INTERVIEW WITH THE CHIEF OF THE DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD LIBRARY
As thorough a search engine as this is, there are still a few things that seem to be missing. I asked some questions of Thanos Giannakopoulos, the chief of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at the U.N.
As I understand it, the new digital library is an aggregation of the UNBISnet databases. What triggered this initiative?
The need to modernize the systems/platforms supporting the management and preservation of U.N. information (documents, open access publications, maps, etc.); existing systems no longer supported certain functions, and their maintenance cost more than the benefit to our global clientele.
Some records have PDFs while others do not. Do you have a sense of what percentage of records have resources attached to them or full-text available?
Official document and open access publications have PDFs attached, i.e., about 67% of content. Votes and speeches records do not; these are considered as data.
It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into making the search results available in as many formats as possible, including MARCXML. Was that in lieu of offering a separate API?
These are considered standard formats to allow data exchange between libraries and have been requested by depository libraries so that they can import metadata into their own catalogues and discovery systems. We will of course have an API as well.
Are there any qualifiers to create an account for the new service? I tried the Create Account link, and it took me to an email address.
The Create Account link will soon be linking to an online form. To mitigate any possible issues at the initial launch of the platform, we thought of turning this on in a semi-automatic fashion— one of our staff monitors the account creation and the platform behaviour. In the first enhancement to be rolled out, this will be changed to fully automatic. This is a service open to the world; anyone can register/create an account. Accounts are offered on a 6- or 12-month basis, and users will be notified about renewal.
While the U.N. has been devoting resources to put more information online, governing bodies around the world have been removing information from their web services. (The removal of FDA data by the United States is an excellent example.) Do you feel that the United Nations, specifically the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, has a mandate to preserve and make that information available?
The United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library and the United Nations Library in Geneva are mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to collect, maintain, and disseminate the “complete sets of the documents and publications of the League of Nations, the United Nations and the specialized agencies” (A/C.5/298 and ST/AI/189/Add.12/Rev.1). Given the increasing output of the United Nations in digital format, the United Nations Digital Library platform was launched to cater to these needs in the 21st century. The platform is currently scheduled for 40 enhancements, which we will roll out regularly to accommodate, as much as possible, the ever-changing field of online content access and preservation.
Though the UNDL is already quite extensive and has a lot to offer, you definitely get the idea that there is much more to come: An API, a more automated way to create accounts, and 40 scheduled enhancements are in the works. –TC