sealPurdue News


July 1995

Purdue Libraries make web link to federal documents

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The first World Wide Web connection to the Government Printing Office's main computer, giving access to federal data bases, is now available through Purdue University.

That means users can look up information in the Federal Register, Congressional Record, History of Bills, U.S. Code and other government data bases.

The web is a vast body of interconnected text, sound and graphics on the Internet, a worldwide network of computers.

"This is the first web interface to the Government Printing Office data bases," said Carl E. Snow, network access librarian with Purdue Libraries, which made the link possible. "For the user, this means easier and simpler access to the Federal Register and other government records for specific information."

Previously, free electronic access to these government data bases was possible in only two ways. You could walk in and use special computers at some of the 1,400 U.S. depository libraries, which limited the number of simultaneous users to 10 at each site. Or you could access the data bases remotely by using a computer to go through electronic "gateways" at 14 of the depository libraries.

Depository libraries are at universities, law schools, public libraries and federal agencies, and provide free public access to U.S. government information in print, microform and electronic formats. Purdue is now the 15th depository library to provide an electronic gateway to the data bases.

"What we've done is bring this service into the mainstream of information technology so that someone isn't limited by having to use a particular software or having to visit a depository library," Snow said. "Basically, anyone anywhere in the world can now link to these data bases via the web by going through Purdue."

Cary Kerr, network coordinator for the Purdue Libraries, created an electronic gateway through the web to the government data bases by modifying a computer program developed by Nordic WAIS/World Wide Web Project. Snow said Purdue plans to make available to other depository libraries its modified web version of the Nordic software.

"Libraries aren't known for developing software," Snow said, "but we're trying to be at the forefront of using or developing computer programs to make information more readily available to the public."

The Federal Register, which on paper can average more than 200 pages daily, contains such information as proposed federal regulations, pending legislation, and requests for funding from government agencies. The register is updated daily, and paper copies are mailed to depository libraries around the country. However, the new information often is not on library shelves for a couple of weeks because of the time to mail and file it, Snow said.

The Congressional Record, published daily while Congress is in session, is the principal log of debate in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The U.S. Code is a listing of all the laws in effect in the United States as of a certain date.

Ten people at a time will be able to log into the Government Printing Office data bases through Purdue by typing in the following address:

The project began about three months ago when several Purdue staff members in radiological environmental management, the Division of Sponsored Programs and the internal audit office contacted Snow to see if there was a way to read the Federal Register on-line more quickly to help them in their jobs. Snow contacted the Government Printing Office, which agreed to let Purdue make a web link to the register and the other data bases.

Sources: Emily Mobley, dean of Purdue Libraries, (765) 494-2900; Internet,
John Berger, product manager, Electronic Information Dissemination Services Department,
Government Printing Office, (202) 512-1525; Internet,
Bert Chapman, Purdue Libraries' government publications coordinator, (765) 494-2837; Internet,
Cary Kerr, (765) 494-2857; Internet,
Carl Snow, (765) 494-2764; Internet,

Writer: News Service, (765) 494-2096

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