Missouri State University has been part of the United Nations depository library program since 2000. Currently, there are 355 depository libraries in 136 countries and territories around the globe. MSU is the only U.N. depository in the state of Missouri.
The intended purpose of the depository system is for documents of the U.N. to be easily accessed by the general public free of charge. The depository system was put in place just one year after the formation of the U.N. in 1945.
Bill Edgar, governmental information librarian at Meyer Library, said having the depository as a resource on campus is in line with Missouri State’s public affairs mission.
“It is important for us to have this because of the status of the U.N. as the preeminent intergovernmental organization in the world,” Edgar said. “It’s a place where a lot of humanitarian work is done. It’s the place where nations can come together and talk rather than fight.”
Edgar said most of the work published by the U.N. are primary sources obtained by data gathering.
“It’s original data,” Edgar said. “They’ve gone out and found data in the world and are presenting it. It’s not filtered.”
The data gathered by the U.N. is used by the general assembly to formulate policies and make decisions. It can also be used by the general public.
“There’s this idea of openness and transparency,” Edgar said. “They wanted people to use it to learn about the world, make decisions about the world.”
The depository is particularly useful to the Model United Nations club at MSU. The physical library is located in the basement of Meyers Library
Ashley Leinweber, associate professor of political science and advisor to the Model U.N., helps the club learn the proceedings of a model U.N. simulation.
“Students are randomly assigned countries,” Leinweber said. “They don’t have any expertise or background knowledge. We get them to role-play what that country would likely do about a particular topic.”
Each year, Model U.N. travels to St. Louis to compete in the Midwest Model United Nations Conference.
At this year’s conference, which takes place Feb. 20-23, the MSU team will be acting as Saudi Arabia.
In order to be successful at the conference, students must understand various topics and international politics as it pertains to their given country.
Edgar said the club uses information from the U.N. to understand the country they choose, gather data they need about that country and navigate global political happenings.
Katherine Cooper, senior political science major, is the president of Model U.N.. She said they use the depository for researching topics related to the state they represent during their conferences.
“(It’s used) for simulations, transcripts of committee sessions, resolutions, working documents and treaties are especially helpful in drawing conclusions on foreign policies we know little or nothing about, as well as understanding diplomatic culture of different regions of the world,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that participating in Model U.N. helps students gain public speaking, debate, negotiation and networking skills within the field.
“Model U.N. is also very much an outlet for political discourse in an intelligent and global perspective, which is refreshing for some in this turbulent Facebook debate culture we’re living in,” Cooper said.
The depository’s information is available to all — students, faculty and members of the community. Edgar said the information is applicable in a variety of career fields.
“Economics, business, sociology, political science, history — if you are a student in any of those areas, what we have at the U.N. could be helpful,” Edgar said. “Humanities, some of the social sciences, potentially some of the natural sciences because the U.N. has evolved over the years to being the primary way the world coordinates itself in a lot of ways.”
In the past 10 years, the U.N. has been working toward digitizing their documents to make them more available to the general public. This leaves depositories questioning what value they add to an institution.
“If the material becomes primarily digital, then anywhere in the world, you can get to it,” Edgar said. “So, what’s the value of the depository? That’s something they’re going to have to sort out.”
The depository still has retrospective physical material but new material is primarily received online.
“I think it adds some prestige to Missouri State and to our library,” Leinweber said.
There are shelves of U.N. material in the library that Leinweber calls “fascinating.”
“Some great historical stuff, there’s always the U.N. yearbook which comes out,” Leinweber said. “You can pick any year and open it up and see every diplomatic crisis, every conflict, every law or treaty, all of this stuff from that year from these yearbooks.”