Part 3—Parliamentary Library

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Part 3—Parliamentary Library

Parliamentary Librarian's review


The Australian Parliamentary Library's services are established under the statutory office of the Parliamentary Librarian with the following functions:

  1. to provide high quality information, analysis and advice to Senators and Members of the House of Representatives in support of their parliamentary and representational roles; and
  2. to undertake such other responsibilities within the joint Department, consistent with the function set out in paragraph (a), as are conferred in writing on the Parliamentary Librarian by the Secretary of the joint Department with the approval of the Presiding Officers.

The Library's primary clients include Senators and Members and their staff, committee staff and the GovernorGeneral. These clients are entitled to use the full range of the Library's services. Service entitlements for all clients are outlined in the Parliamentary Library Statement of Client Services.

The Parliamentary Library is composed of the Parliamentary Librarian and the employees of the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) assisting the Parliamentary Librarian.

The Parliamentary Library Executive comprises Ms Roxanne Missingham, Parliamentary Librarian, Dr Jane Romeyn, Assistant Secretary, Research Branch (RB) and Ms Nola Adcock, Assistant Secretary, Information Access Branch (IAB).

Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library

An important governance arrangement for the Parliamentary Library is the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library (the Library Committee).

The Library Committee membership at 30 June 2009 was:

  • The Hon Dick Adams MP (Joint Chair)
  • Senator Russell Trood (Joint Chair)
  • Senator Guy Barnett
  • Senator Catryna Bilyk
  • Senator Doug Cameron
  • Senator Steve Fielding
  • Senator Steve Hutchins
  • Mr Russell Broadbent, MP
  • The Hon Mark Butler, MP
  • Ms Sharryn Jackson, MP
  • The Hon David Hawker, MP
  • Mrs Sophie Mirabella, MP
  • Mr Graham Perrett, MP

The terms of reference of the committee are to:

  1. consider and report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on any matters relating to the Parliamentary Library referred to it by the President or the Speaker;
  2. provide advice to the President and the Speaker on matters relating to the Parliamentary Library;
  3. provide advice to the President and the Speaker on an annual resource agreement between the Parliamentary Librarian and the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services; and
  4. receive advice and reports, including an annual report, directly from the Parliamentary Librarian on matters relating to the Parliamentary Library.

The Library Committee met on 18 September and 27 November 2008 and 19 March and 25 June 2009. The Committee discussed:

  1. funding for the Parliamentary Library including making submissions to the Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit inquiry into the effects of the ongoing efficiency dividend on smaller public sector agencies;
  2. relationship with the National Library of Australia;
  3. international trends identified from the International Federation of Library Associations conference and pre-conference of the Library and Research Services for Parliaments Section;
  4. Australian Parliamentary Fellowship;
  5. Bills Digests;
  6. Library planning: a 21st century Parliamentary Library for the Australian Parliament; and
  7. the Parliamentary Library Digital Collection policy (new policy), Collection Development Policy (revised policy) and Parliamentary Library Media Transcription Service (new policy), and approved these policies.

Resource Agreement

The Parliamentary Librarian and the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) developed the Resource Agreement between the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Parliamentary Librarian for the financial year 2009-2010 (the Agreement) as required under the Parliamentary Service Act 1999.

The Agreement identifies the resources provided to the Parliamentary Librarian by DPS to enable the provision of library services to clients. It also details the services provided by DPS to the Library. In addition, it notes the resources in terms of services provided by the Library to the rest of DPS.

The Agreement has been developed in light of the DPS budget, the relationship between the Library and the rest of DPS in delivering services to clients and the Department of Parliamentary Services Union Collective Agreement 2008-2011 (the DPS CA).

Planning framework

The Library adopted a new framework in 2009 to plan and deliver services (see Figure 2).

Figure 2—Parliamentary Library Planning Framework


Achievements 2008-09

Information analysis and advice

The Library assesses client needs through a survey and direct interviews with clients, once each Parliament. The next evaluation is scheduled for late in 2009. Throughout the life of each Parliament, the Library seeks ongoing input from the Library Committee, monitors and responds to feedback from clients, and invites Senators and Members to talk to Library staff about their information and research needs. During 2008-09, the Library began a series of presentations from individual Senators and Members. Mr Petro Georgiou MP talked to Library staff in June 2009. He noted

Parliamentarians now have the tools to do what the Library used to do 30 to 35 years ago & what we/I look to the Library for is focused work on a problem that I can't solve myself.

Information, analysis and advice was provided to Senators and Members of the 42nd Parliament to assist them in understanding many complex issues. Some of these issues developed in ways that had not been anticipated in the Parliamentary Library's Briefing Book: Key Issues for the 42nd Parliament released in December 2007, leading to the production of new publications and advice. Many enquiries to the Library this year focused on the economy, understanding the emerging trends and assessing policy directions to address the global financial crisis. The Library's analysis of the Commonwealth budget for 2009-10 noted that it was framed amid a sharply deteriorating world economy and the first serious downturn in Australian economic activity since the early 1990s.

