I am pleased to present the Parliamentary Library’s annual report for 2017–18.
The Library’s role is to provide high-quality information, analysis
and advice to senators and members in support of their parliamentary and
representational roles, and to do so in a timely, impartial and confidential
manner whilst maintaining the highest standards of scholarship and integrity.
The Library provides ‘traditional’ library services such as books, journals and
newspapers, as well as a comprehensive range of value-added
services, including online media monitoring, specialist databases, and
statistical and mapping services. The Parliamentary Library is also one of
Australia’s major research libraries, providing senators and members tailored
and confidential research briefs and general distributions on current
legislation and on a wide range of other issues of interest to the Parliament.
In 2017–18, the Library offered significant support to the Parliament
across a broad range of policy areas, and performed strongly against all its key
tasks and performance measures (as set out in the Library Resource Agreement).
Our services were once again used by every parliamentarian, be it for
confidential research briefs, mapping, training or orientation sessions, media
services, or use of collection items. This is particularly notable given 13 new
senators and members took their seats in the Parliament in 2017–18.
Orientations and support for new parliamentarians and their staff remained a
focus for the Library throughout the year.
Over the course of the year, the Library answered 11,656 individual requests for
information and analysis. This was less than our target of 13,000. However,
hours spent responding to parliamentarians’ enquiries again increased by five
per cent compared to 2016–17 (44,503 compared to 42,178). The
Library issued nearly 300 research publications, including more than 130 Bills
Digests. There were 7.2 million online uses of the Library’s publications
through ParlInfo Search and the internet.
The Library met or exceeded all its key performance measures for the timeliness
of its services.
More than 800 clients attended training and orientation sessions and we continued
our program of outreach to electorate offices, visiting 37 during the year.
More than 6,300 new books and serials were added to the Library’s catalogue and
175,249 items were added to Library databases. The Library also undertook a
major collection review to ensure the collection remains accessible and relevant
to the needs of the Parliament, and that our acquisitions represent best value
for money. This review included analysis of all major databases and
e-serials, examining usage and identifying potential overlap or
duplication in aggregated collections.
Throughout the year, the Library continued to prioritise the digital delivery of
services and products.
The percentage of the collection available in digital form increased to more than 45.5
per cent (as at 30 June 2018). There were 3.95 million uses of the Library’s
online collections and databases. In addition to our business as usual work, two
longstanding projects also came to fruition late in the financial year: ParlMap,
our new self-service mapping tool, and Wadsworth, the new database
system for the Parliamentary Handbook. Work on our various digitisation
projects also continued, and an important milestone was reached in regard to
digitisation of the Parliamentary Papers Series.
An independent review of the Library’s key performance indicators was also
undertaken to ensure their effectiveness and robustness in measuring how we meet
our strategic goals and objectives.
The Library continued to support the Parliament’s broader engagement with the
Australian community and with the region. Library staff provided support to the
Parliament of the Solomon Islands and the Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia,
as well as hosting staff from the parliaments of Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. In
addition, 2018 saw the launch by the Presiding Officers of the First Eight, a
collaborative project looking at Australia’s early Prime Ministers.
Evaluation of the Parliamentary Library’s Services
The Library commissions an independent evaluation of its services once in every
Parliament to measure performance and to gain insights into the use of its
services and parliamentarians’ changing information needs. The evaluation for
the 45th Parliament was conducted in the first half of the 2017–18
financial year. The findings were extremely positive, particularly among
parliamentarians and their staff, where satisfaction rates remained high (94 per
cent), and the likelihood of recommending the Library higher again (99 per
cent). Pleasingly, since the last evaluation in 2015, the percentage who were
extremely satisfied increased by five per cent (to 50 per cent), and the number
dissatisfied decreased to only one per cent (compared to five per cent in 2015).
Most respondents considered Library staff to be hard-working,
professional and friendly and the services to be of a high quality. Clients
valued the Library’s independence and its capacity to provide analysis; and
regarded the Library very highly as a source of trusted information. It was
found to perform strongly on issues of balance, impartiality and confidentiality.
There was also a significant and welcome increase in the number of respondents
who thought the Library’s performance had improved. Reasons given for this
included the time taken to understand individual requests, innovation, promotion
of Library services, and building of relationships. Two clear areas for
improvement were identified: a perceived variability in the quality of research
services by some clients, and issues of timeliness, the latter particularly in
relation to Bills Digests. Perceptions of variability of quality and timeliness
are not simple to address—noting, for example, that the Library met or exceeded
all its timeliness KPIs for the year. However, the evaluation also points to the
importance of improved communication with clients, including around the tracking
of research requests. Certainly the message is clear: clients expect us to
deliver to a high standard all the time; any lapse can lower trust and
perceptions of the overall quality of our service. Strategies to address the
evaluation’s recommendations for enhanced outreach and communication with
clients, timeliness and consistency in quality will be a focus for the coming year.
Building our capacities
A key priority for the Library is developing and maintaining the professional
skills and knowledge of the Library’s staff. This remains an ongoing challenge
as the Library’s age profile means that many of our most experienced staff have
reached, or will soon reach, retirement age. The Library has continued to
recruit skilled staff to fill these vacancies. We have often also been fortunate
to be able to draw upon the skills of former staff as Library Associates or on
intermittent employment contracts.
Library researchers and information professionals work to ensure they are up to
date on public policy issues and on industry offerings. In addition to
participating in DPS corporate training, Library staff participated in a series
of in-house seminars, peer led training, and external professional
development. The Library has implemented a program of targeted learning and
development for staff to build both their parliamentary knowledge and workplace
skills. This helps us build institutional continuity while still enjoying the
benefits of renewal. A particular focus over the past year has been training to
help ensure Library staff understand the legislative and committee business
processes of parliament and thereby deliver products that are best ‘fit for
purpose’. A new induction program was also implemented.
Work also continued to build stronger relationships with universities and individual academics.
Finally, the structure of Library Collections and Databases branch was reviewed,
in close consultation with staff, to enhance its capacity for innovation in the
delivery of digital content.
The year ahead
Addressing the recommendations of the client evaluation of Library services will
be a focus in the coming year. In particular, the Library will continue to work
to build its skills base and to improve the quality and timeliness of its work
through staff training and by reviewing and improving quality assurance mechanisms.
Library Collections and Databases’ new branch structure will take effect from
The Library will continue to pursue opportunities to work collaboratively with
other researchers and organisations, including the Australia and New Zealand
Association of Clerks-at-the-Table.
Work will also begin in anticipation of a general or
The Library will continue its program of visits to
Staffing and budgetary issues will continue to be closely managed so that
services are delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible.
The Library will continue to report regularly to the Presiding Officers and to
the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library (JSCPL).
I would like to thank the Presiding Officers and the JSCPL for their support and
guidance throughout the year. My thanks go also to the Secretary DPS and to
colleagues across DPS and in the other parliamentary departments, and in state
and territory parliamentary libraries.
And, finally, I would like to thank all the staff of the Parliamentary Library
for their hard work, professionalism and enthusiasm. The Library’s achievements
arise from their collective efforts, and it is a privilege to work with them.