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How Do I Find Government Publications?

Print Government Publications


Searching the Library Catalogue

Government publications can be accessed via the library catalogue in a number of ways:

  • Title (e.g. Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada)
  • Author (e.g. Statistics Canada; Poulin, Pierre)
  • Subject (e.g. Aged - Housing)
    NOTE: Subject searches work best for government publications catalogues AFTER 1995. For works catalogues BEFORE 1996, search by Keyword)
  • Keyword(s) (e.g. Quebec and Separation)

Our new library catalogue can help you narrow your search. Once you have preliminary results, just look at the left sidebar menu, choose Publication Type > Government Publications

In the Library Catalogue

  1. Select the field you wish to search from the drop-down menu.
  2. Type in the appropriate word(s).
  3. Click on the GO button.

While viewing the full record, note the location, call number and status of the item.

Write down the call number carefully. Disregard the dots (...) in the call numbers, but note the dashes (-).

Government Publications Not in the Library Catalogue

  • Check your spelling. Try searching for the publication in another way (e.g. by author instead of title)
  • Publication may be contained within a larger set. Often happens with bills, acts, census material, sessional papers, historical royal commission reports, etc.
  • Publication may be contained in one of our major microfiche collections. Try searching the Canadian Research Index and/or AccessUN to locate items in these collections.
  • Ask for assistance at the nearest Research Help Desk.

Finding Microfiche/Microfilm

Many government publications from Canada and the United Nations are available on microform (microfiche, microfilm, microcard). These are indexed in:

  • Canadian Research Index McMaster Use Only
    Also located in print on the 2nd floor of Mills Library CA7 MC -M31
  • AccessUN - Index to United Nations Documents and Publications McMaster Use Only
    Also located in print on the 2nd floor Mills Library JX 1977 .A2

All About Call Numbers

Interpreting Government Publication Call Numbers (Mills and Thode Libraries)

  • Government publications in Mills and Thode Libraries are assigned CODOC call numbers.
  • CODOC numbers group materials on the shelf by issuing body (government department, branch, etc.) rather than by topic.
  • Each element of the call number represents a specific aspect of the publication.
  • For example, the call number CA2 ON MA 160 - 89 M76 means
CA Country / Organization Code Canada
2 Level of Government Code Provincial
ON Province Code Ontario
MA Department Ministry of Municipal Affairs
160 Branch Municipal Management Practices Branch
90 Year of Publication 1990
M76 Unique Title/Series Identifier Title begins "Multiculturalism"

Locate an Item

Call numbers appearing on the labels of publications appear slightly different from the way they appear in the Library Catalogue.

  • Call number labels do not include the dots (...) apparent in the Catalogue records. (Disregard the dots when copying down numbers. They are just included to maintain the filing order in the catalogue.)
  • Call number labels are two or more lines long while call numbers in the Catalogue records appear on one line.

Rules to Remember

  • Note the dashes (-) appearing in the call numbers in the Catalogue records. Information before the dash appears on the first line of the call number label. Information after the dash appears on the second line of the call number label. For example, CA1MH10-98E57 appears on the call number label as:
    CA1 MH 10
  • "Nothing comes before something." (Example: CA1 HW comes before CA1 HW 3.)
  • Items are arranged alphanumerically. Letters and then numbers are ordered in turn. (Example: CA1BS85-C224 comes before CA2ONLR-94Y57)

Items Not on the Shelf

  • Check the "status" of the item. May be "missing" or "checked out."
  • Ask for assistance at the nearest Research Help Desk.


  • The majority of government publications are stampted NON-CIRCULATING and CANNOT be borrowed.
  • Government publications which CAN be borrowed usually have a bar code on the front cover and a date due slip in the back. These can be signed out at the Circulation desk with a valid McMaster identification card.


  • Pick up a Government Publications Guide (beside the Research Help Desk, 2nd floor Mills Library)
  • Ask for assistance from the nearest Research Help Desk. Staff will be glad to help you in your search!
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