In an environment of intense debate about the effectiveness of the Government's fiscal stimulus measures and policy options, Parliamentary Library research staff have provided considerable information and advice to assist Senators and Members to understand how countries around the world were responding to the changing situation, and what evidence based practice could be used to shape policy recommendations for Australia.

Six Bills to implement the Government's Nation Building and Jobs package were introduced on 4 February 2009. The rapid progress of the legislation through Parliament meant many questions for the Library, and prompted the release of a draft (rather than the usual final) Bills Digest to meet the urgent needs of Senators and Members.

Many other Government services were also under review during 2008-09, including health, education, and the environment. The legislative program reflected a Government in its second year seeking to make major changes to the framework which the previous longstanding Government had introduced.

Industrial legislation was also an area of significant policy change which resulted in many requests for advice. The Fair Work Bill 2008 was long, complex, and the subject of considerable negotiation and debate. The Bills Digest for this Bill comprised input from a number of Library staff and was the most heavily used Library digest online this year, with over 50,000 page views.

The need to respond to new issues raised in the Parliament, together with reassessments of the economic impact of international changes, required considerable flexibility. The rapidly changing policy environment was taken into account when recruiting new staff to vacant positions. In addition, it was necessary for existing staff to broaden and deepen their expertise and for new resources to be added to the Library Collection. The continued commitment to learning and development can be seen in the 302 days of training undertaken by Library staff during the year.

Climate change was also an area of significant parliamentary and community debate and discussion. The Library released an online publication on climate change in November 2008 to provide information on the science, economics, international relations and other policy issues that arise from consideration of climate change. The web site includes useful information sources and explains core concepts and developments necessary to understand and respond to the climate change debate. In addition to the overarching, regularly updated web site, Bills Digests were produced for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting and Water amendment bills.

Climate change: the case for action, Research paper 28 2008-09, notes that climate change is an issue that scientists first raised and seriously considered decades ago, and it has been hotly debated ever since. There has been a significant increase in requests on climate change issues across many research sections as there are scientific, environmental, economic, social, legal and international relations aspects to climate change. In order to provide balanced information, the Library has published web pages on Contrasting viewpoints and Scientific uncertainties outlining the arguments against climate change.

There was a significant increase in use of the Library's publications online (20.9%, 1.03 million additional uses) and online collections (47.5%) compared to the preceding year. During the year, the new ParlInfo Search system, which provides access to parliamentary information resources, including Parliamentary Library publications, was launched. New functionality was provided, including user generated alerts, increased data collections, relevance ranking for results and hyperlinking to full text resources and consequently there was a change in statistic collection. In addition there was a significant increase (19.2%) in the total number of individual client requests.

There were 280 publications produced. Of these, 182 were Bills Digests, an increase of 20% on the digests produced during 2007-08. The demands placed on the Library by the new Rudd Government's legislative program were similar to those experienced during the first full financial year after the election of the Howard Government. In that year (1997-98), 235 Bills Digests were published, the highest number since the commencement of the service in 1976.

The Parliamentary Handbook 31st edition (Handbook) for the 42nd Parliament was published in October 2008. The Handbook was originally developed following a request by the Library Committee in a report to the Parliament in 1915 for a Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook, giving a short political biography of all Members of both Houses since the initiation of Federation, with portraits in most cases, particulars of every election in the same period, with other information likely to be useful . New Handbooks are normally published soon after the inauguration of each new Parliament.

The Handbook is also available electronically on the parliamentary web site. The content is updated regularly and online access enables the Australian community to obtain information on their local Senators and Members and the work of the Parliament.

It reflects the diverse nature of the Parliament in 2008. The content has been shaped by feedback through the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library and the majority of the material covered in the volume is the same as that for the 41st Parliament. It includes the changes to the Shadow Cabinet announced in September 2008.

Thanks are due to the diligent and extremely timely work of Martin Lumb, Parliamentary Handbook editor, Politics and Public Administration section, who is responsible for the biographical information and for most of the remaining content of the Handbook.

The new version of Women Parliamentarians in Australia, 1921-2009: a register of women members of Commonwealth, State and Territory Parliaments in Australia originally compiled by Professor David Black was launched in March. The resource is of great interest to clients and researchers. It was launched in Women's History Month 2009 by the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women. It represents a major collaborative step as further updates will be provided by members of the Association of Parliamentary Libraries of Australasia. Janet Wilson was the tireless coordinator of the updated publication.

Overall, the nature of the issues before the 42nd Parliament required a greater collaboration across sections in the Library than ever before. The rapid development of issues associated with the Global Financial Crisis, the complexity of emerging issues and time pressure of progress of legislation through the Parliament posed significant challenges to Library services.

In this context, some activities were reviewed to ensure that available resources are focused on the Library's core business. For example, changes were made to the structure and delivery of the Study of Parliament Course. This course is presented to staff of parliamentary departments to improve their understanding of Australia's system of Government, and how Parliament and its committees operate. Previously the course was delivered over seven half-day sessions. During 2008-09, this was reduced to three half-day sessions. A shorter course focused on key aspects of the system has been beneficial to course organisers, presenters and participants.

