Documents vs. Publications

International governmental organizations such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) produce various categories of information products. In general they fall into three genres: publications; documentation; and archival material. Because content associated with each of these genres is created to serve different purposes and audiences—and are associated with different bibliographic tools and access mechanisms—the GATT Digital Library allows for separate browse and search functions within each genre.

The publication genre refers to information products created primarily for—and marketed or distributed to— audiences outside of the organization. At present the smallest component of the GATT Digital Library falls into the publication category: 208 volumes of the legal instruments series issued under the title Certified Protocols.

The documentation genre refers to information products created and systematically reproduced in order to support the internal deliberative and research activities of the organization. Since the audience is almost exclusively internal, documents are often classified as confidential and assigned limited distribution. The GATT Digital Library includes an extensive collection of documents whose classification have been derestricted by the GATT or WTO and are now available to the public.

The archival genre includes such diverse primary source materials as internal memoranda, division reports, draft recommendations and correspondence between members and secretariat staff on various topics. Such materials are rarely reproduced for internal distribution after their creation by the author. Although the GATT Digital Library project has captured significant stores of this content, access is at present restricted according to World Trade Organization (WTO) policies and procedures.

For four treatments of the information products of intergovernmental organizations that further elaborate these essential distinctions, see:

Robert W. Schaaf, "Information Policies of International Organizations," Government Publications Review 17:1 (Jan/Feb 1990):49-61.

J.J. Cherns, "Intergovernmental Organizations as Publishers: A Critical Look" in International Documents for the 80s: Their Role and Use; Proceedings of the 2nd World Symposium on International Documents, Brussels, 1980. Theodore Dimitrov ed. (Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, 1982), pp.22-31.

Peter I Hajnal, Directory of United Nations Documentary and Archival Sources. Reports and Papers 1991-1 / Academic Council on the United Nations System, pp.xiii-xivl.

Alison Hitchens, "A Call for IGO Policies on Public Access to Information," Government Information Quarterly 14:2 (1997): 143-154.