International Docs: The Embattled UN Depository

Jim Church


Last year I wrote a DttP column about the United Nations Depository Library System (UNDL), but much has changed since, unfortunately for the worse. The situation has become so serious and the UN Department of Public Information’s (DPI) handling of the issue so confusing, I have almost lost faith in UN Publishing. While several advocacy efforts are underway, including a letter-writing campaign from UN Depositories around the world, an ALA Resolution,and collaborative efforts with other nongovernmental organizations, the DPI seems chiefly focused on its short-term financial interests rather than access to UN information. The communications released by the DPI have also been fraught with complexity and inconsistencies. If we support open access to information, we need to rebuff decisions made by the DPI and UN Publications to effectively disband the UN Depository Library System. This article is both a challenge and a plea to the UN to alter course and reinstate a robust UN depository program, to embrace open access, and to foster digital redundancy.

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ALA International Relations Committee, “Resolution on the Restoration Of The United Nations Depository Library System” 2015–2016 ALA CD18.2,

James Church, “Documents Without Borders: The Once and Future UN Depository,” DttP 43, no. 3 (2015): 7–10.

“Message from the UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library: United Nations Depository Library Programme,” email message to UN Depository Libraries, July 10, 2013.

UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library, “A New Strategic Direction for UN Depository Libraries—Consultation Paper,”

UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library, “Executive Summary on the Analysis of Responses to the Consultation Paper on the Re-Engineering of the UN Depository Libraries Programmes,”

Presentation given by Maritina Panigua, head of outreach and professional development, UN Dag Hammarskjold Library. ALA Annual Conference, Government Documents Roundtable, International Documents Task Force, June 28, 2015,

Email from Iain L. Williamson, sales and marketing manager US/Canada, OECD Washington Center, to the International Documents electronic discussion list (INTL-DOC), February 17, 2016.

“Letter from Mr. Maher Nasser, Chairperson of the United Nations Publications Board, UN iLibrary, and Dag Hammarskjold Library Digital Repository,” email message to UN Depository Libraries, March 9, 2016.

Sherri Aldis and Ramona Kohrs, “Access to UN Information in the Digital Era: Reengineering the UN Depository Libraries Programme” (paper presented at International Federation of Library Associations, World Library and Information Congress, 2016, Columbus, Ohio),

“Depository Libraries and Free Distribution in General,” United Nations Archives at Geneva, R1773 49/28743/26979, May 18, 1923.



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