Part 5

Parliamentary Library

Parliamentary Library

Parliamentary Librarian’s Review

Services to senators, members and parliamentary committees

The Parliamentary Library contributes to the work of the Australian parliament by providing high quality information, analysis and advice to senators, members of the House of Representatives and to parliamentary committees.

The Library takes pride in offering its clients a comprehensive range of library and research services, and in providing information and analysis that is comprehensive, authoritative and impartial. The Library’s research and information specialists align their work with the parliamentary agenda and tailor services to parliamentarians’ specific needs, including through access to curated collections and commissioned research.

In 2015–16, the Library’s services were used by every senator and member, whether it be for a research report or thematic map, a personal briefing or training session, access to our news services, or use of collection items.

In 2015–16, senators and members received support from the Parliamentary Library through over 13,000 completed requests for individually commissioned information and analysis—an unusually high number for an election year when the number of client requests typically drops as committees finalise inquiries and parliamentarians turn their focus elsewhere.

The Library’s research output comprises both general distribution publications and individualised and confidential client research. Last financial year, the Library issued 267 new or refreshed research publications, including 117 Bills Digests; and there were more than 6.7 million online uses of the Library’s publications through ParlInfo Search and the internet. Work also commenced on the new edition of the Parliamentary Handbook.

Some 730 clients attended library lectures and seminars and training and orientation sessions; and over 7,300 new books and serials were added to the Library’s catalogue.

Four new senators and two new members took their seats in the Parliament. Assisting them to settle into their new roles was a priority for Library staff. The Library also assembled a new cohort of contact officers ahead of the 2 July general election. Forty-seven enthusiastic volunteers from across the Library stand ready to respond with confidence and alacrity to the many and varied questions they might receive.

A focus of our work over the past year has been responding to the findings of the 2015 evaluation of the Library’s services. Accordingly, the Library introduced measures to help build our skills base and to address the perceived variability in the quality, timeliness and transparency of research services through enhanced training, mentoring and quality assurance. The training and orientation program for Library clients was expanded to include visits to electorate offices, an initiative which will continue in the coming year. Improving services to parliamentary committee secretariats has also been a priority, with Library staff engaging pro-actively with the committees of both Houses to better support their work. Recent feedback from committee secretaries in response to these initiatives has been positive.

Pleasingly, the Library’s staff and services were both trusted and highly valued, as was evident from unsolicited client feedback and from the regularity with which the Library was cited by senators and members in parliamentary debates or press releases or, in the case of published material, by media and other commentators, including fact checking websites.

Digital delivery

Throughout 2015–16, the Library continued to focus on digital delivery of services and products. The percentage of the collection available in digital form increased to over 41.2 per cent (as at 30 June 2016). In the reporting period, there were 4.44 million uses of the Library’s online collections and databases.

Significant progress was made in the Library’s preservation digitisation, with two million pages of the archive of information files and over 3,700 hours of electronic media archives digitised. The Monthly Statistical Bulletin, Federal legislation, 2011 Census profiles, Electorate Rankings (2013 Boundaries) and the Electoral Pendulum were also added to the suite of products available via the Web@Work browser, able to be accessed by clients on their mobile devices without being connected to the Parliamentary Computing Network.

Progress in implementing the new online mapping service and new digital platform for the Parliamentary Handbook was slower than anticipated, but both are now on track for delivery in the new financial year.


As the Parliament intended, the Resource Agreement helps maintain the Parliamentary Library’s independence by providing annual budget surety. The 2015–16 Resource Agreement provided stable operational funding to support the Library’s operations. Increases in capital funding enabled the Library to accelerate slightly its program of digitisation of vulnerable paper and pre-digital media archives.

By 30 June 2016, the Library’s FTE had increased to 135.7 from a low of 118.2 on 30 June 2014.

Outlook for 2016–17

The 45th Parliament will meet for the first time on 30 August 2016.

Accordingly, the immediate priority for the new financial year will be to introduce the Library’s services to a new cohort of senators and members to assist them as they enter into their parliamentary roles. Associated with this will be preparation and publication of the Briefing Book, a volume of short, strategic level snapshots of some of the big issues affecting Australia that are expected to figure in the early months of the new Parliament.

A new edition of the Parliamentary Handbook will also be published in 2017.

The Library will continue its new program of visits to electorate offices to help guide them through the diverse range of Library products and services and to demonstrate how the Library can add value and support them in their daily work.

