From print to digital, an exploration of the IIEP library

29 June 2023


IIEP-UNESCO Library in Paris

IIEP’s Library was established in 1963, the same year as the creation of the Institute. For 60 years, the IIEP library has been providing IIEP staff, trainees, and partners around the world, with access to its unique collection of resources on educational planning and management. As of 2023, the collection houses more than 35,000 documents, more than half of which are online or in electronic format. 

In addition, the IIEP Library manages several of IIEP’s thematic websites – or global public goods to provide ministries of education with up-to-date and relevant knowledge and resources on educational planning and management. It has also recently launched a monthly alert, CuratED, and is expanding its support to partner libraries from UNESCO Member States around the world. 

The collection houses 35,000 documents, more than half of which are online or in electronic format.

A brief history

By 1965, the library housed a collection of some 4,000 publications. In 1995, the library catalogue was digitized using UNESCO supported CDS-ISIS (Computerised Documentation Service/Integrated Set of Information Systems) software, which was developed to satisfy the needs expressed by many institutions to be able to streamline their information processing activities by using modern and relatively inexpensive technologies. Later, in 2004 the library catalogue was made available online. 

In early 2000, the library supported programme managers in creating thematic collections of resources for new research programmes, and henceforth key research programmes also included a knowledge-sharing component. This started with ethics and corruption and the impact of HIV and AIDS on education programmes, leading to the online library on the ETICO portal and the current UNESCO Health and Education Resource Centre. Other thematic online libraries followed such as Education for Resilience and the IIEP Learning Portal

Filling a gap: A one-stop-shop for plans and policies 

An analysis of national educational policies and plans and policies prepared by the IIEP Library as a background paper for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006 Literacy for Life highlighted that there was no one-stop shop for national education plans and policies and national development frameworks. Thus, was born Planipolis in 2007, a web portal featuring national education documents from UNESCO Member States and key development frameworks. 

A new look 

In 2018, along with the IIEP premises, the library was renovated with “UX design” to better respond to the varied needs and changing learning styles and research needs of its users.

Since then, the IIEP library has been expanding its digital reach while remaining close to its physical users.  

2023: Renewing IIEP’s depository libraries network (1989-2010)

A 1989 mission revealed that IIEP’s publications were almost completely unavailable in African documentation centres.  As part of IIEP’s objective of encouraging institutional development, IIEP invested considerable effort in setting up a network of depository libraries, which received free copies of IIEP’s publications. These included libraries within ministries of education, universities, partner agencies, and UNESCO offices. 

In 2010, over 100 libraries throughout the world were supplied with extensive collections of IIEP publications free of charge. They were located mainly in developing countries: half of them in Africa, around 30 in Asia and the Pacific, 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean and about 10 in Arab states.

The network stopped in 2010, after two decades of existence, partly for cost and effectiveness reasons, but also because of improvements in digital technology, which made publications widely available in electronic format, thus impacting reading habits.

In 2023, the IIEP Library will relaunch the network, with a selection of partner institutions, in a new format, focusing primarily on digital knowledge sharing and information support services.

Three facts about the IIEP library


IIEP librarian Corinne Bitoun tells us a few of the more unknown facts about the IIEP library. 

Q: What’s the oldest book on educational planning in the collection? 

Griffith (V. L.), Educational Planning, London, Oxford University Press, 1962, 118p. 

Q: Which book has been translated the most? And into which languages?

Written by former IIEP director Mark Bray, the most translated book is Confronting the show education system: what government policies for what private tutoring? First published in 2009, it has been translated into 20 languages. 

Q: What are a few of the most recent additions to the library?