United Nations information centers are the principal local sources of public information about the United Nations. The majority of people who visit United Nations information centres do so to use the library services.
The primary function of the reference library is to enable the general public, journalists, non-governmental organizations and students to obtain materials and information about and by the United Nations.
Libraries develop and maintain a comprehensive collection of print and online materials on UN-related issues. The following list provides examples of the types of materials that might be found in a UNIC reference library:
- Reference materials of the UN and its Specialized Agencies;
- UN official and mimeographed documents and publications such as: the Charter of the United Nations; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the UN yearbooks; the United Nations Today (formerly Basic Facts about the UN); the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
- Books, periodicals, maps and posters;
- DPI publications;
- Multi-media products (film, video, audio, and CD-ROM);
- Information materials on peacekeeping, disarmament, human rights, international law; economic and social affairs, health, development, trade, agriculture, environments, water, education, population, children, women and other themes on the UN agenda.
UNIC reference libraries may also provide their users with access to online information. The following list represents some of the online materials available for browsing:
- UNBISNET and other databases of the Dag Hammarskjold Library;
- the Official Documents System of the United Nations (ODS);
- United Nations Publications Catalogue;
- Research Guide to the UN Documentation.
Reference libraries are evolving from simple repositories of UN material into networks of knowledge-sharing communities to offer timely and relevant support to their patrons. The growing volume and complexity of information available in the Library and on the Web requires efficient and proactive knowledge management. UNICs’ Reference Assistants are enhancing their skills to have the most appropriate and relevant tools to meet the increasing demand for reliable information resources and to provide personalized service and guidance to library visitors.