A priority for the year will be continuing to implement the recommendations of the client service evaluation. The Library will also continue to innovate to increase digital access and services. The new digital preservation framework and policy will underpin this work, subject, of course, to its endorsement by the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library.

The Library will complete its workforce plan and staff development plan to assist the recruitment and retention of staff with expertise and commitment to excellence in client service, and to improve succession planning and knowledge transfer.

In regards to budgetary issues, the Library will seek to facilitate early finalisation of the Library’s Resource Agreement for 2016–17. The budget will continue to be closely managed to ensure resources are deployed to greatest effect.

The Library will continue to report regularly to the Presiding Officers and to the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library on these matters.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Presiding Officers and the members of the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library for their support and guidance throughout the year. My thanks go also to the Secretary of DPS and my colleagues in DPS and in the other parliamentary departments. Finally, I wish to thank all the staff of the Parliamentary Library for their professionalism and dedication.

Dianne Heriot
Parliamentary Librarian


The Library on a page

The Library in numbers: 2015–16

  • 13,113 individual client requests completed
  • 267 research publications released, including 117 Bills Digests
  • 729 clients attended training and seminars
  • 7,318 new books and serial titles added to the catalogue
  • 41.2 per cent of titles available online in full text
  • 177,644 items added to Library databases


To provide high quality, impartial, timely and confidential information, analysis and advice to senators and members of the House of Representatives in support of their parliamentary and representational roles.


  • senators, members of the House of Representatives and their staff
  • parliamentary committees
  • the Governor-General
  • staff of parliamentary departments.


Presiding Officers—jointly vested with responsibility for the administration of the Department of Parliamentary Services, including the Parliamentary Library.

Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library—comprises senators and members of the House of Representatives, provides advice to the President and Speaker on matters relating to the Library.

Parliamentary Librarian—a statutory officer responsible for the control and management of the Library, reporting directly to the Presiding Officers and the Library Committee.


  • Parliamentary Librarian
    • Office of the Parliamentary Librarian
  • Research Branch
  • Library Collections and Databases Branch.

Budget 2015–16 (Resource Agreement)

$16.428m operational; $2m capital.


130.4 average FTE.


  • a comprehensive Library collection for reference and loan
  • media monitoring—press, broadcast and social media
  • confidential and tailored research and analysis
  • maps of electorates and other geographic areas
  • assistance with parliamentary delegation briefings
  • a wide range of research publications to help inform parliamentary debate, scrutiny and policy development
  • 24/7 access to online databases and services
  • training
  • lectures and seminars.




The Parliamentary Library is part of the Department of Parliamentary Services Program 1.

The Library’s services are established under the statutory office of the Parliamentary Librarian whose primary function is ‘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’.26

These services are to be delivered:

  • in a timely, impartial and confidential manner
  • maintaining the highest standards of scholarship and integrity
  • on the basis of equality of access for all senators, members of the House of Representatives, parliamentary committees and staff acting on behalf of senators, members or parliamentary committees, and
  • having regard to the independence of Parliament from the Executive Government of the Commonwealth.27

In respect of her statutory functions, the Parliamentary Librarian reports directly to the Presiding Officers and to the Parliament. She also reports to the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library (JSCPL).

The Library’s primary clients are senators, members, and parliamentary committees. Other client groups include parliamentarians’ staff, staff of the parliamentary departments and the Governor-General. Service entitlements for all clients are outlined in the Parliamentary Library Statement of Client Services approved by the JSCPL.

What our clients said:

‘I am here to place on record my thanks. My thanks go to … those in the Library —angels of knowledge and accuracy, ably headed up by Dianne Heriot.’
Russell Broadbent MP, ‘Constituency Statements: Valedictory’ House of Representatives, Hansard,
5 May 2016. p. 4632.

26 Parliamentary Service Act 1999 subsection 38B(1)(a).
27 Parliamentary Service Act 1999 subsection 38B(2).


Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library

Until 2005, senators and members provided advice to the Parliamentary Library through a Senate Committee on the Parliamentary Library and a House of Representatives Committee on the Parliamentary Library that met jointly. In December 2005, the first JSCPL was established by resolution of both chambers to:

  • consider and report to the Presiding Officers on any matters relating to the Parliamentary Library referred to it by the President or the Speaker
  • provide advice to the President and the Speaker on matters relating to the Parliamentary Library
  • provide advice to the President and the Speaker on an annual Resource Agreement between the Parliamentary Librarian and the Secretary of DPS and
  • receive advice and reports, including an annual report, directly from the Parliamentary Librarian on matters relating to the Parliamentary Library.