Connecting clients with information

Mr Petro Georgiou MP noted in his presentation to Library staff in June 2009:

The issue of access to databases is one that is important because they are a fantastic tool for information on the full range of issues relevant to the Parliament. I do not see why first year university students have access to a larger range of databases than the Parliamentarian.

Increasing the resources directly available to Senators and Members is a high priority for the Library. Over half the Library's collection budget is spent on news and current issues online resources including streaming news, newspaper clippings and news services.

New resources acquired this year that are directly available online to Senators and Members included:

  1. JSTOR: Full text searchable archive of older issues of scholarly journals in the Arts and Sciences;
  2. Electronic book titles:
    • American Law Yearbooks 2005-2008
    • West's Encyclopedia of American Law
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • National Survey of State Laws
    • Major Acts of Congress
    • Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change;
  3. Climate change: financing global forests: the Eliasch Review. London: Stationery Office, 2008;
  4. Review of environmental economics and policy. Cary, N.C.: Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (U.S.), 2008- ;
  5. Jane's missiles and rockets. Alexandra, Va.: Jane's Information Group, 2008-;
  6. International trade and climate change: economic, legal and institutional perspectives. Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2008-;
  7. EcoOnline news;
  8. Global gender gap report (World Economic Forum); and
  9. Global climate change law guide.

Printed resources acquired included:

  1. Aroney, Nicholas, The constitution of a federal commonwealth: the making and meaning of the Australian constitution. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, c2009.
  2. Beecher, Eric (editor), The best Australian political writing, 2009. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 2009.
  3. Bannon, John, Supreme federalist: the political life of Sir John Downer. Kent Town, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2009.
  4. Bastian, Peter Edward, Andrew Fisher: an underestimated man. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2009.
  5. Beazley, Kim E., In the long run, manuscript.
  6. Hartcher, Peter, To the bitter end: the dramatic story of the fall of John Howard and the rise of Kevin Rudd. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2009.
  7. Pearson, Noel, Up from the mission: selected writings. Melbourne: Black Inc., 2009.
  8. Perrett, Graham, The twelfth fish. Carlton North, Vic.: Vulgar Press, 2008.
  9. Scott, Andrew, Politics, parties and issues in Australia: an introduction. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Education, c2009.
  10. Singleton, Gwynneth [et. al.], Australian political institutions. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Education, 2009.

A major feature of Library operations was continued collaboration with other libraries. The Library is a member of Electronic Resources Australia, a national consortia approach of libraries in all sectors, which has achieved cost effective purchasing for a range of products. The Library also participates in a purchasing consortium with government libraries.

The Library's print collection includes historical material. His Excellency the GovernorGeneral the Rt Hon Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro Ferguson, P.C., G.C.M.G presented a Bible to the Federal Parliament of Australia on 12 September 1919. The Bible was presented on behalf of the British and Foreign Bible Society Victoria, as a memento of the signing of the peace on the termination of the World Wide War of 1914-1919 . The Bible contains the signatures of all Presidents and Speakers of the Parliament of Australia. The current President signed the Bible in February 2009.

Figure 3—President of the Senate, Senator the Hon John Hogg with the signed Bible

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Supporting the Parliament's engagement with the community

The new ParlInfo—the system used to deliver access to parliamentary and Library information—was put into production in September 2008. The Australian community has free access to ParlInfo via the Parliament House web site and directly at It provides improvements in searching, alerts to enable clients to receive updates about new content, and improved reliability. Over 2.3 million searches were undertaken on ParlInfo Search this year.

In 2008-09 activity included the following:

  1. online training and support resources were revised and increased, with the new help sheets published in January and March 2009. The Library also produced a new tip sheet on finding newspaper clippings;
  2. all users continued to be asked for feedback with the Client Support 2020 help desk and the Library providing assistance, depending upon the questions or issue; and
  3. analysis of feedback was undertaken with changes being made to training, help and other information as required.

Because the new system offers different ways of searching, the Library developed a program to assist users. The aim of activity promoting best use of ParlInfo Search was to improve knowledge of the system and to identify areas where further system enhancements or training support were required.

Enhancements made during the year to the system included:

  1. PDFs for Hansard: each Hansard fragment can be downloaded as a PDF document with a cover sheet.
  2. Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS): EMMS can now be searched through the Radio and TV Programs sub-collection, as well as through the separate EMMS interface.
  3. Alerts: all Alerts in the old ParlInfo system were translated into ParlInfo Search.
  4. Parliamentary Handbook: the Parliamentary Handbook for the 42nd Parliament was made available including biographies which are continuously updated.
  5. Help: a new Help page was created to allow users to access an online training video as well as the search tips.

ParlInfo Search was heavily used by those on the Parliamentary Computing Network and members of the public. Analysis of use indicates that those on the Parliamentary Computing Network (internal users) have increasingly used the media and bills and legislation collections.

Figure 4—ParlInfo Search—Parliament House Use—2008-09[3]


Members of the public use ParlInfo Search to access a wide range of parliamentary information and documents. A very significant increase in use of committee material in June 2009 was due to high use of Hansard transcripts of the May Estimates sitting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration.

