Morgan Library at Colorado State University Celebrates 100 Years as Depository Library for U.S. Government

Morgan Library on the campus of Colorado State University is hosting a ceremony to honor 100 years as a depository library for publications of the U.S. government at 3 p.m. Nov. 10 on the third floor of the library.     

Refreshments will be served

The event, open to the public, will include remarks by Judith Russell, Superintendent of Documents at the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C.; Peter Nicholls, Colorado State’s provost; Catherine Murray-Rust, dean of University Libraries at Colorado State; B.J. Nikkel, district director for the 4th Congressional District; and Ray Martinez, mayor of Fort Collins.

History of Colorado State University Libraries as a federal depository     

As a land-grant institution, the Agricultural College of Colorado (as Colorado State University was known from 1870 to 1935) had an interest in acquiring publications of the federal government, particularly those dealing with the sciences, agriculture, forestry and engineering. Around 1900, the population of Colorado grew to the point that allowed designation of another library in the state as a depository for such publications, joining four other libraries that already had depository status. Congressman Franklin Brooks secured depository status for the college in December 1903.

Depository status meant that the library would receive, free of charge, a wide variety of publications issued through the federal Government Printing Office. In turn, the library would make the collection available not only to its own students and faculty but also to the general public within the congressional district.

The availability of these free materials was a godsend to land-grant university libraries in the early 20th century. Many were strapped for funds to purchase books, and government publications not only represented a considerable cost savings but also provided agricultural, engineering, forestry and other technical publications of value to university researchers.

Over the years, the federal government has experimented with publishing in a variety of formats. In the 1980s, depository items started being published on microfiche rather than on printed material to save space and cost. The 1990s saw a great increase in the number of items published on CD-ROM.  

Online publication is now the preferred choice. As of 2003, about 60 percent of all items obtained through the depository system were acquired in an online version.  The Government Printing Office estimates that as much as 95 percent of all items issued will be strictly electronic within five years. Despite the increase in electronic resources, the size of the collection at Colorado State University Libraries is about one million items, reflecting acquisition of materials over an entire century.  

The federal government will continue to offer publications of value to students, faculty, and citizens alike, and libraries like that of Colorado State will continue to be a conduit for that information.