The JSCPL for the 44th Parliament was established by motion by the House of Representatives and Senate on 21 November and 2 December 2013 respectively. The Library Committee membership in 2015–16 was:

  • Senator Zed Seselja (Joint Chair)
  • Ms Gai Brodtmann MP (Joint Chair)
  • Senator Chris Back
  • Mr Russell Broadbent MP
  • Hon Michael Danby MP
  • Ms Jill Hall MP
  • Mr Steve Irons MP
  • Senator Lindgren (from 12 October 2015)
  • Senator Sue Lines
  • Senator James McGrath (to 12 October 2015)
  • Senator Claire Moore
  • Mr Angus Taylor MP (to 2 March 2016)
  • Mr Rick Wilson MP

Photo 1: The Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library

The Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library
Standing (left to right): Mr. Angus Taylor; Mr. Rick Wilson; Senator Claire Moore; Mr. Russell Broadbent; Seated: Dr. Dianne Heriot (Parliamentary Librarian and Committee Secretary); Ms. Gai Brodtmann (Joint Chair); Senator Zed Seselja (Joint Chair). Inset: Senator Chris Back; Senator Sue Lines; Senator Joanna Lindgren; Senator James McGrath; the Hon Michael Danby; Mr. Steve Irons; Ms. Jill Hall.

The Committee met privately on 10 September 2015 and 3 March 2016. Members also held an informal meeting on 26 November 2015. At these meetings, the Committee discussed, inter alia:

  • implementation of the recommendations of the client evaluation of Library services for the 44th Parliament, as well as other client feedback
  • the Library’s program of preservation digitisation
  • the Baxter Review of DPS
  • the Library’s Future Vision Report: Library and Research services in 2025
  • revised governance papers on responses to client requests, the Australian Parliamentary Library Fellowship Program and the Parliamentary Library Blog
  • the 2016 Pacific Parliamentary Scholars Program and the 2015 Conference of the Association of Parliamentary Librarians of Asia and the Pacific
  • the introduction of ‘drop-in’ information sessions in the Senators’ and Members’ Reading Room (Ground Floor Library) and of electorate office visits to enhance service delivery to clients
  • the development of a new online mapping service and a new online database for the Parliamentary Handbook
  • proposed additional duties for the Parliamentary Librarian (to oversee the completion of the Architect’s Design Intent for Parliament House, Canberra: Central Reference Document, and the establishment of an archive unit for Parliament House.)

On 25 November 2016, members of the Library Committee also participated in a round-table discussion with Library staff on the Future Vision Report.

The Committee’s scheduled June 2016 meeting did not take place due to the May dissolution of Parliament. Consideration of the Parliamentary Library’s Resource Agreement for 2016–17 will await the establishment of a new Committee by the 45th Parliament.


The Parliamentary Library comprises the Parliamentary Librarian and the employees of DPS assisting the Parliamentary Librarian.28

The Parliamentary Library Executive is:

  • Dr Dianne Heriot, Parliamentary Librarian
  • Jonathan Curtis, Assistant Secretary, Research Branch, and
  • Liz Luchetti, Assistant Secretary, Library Collections and Databases Branch.

The Library’s structure comprises:

  • the Office of the Parliamentary Librarian – a small unit composed of the Parliamentary Librarian, executive support officers, the Library Publishing Unit and the Director, Client Relations, who provides orientation and training services for senators, members, their staff and other parliamentary staff.
  • Research Branch – provides information, research and analytical services including individually commissioned research, publications and statistical and mapping services.
  • Library Collections and Databases Branch – develops and manages access to the Library’s print and electronic resources. The Branch also manages the main Library reference desk and the Senators’ and Members’ Reading Room.

Figure 2: Parliamentary Library Organisation Chart (as at 30 June 2016)

Figure 2 Parliamentary Library Organisation Chart-as at 30 June 2016

28 Parliamentary Service Act 1999 subsection 38A(2).


Summary of financial performance

Resource Agreement 2015–16

To help to ensure the independence of the Library, the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 provides that the Librarian and the Secretary of DPS will make an annual Resource Agreement detailing the funds available for the Library for the ensuing year.29 The Act provides that the Agreement must be:

  • made between the Secretary and the Parliamentary Librarian and
  • approved by the Presiding Officers in writing after receiving advice about the contents of the Agreement from the JSCPL.