Figure 5—ParlInfo Search—Use by the public—2008-09 [4]


Australian Parliamentary Fellowship

The Library has, on behalf of the Parliament, managed the Australian Parliamentary Fellowship since 1970. The Fellowship provides support for 12 months to undertake a research project, prepare a monograph on the project, and undertake client work in the Library.

Dr Joel Bateman, the 2008 Fellow, undertook a project on the Shadow Cabinet. His monograph, In the Shadows: Shadow Cabinet in Australia: its roles, processes and purpose, was published in May 2009 and is available online at and in print. He found that the Australian Shadow Cabinet evolved from an informal process in the British Parliament. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Shadow Cabinet became a recognised entity within British politics.

Dr Bateman explored the role of the Shadow Cabinet, in particular developing policy and approving or amending submissions brought from the shadow ministers. The interaction of shadow ministers with the Shadow Cabinet and party policy committees, including the Policy Review Committee of the Labor opposition of the 41st Parliament, demonstrates the complexity of the role filled by the Shadow Cabinet.

Three central roles for the Shadow Cabinet were analysed:

  1. organising the opposition;
  2. providing an alternative government; and
  3. training and testing potential future ministers.

The 2009 Fellow, Dr Scott Brenton, is investigating contemporary bicameralism in Australia, focusing on the differences between Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. Dr Brenton is comparing the work of Senators with the work of Members of the House of Representatives, and examines the similarities and differences in the ways Senators and Members undertake their representational duties.

The project takes advantage of the fellow's position working within parliament. Dr Brenton has been able to interview several politicians from both chambers, including those who have served in both, and has also been able to undertake a survey of current and former members of parliament about their representative duties and their work in their electorates and their respective chambers.

Early findings indicate that, contrary to common perceptions, there are more similarities than differences, with both Senators and Members engaging in significant amounts of constituent work.

Dr Brenton has presented an early seminar, chaired by the Hon Dick Adams MP, outlining the direction of the project. He will also be presenting a paper based on his preliminary findings at the Australian Political Science Association conference in September 2009.

Parliamentary Library feedback

The Parliamentary Library is committed to constantly improving its service delivery. Feedback from clients, including compliments, complaints, suggestions and information requests about services, are vital to enable the Library to:

  1. improve our services and products;
  2. prevent problems from occurring in the future;
  3. ensure consistent service delivery; and
  4. communicate with clients about Library services.

Four complaints were received by the Library in 2008-09.

  1. The first was about the lack of timeliness in handling a client enquiry. The enquiry had a short turnaround time and the response exceeded the deadline by less than half an hour. The Library normally meets its deadlines however urgent.
  2. The second was about a Library Background Note on climate change negotiations. Some amendments are being made to the publication to expand those sections which may have contributed to ambiguity or misinterpretation.
  3. The third was about the need for the Library to publish a paper to balance the paper Climate change: the case for action. The information has now been published in two web publications— Contrasting viewpoints and Scientific uncertainties.
  4. The fourth resulted in a small correction to a Library publication on the Australian Democrats.

Assistance to parliamentary libraries in the region

The Parliamentary Library is committed to supporting parliamentary libraries in the region, particularly in Pacific countries and in emerging democracies. The Library provided support for visits organised by the Parliamentary Relations Office throughout 2008-09, including:

  • Mr Isaac Solomona, IT and Hansard Manager, the Cook Islands Parliament under the auspices of the CPA Education Trust Fund;
  • a study group from the Jordanian Parliament including members of the recently formed Jordanian Legislative Resource and Training Centre (LRTC) and a representative of the State University of New York/Jordan's Legislative Strengthening Program (LSP) focusing on library and research services including Mr. Amer Al Tal, Head of the Libraries Section (Parliament), Mrs. Sawsan Hijazin (LSP/LRTC), Mr. Sufian El Hassan, Director of the Research and Information (Parliament), Ms. Fathia Zoubi, Head of the Studies Section (Parliament), Mr. Mohammad Bani Hani, Head of the Research Section (Parliament), Mr. Samer Bani Melhem, Researcher at the Studies Section (Parliament), Dr. Mohammad Momani, LSP and Ms Patricia Tancred, Program Manager;
  • a study group from the Cambodian Parliament including HE Mr OunM Sarith, Secretary-General of the Senate, HE Mr Bun Vouthea, Director of Legislative Procedure, HE Mr Voeuk Santo, Director of the Library and HE Mr Cchim Sothkun, Director of Protocol and International Relations;
  • a study group from the Institute of Legislative Studies of the National Assembly of Vietnam including Mr. Dinh Xuan Thao, PhD., Member of National Assembly, General Director of the Institute for Legislative Studies; Mr. Tran Ngoc Duong, Prof., PhD., Senior expert of the National Assembly; Mr. Nguyen Dinh Huong, Prof., PhD., Senior expert of the National Assembly; Mr. Hoang Van Tu, PhD., Deputy Director, Institute for Legislative Studies; Mr. Le Thanh Van, PhD., Deputy Director, Department for Deputies Affairs, Office of the National Assembly; Ms. Bui Thi Mai, Deputy Director, Institute for Legislative Studies; Ms. Tran Tuyet Mai, Deputy Director, Department for Organisation and Personnel, Office of the National Assembly; Mr. Do Khac Tai, Deputy Director of Center for Information, Library and Researches, Office of the National Assembly; Mr. Vu Dai Phuong, Officer, Project Management Unit, Center for Information, Library and Researches, Office of the National Assembly; Mr. Bui Hai Thiem, Officer, Institute for Legislative Studies; and
  • a group from the Mongolian Parliament including Head of the Research, Analysis and Public Relations Centre Mrs Ts Norovdondog, Head of the Research, Analysis and Public Relations Centre, Mrs Ts Bolormaa, Officer of the Research, Analysis and Public Relations Centre and Mr Buyan-Munkh, Assistant to the Speaker of the Great Hura.

