Policies for Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit

Revision Date: December 6, 2019

(Check the Unit’s Web page at: for additional information.)

Collections & Resources

The WIU Libraries have been a selective depository for United States government publications distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program since 1962. The Libraries officially became a depository of Illinois state government publications distributed by the Illinois State Library in 1967. In 2011, the Unit became an Illinois Legal Aid Online Self-Help Center and a Patent and Trademark Resource Center. The Unit also participates in the Tax Form Outlet Program. The library is legally obligated to provide access to government information needed by WIU students, faculty and staff and the general public.

The Unit maintains a historical collection of government materials in print and other formats that were received between 1962 and 2016. The collection was built to serve the curricular needs of the WIU community, as well as the needs of people in the western Illinois region. Federal and state government information on a wide variety of topics is available in print, microform, electronic, and Web formats. As of January 2019, the historical collection includes:

  • 156,028 unique print GovPub federal government titles & 206,050 items.
  • 63,534 federal online (GovWeb) holdings.
  • 104,543 federal GovWeb items available through the library’s online catalog.
  • 12,164 unique Illinois state government titles, and 28,824 Illinois state government items.
  • Over 200,000 maps.
  • Legal reference treatises on a variety of topics.

Materials for the collection have been acquired through:

  • Free and direct from GPO’s depository program
  • Free and direct from the state depository program
  • Free and direct from certain issuing agencies
  • By purchase
  • By exchange
  • Through gifts & exchange

Gaps in the government publications collection are sometimes filled through gifts and exchange. See the Library’s policy on Gifts (add link when it is up).

Non-depository resources (indexes, guides, databases, etc.) are occasionally purchased to enable use of the collection or supplement and explain its content. Exchange lists are used to fill in gaps in the collection. WIU students, faculty and staff can borrow government materials that are not available in the Libraries through interlibrary loan. Non-WIU users must use interlibrary loan services of their local public library. The WIU Libraries will loan most government material to other libraries’ users through normal interlibrary loan requests received from other libraries.

In 2016 The Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit shifted its Federal Depository Library Program participation from a “depository” model to a service model. This shift in focus embraces the concept of how government agencies currently disseminate information, allowing users to access government information wherever it and they are located. The Unit no longer collects and catalogs new materials, but relies primarily on online resources, such as the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, govinfo, WorldCat, I-Share, government agency websites, archival sites and the Electronic Documents of Illinois, to help users find and access recently issued government information.

The Unit’s Patent and Trademark Resource Center does not receive print patent and trademark publications from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), with the exception of plant patents. Instead, the Unit provides services to users via e-mail and in person, enabling them to access patent and trademark information online using the USPTO’s Web pages and other resources. The Unit’s Illinois Legal Aid Online Self-Help Center does not receive publications from Illinois Legal Aid Online. Instead, it provides access to Illinois Legal Aid material that is available on the Web.

Through an agreement between the McDonough County Bar Association, Ninth Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois, the Western Illinois University Foundation, and the University Libraries - the University Libraries receives $2400 annually from the McDonough County court’s ad litem fees. The Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit uses that money to purchase print legal reference titles for Illinois that are of interest to and for the benefit of the members of the McDonough County Bar Association. These purchases are now limited to all Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education publications and the Illinois Bar Association’s version of the Illinois Compiled Statutes.

Weeding of the collection is done selectively; as a research institution, almost all publications are retained for their future research value. However, space constraints demand that superseded and ephemeral materials be discarded. The Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit librarian bears responsibility for determining which materials will be discarded according to depository regulations and user needs. Depository regulations require the Library to dispose of depository materials by offering them to other Illinois depository libraries. When we offer duplicate or discarded material on exchange, we request postage reimbursement for large shipments. When we request exchange materials, we may pay postage.

Website Selection Policies

The Unit maintains nearly 200 Web pages to help users locate and access government information. Websites are selected for inclusion on the Government/Legal Information Unit website based on these criteria:

  • Gov domain – also some .net, some .org, some .edu included if judged to be authoritative, with useful information and good organization.
  • Subject areas of interest to our users and WIU curricula.
  • Depository publications online.
  • Government agencies.
  • Government periodicals.
  • Sites with GIS or statistical data collected by government agencies.

Government information in all formats will be made available to all users without fee. There may be charges for printing and copying. While some materials cannot be checked out of the building, use within the building is free to all.

Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit reference service is provided at the Reference Desk on level 2 (see Reference Hours) and at the unit's office on level 4 Monday through Friday, 8am to 4:30 pm, by appointment.