The Agreement identifies the resources and services provided to the Parliamentary Librarian by DPS to enable the provision of library services to clients. The Resource Agreement also describes the services provided by the Library to the rest of DPS. The Agreement includes provision for a mid-term review of the Library’s budget by the Librarian and the Secretary of DPS to establish whether any variation is required.

The 2015–16 Agreement was 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 Enterprise Agreement 2011–14.

The JSCPL considered the Resource Agreement 2015–16 at its meeting of 18 June 2015 and resolved that the Joint Chairs write to the Presiding Officers recommending the adoption of the Agreement.

The Presiding Officers approved the Resource Agreement 2015–16 on 24 June 2014.

What our clients said:

‘The Parliamentary Library is absolutely essential, as other speakers have said. It is an incredibly important part of the support that is provided to members on both sides of the House.’
Alan Griffin MP, ‘Governor-General’s Speech: Address in Reply’, House of Representatives, Hansard, 5 May 2016, p. 4611

Financial performance

Staffing costs account for the majority of the Library’s budget, with the remaining funding largely spent on the collection. Consistent with previous years, in the major pressure on the Library’s budget in 2015–16 was increases in costs for Library collection resources (around seven per cent) since the last financial year, exacerbated by falls in the value of the Australian dollar, both of which decreased the Library’s purchasing power.

The Resource Agreement 2015–16 provided the Library an operating budget of $16.428 million and a capital budget (used both for the Library collection and minor capital projects) of $2 million.

Actual expenditure was $16.36 million in operational funding and $1.854 million in capital. (A detailed financial report can be found at page 141.)

While the end of year result was closely aligned with the available budget, as discussed below there were significant internal variations to our anticipated expenditure in employee and collection costs.

Employee costs were under-spent by 5 per cent ($0.710 million). Three factors contributed to this outcome.

The Parliamentary Librarian continued to act as Secretary DPS until 15 December 2015, and her salary was not a cost against the Library’s Budget.

While by 30 June 2016, full-time equivalent staff (FTE) had risen to 135.7 (from 129.6 at the end of the previous financial year), some recruitment processes took longer than anticipated; and these positions could not always be filled on a short-term basis while recruitment processes were underway.

However, the most significant factor was the changing balance of staff at various pay points across the Library’s workforce. The budget set out in the Resource Agreement is based on an agreed staffing establishment for the Library. The employee budget set out in the 2015–16 Agreement reflected historical data that placed the majority of staff at the highest pay points in each salary band, reflecting the demographics of the workforce. However, the balance has been gradually changing over the past 12–18 months as long serving staff retire and newly engaged staff (on-going and non-ongoing) have often been at lower salary points.

Figure 3: Parliamentary Library budget 2005–06 to 2016–17

Figure 3 Parliamentary Library budget 2005–06 to 2016–17

(a) Expressed in June 2016 prices using the Consumer Price Index. Index numbers for June 2017 based on Treasury forecasts.
(b) This income figure reflects the Library’s budget bid, which if spent would have led to DPS making a loss in the reporting year.
(c) Does not include $500,000 for the Pre-Election Policy Unit.
(d) Includes Comcare premium.

Operational funds not needed for employee costs were redirected to the information resources budget. Total expenditure on the Library collection in 2015–16 was:

  • Information resources (including database subscriptions and news services) —$2.534 million
    (operational funding)
  • Reference serials and monographs—$0.725 million (capital funding)
  • Digitisation $0.900 (capital funding).

The year ahead

The Parliamentary Librarian and Secretary have negotiated a Resource Agreement for the 2016–17 financial year. However, due to the early dissolution of Parliament, the Agreement could not be considered by the JSCPL or approved by the Presiding Offices –– both of which will await the 45th Parliament.

Achievements 2015–16

The Library’s vision is an informed Parliament supported by a Library that delivers services to meet its needs.

In 2014–15 the Library developed a new multi-year strategic plan (2015–16 to 2019–20) and a business plan for 2015–16. The strategic plan sets out five priorities to ensure that the Library remains as relevant to the working lives of parliamentarians of today and tomorrow as it was to their predecessors, namely:

  • retaining our position as our clients’ preferred and trusted source of high quality information, analysis
    and advice
  • ensuring a high and consistent quality in services
  • increasing digital access and service
  • supporting the parliament’s engagement with the community and the ongoing development of parliamentary democracy and
  • strengthening our staffs’ capability.

