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Official publications: IALS Library Guides

A guide to finding official publications in the IALS Library and further afield

Official publicatons

Guide last updated by Alice Tyson, April 2018

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An official publication is a document published by an ‘official’ body, such as a national government or an intergovernmental organisation. In the UK, official publications include documents such as command papers, white papers, green papers, House of Lords papers, House of Commons papers and bills.

The main focus of this guide is on how to find official publications held at IALS library.


If you know the title or author

If you know exactly what you are looking for you can run a Title or Author search on the Library Catalogue, or a combination of both.

1. Go to the Library Catalogue and select Title or Author.

Title search:

Enter the full title, you may omit words like "the" or "and", for example:

The law of international finance
law of international finance

Author search:

The author of an official publication is generally the name of the organisation which has produced it, for example:

American Bar Association
International Law Commission
United Nations

Official government organisations are entered in the catalogue under the name of the relevant country, for example:

Great Britiain Home Office
Ireland Law Reform Commission
Nigeria Association of Law Teachers

Once you've run your search, you can use the "Limit/Sort Search" option on the results page to modify your search to include, for instance, year of publication.

2. If your search is successful note down the classmark and use the floor directories or the guide to Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library to locate the item.

3. If your search is unsuccessful, try a Keyword search instead.

4. If your search is still unsuccessful, check whether the title is held at another library (see Finding books not held in the Library below).


A Title or Author search will only find those titles which have been entered into the catalogue as individual items. It may be that the Library holds the entire series of a particular set of official publications, for example:

ABA Section of Patent, Trademark and Copyright Law. Committee reports

In this case the individual papers cannot be searched separately on the Library Catalogue. It is a good idea to do a search by Author for the particular organisation or check our alphabetical List of Serials for the organisation to find out which publications are available in the Library.


If you know the command paper number

If the title is a UK government publication, it is also possible to search the Library Catalogue by command paper number in the Title field, for example:

Cmnd 1033

Searching by subject, keyword or classmark

If you are not looking for a particular item, but would like to check the library's holdings for a particular subject, run a Subject, Keyword or Classmark search.

Subject search:

This searches across the controlled subject headings of each item on the library catalogue.

1. Go to the Library Catalogue and select Subject.

Once you've run your search, you can use the "Limit/Sort Search" option on the results page to modify your search to include, for instance, year of publication.

2. If your search is unsuccessful, try a Keyword search. Either start the search again, or click on "Search as Words". When you have found a book on your desired topic, take a note of the subjects listed on the catalogue record for that book. You can use these subjects for subsequent Subject searches.

Keyword search:

This searches across the entire catalogue record, so can be useful if your Title or Subject search does not bring back any results.

- Go to the Library Catalogue and select Keyword.

Once you've run your search, you can use the "Limit/Sort Search" option on the results page to modify your search to include, for instance, year of publication.

Classmark search:

If you know the classmark of the subject or jurisdiction you may want try searching the catalogue using the Classmark option or searching the bookshelves directly. To find out the classmark try:

Understanding the catalogue record

The catalogue will tell you where to find an item by giving a classmark or a location statement.
Given below are examples of classmarks, prefixes, filing marks, and location statements.


Here are some examples of classmarks:
SJ150, SG75, GA2.C.4, GP1.C.8, RF75, BG55, BB10

And with possible prefixes and filing marks:



RES: This means that the book is in the Basement Store. See below.

FOL: Shelved in a separate sequence of large sized books to save space. Consult the Library map to find the FOL books on each floor.

PAMP: A pamphlet shelved in a box at the end of the run of books with the same classmark.

All these prefixes can be combined, as in the examples above, so that RES FOL PAMP would mean a large sized pamphlet kept in the Basement Store.

Filing marks

These always come after the classmark and consist of three letters, usually the first three letters of the author's name. Within each classmark, books are shelved alphabetically by this filing mark.

Location and classmark statements

DEPOSITORY: Kept in the Basement Store. To obtain a book with this location statement, please complete a blue Basement Collection Slip available at the Enquiry Desk and hand it to the staff. The depository number must be noted on the slip.

IALS OFFSITE STORE: Kept in an offsite store. A fetching service is available for this material which may take a day or two to retrieve. To obtain a book with this location statement, please complete a collection slip available at the Enquiry Desk and hand it to the staff. The classmark must be noted on the slip.

SHORT LOAN: Heavily-used material kept in the SHORT LOAN COLLECTION behind the Enquiry Desk. Request textbooks by author and/or title. There is a time limit on the use of items from this collection.

THESIS: Kept in the Basement Store. Please apply to staff at the Enquiry Desk. Request volumes by thesis number.

ORDERED: Item currently on order from the publisher. The Library has not yet received it.

IN PROCESSING: Item has been received from the publisher, but is still being processed. Apply to staff at the Enquiry Desk.

Finding publications not held in the library

IALS is not a "depository library" for British government publications; we buy only material of legal interest. The Senate House Library, University of London, has a standing order for Parliamentary publications, but it will not necessarily have everything published by departments and agencies. If you need to locate official publications which are not held in the IALS library try the following steps:

1. Choose the option on the drop-down menu on the front page of the catalogue to search "All Collections (Senate House Libraries)" and run your search again.

2. Check one of the many catalogues on the web which include the holdings of more than one library. This will save you time as you do not have to search many separate catalogues. Here are some suggestions

You may need to visit another library to obtain the material which you need. Alternatively you may be able to obtain titles from libraries using the interlibrary loan and document delivery services offered by the library at your institution.

3. Check the relevant Jurisdiction Guide as it may contain tips on finding official publications.

4. Check your jurisidiction on WorldLII, as more recent official publications may be made available online.

5. Check the Eagle-i internet portal to see whether there is are any freely available official publications for that jurisdiction on the web.

Finding official gazettes

The freely available Foreign Official Government Gazettes (FOGG) database provides links to online official gazettes for many different jurisidictions. For European countries, the database also provides details of which libraries in the UK (including IALS library) have print collections.

Finding UK official publications online

Free resources

The Publications page of the website makes available the publications of all ministerial departments. You can filter the results by topic, department or publication type. It can be used to find recent consultation papers, impact assessments, and policy papers.

The Parliament website contains much information, including bills, parliamentary debates (Hansard), committee reports and other parliamentary papers. A search interface has recently been made available to assist with locating parliamentary material on the website.

Hansard can be found on the Parliament website from the early nineteenth century to the most recent sitting.

BAILII provides access to Law Commission Reports for England & Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. You can browse them from the databases page or search across them by running an Other Materials Search.

For further details of printed official publications for the UK, please refer to the United Kingdom Research Guide.

Subscription databases

U.K. Parliamentary Papers is a subscription database from ProQuest. It contains a number of modules, including House of Commons and House of Lords; some of the collections go back to the 18th century. IALS does not have a subscription to this database but some users may be able to access it via Senate House Library.

Public Information Online (PIO) is a subscription database from Dandy Booksellers. It contains many UK official publications, including House of Commons papers, House of Lords papers and command papers. IALS does not have a subscription to this database.