During 2008-09 the Library also provided direct support to Parliaments in the Pacific including:

  • Margaret Cazabon, Parliamentary Web Manager, provided significant assistance to two Pacific Parliaments. Ms Cazabon established the web site for the Parliament of Tonga and provided training to local staff to maintain it. She also developed the Solomon Islands new parliamentary web site and assisted local staff to develop their skills.
  • approximately $2,500 worth of subscriptions were provided to the Library of the Papua New Guinea Parliament.
  • approximately 35-40 titles of reference material from the collection were donated to Pacific libraries with the assistance of the Parliamentary Relations Office. These were mainly yearbooks, directories, International Who's Who and handbooks.

Other ways in which the Library fulfilled its commitment to parliamentary libraries in the region through the year included:

  • support for reference/research services by assisting libraries with relevant questions (during the year the Library answered a range of enquiries from libraries in the region);
  • support for the Inter Parliamentary Study Program 2009 (Senior Parliamentary Staff Study Program) hosted by the Parliamentary Relations Office, 15-26 February 2009, through presentations to participants; and
  • support for all parliamentary libraries and research services by providing free access to material on the Library's web site and Parliamentary Library publications such as the Parliamentary Handbook.

Strategic and Workforce Planning

The Senior Management Group of the Library, which comprises all Directors, Assistant Secretaries and the Parliamentary Librarian, met regularly to review and plan the Library's activities during the year.

Workforce planning continued to be a priority. Workforce analysis conducted in 2007 identified that the Library was vulnerable to a significant loss of expertise over the coming years because of its ageing workforce profile. Mature age workers, those 45 years and older, accounted for 71% of the Library's workforce. To manage the risk of actual and expected retirements, the Library has focused on recruiting quality staff, developing and retaining existing staff, knowledge transfer and knowledge management.

During 2008-09 the Library developed and implemented a mentoring program for staff below Parliamentary Service Level 6, using present and former experienced staff as mentors.

The number of ongoing staff leaving the Library declined. Ten ongoing staff left in 2008-09, a separation rate of 7.2%. This compares well with the separation rate of ongoing Library staff for the previous two years—11.6% of ongoing staff left the Library in 2007-08 and 17.6% in 2006-07. Greater use of part-time work in some areas, such as the Law and Bills Digest section, has helped to reduce turnover.

The main reasons for separation from the Library during 2008-09 were resignation (four staff, 40% of separations), retirement (three staff, 30% of separations) and voluntary redundancies (two staff, 20% of separations). One staff member's employment was terminated.

Parliamentary Library overview

The organisational structure of the Parliamentary Library is detailed in Figure 13 on page 52.

Office of the Parliamentary Librarian

The Office of the Parliamentary Librarian comprises the Parliamentary Librarian, an Executive Assistant and the Director, Client Relations. The Office provides administrative to the Parliamentary Librarian and support for the operations of the Library Committee.

The Director, Client Relations, provides orientation and training services for Senators, Members, their staff and other parliamentary staff. The Director, Client Relations also manages the Vital Issues Seminar series, a program for visitors and oversees the Library's editorial and promotional processes.

Research Branch

The Research Branch (RB) provides information, research and analytical services to Senators and Members and their staff, parliamentary committees and the parliamentary departments to support parliamentary or representational duties (services are not provided to constituents or for commercial purposes).

The range of services provided includes individually commissioned information, research and advisory services for clients and research publications.

Commissioned information and research services involve responses to individual requests for information, research and/or critical analysis on subjects, issues and policies of interest to parliamentarians.

Information Access Branch

The Information Access Branch (IAB) develops and manages access to print and electronic resources. These resources include books, serials, information databases, electronic publications developed both within the department and acquired externally, off-air recordings, transcripts and related materials. Access to services is also provided through the Parliamentary Library's Central Enquiry Point.

IAB staff select, acquire and provide access to monographs, serials, electronic publications and external databases through the Library's Catalogue. Access to radio and television news and current affairs programs is provided through the Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS). Material for the Library's information databases, available through ParlInfo Search, are selected and indexed.

IAB is responsible for publishing DPS material both in print and electronically on the parliamentary web site ( and on the parliamentary and DPS intranets. This includes Hansard and Library publications.

