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United Nations publications

The British Library has been a depository library for UN publications since that organization was first set up in 1946.

The United Nations has an extensive publishing programme. Its output ranges from the documentation it produces to service and record its activities, to mainstream books and journals covering a variety of topics. Its publications are of value not only to those involved in the organisation and its work, but also to researchers looking for information in the broader subject area of the social sciences, particularly in the field of comparative statistics.

The guide to United Nations publications (PDF format, 123KB) describes the material published by the United Nations and how to find it in the British Library's collections. Much United Nations information and documentation are available freely via the Internet. Some of this information can be explored through a visual representation of the UN system

The British Library receives three categories of material:

  • Documents (sometimes known as 'masthead' documents), which are not published for general sale and which are largely internal working documents supporting UN activities (such as agendas of meetings, the reports of committees etc)
  • Official Records, which record the proceedings of the main organs of the United Nations, such as the General Assembly and the Security Council
  • Sales Publications, which are for general sale and which comprise both books and periodicals, including such well-known titles as the United Nations treaty series and the Yearbook of the United Nations.

The British Library has a printed set of these publications (the depository set), a surrogate set (i.e., the printed set on microcard/microfiche), and also access to the online collection of full text documents provided by the United Nations via its subscription-based Optical Disk System (documents from 1993 onwards). All of these sets must be seen in the Social Sciences reading room on Floor 1. A small number of publications are available on open access, but the majority must be ordered up from their storage locations using grey paper request slips.

The Social Science reading room also provides access to a number of important UN resources in electronic format.

Further information

Social Sciences Reference Service
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7894
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7761

E-mail: Ask the Social Sciences Reference Team

PDF files

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