Where can I get information on the history, policy, and mandate of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library?
Last Updated: May 21, 2019
The United Nations Library's legislative mandate was established by the General Assembly document PC/20:23 Dec.1945, (p.89) of in September 1949. “The Library's primary function is to enable the delegations, the Secretariat and other official groups of the Organization to obtain, with the greatest possible speed, convenience and economy, the library materials and information needed in the execution of their duties.
The United Nations Conference on International Organizations (UNCIO) was held from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, to draw the Charter of the United Nations. The US Library of Congress established a conference library to support researchers attending the conference; creating the historical collection of the founding of the United Nations.
In May 1945, the UN Preparatory Committee met in London to plan for the first session of the United Nations General Assembly and the establishment of the permanent secretariat. The Library in London collection was temporarily organized under the (UNCIO) documents structure. The collection in London consisted of a small stock of specialized documents including British Government white papers, texts of international agreements, documentation of various conferences and League of Nations publications. Special needs were met via inter-library loans from various libraries in London.
Collection and Funding
The League of Nations library laid a foundational structure of the United Nations library. In 1946, the League’s library was officially designated the official library UN library in Geneva inheriting most activities, functions and assets. A report of its committee to the General Assembly proposed the adoption of a resolution, which partly read “…The General Assembly requests the Secretary-General to make provision for taking over and maintaining in operation the Library and Archives”. In December 1946, the Leagues of Nations entered into an agreement with the United Nations to liquidate some of the assets including books and documents, which contributed to the initial library collection (A/RES/79(I).
In 1946, New York was selected as the interim headquarters of the United Nations. Temporary quarters were established at Hunters College, which also hosted the library and later moving to Lake Success and eventually to Manhattan.
As the collection grew, it moved to the “Manhattan Building” at East 42nd Street in 1950 and a dedicated library building was later constructed to meet the organization's growing demands for library services. The construction was made possible by a gift of $6.6 gift million from the Ford Foundation.
The Dag Hammarskjöld Library continued to develop its collection from the organizations operations and in 1950, it accepted a donation of 16,000 volumes from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.
In 1946, the library was officially listed as an important function within the conference and general services [department] with a special structure in the Secretariat and would include a library with research and reference facilities.
The United Nations library continued to serve as a reference source for public information to researchers and staff. Recognizing its role as more within public information the Library administration was moved to the office of public information in 1948. The reasons for this move being: “…in theory, the operation of a library is an information operation…. the department has proved it [the library] has the ability to render efficient library service.”
In 1950, the library’s functions were moved to the office of the Secretary General in and in 1954, to the office of conference services.
In January 1993, it was incorporated back to the Department of Public Information, under which it operates today.
Dedication to Dag Hammarskjöld
On 16 November 1961, the library was dedicated in honor of the late second Secretary-General; Dag Hammarskjöld who “-- took a close personal interest in every detail of the library's design, from its general outline to the texture of the fabric on a single chair. He looked at plans, drawings, models, samples of wood and marble and leathery he requested construction of model rooms to display alternate lighting fixtures and flooring materials; he expressed opinions and took final decisions on such questions as the curve of the roof, the colour of the draperies, the dimensions and design of a mural.”. In his opening speech during the dedication, the third Secretary General U-Thant quoted Dag Hammarskjöld’s last words to the library staff: “The last time Dag Hammarskjöld visited the old United Nations Headquarters Library he said to the staff in parting, "I hope that when we meet again I shall find you in more appropriate quarters."
Today, the library collection is managed in the same building, housing over 17 million print documents, books and maps. Computers are available for research and access to on-line databases and e-books. Behind the scene activities includes research, training, digitization, metadata creation and preservation.
 United Nations Preparatory Commission, Report of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations (PC/20:23 Dec.1945), P.89: http://undocs.org/PC/20
 United Nations General Assembly, Transfer of Certain Functions Activities and Assets of the League of Nations: Report of the league of Nations, Committee to the General Assembly, 12 Feb. 1946 (A/28:UNGOR, 1st sess. 1st pt. Annex 16 to 29 Plenary Meeting) p.600.
 Transfer of the Assets of the League of Nations GA RES 79(1) http://undocs.org/A/RES/79(I)
 Clearing Ground for United Nations Permanent Headquarters Building: http://www.unmultimedia.org/s/photo/detail/407/0407201.html (Photo # 407201)
 One Among Many Ideas for the U.N. Site- New York Times, April 22, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/realestate/25streets.html
 The United Nations Library: Gift of the Ford Foundation: http://undocs.org/A/4231
 United Nations Preparatory Commission, Report of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations (PC/20::23 Dec.1945), P.89
 Memorandum from Benjamin Cohen, updated (UNA: RG 18, A/193, box4) p.1—see also: (UNX.238 C678)
 Organization of the secretariat: department of public information: (the library services transferred to DPI) http://undocs.org/ST/SGB/257
 Library dedication and luncheon - S-0885-0003-63-00001- UNARMS: https://search.archives.un.org/uploads/r/united-nations-archives/c/1/6/c16854f94521a51f728055a155012aa9b17d6edd72f77665dd56a1c003be3afc/S-0885-0003-63-00001.pdf
Disclaimer: answers are prepared by library staff using resources available at the time of writing. This site may include links and references to third-party databases, websites, books and articles, this does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.