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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
Improving access to UN documents
04 June 2009 / 04:30

[Dateline: New York | Author: DPI/iSeek]Digitization of UN Documents (Credit: iSeek/Fred Fath)

Did you know that many older documents, previously only available at UN offices and in libraries around the world, are being added to the Official Document System every day?


Read on to find out more about this ambitious effort to make all UN documents available to everyone with access to a computer.


Recently, staff in New York’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library, having digitized about 234,000 documents (or about 1.2 million pages), concluded their work on Security Council documents in English, French and Spanish. That means that documents that make up the general series, official records and agendas are all available online in the ODS. 


The amount of documents produced by the Organization is staggering.  If one were to pile up all the documents digitized by the Library since 1998, the pile would reach the 30th floor of the Secretariat building!  Digitization of UN Documents (Credit: iSeek/Fred Fath)


Unlike regular scanning, which is done on a simple flat-bed scanner, the library’s digitization operation uses large equipment and sophisticated software for post-scanning processes that include the application of optical character recognition (for full-text search), cropping, deskewing (the process of removing skew from images), splitting images.


In addition, to enable search and retrieval by different elements like the UN document symbol, subject, and date, library staff create metadata – data about data.


Digitizing UN documents is time-consuming work that requires attention to every detail and gentle handling of fragile, crumbling documents.


While Security Council documents in Arabic, Chinese and Russian are being digitized by the United Nations Office at Geneva Library staff, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library is now starting to digitize major General Assembly documents. Digitization of UN Documents (Credit: iSeek/Fred Fath)


This digitization effort is not new.  In fact, all the resolutions adopted by the UN principal organs before 1993 have already been scanned and are accessible in the ODS. They may be accessed by selecting the ODS Advanced Search button, selecting Resolutions 1946-1993 on the left window, and then entering the relevant search criteria. 


If you need additional help, an ODS training course is offered by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library.  Registration is only a phone call (212-963-5321) or an email ( away.


NOTE: A password is no longer required to use ODS unless you need special access, for example, to restricted or limited distribution documents.