PUBLIC LIBRARY COLLECTION GUIDELINES FOR FEDERAL LEGAL MATERIALS
The minimum federal materials that a public library should consider purchasing in paper are the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations. The United States Supreme Court cases should be made easily accessible to the patron, by accessing them online through the Supreme Court website. Other federal cases can be requested through the internet on a per document pay basis through Pacer.
Information about purchasing and researching in these areas is listed below. If you follow the recommendation listed in the previous paragraph, you will have subject or full-text access to everything except the lower federal court cases. However, because cases are a primary source material (part of what constitutes the law) they should be consulted when a patron is doing federal research, and it would be appropriate to refer a patron to a public law library to access case finding tools if your library can’t carry them.
One more note. Depending upon which version of the federal statutes you own, you may also need to obtain a set which publishes current federal laws as they are passed. If you own the United States Code, one way to update it is with a set called United States Code Congressional and Administrative News which will give you text of the new public laws, and a table telling you which sections of the United States Code are updated with those new public laws. If you own one of the annotated statute sets, either United States Code Annotated, or United States Code Service, they have current enough supplementation that purchasing an additional set may not be necessary.
Form books and citators (also listed below) may be too costly and space prohibitive for a public library to maintain.
Costs are classified as follows: $=under 100, $$=101-250, $$$=251-500, $$$$=501-1000, $$$$$=1001+, and unless otherwise noted, cost information relates to the new, print version.
TITLE: United States Code. Washington DC:, 1926 –
The United States Code (USC) contains the public, general and permanent federal statutes (laws) arranged by subject in fifty titles. The USC is published every six years and is updated with hardbound supplements.
PAPER COST: $$$$$
NOTES: With a little persistence, you can find a used set that would be less expensive. You could try
one of the used law book dealers: Law Book Exchange, Ltd.: https://www.lawbookexchange.com/, or Hein 1-800-828-7571.
You could also monitor the Law Librarians (LAW-LIB) listerv: (send the following message to firstname.lastname@example.org; subscribe law-lib firstname lastname or view the LAW-LIB FAQ: http://www.olemiss.edu/~noe/llfaq.html).
Although Listservs may offer low priced or free set; you will still need to purchase updates from the Government Printing Office.
RESEARCH TIP: If patrons are looking for case law regarding a statute, you should refer them to a library that has the United States Code Annotated or the United States Code Service; these are both annotated versions of the United States Code published by commercial publishers. The annotations will give the researcher summaries of cases that were decided about the statute, and also reference any regulation
TITLE: United States Code Congressional and Administrative News, Thomson Reuters
DESCRIPTION: This set contains the text of federal laws, and includes key legislative history. It is updated often, which makes it an effective tool to use when updating federal statutes.
PAPER COST: $$$$$
INTERNET: The text of recently passed federal laws are available on the internet. One of the best places to look is at https://www.congress.gov/.
NOTES: The expense of this set may be prohibitive for public libraries to purchase. It is really the currency of the volumes and the legislative history information that make it attractive, because after the law is published in the United States Code, you will have another way of accessing the information.
RESEARCH TIP: Become familiar with Table 3 in the softbound supplements to this set. It is called
“U.S. Code & U.S. Code Annotated Sections Amended, Repealed, New, etc.” and will give you
the number of any public laws that have amended the statute you are updating. Follow the instructions in the
updating portion of this toolkit.
TITLE: Code of Federal Regulations. Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register https://www.federalregister.gov/.
DESCRIPTION: The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains federal regulations organized by subject into fifty titles. The CFR is published annually on a quarterly schedule throughout the year. Between annual updates, CFR titles are updated by the Federal Register, which comes out daily from the federal government.
PAPER COST: $$$$
NOTES: Patrons seem to do historical research in the CFR more than you would expect. If you have space, you may want to consider saving the volumes. If you don’t have space to save all the volumes, still try to save Volume 3 because it contains all the Presidential Executive Orders.
RESEARCH TIP: There is a companion publication to the Code of Federal Regulations called List of Sections Affected. You use this source to determine when/if your regulation was affected by a newer regulation published in the Federal Register that has not yet made it to the CFR. Check the section on updating. There is also a Shepards Federal Rules Citator published for the CFR that will tell you if cases were decided about a particular regulation. Additionally, govinfo.gov provides the List of CFR Sections Affected under Regulatory Information on their website.
TITLE: Federal Register. Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/.