Report on performance

Introduction—Output 1 Library Services

Output 1 aims to provide an effective knowledge centre for the Parliament through the provision of information, analysis and advice. These services are provided through two sub-outputs:

  1. sub-output 1.1—Research services. These services include responding to requests from individual parliamentary clients for information and research, and the production of general distribution briefs and publications; and
  2. sub-output 1.2—Information access services. Information services are provided to the Library's clients by acquiring and providing access to information resources, through the selection, processing and indexing of material for library and media databases in ParlInfo, and by publishing print and electronic works.

Performance is assessed using indicators that cover quality, quantity and price. Indicators, performance results and relevant comments are shown against each of the sub outputs.

Sub-output 1.1—Research services

Sub-output 1.1—Research services to meet clients' needs. The services contributing to this sub-output are as follows:

  1. Commissioned information, research and advisory services—these are tailored responses prepared following requests from individual Senators and Members and their staff, and other parliamentary clients; and
  2. Research publications (Publications)—these are prepared where strong client demand is anticipated for briefing on specific policy issues. Publications include Bills Digests, Research Papers, Background Notes and internet Resource Guides. Publications are generally available to clients and to the public, through the internet.

During the year, Library induction and orientation sessions were held for clients. These continued to be successful in providing, through individual and small group sessions, a timely and detailed introduction to Library services.

Figure 6—Sub-output 1.1—Research services—quality indicators

Quality indicator





2007-08 2008-09

Client satisfaction with requests and general briefs and publications (GBPs)

High level of customer satisfaction (target: 90%)



Client service delivered to timeliness service standard (target: 90%)



Number of complaints from clients



Indicator—Client satisfaction with requests and general briefs and publications (GBPs)

Three key quality indicators measure satisfaction with requests for client services:

  1. an overall measure of client satisfaction with requests, publications and media services derived from the client survey;
  2. a timeliness measure introduced in 2006-07, which measures the responses to individual client requests completed to the originally agreed or renegotiated deadline; and
  3. the number of complaints made by clients.

Client satisfaction with the Library's service rose by 4%, based on the preliminary results from the DPS 2009 Customer Satisfaction Survey.

The timeliness target of 90% was exceeded. This is a very good result, given that 2008-09 was a year of high demand with very short timeframes. It reflects the importance Library staff place on meeting client needs, including in relation to deadlines.

There were four complaints from clients and all were investigated and followed through with the complainant. The feedback was very valuable as it enabled us to review and improve some publications. More detail is available at page 39.

In addition, feedback from individuals and organisations that were not clients was received by email and telephone. All the feedback was about Library publications, which are available to the public through the internet. In one case a minor modification was made to a publication to address the issue raised.

Figure 7—Sub-output 1.1—Research services—quantity indicators

Quantity indicator





2007-08 2008-09

Individual client requests

Percentage of primary clients (Senators' and Members' offices, including Ministers' offices) using the service (target: 98%)



Number of individual client requests (target: 19,000)



Self-service requests

Number of online uses of the Parliamentary Library's publications, including the Parliamentary Handbook and General Briefs and Publications, through ParlInfo and the internet (target: 4,500,000)



General briefs and publications

Number of general briefs and publications produced (target: 220)



Client training and seminars

Attendance at training courses and events (eg Vital Issues seminars) (target: 400 attendees).



Indicator—Client requests

During 2008-09, consistent with the previous two years, all of the Library's primary clients (Senators' and Members' offices, including Ministers' offices) used the client request service at least once—exceeding the target of 98%.

For the year, as noted above, there was a very significant increase in online usage of the Parliamentary Library's publications (approximately one million extra uses). There was also an increase in the total number of individual client requests, although the target for this measure (19,000) was not met. Part of the increase in online uses may be due to a change in the measuring system with the introduction of ParlInfo Search.

While in other areas there is a direct comparison with the results in the second year of a change of government, the automation of many Library services and the availability of an increasing range of online resources made a comparison of user requests difficult. In 1996-97, for example, there were 43,940 requests. However, many would have been for information resources such as newspaper clippings that are now available online.

Indicator—General briefs and publications

The number of publications produced was 21% higher than the previous year, with a commensurate increase in hours spent on publications (by around 6,000 hours). The increase in the number of publications is due, in part, to the increased number of Bills Digests published—from 152 in 2007-08 to 182 in 2008-09—reflecting the busy legislative program. However, publications other than digests also increased significantly, from 79 in 2007-08 to 98 in 2008-09 (an increase of 24%). The increase in responses to requests, Digests and other publications is a commendable result given that staff resources increased only marginally from 2007-08 to 2008-09.

The most heavily used Library publications through the internet are the Bills Digest RSS feed (2.5 million views, approximately 6% of total visits to the parliamentary web site), the publications RSS feed (approximately 0.32 million views), Parliamentary Library What's New page (0.25 million views) and the combined RSS feeds for Monthly statistical bulletin and Monthly statistical bulletin e-Data (0.18 million views).

Keeping up-to-date with Library publications is important for all Library clients. Announcements of new publications this year focused on online access through This sitting week and, for the first time, user managed alerts in ParlInfo Search. Differences were identified in the definition of a Library publication on the web site and in ParlInfo Search. Work has commenced to ensure a consistent approach is taken in the future.

