United Nations’ new iLibrary

General Interest

by Kenneth Sawdon

The United Nations has decided to collect their major publications into one easily searchable place on the internet. They have released their journals, data, series, and publications onto their shiny new iLibrary. From their About page, “The United Nations iLibrary is the first comprehensive global search, discovery, and viewing source for digital content created by the United Nations.”

At launch the iLibrary boasted 1000 individual titles, 750 in English, which is very few documents for a library’s holdings, but an impressive amount for a single organization to produce. The iLibrary does accommodate full text searching, alongside the regular facets, and has a functional advanced search.

I do have an issue with the iLibrary, which is their subscription service. As is, anyone can view all of the resources online, but only subscribed organizations have access to PDF formats. This is obviously to the detriment of users who have poor and unreliable internet access. Presumably this is a method of recouping the costs of creating, maintaining, and supporting the users of the website, but it is an inequality of access. Unlike many academic online viewers it is possible to save individual pages as images, so there is a workaround for users interested in a select few pages of a document.

It is odd to me that I cannot find a link to the Dag Hammarskjöld Digital Library, the United Nations’ library, on the iLibrary website. I suppose they figure the users of the iLibrary will not be interested in the more granular results of the Digital Library, which is filled beyond the brim with individual reports, surveys, and other such documents. But, truly in depth research may require the use of UN resources only held in the Dag Library, and cross-linking would help drive up traffic on both websites. As a side note, it is disappointing to me that neither the iLibrary or Dag Digital Library seem to have digital copies of the UN’s most loaned book of 2015, Immunity of Heads of State and State Officials for International Crimes.

The website still has minor errors, which is understandable for a brand new service. For examples, their Help and Search Tips links lead to pages either missing or under development. Additionally, the fixed search bar will not clear between page transitions, and will keep the last entered text after loading. Nothing on the website seemed really broken on my visits, though: it is a sleek and functional collection.

Overall, I believe this was a prudent and honest move by the UN. It greatly helps their target audiences, which is basically everyone, reach the organization’s resources, and makes the costs of maintaining the international organization more worthwhile.

Here is the announcement that I found through the LIBLICENSE listserv:

Launch of the United Nations iLibrary

United Nations Publications is pleased to announce the launch of the
United Nations iLibrary (http://www.un-ilibrary.org), the first
comprehensive global search, discovery, and dissemination platform for
digital content created by the United Nations.

Available from February 2016, the United Nations iLibrary provides
librarians, information specialists, scholars, policy makers and the
general public with a single online destination for seamlessly
accessing knowledge products created by the United Nations
Secretariat, and its funds and programs.

To begin with, United Nations iLibrary includes publications, journals
and series comprising facts and expertise on international peace and
security, human rights, economic and social development, climate
change, international law, governance, public health, and statistics.
In future releases, the platform will also provide access to other
resources such as working papers series and statistical databases.

The United Nations iLibrary  is optimised for use on both desktop and
mobile devices, allowing all users to read, share and embed United
Nations content. Premium functionality and downloadable editions are
available as part of a subscription service.

At launch, United Nations iLibrary comprises 750 titles in English,
and 250 in other official languages of the United Nations: French,
Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic. This initial scope covers most
of the content published under the United Nations Publications banner
between 2013 and 2015. A scope of around 3,000 titles is expected to
be available by the end of 2016, corresponding to most titles
published between 2010 and 2015.

The content of the United Nations iLibrary will be regularly updated
with approximately 500 new titles published every year on the key
topics reflecting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by
the United Nations.

The United Nations iLibrary was created in partnership with the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) using its
highly functional online library platform, which offers an extensive
list of features that deliver flexibility, speed, and efficiency such
as intuitive navigation, integrated search results, granular content,
citation tool, DOI identification, and multilingual content.
Subscribers also benefit from a range of enhanced discovery services,
including provision of MARC records, and COUNTER compliant usage


For all questions related to content, please contact ilibrary@un.org

For inquiries related to access and subscriptions, please contact

All proceeds from United Nations publications and related products
support the work of the United Nations.

Ken Sawdon is a Footage Curation and Metadata Specialist at Dissolve Ltd., a startup stock footage and photo company. He is a recent MLIS graduate from the University of Alberta, where his activities included co-chair of the Forum for Information Professionals student conference and community activist and blogger for the Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom. He has been a volunteer librarian for the Aero Space Museum of Calgary as well as a Collections Assistant at Fort Calgary. Connect with him at @kainous on Twitter.

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