DESCRIPTION: The Federal Register publishes proposed and final rules from federal agencies along with presidential documents, executive orders, and notices.
PAPER COST: $$$
INTERNET: The internet sites for the Federal Register are great, because you can get today’s federal register from them while you may not receive the paper for another two weeks. They also have the register going several years back. They are located at Government Printing Office sites, so the information is reliable. Try https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/cfr or https://www.federalregister.gov.
NOTES: This is a daily publication that rapidly becomes a space hog. If you subscribe to the print, it is wise to develop a retention policy (e.g., one year) and have signage indicating where patrons may locate back issues.
RESEARCH TIP: There is a yearly index you can use to search for particular sections, but otherwise, this publication is much easier to search electronically.
TITLE: United States Reports. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.
DESCRIPTION: The United States Reports contain the full-text of the decisions of the UnitedStates Supreme Court.
PAPER COST: $$$$$
INTERNET: Findlaw has Supreme Court cases beginning with volume 1 of the United States Reports at http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/supreme.html. You can pull up a case by citation or title or do a full-text search. The Legal Information Institute at Cornell has cases from 1990-present at http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/. You can also find cases on the Supreme Court website from volume 502, 1991 to present day at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/USReports.aspx.
NOTE: Many private law firm libraries are downsizing their collections and are discarding their print. To try and find a used set you could monitor the law librarians (LAW-LIB) listserv: (send the following message to : subscribe law-lib firstname lastname or view the LAW-LIB FAQ: http://www.olemiss.edu/~noe/llfaq.html). You could also try one of the used law book dealers: Law Book Exchange, Ltd.: https://www.lawbookexchange.com/ , or Hein 1-800-828-7571.
RESEARCH TIP: The paper United States Reports have an extremely slow publication schedule and thus are usually two years behind commercially published sets. For current research, use the Internet and/or refer patrons to libraries that subscribe to the U.S. Supreme Court Reporter (Thomson Reuters) or the United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers’ Edition (Lexis Nexis) as these publications are published by commercial publishers and are much more current.
TITLE: Federal Reporter 3d St. Paul, MN: Thomson Reuters: , 1880- . [1st Series: 300 vols.; 2d Series: 999 vols.]
DESCRIPTION: The Federal Reporter 3d series contains the published* decisions of the United StatesCourts of Appeals.
PAPER COST: $$$$$ initial investment; $$$$$ upkeep
INTERNET: All Federal Courts of Appeal now have recent decisions posted on the internet. Findlaw and Cornell have sites where you can search multiple circuits at once. You can also find court opinions on govinfo.gov, but these opinions only date back to 2004, and some of the collection is incomplete.
NOTES: *Because of the great number of cases, not all decisions are published. Unpublished decisions are available for a fee from the clerk’s office of the respective court or from commercial online legal databases.
This title may be purchased at a substantial savings from used law book dealers: Law Book Exchange, Ltd. https://www.lawbookexchange.com/, or try Hein 1-800-828-7571. In addition, because of the space requirements for this series, many private law firm libraries have converted electronic case databases and may be willing to donate the set to you; monitor the law librarians (LAW-LIB) listserv (to subscribe send the following message to email@example.com: subscribe law-lib firstname lastname or view the LAW-LIB FAQ: http://www.olemiss.edu/~noe/llfaq.html.
RESEARCH TIP: For subject access to cases published in Federal Reporter 3d, refer patrons to the Federal Practice Digest or search full-text via the internet, just be sure to note the time period that the internet site covers.
TITLE: Federal Supplement. St. Paul, MN: Thomson Reuters: , 1932-.
DESCRIPTION: The Federal Supplement contains the published* (see Notes under Federal Reporter 3d) decisions of the United States District Courts.
COST: $$$$$ Initial investment; $$$$$ Annual upkeep
INTERNET: Relatively few U.S. District Court cases are available at no cost on the Web. Librarians should try Findlaw: http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/district.html; or you can find some of these cases at govinfo.gov, but the collection only dates back to 20004, and there are some collections that are incomplete.
NOTES: This title may be purchased at a substantial savings from general used law book dealers: Law Book Exchange, Ltd.: https://www.lawbookexchange.com/, or try Hein 1-800-828-7571. In addition, because of the space requirements for this series, many private law firm libraries have converted to electronic case databases and may be willing to donate the set to you; monitor the law librarians (LAW-LIB) listserv (to subscribe to the list send the following message to listproc@ucdavis, subscribe law-lib firstname lastname, or view the LAW-LIB FAQ: http://www.olemiss.edu/~noe/llfaq.html .
