Posted: June 8, 2015
The consultation paper on the new strategic direction for UN Depository Libraries launched on 22 April 2014 and closed on 10 September 2014. It was sent to 365 UN Depository Libraries (UNDLs) in 136 countries.
We are grateful to all those who took the time to respond to the consultation, to which we received 190 (52%) formal written responses.
The goal of the consultation paper was to collect and record the views of the UN depositories on the proposed new strategic direction. It is hoped that the data will help to devise a new programme that will benefit both users and libraries.
The consultation document invited comments from UN Depository Libraries (UNDLs). The key question of the review was what value is there in a ‘Depository Library’ when anyone with an internet connection can access the same content?
Section 2: Initial Options Review
The review looked at the three options: termination, continuation or re-engineering.
• Termination: 29/29 did not want termination.
• Continuation: 33/41 did not want continuation.
• Re-engineering: 39/43 agreed with re-engineering the programme.
• Initial comments: 24/30 were for re-engineering
The majority of the libraries agreed with re-engineering the Programme.
Section 3: What is the Value of the UNDL in a Digital World?
Under this section, most libraries agreed on the following issues:
a. Impact on member states: All 34 respondents agree that the value of the DLs is in its provision of information services and outreach activities to the public.
b. Specialist knowledge and genuine accessibility: 51 /51 agree that the unique selling point of the DL is its specialist knowledge to help clients connect with UN content.
c. Efficient targeting of specialist researchers: All 43 respondents agree that UNDLs is an effective and efficient conduit for UN knowledge to reach specialist research communities.
d. Networks, technical and human: The 63 respondents agreed on that networks and contacts fostered by depository library status are as valuable to researchers as the actual materials.
e. Intangible benefits: Improved branding of depositories. There were 60 responses. All agreed that there was a need to improve on branding. There was disagreement regarding the name change of the Programme and the star rating system.
Name change of the Programme:
Of the 43 responses, 23 preferred “Depository Library” and 14 “Partner Library”. Five libraries proposed different names:
- Since Depository Library is an existing name with historical weight, maybe UN Partner Library could be used a subtitle.
- UN Network of Digital Libraries (Name change should give an indication of the shift to digital collections or
- UN Network of Libraries (If hard copies are still part of the collaboration)
Most libraries disagreed with the introduction of a star rating system for DLs. 19 said no, 5 yes and 2 did not know.
Preservation of authentic documents.
47 responded. 43 agreed on the importance of preservation and redundancy of both print and born digital.
Some libraries may connect or link out to materials produced by other governmental or intergovernmental institutions. Others may have the expertise or infrastructure (digital storage and IT support) in place to harvest and preserve UN digital materials on a permanent basis.
Section 4: Some practical aspects of the new approach:
f. A revitalised UNDL system: 22 responded. On the whole there is agreement on the previous proposals in chapter three on moving forward to a digital environment. Some libraries expressed concern that there is a digital divide. Print options must be allowed where appropriate.
g. Introduction of the UN eCollection and Digital Repository: There were 118 libraries who provided comments regarding the UN eCollection and 80 libraries for the Digital Repository. All in all, the respondents had questions regarding technical issues (MARC, metadata, cataloguing, access format, archive,/preservation, selection profiles/linking/downloading, ILL, author departments, licensing, copyright, retention period, digital delivery, subscription issues for UN eCollection,) and type of content in both the Digital Repository and the UN eCollection. The major concern of most respondents was the subscription costs for the UN eCollection.
h. UN Yearbook in print format: All 27 respondents appreciate and favour receiving a printed copy. A few would like a core collection of flagship publications.
i. Improving research capability: 27 libraries responded. They agree that it would be better to improve internet access, IT equipment and training for the least developed countries rather than to try and continue a special hardcopy distribution for them.
Some libraries provided possible ways to address digital access problems:
- Partnering with a regional library who could provide more substantive assistance.
- When developing the UN eCollection and DR systems, optimise the platform for mobile access as in many places use of mobile devices is a more widely available means of accessing the internet.
- Hard copies could be digitally scanned and stored in the Repository. The copies could be downloaded for the DLs.
- An option would be to make a restricted number of grants available each year for a number of libraries to bid and compete. The grants would be solely used to upgrade internet access and infrastructure.
- Has there been any effort to include this in the larger development goals like the MDGs or the next wave of international development goals?
j. Shift towards Higher Value Support: All 15 respondents agree on the specialist expertise as the key contribution of DHL to UNDLs. Most highlight the importance of receiving training from DHL.
k. Clearer and Firmer Service Standards: Eleven respondents requested further information on the format and criteria for the assessment.
1) There was wide-spread agreement on the analysis and proposals. Most respondents agreed that the programme is valuable and worth the effort to remodel it for continued viability.
2) Digital repository and UN eCollection: There were major questions arising around digital services and pricing.
3) Key points of the analysis that won general support:
- The primary value of the Depository system is in its specialist knowledge, helping local clients navigate a complex set of information and information tools
- The UNDLs are an effective and efficient conduit for UN knowledge to reach specialist research communities, and focus on that linkage might produce a better cost/benefit result than more diffuse programmes seeking to reach the general public.
These points are more critical for the future than new physical holdings of UN documents and publications. The focus of very limited resources in The Dag Hammarskjöld Library should therefore be on supporting the development - and sharing - of expertise.
4) There is no funding for physical distribution, therefore digital distribution is the only possible future basis for Depository Libraries and this is what we are working for now. For places with poor digital capability the solution is not endless subsidy of physical delivery (which is not in any case available as an option) - it is to seek targeted assistance to increase the digital capability. Dag Hammarskjöld Library cannot provide such assistance but it is seeking partners who might.
5) There is no general interest in actually holding UN digital content, therefore the Dag Hammarskjöld Library will need to look at other methods to ensure duplication outside the UN system.
6) Name change of the Programme: Since 54% preferred “Depository Library”, the current name will continue for the time being.
7) Star rating: Most libraries disagreed with the introduction of a star rating system for Depository. This suggestion will not be implemented.
8) Service standards:
The focus of the Depository Libraries system will be on developing knowledge amongst local staff so that they can exploit the digital resources available to their clients. Clients still need local, human, guidance to be aware and make the most of UN knowledge. The value of Depository librarians' expertise is indeed critical.
a. New depository librarians: One person must be designated by the library to serve as the primary contact with DHL. The new contacts will be interviewed by the DHL Coordinator, receive training and be assessed by a simple online test.
b. Training can be extended not just to the focal point but include other staff of the library that answer queries regarding UN information resources.
c. Continuing education:
i. One on one coaching via Webex, Skype or telephone.
ii. Webinars by DHL or by other UN departments on new UN information topics, products, etc.
iii. Workshops, events organised by DHL.
The implementation of the new Depository Programme will be phased gradually in the next 12 – 18 months. During this process, we will do our best to keep you informed of the progress.
We thank all of you for your interest and continued support.