The Strategic plan also sets out the Library’s outcomes under each strategic priority. The associated Business Plan sets out the Library’s major areas of work for 2015–16 and its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The Strategic Plan and Business Plans were endorsed by the JSCPL at its meeting of 18 June 2015 and approved by the Presiding Officers on 24 June 2015 (as an annexure to the 2015–16 Resource Agreement).

The 2015–16 Annual Report is the first to report against these new strategic priorities, and is therefore structured differently to those of previous financial years.

Retaining our position as our clients’ preferred and trusted source of high-quality information, analysis and advice

Responding to the evaluation of the Parliamentary Library’s services

The Library conducts a formal review of the needs of clients once in every Parliament to assist it to:

  • measure satisfaction levels with library and research services
  • gain insights into the use of services
  • determine the direction of future information and service delivery.

The evaluation for the 44th Parliament was completed in late 2014–15, with the consultants, Uncommon Knowledge, presenting their findings to the JSCPL in June 2015.30 Pleasingly, the overall response—both to Library staff and to services—was very positive, with the Library’s success in meeting the diverse needs of senators, members and their staff demonstrated by a high satisfaction rate (93 per cent, not quite meeting the 95 per cent target).

The Parliamentary Library’s services were highly valued and the Library was seen to perform very well on all measures of service delivery, consistent with the findings of the client evaluation of library services for the 43rd Parliament.31

However, the evaluation identified three key areas for improvement: a perceived variability in quality of research services; the timeliness of Bills Digests; and a desire for greater clarity in the way client requests were assigned and prioritised. Accordingly, its recommendations focused on:

  • addressing the quality control issues in research services through training, quality assurance and enhanced feedback systems
  • ensuring the Library remains an employer of choice for highly qualified researchers, including exploring exchanges, secondments or specialised training in certain topic areas
  • introducing a research tracking system so clients know where their request is in the system
  • increasing the focus on service to parliamentary committees
  • continuing to develop new technologies and proactive services
  • using the Library’s newsletter What’s New more strategically, and
  • enhancing the Library’s focus on orientation and refresher programs, including offering these in other capital cities.

An implementation plan to address these recommendations was developed early in 2015–16, and endorsed by the JSCPL at its meeting of 10 September 2015.

The evaluation also addressed communication with clients, highlighting the competing demands on parliamentarians’ time and attention. A communication plan has now been developed to address these issues and will be implemented in parallel to this plan, subject to its endorsement by the JSCPL.

Initiatives taken under these two plans will be discussed under the relevant strategic priorities.

30 Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library: client service evaluation 2015, Canberra, May 2015. The report is available on the APH website
31 The Parliamentary Librarian’s report for 2014–15 contains a detailed discussion of the evaluation’s findings (Department of Parliamentary Services, Annual Report 2014-15, pp. 95-96).

Envisioning the future

The JSCPL set the Library a challenge: to envision what library services for the parliament would look like in 10 years’ time. A small working group of staff from across the Library worked with the Executive on the project that was completed in July 2015. The resultant report: examined global trends and their first order effects; considered the implications of these trends for the role of the Parliament; and explored the areas in which the Library will need to evolve and adapt to continue to meet the needs and aspirations of its clients.

An early outcome of the project was the appointment, at the end of the 2014–15 financial year, of an Innovation Manager whose job it is to keep abreast of developments in library systems and data management and to work with colleagues to develop new or enhanced services. Other ideas arising from this project were embodied in the Library’s Strategic Plan 2015–16 to 2019–20.

The Future Vision Report was considered by the JSCPL at its September 2015 meeting. Members of the Library Committee also discussed the paper with the working group in November 2015.

What our clients said:

Screenshot of Julie Owens feedback on Twitter

Screenshot of Julie Owens feedback on Twitter

Individual client requests

Senators and members and parliamentary committees, and the staff that support them, are able to commission research from the Library and to receive tailored responses by an agreed deadline. The Library supports the Parliament and individual parliamentarians in their work by providing objective, authoritative and confidential research and analysis across a wide spectrum of complex policy, legislative and administrative issues.

In 2015–16, Library staff answered 13,113 such requests, providing face-to-face briefings, confidential reports and memoranda, maps, statistics and other research for chamber debates and speeches, as well as analysis and information in support of committee inquiries. Unusually for an election year (when there is usually a dip in client inquiries), the number of completed requests was higher than for the previous two financial years.

All senators and members used our services across the reporting period.

