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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 Government Publishing Office, in conjunction with the Law Library of Congress, has begun to digitized and make publicly available the full expanse of the Serial Set. The project will take a number of years, but you can find the earliest volumes already available online here. 

The University of Delaware Library has a collection of bound Serial Set volumes. Older editions can be accessed online.

Volumes from 1994 to present are located in our Annex location. Fill out this form to request materials from 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).