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Technical Services

Superintendent of Documents Classification System

Introduction to the Classification Guidelines

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) uses the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) classification system to classify Federal Government publications; the SuDocs Classification Guidelines describe how to apply that system to classify and organize Federal Government publications. The purpose of these guidelines is to convey the current policies for assigning SuDocs classification numbers. The principles of the SuDocs system apply to all U.S. Government publications, regardless of format.

The U. S. Government disseminates a large number of publications each year. These may be issued as books, serials, pamphlets, maps, or other document type and may be in paper, microfiche, tangible electronic (CDs, DVDs), digital and online, or other format. Under U.S.C. 44, all of these publications, with certain exceptions, are included in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). All U.S. documents that are identified, acquired, and processed through the Cataloging & Indexing (C&I) Program or the FDLP are assigned a unique SuDocs classification number and cataloged, whether or not they are distributed to Federal depository libraries.

The SuDocs system groups together the publications of all Government authors, with the various agencies, bureaus, and departments being considered the authors. It is based on the current organizational structure of the Federal Government; subordinate bureaus and divisions are grouped with the parent organization. Since the SuDocs system was introduced, new agencies have formed, older agencies have ceased, and organizational responsibilities have moved across agencies. Over time, the SuDocs system has been revised and expanded. As a result, publications of some issuing agencies may be located in multiple places in the scheme.

Guidelines covering the formation and structure of SuDocs classification numbers have also changed over time. Publications have been assigned SuDocs classification numbers based upon the guidelines in effect at the time of cataloging. The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications contains classification numbers created under different guidelines at different times.

These guidelines are a revision of the 1993 GPO Classification Manual. The ongoing maintenance and revision of the Classification Guidelines are the responsibility of the Cataloging Policy and Documentation Committee, Superintendent of Documents Classification Subcommittee. The Subcommittee operates within GPO’s Library Services and Content Management business unit, Library Technical Services section (LSCM/LTS).

These Classification Guidelines will be published online only. Each section will include the date published and date last updated for reference. If you choose to print individual sections, keep in mind that the online version remains the most current and authoritative source for classification policies. Select prior guidelines are available in the Resources section under ‘Superseded Guidance.’ The Resources section is available from the menu on every page of the Guidelines.


Structure of the Classification Number

The SuDocs Classification Number consists of a class stem and a suffix. The class stem is a general designation used to bring related publications together. The suffix uniquely identifies a publication and differentiates it from all others classified under the same stem.

The suffix consists of a book number, and sometimes additions to the book number. For numbered publications, the book number is usually derived from the numeric designation appearing on the publication. For unnumbered publications, the book number is usually derived from a word in the title using a Cutter number.

A fundamental rule in SuDocs classification is that each publication is assigned a unique classification number. In cases where an identical number would apply, a word, abbreviation, or number is added to the book number to differentiate the two. If a publication consists of multiple parts or issues, each discrete piece receives its own unique extension to the book number.

A Superintendent of Documents classification number begins with a capital letter or letters representing a Government department or agency; capital letters are used for all letters in Superintendent of Documents classification numbers:

A  (Department of Agriculture)

The letters are followed by a number representing the agency as a whole, or a subordinate office. This is followed by a period:

A 13. (Forest Service)

After the period, there is a number designating the series or serial title, or category of the publication, followed by a colon:

A 13.150:  (Southern Research Station: General Publications)

In this example, A 13.150: constitutes the class stem. The class stem alone shows that the publication in this example is a general publication issued by the Department of Agriculture, Southern Research Station.

The letters and numbers after the colon represent the individual publication:

In this example, W 64 is the book number.

Spacing is critical for the proper construction of the class number. A space must be inserted between letters and numbers in the class number unless there is intervening punctuation.

Formatting examples:

Incorrect  Solution Correct formatting
A 93.2:AF8 Add a space between F and 8 A 93.2:AF 8
C 55.22/ 3:SE 1 Delete the space after the slash symbol C 55.22/3:SE 1
D5.317:616(717-5)A Add a space after D; before, after parentheses D 5.317:616 (717-5) A
D 101.11:9-2330-363-14 & P Remove spaces between 4&P D 101.11:9-2330-363-14&P
I 49.44/2: AS 3/4/2016 Delete the space after the colon I 49.44/2:AS 3/4/2016
  • Parentheses are the only exception to the spacing rule. One space must be inserted before and after a parenthesis, unless there is adjacent punctuation.
  • No spaces precede or follow symbols, such as the ampersand (&) or slash.
  • In classification numbers, roman numerals (I, II, III) should be converted to Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3).

Libraries can construct their own Superintendent of Documents classification numbers according to the principles outlined here. For documents falling in existing classes, find the class stem in the List of Classes. Add a Cutter number, date, or series number after the colon and an arbitrary designation such as “X” at the end to indicate that it is a locally assigned number.

Government publications are classified after they are received by LSCM; publications not received are not assigned classification numbers by LSCM.

