Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa

Parliamentary Library

Library Life Ariticle: 02 Nov 12

Feature article by: Parliamentary Library

The New Zealand Parliament makes laws, holds the government to account and represents the people - and the Parliamentary Library exists to support these functions.  We do this by providing MPs and parliamentary staff with information services which are relevant, accurate, impartial, timely and confidential.

Parliaments around the world have library and research services, based on the principle that access to quality information is an essential element of the democratic process. 

The Parliamentary Librarian (Barbara McPhee) reports to the General Manager, Parliamentary Service and is part of the senior management team of the Service.

Image of Parliamentary Library











Parliamentary Library, reading room. Photo: Grant Sheehan

Our clients are defined in the Parliamentary Service Act 2000 and include:

  • MPs (including Ministers),

  • members’ staff (both in Wellington and around the country),

  • party research units,

  • staff of all five agencies in the parliamentary precinct and

  • other libraries and the public (for certain defined services).

We offer our clients seven main services:

  • we answer questions,

  • we help our clients keep up to date,

  • we provide self-help research tools,

  • we support and train clients to use information tools,

  • we provide information on Parliament to the public,

  • we manage internal information for the Parliamentary Service and

  • we manage Parliamentary Service content on Parliament’s website.

Requests number about 13,000 annually. Some are very quick but more than a third take hours or days of work. Much of our work is done to tight deadlines, with 2 hours being common and 10 minutes not uncommon. These requests include statistical, economic and legal analysis through to requests for a quotation or a date.

We provide current awareness services through our KIT service, which combines Keeping Up To Date, Induction and Training. We visit clients to discuss their subject interests and set up relevant alerting services for them. In addition to providing the service, KIT work has become a good marketing tool which promotes the use of library databases and provides valuable face-to-face client contact.

The self-help research tools we provide include subscription databases and tailored products that we write ourselves. These include Bills Digests, economic and statistical bulletins, electorate profiles, Overseas Parliamentary News and research papers. Our products provide impartial, concise reports and most are available on Parliament’s website

We offer media monitoring services via a mix of external alerting services and internal recording and distribution. Special provisions for MPs in the Copyright Act allow us to do this. 

Services to the public focus on responding to requests for information on all aspects of the New Zealand Parliament and ensuring Parliament’s website is as comprehensive and intuitive as possible.

We have around 65 staff in five teams. Many are part-timers. Most hold tertiary qualifications in librarianship or other relevant disciplines while analysts generally have advanced degrees in areas such as economics, statistics, law or the sciences.  The two Research Services teams are subject based. This allows staff to develop deeper subject expertise, with analysts and librarians complementing and learning from each other. 

The more generalist Research Client Services team (RCS) answers transactional requests from parliamentary clients, for example known items or news media searches, and requests from community clients.  

The RCS team also manages the receipt of all requests, staff and client training and the gathering of client insight.

The Research Resources team focuses on building and managing the library’s physical and electronic collections and the systems that provide access to them. They also do interloans, web publishing and manage the media monitoring service. Responsibility for artworks, exhibitions and display management for Parliament has recently been transferred to this team. Most of the Research Resources team also spend time in the RCS team, to ensure client contact and contribute their specialist knowledge. 

The Information Management team ensures the Parliamentary Service’s corporate, member and parliamentary information is effectively stored, organised and used by the Service. The team also manages Parliamentary Service content on Parliament’s website. 

Project work provides opportunities to work across the library and across the parliamentary precinct.  For example the library led the Parliamentary Service induction programme for new MPs following the 2011 General Election.

Being somewhat unique within New Zealand we maintain close ties with our colleagues internationally. We’re also committed to playing our part within the New Zealand library community and actively support the parliamentary libraries of Pacific Island nations. 

We have around 500,000 physical volumes and make extensive use of electronic resources.

Our collection of New Zealand parliamentary material is comprehensive and we’re strong in overseas parliamentary materials.

It’s important for MPs to keep up to date so we have newspapers from across the country. Our KIT current awareness service is supported by newspaper databases and media monitoring services available via the intranet.

We manage our collections to support the services we provide and to use our resources efficiently. Our collection growth has slowed as we move to more just-in-time access.

Working Environment
Our building was completed in 1899 in Victorian Gothic style and features striking woodcarving, stained glass and gilding.  After extensive strengthening and restoration in the 1990s, it provides a unique and beautiful environment, with modern working conditions for staff. Some staff work evening shifts when the House is sitting.

Current Developments
We’re improving our client insight and client relationship programme.

We’re implementing Customer Relationship Management software to improve our ability to log, assign and track client requests.

We’ve begun a detailed review of our collections, using relevance, accessibility and manageability as key criteria.

We’re improving the statistics we have to support our work - including request statistics, collection use, and financial planning and analysis.

Despite our rich history of 154 years, we are always aware of the need to be learning, adapting and innovating, and delivering services excellently.

Our work is stimulating and challenging – you never know when the work you do may be quoted in the House or in the news media. We get lots of appreciative feedback and it’s very satisfying to know that our work makes an important contribution to New Zealand’s democracy.

Feature article by: Parliamentary Library
Ph. +64 4 817 9647

Contact person: Katherine Close
Senior Advisor Public Engagement
Parliamentary Library

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