Etched-on-marble entrance sign
The Dag Hammarskjöld Library is part of the United Nations headquarters and is connected to the Secretariat and conference buildings through ground level and underground corridors. It is named after Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The Library has specialized in two major areas. Firstly, it is the main depository for United Nations documents and publications and maintains a selected collection of materials of the specialized agencies and United Nations affiliated bodies. Secondly, the Library collects books, periodicals and other materials related to the organization's programs of activities.
The Library was founded along with the United Nations in 1946. It was originally called the United Nations Library, and later the United Nations International Library. Its creation was recommended by the 1945 report of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations, which called for a "library with research and reference facilities" to be included in the Department Conference and General Services, now the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services.
Its responsibilities were further expanded upon in 1949 by the General Assembly, who decided that the primary function of the Library should be "to enable the delegations, Secretariat and other official groups of the Organization to obtain...the library materials and information needed in the execution of their duties." The 1949 document also stipulated that the services of the Library would also be made available to the specialized agencies of the United Nations, as well as select members of the public, such as, international governmental organizations, educational institutions, scholars and writers.
However, by the mid- to late-50s, the original building of the Library was seen as inadequate compared to the size of the ever-growing collection of the Library. A 1959 report by Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld found that the building "provides no further opportunity for expansion and prohibits the growth of the Library to that level which would seem commensurate with the fulfilment of its purposes."
In 1959, the Ford Foundation gave a grant of $6.2 million to the United Nations for the construction of a new Library building which would be "of the highest quality, aesthetically designed, furnished, and equipped in conformity with the most modern library standards." In recognition of their generous donation, the General Assembly instructed the Secretary-General to place a memorial stone at the entrance of the library inscribed with "Gift of the Ford Foundation."
Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was instrumental in securing the funding for the new building. A letter from the President of the Ford Foundation to the President of the General Assembly after Hammarskjold's death stated that it was the late Secretary-General's active interest and lobbying in the project to fund a new United Nations library that was a decisive factor in the Foundation's donation. The new building was dedicated on 16 November 1961, just two months after Hammarskjöld's death, and was renamed in his honor.
The Library's primary functions are laid out in a 1949 Document from the Fifth Committee of the United Nations:
- The Library is responsible for all library services at Headquarters and for the acquisition of all library materials.
- The Library’s primary function is to enable the delegations, Secretariat and other officia1 groups of the Organization to obtain, with the greatest possible speed, convenience and economy, the library materials and information needed in the execution of their duties.
- The services of the library will also be made available, as far as feasible, to United Nations specialized agencies, accredited representatives of mass media, international governmental organizations, affiliated non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, scholars and writers.
- The Headquarters Library is responsible for indexing United Nations documents and publications.
The library is not open to the general public. However, it does provide access to much UN-related information by developing freely accessible online resources and services, and via UN depository libraries worldwide.
Resources and services
The library has created a number of research tools and services to ease the access to United Nations Documents:
- The Index to Proceedings (ITP) is a series of print indexes, especially useful for research on matters prior to 1979. It provides citation to the parliamentary documentation of the principal organs. Each index has two parts: a subject index and an index to speeches delivered.
- UNBISnet is the catalogue of the library. In addition to the library's holdings it accesses multilingual versions of UN documents. In addition to the catalogue it includes two specialized databases: the Index to Speeches and the Voting Records databases.
- The UN Documentation Research Guide presents an overview of selected UN documents, publications, databases and websites.
- Ask Dag is a database providing hundreds of answers about the United Nations, its documentation, as well as the services and resources offered by the library.
- UN Member States on the Record: Provides access to the key documents for each Member State related to its membership in the UN, statements made before the principal organs, draft resolutions sponsored, periodic reports submitted on Human Rights conventions.
- United Nations Digital Library: The Digital Library includes UN documents, voting data, speeches, maps, and open access publications. The platform provides access to UN-produced materials in digital format and bibliographic records for print UN documents starting in 1979. System features include linked data between related documentation such as resolutions, meeting records and voting, and refining of searches by UN body, agency or type of document.