Even if you cannot get to the library, there are still large collections of full-text government publications you can access. Listed here are freely available digital collections. They include historical titles, originally in print, that have since been digitized and are available as PDFs or web pages.
govinfo.gov is a very good starting place. It is the central repository for primary documents that reflect the activity of the US government. This collection is already large with more being added everyday, and includes both historical titles and new digital documents. Among the major series you can find:
Archives.gov — is the homepage of the National Archives (NARA). Here you can find information about the Archives holdings and how to arrange a visit to the National Archives or one of its regional offices. NARA also hosts a rapidly growing collection of digitized material including text, video and photographs. See the Record Group Explorer to gain a sense of what is available online. This NARA blog column has advice on "Two Steps Every Researcher Should Take" before visiting the Archives. Note that research rooms are presently closed.
Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) — “BEA’s economic statistics offer a comprehensive picture of the U.S. economy. BEA prepares national, regional, industry, and international accounts that present essential information on such issues in the world economy.” Includes the complete 100 year run of the Survey of Current Business (SCB)
Bureau of Labor Statistics — Current and historical reports on labor, price indexes, and wages.
Census volumes: Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades — volumes for 1790 through 2010 have been scanned and made available here as PDFs. Some of the files are large and take a long time to download. More recent Census publications here include data in tabular form for download.
A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873 covers the Continental Congress in the Journals of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, the American State Papers (legislative and executive documents of Congress from 1789-1838), Journals of the House and Senate and the forerunners to the Congressional Record: Annals of Congress, Registers of Debate, and the Congressional Globe.
Congress.gov — The official source for information on congressional activity. Here you can follow legislation as it moves through the House and Senate, lookup committee and member profiles, watch video from the House and Senate floor, as well as video of committee hearings. This site links to authenticated versions of bills, committee reports, and the Congressional Record. Dates of coverage for the resources provided here vary, so please see Coverage Dates for Legislative Information for current information. Also provides in-depth help pages, and further resources to learn about the legislative process such as Legislative Process: Overview (Video) and Learn About the Legislative Process.
Congressional Research Service Reports — This is another very good starting place to search for information on a general subject. These are reports on legislation or any other topic of interest to Congress. They cover a wide range of subjects and provide non-partisan research, usually footnoted so you can check sources and find further background. The agency continues to add reports from their back file.
Data.census.gov is the Census Bureau’s new site for access to population, housing, economic, and geographic data. The site uses a simple search box to begin, or you can use the advanced search option to chose from a series of filters that will help you narrow your search. Visit Census Academy to view brief video tutorials, called Data Gems, such as How to Navigate data.census.gov , or view a variety of How-to Materials for Using data.census.gov in brief handout form. One note of caution: The Census Bureau is still migrating data from the old American Fact Finder. The new site does not include everything yet.
The EPA National Library Catalog contains thousands of digitized reports from 1970 to the present.
Foreign Relations of the United States at the State Department together with UW Digital Collections present the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity. Also see:
Federal Reserve Economic Data | FRED is another excellent resource from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. This site focuses on time series and consists of the more than 700, 000 tables. The related site Archival FRED | ALFRED “allows you to retrieve vintage versions of economic data that were available on specific dates in history.”
Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights presents a thorough collection of reports and hearings of the US Commission on Civil Rights from its inception in 1957.
Military Legal Resources covers trials from the Civil War through the Vietnam War, including the Nuremberg Tribunals.
Science.gov is a general search engine that covers over 60 databases and includes current and historical reports. Users can refine search results by data range, subject, and author.
Statistical Abstracts Series — covers the entire run of this venerable publication from 1878-2012. Description from the page “the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.“
Supremecourt.gov — High court opinions from 2002 onward, oral arguments, and more. The Law Library of Congress has digitized the Supreme Court’s U.S. Reports from 1754 to 2003, so the complete run is free and available online.
U.S. Geological Survey Publications Warehouse hosts more than 150,000 reports spanning the 150-plus year history of the agency.
The United States Government Manual — provides an organizational chart of the U.S. government and for each agency, it includes a description, lists the personnel and cites the legislation that initially created the agency. govinfo has a historical collection of the earlier manuals.
Vital Statistics of the United States — This is an annual report published from 1890-2003 which provides detailed vital statistics data, including natality, mortality, marriage and divorce. These reports are available for download. The site also has links to preliminary data and topical reports for more recent years in the National Health Statistics Reports and National Vital Statistics Reports.