Government information on websites is made available via the Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit website by agency, by specific publication, and/or by subject. Users can access these sites from public workstations within the Library or from their home or mobile device. Specific public computer workstations on the 4th floor may be set aside for those seeking or using government, legal, spatial and data information.

GIS and Statistical Services

The Western Illinois University Libraries' Government, Legal, Spatial and Statistical Information unit will:

  • Help users identify, locate access, format and use geospatial and statistical data.
  • Provide library users with GIS software, hardware and data.
  • Identify, acquire and provide access to geospatial and statistical data of interest to WIU students, faculty, staff, administrators and local users.
  • Teach students, faculty and staff about geospatial and statistical data available in the Libraries or from other sources.
  • Assist with use of GIS software and geospatial data by providing hands on assistance or the development of guides to accessing and using GIS software and data.

People who need assistance accessing or using GIS software and geospatial or statistical data may need to make an appointment. Please call 309-298-2723 for more information.


Most government publications circulate and may be checked out, unless marked for building use only. Those with barcodes may be checked out at either the Circulation Desk (2nd Level) or the Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit Office (4th Level). Most government publications without bar codes may also be checked out, but only at the Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit Office (4th Level). Maps must be checked out and returned to the Government Publications Office, 4th Floor, Malpass Library. When borrowing maps, a map tube will also be checked out to the user. Other government publications should be returned to the desk from which they were originally borrowed. The Unit follows the Library’s policy for renewal of materials and overdues.

The following items do NOT circulate:

  • U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Volumes
  • Legal Reference
  • Publications and Maps published prior to 1950
  • Governmental reference and legal material
  • Government and legal periodicals
  • Materials in storage
  • Atlases
  • Map Reference materials

Short-term check-out of legal reference materials or periodicals by faculty and local attorneys may be arranged by consulting Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit staff.


Most of the books, pamphlets, periodicals, maps, kits, loose-leaf services, microfiche and microfilm are shelved or filed in the public areas on 4th Floor of Malpass Library. Videotapes, CD-ROMs and older materials are shelved in the Office. All of the materials stored in the Office can be found using the Libraries’ online catalog. When needed, they can be requested at the Government Information Unit office. Most CD-ROMs may be checked out. If needed, they can also be installed onto a computer on 4th floor. Please allow one working day for loading of CD-ROMs.

The Unit also has materials in Storage. When requested, Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit personnel will retrieve government and legal publications from storage.

Reserve Materials

Government and Legal Information materials placed on “reserve” by faculty are available at the Access Services Desk (2nd Level). Selected materials may be held for users at the Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit desk on “hold” for several days.

Scanning Machines

Do-it-yourself scanning is provided free of charge. Touchscreen scanning machines are available on levels 1 and 2. USB 2.0 (or higher) flash memory is highly recommended to store scans. Scanners are incapable of direct printing.


In addition to use and reference statistics collected for the Library Administrative Office, the Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit collects and reports other statistics as required by and for the Government Printing Office, the Illinois State Library, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Map Collection

The Western Illinois University Libraries' Map Collection contains more than 200,000 maps as well as aerial photographs, atlases and reference materials related to maps and cartography. The Collection includes cartographic materials on many geographic areas and a variety of subjects, with an emphasis on West-Central Illinois. It also contains plat books for counties in West Central Illinois. The Map Collection received most of its maps through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and agency deposit, including topographic and geologic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, Central Intelligence Agency maps, and GIS data produced by Federal agencies. Most maps in the Collection are not cataloged. The Collection is open to WIU students, faculty and staff and the general public. Reference books and atlases can be located using WestCat, the WIU Libraries' online catalog. For information about maps available in the collection, please contact or visit the Map Collection (Telephone: 298-2722 or via E-mail).

The University Archives contains a small collection of historic maps, including plat books, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps. Maps available in the University Archives can be located using WestCat.

Electronic Equipment

Computer Services is responsible for maintenance of microcomputers, printers, software upgrades, etc. Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit staff will fix minor problems and identify other problems and notify Computer Services. Call Computer Services 298-2758 for assistance with computer problems.

Changes to working environment of the computer systems (e.g. software, hardware, settings, etc.) are made by the Libraries’ Computer Services Unit. Government, Legal, Spatial and Data Services Unit librarians may request special software for certain applications.

Library Instruction Sessions

Teaching faculty may request instruction sessions for classes that need to learn about, locate and use government, legal, map and, geographic information systems and statistical data. Such requests should be made through the Libraries’ instruction request form. Teaching faculty are encouraged to contact the Government, Legal, Spatial, and Data Services Unit librarian (298-2723) at least one week before to the requested class sessions to discuss the needs of the class.