

A slash (/) may be used to further specify the type of publication. An example of this is the following:

4: Circulars
4/A: Separates from Circulars (numbered)
4/B: Separates from Circulars (unnumbered)
4/2: Administrative Circulars
4/3: Technical Circulars

The book number

Following the colon at the end of the class stem is the book number. This "number" is a unique combination of letters and numbers which differentiates it from other publications. In the case of numbered publications such as serials or annual publications such as yearbooks, the number is simply the volume and issue number or the year. In the case of unique publications, the book number is a Cutter number generated from the title (and not the author or agency) of the publication. Cutter numbers are combinations of letters and numbers which are unique identifiers assigned to materials to differentiate them from other items with the same call number. Cutter numbers are not unique to SuDocs; they are used in LC and DDC.

Joe Morehead, Introduction to United States Government Information Sources.
An Explanation of the Superintendent of Documents Classification System (http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fdlp/pubs/explain.html)
GPO Classification Manual (http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fdlp/pubs/classman/index.html)

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