About the Depository Services Program

Who We Are

The Depository Services Program (DSP) was established in 1927 by Order in Council P.C. 1471. The original mandate of the DSP was to provide a central and comprehensive distribution source from which published Government of Canada (GC) information would be sent to academic, college, legislative and public libraries, as well as to federal parliamentarians and departmental libraries. While the DSP no longer distributes tangible publications, the Program continues to provide a persistent, online, freely available collection of electronic publications. The DSP also maintains and develops an online bibliographic database of tangible–format publications catalogued since 1992.

The DSP’s mandate supports, and is supported by, the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, particularly section 27, which stipulates that GC institutions must facilitate public access to their publications. The GC Procedures for Publishing also clarify the role of the DSP, requiring GC departments and agencies to provide the DSP with electronic copies in portable formats of all publications, in all available language editions; to maintain an index of publications produced and to forward that index to the DSP periodically; to obtain GC catalogue numbers and ISBNs from the DSP and include those numbers, where applicable, in their publications; and to ensure that certain key pieces of information, outlined by the DSP, are included in each of their publications.

What We Do

The Program, administered by Public Works and Government Services Canada, provides a central and convenient location to access published information from hundreds of GC departments in one place. It also acts as an important information safety net. A central repository is necessary because publishing is decentralized across the GC and often even within its larger departments. GC publications are produced in great numbers, treat a wide range of subjects and are issued in a variety of formats. These factors contribute to challenges for the public, researchers and parliamentarians in attempting to identify, locate and acquire published information to satisfy their needs and interests. The services of the DSP ensure that free public access to published GC information is centrally available online.

In order to alert the public to newly available GC publications, the DSP publishes the Weekly Checklist of Canadian Government Publications, listing bibliographic information for all publications catalogued by the DSP during the week of issue. The Checklist has been in continuous production in various formats since the 1950s, and can be viewed on the Government of Canada Publications website.

History of the DSP and the Depository System

The organization that is now known as the DSP was formed on August 2, 1927 through an order of the King’s Privy Council. Designed to alleviate problems with the existing decentralized sale and distribution system, the Order in Council established a comprehensive depository system whereby non–confidential government publications would be sent to depositories and parliamentarians.

Two types of depositories were created: full depositories that received GC publications automatically, and selective depositories, that received GC publications upon application. For many decades, depositories received publications in exchange for providing bibliographic access, long–term preservation, reference services, inter–library loan and many other public services that ensured free public access to published GC information.

On December 31, 2013, the agreements between the DSP and the depositories expired. The DSP stopped distributing tangible–format publications and transitioned to an electronic–only model in April 2014. Preliminary steps toward a transition to electronic publications can be seen as early as 1991, when the first digital media products, such as CD–ROMs and databases, were distributed by the DSP to a small group of depositories. By February 1995, the DSP had launched its website, along with the electronic version of the Weekly Checklist. Over the years that followed, the number of electronic–format publications grew swiftly while print and other physical formats declined. By November 2013, over 90% of the publications listed in the Weekly Checklist were in downloadable electronic formats, making the shift to electronic–only distribution a relatively seamless transition.

A more detailed history of the DSP and the Weekly Checklist can be found in the following Weekly Checklist issues: 13–49, 13–50 and 13–51.