ITU News

Tells you what's happening in Telecommunications around the world

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The ITU Library and Archives Service
Guardians and disseminators of information
photo credit: ITU

Are you reading ITU News to keep up-to-date with what is happening in telecommunications in general and the Union in particular? What if you would like to look at the magazine’s forerunner, the Telecommunications Journal, dating back to 1934, or even to view the original Journal télégraphique, founded in 1869? You can do either of these things, and many more, by turning to the ITU Library and Archives Service.

In Montbrillant and in the cloud

The ITU Library is on the sixth floor of the ITU Montbrillant building in Geneva, and welcomes users from within and outside the Union. There are open stacks, reading places, workstations connected to the Internet, as well as a corner where you can read newspapers and drink coffee.

On the Montbrillant shelves you can find the paper collections: books, journals, magazines, periodicals, dictionaries, directories and encyclopedias, as well as copies of ITU Recommendations and of course the Union’s publications and official documents. Through the library you can also gain access to collections in the cloud of online information, such as e-journals, e-conference proceedings, e-books and other digital resources.

Even if you are not in Geneva, you can still visit the library through its website at, or access the catalogues of its holdings. The librarians will respond to requests for information from anywhere in the world.

Institutional knowledge

In the rapidly advancing world of telecommunications, information is being created every day. The activities of ITU, including conferences, workshops and studies, generate treaties, decisions, guidelines and standards. These publications are all available through the library. But along with the published documents, there is a flow of correspondence, internal memoranda and other records, sent or received by ITU, that help to explain what the Union does — why a particular course of action is pursued or put on hold or abandoned. The guardian of all this institutional knowledge is the Archives Service, whose mission is to ensure that the right records are available to the right people at the right time.

Because of the burgeoning activity in ITU, each day adds yet more records, whatever their form or medium. It is the responsibility of the Archives Service to manage this flood of information. There are two main challenges. The first is to organize the records so that they can be retrieved and used. The second is to determine how long records should be stored, which records need to be preserved indefinitely as historical archives, and which can be destroyed.

Since 2009, the Library and Archives Service has been involved in a Records and Information Management (RIM) project, with the objective of developing an efficient and transparent electronic system for the management of ITU official records. The goal is to provide for better and more timely decision- making by ITU. The benefits include a single and comprehensive electronic repository of documents, a reliable workflow for the treatment of documents, shared access to electronic documents, powerful search tools, and a file classification scheme for applying retention policies and security rules.

For the physical records, the Archives Service has a secure storage facility in the basement of the ITU Montbrillant building. In its long banks of shelves, this storage facility houses semi-active records and historic collections. The historic collections are available for consultation (on-site only) by anyone, including the general public. The Archives Service will, however, provide copies, on request.

photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
A specialized book scanner can digitize materials, including fragile historic documents

History and memory

A pioneering organization such as ITU has much to record. The Library and Archives Service holds conference and meeting documents, and circular and collective letters, in an unbroken series dating back to 1865. There is historic correspondence from the period 1869 to 1947, and a collection of world and regional maps of telecommunication networks from around 1875 to 1930. The service also holds the proceedings of ITU seminars and colloquia, regulatory publications, Recommendations, manuals and handbooks, photographs and posters.

To keep the memory of history alive, the Library and Archives Service has embarked on an ambitious programme to make unique ITU records widely available to ITU staff and all kinds of researchers. This activity, the Historical Documents Digitization Programme, has the dual objective of improving access to ITU information and ensuring the long-term preservation of historic documents. So far, more than 15 500 pages of conference documents have been scanned. These documents will be available on the new History of ITU portal.


The History of ITU — a new web portal

Founded in 1865, ITU is the world’s oldest international organization. On its website a new portal is being launched on “The History of ITU”, which offers links to the many documents, landmark dates and important figures that chart the Union’s history and its contribution to connecting the world. The portal will be open in February and can be accessed at


Customer services: research assistance and facilities

The Library and Archives Service responds to requests for information by e-mail (, telephone (+41 22 730 69 00), fax (+41 22 730 53 26) or in person in the Reading Room on the sixth floor of the Montbrillant building. Copies of documents can be made and — since 2008 — a specialized book scanner designed to prevent damage to bound and fragile documents can be used to digitize materials. The Reading Room provides photocopying facilities, Wifi and workstations with Internet access for research purposes.


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