Bills Digests

During 2008-09, 182 Bills Digests were published. Digests were produced on a number of significant and complex Bills that were before Parliament in this year, including the 11 Bills that made up the legislative package for the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

In common with 2006-07 and 2007-08, a large number of Bills were first debated relatively soon after introduction into Parliament—sometimes within 24 hours of introduction. This created substantial challenges for staff involved in the production of Digests. Bills in this category included the February 2009 package of six Bills partly funding the $42 billion National Building and Jobs Plan. In this case, an interim Digest covering all six Bills was published within 48 hours of the Bills' introduction. Separate, more comprehensive Digests were published very shortly thereafter and were available to clients while the Bills were still being debated in Parliament.

Digests were not produced for five of the Government Bills introduced in 2008-09 (compared to eight in 2007-08). A further 18 digests (compared to nine in 2007-08) were not completed in time for the start of parliamentary debate on the relevant Bill in the second Chamber. Where it was not possible to complete Digests in time for parliamentary debates, clients were generally provided with draft Digests or other briefing material on request.

During the year, a Bills Digest workshop was held for staff. A number of staffers from Senators' and Members' offices attended to give their views on Digests. The workshop was part of a process of continuous improvement of Digests and of training new staff who are potential Digest authors and editors.

Figure 8—Distribution of client service hours by service type


The time spent on publications shows a significant increase (63%) over the three-year period. The Parliamentary Handbook, the climate change web site, the Commonwealth Budget analysis and Bills Digests were the major areas of work. The Library Committee provided advice on publications planned for the year and will be encouraged to provide ongoing advice about priority topics for publication. Significant effort has gone into ensuring that publications are produced on issues where strong client demand is anticipated. Such publications not only assist clients directly, but provide Library staff with resources that enable client requests to be answered more quickly.

Indicator—Client training and seminars

Attendance at Parliamentary Library lectures, Vital Issues seminars and orientation training decreased this year (21.7%). The high level of attendance last year reflected the fact that there were a significant number of new Senators and Members and a consequent high attendance at orientation and information sessions. The following lectures and seminars were held:

  1. Epidemics in a changing world
    Speakers: Professor Stephen Prowse, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Biosecurity CRC for Emerging Infectious Disease and Professor Anne Kelso, Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza. Chair: The Hon Nicola Roxon MP;
  2. National Broadband Network
    Speakers: Henry Ergas, Chairman, Concept Economics, and Paul Fletcher, Principal, Fletchergroup Advisors. Chair: Senator Mary Jo Fisher;
  3. Representation in the Australian Parliament: two houses of representatives?
    Speaker: Scott Brenton, 2009 Australian Parliamentary Fellow. Chair: The Hon Dick Adams MP;
  4. Housing affordability
    Speaker: Honorary Associate Professor Judith Yates, University of Sydney. Chair: Senator Scott Ludlam;
  5. Carbon tax and emissions trading
    Speakers: Danny Price, Frontier Economics, Richard Denniss, Australian Institute and Dr Regina Betz, University of New South Wales. Chair: The Hon David Hawker MP;
  6. Indonesia's elections 2009: how the system works and what the parties stand for
    Speakers: Dr Stephen Sherlock, Australian National University and Dr Greg Fealy, Australian National University. Chair: Senator the Hon Alan Ferguson;
  7. Economic futures: two views
    Speakers: Associate Professor Stephen Keen, University of Western Sydney and Rory Robertson, Economist, Macquarie Bank. Chair: Sharryn Jackson MP;
  8. US Presidential election: what does it mean?
    Speaker: Associate Professor James Lengle, Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University, is the 2008-09 Fulbright Australian National University Distinguished Chair in American Political Science. Chair: Roxanne Missingham;
  9. Shadow Cabinet in Australia
    Speaker: Joel Bateman, 2008 Australian Parliamentary Fellow. Chair: Roxanne Missingham; and
  10. a panel of distinguished visiting specialists addressed the topic Asia-Pacific Regional cooperation.

Figure 9—Sub-output 1.1—Research services—price indicator

Price indicator





2007-08 2008-09

Cost of research services

Average cost per individual client request



Average cost per self-service client request



Total cost of suboutput 1.1



Sub-output 1.2—Information access services

The services contributing to this sub-output are as follows:

  1. the Library collection—development of the collection to meet users needs and provision of access through the catalogue and ParlInfo Search;
  2. online full-text content—news clippings, journal articles, political party documents, press releases and Library publications available through ParlInfo Search;
  3. media services—desktop access to television and radio news and current affairs programs broadcast in Canberra, provided to Senators and Members for their parliamentary duties;
  4. commercial databases—including online full-text journal and newspaper services available through the Library intranet and the Senators' and Members' Services Portal; and
  5. client services—including the Central Enquiry Point and self-help services.

As far as possible, usage rates of all of these services are monitored to ensure that they remain relevant and are of practical assistance to Senators and Members and their staff.

