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U.S. Government Information & Congressional Publications

Unpacking the Serial Set

Reports: a bill is reported from the committee to the floor of the Congress. The Report describes the bill, summarizes committee opinion, and discusses issues. Bills are seldom reported unfavorably; the bill is simply left to "die in committee." Reports are usually considered the best evidence of "legislative intent."

Documents: various types of materials are published as House or Senate Documents. Included are: Congressional Committee Prints, Presidential messages, budget amendments, vetoes; annual reports of federal agencies; reference materials; and miscellaneous reports from quasi-governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations.

Reports and Documents are first published individually and later republished in the bound Serial Set. There is a 3 to 5 year time lag before publication in the Serial Set.

Serial Set: 

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set is the permanent bound record of Congressional Reports and Documents as well as any Executive Reports and Documents submitted to Congress. The Serial Set also contains miscellaneous reports from quasi-governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations such as, the Boy Scouts of America. 

Serial Set volume numbers begin with the year 1817 (15th Congress). Due to the publishing history of the Serial Set, few libraries have a complete set of the bound volumes.

American State Papers: Prior to the Serial Set, the same types of papers are called The American State Papers (ASP). ASP volume numbers begin with zero. 

The University of Delaware Library has an extensive collection of bound Serial Set volumes.

Volumes from the 1980s to present are located on the Lower Level of the Morris Library. Older volumes are located in the Library Annex.

  • To determine what Reports and Documents are included in a volume of the Serial Set, use the Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes (NLSV) 
  • To determine what Serial Set volumes are available and the location, check the "Find a copy in the library" section of the DELCAT Discovery record.