RESEARCH TIP: For subject access to cases published in the Federal Supplement, refer patrons to the Federal Practice Digest, or search full-text via the internet, but just be sure to note the time period the internet site covers.
TITLE: Federal Civil Judicial Procedure and Rules. St. Paul, MN: Thomson Reuters.
DESCRIPTION: This inexpensive, annual, paperback volume contains the federal rules regarding civil procedure, multidistrict litigation, habeas corpus, motions attacking sentences, evidence, appellate procedure, and supreme court procedure.
INTERNET: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are found at https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp. Federal Rules of Evidence are at https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre. Supreme Court Rules are found at https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/supct.
NOTES: Though these rules are available on the internet, this book is a great resource, and inexpensive enough to be considered for purchase.
TITLE: Federal Criminal Code and Rules. St. Paul, MN: Thomson Reuters.
DESCRIPTION: This inexpensive, annual paperback volume contains the federal rules regarding criminal procedure, habeas corpus, motions attacking sentences, evidence, appellate procedure, and supreme court procedure.
INTERNET: Librarians should check the relevant US Code provisions at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode.
NOTES: This handy one volume publication contains reprints of the criminal procedure rules contained in Titles 15, 21, 26, 28, 31, 41, 46, and 49 of the United States Code; the rules are annotated with case decisions.
CASE FINDING TOOLS – DIGESTS
TITLE: Federal Practice Digest 4th and 5th. St. Paul, MN: Thomson Reuters, 1983- .
DESCRIPTION: The Federal Practice Digest 4th provides subject and case name access to federal court decisions from 1983-. The 5th series covers 2003 to present. Pre 1983 decisions are indexed in earlier editions of the digest.
COST: $$$$$ initial investment; $$$ upkeep
INTERNET: No digests are as of yet available on the Internet, but remember that you can go to the particular court site you are interested in and often search full-text, though coverage may not go back as far as you would like.
NOTES: This title may be purchased at a substantial savings from general used law book dealers: Law Book Exchange, Ltd.: https://www.lawbookexchange.com/.
Because many law firms are now relying on commercial online legal databases for their indexing needs, they are discarding this set, and you may find a set for free or for the cost of postage by monitoring the law librarians (LAW-LIB) listserv (to subscribe send the following message to listproc@ucdavis, subscribe law-lib firstname lastname.
TITLE: Shepard’s United States Citations: Cases and Statutes and Shepard’s Federal Citations. Lexis Nexis: https://store.lexisnexis.com/.
DESCRIPTION: For each federal case, this resource lists citations to all the instances where each case was cited or affected by another case. “Shepardizing” is necessary for determining if your case is still “good law” (see the updating section).
COST: $$$$$ Initial Investment; $$$-$$$$ Upkeep
INTERNET: Currently there is no free version of Shepard’s available on the internet.
NOTES: This is an expensive set for the amount of times your patrons may use it, though it would be nice if you could carry the Shepard’s set that goes with any reporters you carry. Otherwise, Patrons should be referred to a local public law library.
RESEARCH TIP: In addition to verifying that their cases are still good law, patrons may also use this set to locate additional cases related to their research topic.
TITLE: Bender’s Federal Practice Forms. New York: Lexis Nexis.
COST: $$$$$ Initial Investment; $$$$$ Annual Upkeep (looseleaf pages)
TITLE: Federal Procedural Forms. Thomson Reuters.
COST: $$$$$ Initial Investment; $$$$ Annual Upkeep (pocket parts)
TITLE: West’s Federal Forms. St. Paul, MN: Thomson Reuters.
COST: $$$$ Initial Investment; $$-$$$ Annual Upkeep (pocket parts)
INTERNET: Forms may be available through individual Federal agency web pages. For example, the federal tax forms are available at https://www.irs.gov/forms-instructions, and Social Security forms are available at http://www.ssa.gov. There are court forms available on the internet, but caution must be used as they may not be specific to a federal action. For a good listing of the form sites available on the internet, try http://www.findlaw.com/16forms/index.html.
NOTES: The above sets are costly to maintain and require a lot of shelf space therefore it is suggested that you refer your patrons to a local public law library that has one or more of the above sets.