Sorting in SuDocs Order

SuDocs classes are arranged alphabetically based on the leading letter(s). The number between the period and colon is a whole number (ex. HS 1.2: comes before HS 1.15:). After the colon, the hierarchy of sorting is as follows:


In both the class stem and the suffix, an empty space will file before a space that has a letter or number (i.e. ‘nothing’ before ‘something’). The ‘nothing’ aspect includes spaces and punctuation, with the exception of the colon. This is illustrated in the following list with the example of Y 4.EC 7:S.HRG.110-646 preceding Y 4.EC 7:SA 9/2.

Example of a SuDocs Sort

A 13.2:T 73/4
A 93.2:N 95/3
A 93.73:76
A 93.73:89
A 93.73/2:62
C 13.58:7564
C 13.58:7611
HE 20.4002:AD 9/2
HE 20.4002:AD 9/5
HE 20.4002:F 94
L 36.202:F 15/2
L 36.202:F 15/2/980
L 36.202:F 15/3
Y 1.1/7:109-118
Y 1.1/7:109-131
Y 1.1/7:110-6
Y 1.1/7:110-20
Y 4.EC 7:C 73/7
Y 4.EC 7:C 73/10
Y 4.EC 7:S.HRG.110-646
Y 4.EC 7:SA 9/2
Y 4.EC 7:SCH 6
Y 4.EC 7:SE 2



Category Classes

Cutter Numbers


SuDoc Classification System

What are Florida Documents?

State Library of Florida and Florida Public Documents

The State Library of Florida has two missions.  We:

  • Provide information to the state government of Florida.

  • Collect and preserve the published history of Florida.  

The State Library, as part of the Division of Library and Information Services, has the privilege of serving as the information provider for state agency employees and the Florida Legislature and legislative staff.  Section 257.04(4), Florida Statutes, states that the Division “shall maintain and provide research and information services for all state agencies.”  The material in our collection is here to help the employees of Florida’s state government better serve its citizens.  

The State Library has been building our Florida history collection for over 150 years. Many of our items are one of a kind, making this one of the most unique and comprehensive collections about Florida and Floridians in existence.



Florida Public Documents KWIC Classification System

Florida Public Documents KWIC Index Guide

The distribution of the first edition of a Keyword-in Context Index to Florida Public Documents in the August 1969 Florida documents depository shipment created interest in the classification scheme used for state documents in the Florida Atlantic University Libraries. The scheme was developed in 1966 as an attempt to create a quick, economical, and practical alternative to the systems then in use in other libraries.

The classification code grew out of the knowledge that the agency-based scheme of the U.S. Superintendent of Documents had been used successfully in libraries for a number of years. Florida governmental agencies and their publications were examined in the light of such a possibility. This resulted in a four element classification code:

  • A two or three letter code for each Florida agency
  • A numerical design type of publication
  • A "cutter" type designation for each individual publication or series
  • A designation for each individual publication within a series or for new editions of monographic publications

Individual Publication Schedule

The classification code is completed according to the following schedule. Depending upon the "Type of Publication" number:

  • Follow with a three year digit code for the final year in the report .(i.e. annual report of the Education Department for 1968-69 academic year would be EDU 1: 969).
  • Follow with "cutter numbers" from the "Simplified Cutter Numbers for Florida Documents" for first distinctive or important word in the title. New editions are noted by adding virgule or slash(/) and three digit year code for year of later edition.
  • Follow with "cutter number" for important or distinctive word in the series title, followed by a slash and volume/issue number or in unnumbered, year/month/date in number code. (i.e. May 25, 1969 become 969/5/25).

Type of Publication Designation

The second element of the classification is a number from the chart below which most nearly describes the type of document being classified:

  • Annual report ; 1b for biennial report. (annual serials)
  • 2 General publication (monographs); 2b for directories.
  • 3 Serials, series, periodicals. ( number or dated)
  • 4 Folders, circulars, descriptive materials (posters)
  • 5 Laws administered by the agency.
  • 6 Rules and regulations of the agency.
  • 7 News releases, statistical releases, newsletters, etc.
  • 8 Handbooks, guides, maps, manuals.
  • Proceeding minutes, transactions, reprints, journals (legislature)

The "type of Publication" designation uses a punctuation mark to separate it from the next element of the code. Originally, the mark was a colon ( : ), but for machine coding purposes, it was necessary to substitute the period ( . ). 

Simplified Cutter Table for Florida Documents

The cutter number is formed by taking the first letter of the work to be cuttered followed by numbers for the next two letters (independent of each other) according to the following:

  • A-------B, 1
  • C ------D, 2
  • E ------G, 3
  • H ------K, 4
  • L ------O, 5
  • P ------R, 6
  • S ------T, 7
  • U -----W, 8
  • X ------Z, 9

Example: Birds= B 46; Tax=T 19

Conflicts in cutter numbers, arising from two different publications from the same agency on the same subject, are resolved by adding a slash and a number for succeeding publications or by cuttering one number away from the original.

The Agency Code

Each agency within the Florida government structure is assigned a unique two or three letter code--usually an acronym for the department name. Divisions fall underneath with another letter-occurrence of a division depending upon its publishing activity.

Agency Code Index Tables