The United States Congressional Serial Set began in 1817 as the official collection of reports and documents of the
United States Congress
The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Wa ...
. The collection was published in a "
Serial may refer to:
Arts, entertainment, and media The presentation of works in sequential segments
* Serial (literature), serialised fiction in print
* Serial (publishing), periodical publications and newspapers
* Serial (radio and television), ...
" fashion, hence its name. It has been described as the "nation's most treasured publication"
and beloved by librarians as "part of their most valued holdings."
The Serial Set does not normally include the text of congressional debates, bills
, committee prints, and publications from congressional support agencies such as the
Government Accountability Office
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a legislative branch government agency that provides audit
An audit is an "independent examination of financial information of any entity, whether profit oriented or not, irrespective of i ...
Congressional Budget Office
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a federal agency within the legislative branch of the United States government that provides budget and economic information to Congress.
Inspired by California's Legislative Analyst's Office that mana ...
. Proceedings of the Congress are published in the
thumbnail, A page from the February 12, 1999, edition of the ''Congressional Record'', published during the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton. Formal citation: .
The ''Congressional Record'' is the official record of the proce ...
, while committee hearings and prints in most cases are published separately through the
Government Printing Office
The United States Government Publishing Office (USGPO or GPO; formerly the United States Government Printing Office) is an agency of the legislative branch of the United States federal government. The office produces and distributes informati ...
(GPO). However, by special order, some 300 selected committee hearings were included, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries." Coverage for the period 1789 to 1817 is via the separate compilation ''American State Papers'', which consists of 38 volumes.
It is common for a volume of the Serial Set to be composed of a combination of documents and reports. Some of these reports may be one to two pages in length, while others can be hundreds of pages long. Although congressional in name, there are thousands of executive branch publications (e.g., the ''Annual Report of the Secretary of War'' and ''
Official Records of the American Civil War
The ''Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion'', commonly known as the ''Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies'' or Official Records (OR or ORs), is the most extensive collection of American ...
'') included within its pages.
The 14,000 bound volumes have often been neglected by researchers due to weak indexing and limited distribution. Volumes of the Serial Set have been sent to
federal depository libraries
Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to:
*Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies
*Federation, or ''Federal state'' (federal system), a type of government characterized by both a central (federal) government and states or ...
over the years by the GPO, but many such depositories hold only a partial collection of the set for a variety of reasons (e.g., age of the depository). Also, House Report 104-657 directed that distribution be limited to regional depositories plus certain others designated by Congress (beginning with the volumes covering the 105th Congress and commencing with v.14388). An exception are Serial Set volumes judged to be key Congressional publications by GPO, thus receiving distribution to all depository libraries.
Virginia Saunders, the longest serving employee at the Government Printing Office, dedicated most of her 64 years of federal employment to binding and proofreading the Congressional Serial Set. Saunders died June 19, 2009.
Non-print format availability
In the late 1980s the Congressional Information Service issued the Serial Set, along with its predecessor ''American State Papers'', through 1969 (v.1-12880) on
Microforms are scaled-down reproductions of documents, typically either films or paper, made for the purposes of transmission, storage, reading, and printing. Microform images are commonly reduced to about 4% or one twenty-fifth of the original d ...
; the entire set constituted about 117,000 fiches. CIS also issued a 56-volume hardcover comprehensive index to both series covering 1789-1969, for the first time providing access to their contents via multiple points (subject, name, bill number, etc.) including the many maps they contain.
LexisNexis is a corporation providing computer-assisted legal research (CALR) as well as business research and risk-management services. During the 1970s, LexisNexis pioneered the electronic accessibility of legal and journalistic documents. , th ...
Readex, a division of NewsBank since 1984, publishes collections of primary source research materials. In the early 1940s, publisher Albert Boni, co-founder of the Modern Library, formed the Readex Microprint Corporation in New York City and Ches ...
efforts to convert the text of ''American State Papers'' and the ''Serial Set'' to electronic format. LexisNexis completed their efforts in late 2006 (covering 1789-1969). LexisNexis rescanned the maps in the set via a partnership with the
University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Maryland, College Park (University of Maryland, UMD, or simply Maryland) is a public
In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is ...
. On November 30, 2010
RELX (pronounced "Rel-ex", sometimes written RElX) is a British multinational information and analytics company headquartered in London
London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of Eng ...
the parent company of LexisNexis, completed the sale of the CIS and UPA product lines (which includes the digital Serial Set) to
ProQuest LLC was an Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor is a city
A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyc ...
. Readex used original Serial Set volumes from Baker-Berry Library at
Dartmouth College ( ) is a private
Private or privates may refer to:
* "In Private
"In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly tw ...
to create digital images of every publication through 1994, including approximately 56,000 maps. Additional Serial Set materials not available from Dartmouth are provided by the
United States Senate Library
The United States Senate Library is the library
A library is a curated collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provides physical or electronic media, dig ...
Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college
A liberal arts college or liberal arts institution of higher education is a college
A college (Latin: ''collegium'') is an educational institution or a University system, constituent pa ...
, the Vermont State Library and the
University of Vermont
The University of Vermont (UVM), officially The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, is a public
In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general pu ...
Google Books (previously known as Google Book Search and Google Print and by its code-name Project Ocean) is a service from Google Inc.
Google LLC is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet
began to scan the Serial Set. In October 2018,
HeinOnline (HOL) is a commercial internet database service launched in 2000 by William S. Hein & Co., Inc. (WSH Co), a Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the List of cities in New York (state), second-largest city in the United States, U.S. state of ...
released the U.S. Congressional Serial Set in the form of a searchable database.
In 2019, the
Government Publishing Office
The United States Government Publishing Office (USGPO or GPO; formerly the United States Government Printing Office) is an agency of the Legislature, legislative branch of the United States federal government. The office produces and distribute ...
Law Library of Congress
The Law Library of Congress is the law library
Leo T. Kissam Memorial Library, the law library of the federal depository library ">Federal Depository Library Program">federal depository library
A law library is a special library used by la ...
announced plans to digitize the entire run of the Congressional Serial Set back to 1817 and make the documents available for free online. The agencies said the project would "take at least a decade to complete."
Research has confirmed in some cases volume numbers were assigned to particular titles that were never published or appeared in later volumes. GPO has issued a list of ''Assigned Serial Numbers Not Used''.
A bibliographic citation such as "35th Congress, 2nd Session, House Miscellaneous Document #43 Claims of citizens of Territory of Kansas" (or the equivalent shorthand version "35th-2nd H.misdoc 43") will be found in the Serial Set.
*Serial Set Overview (Library of Congress)
Adapted from a presentation by Virginia Saunders, congressional documents specialist, in GPO's Congressional Printing Management Division. The presentation was given at the Spring 199Depository Library Council
Federal Depository Conference in Arlington, Virginia.Checklist of United States Public Documents, 1789 - 1909Overview Overview of the US Congressional Serial Set (Librarian presentation)List of Serial Set Volumes (1817-1969)List of Serial Set Volumes (1970 to Current)U.S. Congressional Serial Set InventoryReadex U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994
* ttp://researchguides.lawnet.fordham.edu/legislativehistory Federal Legislative History Libguide