To help clients use these services effectively, the Library provides orientation and training courses as well as online assistance.

Indicator—Client satisfaction with information access services

Figure 10—Sub-output 1.2—Information access services—quality indicator

Quality indicator





2007-08 2008-09

Client satisfaction with information access services

High level of client satisfaction (target: 90%)



New titles (books and serials) added to the Library's catalogue within timeliness service standard (target: 90%).



New items added to the Library's Electronic Media Monitoring Service and the ParlInfo newspaper clippings database within timeliness service standard (target: 95%)



Number of complaints from clients



The timeliness service standard for new resources measures the percentage of titles added to the Library's collection within defined turnaround times. There are four priority targets:

  1. critically urgent—catalogued within one hour;
  2. urgent—catalogued within one day;
  3. reference books—catalogued within two days; and
  4. requested by clients—catalogued within one week.

The result of 82% was less than the target and 2007-08 performance. It was a result of considerable staff absences which were unanticipated. All critically urgent, urgent and requested by clients titles were turned around within the service level standard.

Increasing the number of electronic resources available to clients continued to be a priority. 18,480 electronic monographs and 19,490 electronic serials are now available to clients.

Figure 11—Sub-output 1.2—Information access services—quantity indicator

Quantity indicator





2007-08 2008-09

Material added to Library databases

Number of items added to the Library's Electronic Media Monitoring Service and to ParlInfo databases (target: 170,000)



Material added to Library collection

Number of new titles (books and serials) added to the Library's catalogue (target: 4,600).



Percentage of titles (books and serials) in Library's collection available to clients online in full text (target: 25%).[10]



Use of the Library collection and databases

Use of the collections and databases, including loans from the collection, radio and television programs from the Electronic Media Monitoring Service, and from ParlInfo databases (target: 2,500,000 searches)



Indicator—Material added to Library databases

Clients of the Library require access to accurate and up-to-date information. Because electronic material can be made accessible to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, greater emphasis is being placed on collecting material in an electronic format and making it accessible through easy-to-use interfaces such as the Senators' and Members' Services Portal.

The number of newspaper clippings added to the database was slightly less than in the previous year. One factor that contributed to this was that the previous year was an election year which generally results in greater press coverage relevant to the Parliament.

Indicator—Material added to Library collection

The Library's physical collection of monographs and journals is constantly updated in accordance with the Library's Collection Development Policy. The Library aims to keep the collection at around 115,000 monograph titles. It has around 8,000 individual print and electronic journal titles, not including the large aggregated subscription services. New material is acquired, and outdated, damaged or redundant material is discarded regularly. Materials on Australian politics, legislation and constitutional matters are retained permanently.

Indicator—Use of the Library's collection and databases
Increased use of Library databases

Clients can access the Library's databases through ParlInfo Search. Many external databases are available through the Library's intranet and the Senators' and Members' Services Portal.

The continuing increased use of Library databases in ParlInfo by Senators and Members and their staff indicates that the services are valuable and relevant to their needs. Usage reflects the growing success of the Library's efforts to introduce and promote self-help services at the desktop.

The significant increase in the use of these resources in 2008-09 of approximately 1.2 million, (or 47.5%), is a major development in what has been a long-term pattern of significant increasing use. Use of the electronic collections is highest when Parliament is sitting. This has been a consistent trend for the last three years.

Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS)

With reviews generated with the introduction of the new ParlInfo, workflows have been changed with the aim of removing duplication of records. In particular, transcripts which were duplicated in EMMS and the Library's database on ParlInfo—two separate systems with two sets of workflows—were rationalised.

Figure 12—Sub-output 1.2—Information access services—price indicators

Price indicator





2007-08 2008-09

Cost of information access services

Average cost per item added to the Library's collection



Average cost per item added to the Library's databases



Average cost per use of the Library's databases and collection



Total cost of suboutput 1.2



Parliamentary Library Financial Report













Total Salaries



Research Branch



Information Access Branch



Office of the Parliamentary Librarian



Other employee expenses



Staff training, travel and related expenses



Collection (information resources)



Collection (purchase of monographs and reference collection using depreciation funds)[11]



Other expenses



Asset maintenance (software licences/maintenance)



Total expenditure (including expenditure from depreciation funds)



Total expenditure (excluding expenditure from depreciation funds)






Research Branch



Information Access Branch



Office of the Parliamentary Librarian






Figure 13—Parliamentary Library Organisation Chart

Librart Org Chart

[3]. Figures for September 2008 are not available.

[4]. Figures for September 2008 are not available.

[5]. A Library assessment is undertaken once each Parliament. This figure is from the 2006-07 assessment.

[6]. DPS 2009 Customer Satisfaction Survey, satisfaction with Library services.

[7]. A Library assessment is undertaken once each Parliament. This figure is from the 2006-07 assessment.

[8]. DPS 2009 Customer Satisfaction Survey, satisfaction with Library services

[9]. The 2007-08 indicator was New resources added to the Library's collection within timeliness service standard (target: 85%) .

[10]. The 2007-08 target was 20%.

[11]. Not included in the operational budget; represents funding from depreciation of the collection.