Table 13: Client requests completed in 2015–16

Members of the House of Representatives




Parliamentary Committees


Parliamentary Departments, reciprocal arrangements and other




Client requests to the Library covered a wide range of public policy and legislative issues, domestic and international. As would be expected, this year saw an increase in the demand for electoral information, including mapping services.

Figure 4: A ‘Wordle’ representing issues raised by Library clients during 2015–16

Figure 4 A ‘Wordle’ representing issues raised by Library clients during 2015–16

As noted in previous annual reports, overall, there has been a shift towards larger and more complex research requests from clients, with an emphasis on analysis rather than simply finding information. This reflects clients’ ability to use the internet for straightforward queries: as the findings of the client survey show, the Library’s value to clients lies in the capacity to analyse information, assess its accuracy and contrast it critically with other sources. Anecdotal data from other legislative libraries and research services indicates this is a global trend and likely to continue.

Indeed, Library data indicates that, between the financial years 2000–01 and 2015–16, there was an overall decline in the number of client requests of 36 per cent per FTE. However, while year-to-year outcomes vary, over the same period there has been a significant increase overall in the average amount of time spent on individual requests. For example, in 2000–01, the average client request took staff 1.6 hours to complete. In 2004–05, the figure was 2.3 hours, in 2007–08 2.4 hours, in 2010–11, 2.5 hours and in 2015–16, 3.1 hours (down slightly from 3.3 hours in 2014–15). Between 2000–01 and 2015–16, the average time spent on client requests per FTE increased by 93.5 per cent.

Figure 5: Client Requests – relative indicators

Figure 5 Client Requests – relative indicators

Research publications

In addition to commissioned research services, each year the Library produces anticipatory research through a range of general distribution publications. These publications range from short, topical blog posts or general research papers on topics judged to be of relevance and interest to clients, and to Bills Digests that provide senators and members with an impartial and independent explanation and commentary on Bills as they come before the Parliament.

The Library issued 267 new or refreshed research products in 2015–16, including 117 Bills Digests.

These publications are not produced for academic purposes (though the Library endeavours always to maintain appropriate academic standards and rigour) but for the benefit of current parliamentarians.

The Library continued to explore alternative formats for its research products to better meet client needs for timeliness and brevity, and to tie these products more closely to parliamentary business. For example, in 2015-16 the format of the Library’s popular e-newsletter, What’s New, which appears each sitting week, was refreshed, and now provides, among other things, links to library publications related to bills scheduled for debate in each chamber that week. Work also began on the development of a new Debate Pack that we expect to pilot early in the 45th Parliament.

Library publications are recognised by our clients and the community to be of high value. The 2015 client evaluation of Library services found that 89 per cent of senators, members and their staff and 80 per cent of departmental staff make use of research publications, particularly Bills Digests and the Monthly Statistical Bulletin.

Although produced for the Library’s clients, these publications have a broader public benefit as they are published on the web and are available to inform the broader public debate on important social, economic and legal issues.

Web usage data also indicates that Library publications continue to be widely accessed (based on the number of page visits) as shown in the table below.

Table 14: Page views by publication type 2015–16

Publication type

Page views

Bills Digests


FlagPost Blogs


Other Research Publications


The individual research papers most downloaded during the reporting period were:

  • Refugee resettlement to Australia: what are the facts?, Elibritt Karlsen, 3 February 2015
  • Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts?, Janet Phillips, 26 March2015
  • Domestic violence in Australia—an overview of the issues, Liesl Mitchell, 23 November 2011
  • Same-sex marriage, Mary Anne Neilsen, 10 February 2012 and
  • Australian Government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction, Janet Phillips 26 March2015.

Budget seminar and Budget Reviews

Providing information on the Budget and the budget process is one of the Library’s highest priorities.

The Library’s Budget seminar again proved popular this year, with 105 pass holders attending. Staff of the Economics Section spoke about the global financial outlook, the state of the Australian economy and the fiscal outlook, and issues expected to affect the economy in the longer term, including the links between income inequality and social mobility and economic growth. The session also included information on the government’s budget strategy and the fiscal outlook, and how to find information in the Portfolio Budget Statements.

The session was recorded and Library staff also produced a Quick Guide on the Commonwealth Budget papers to assist clients who were not able to attend the seminar.

The Parliamentary Library published its annual Budget Review to assist parliamentarians in their consideration of the key issues raised by the 2016–17 Budget. The review included a budget overview and summary of the headline numbers; the economic and fiscal context; and reactions from interest groups. Individual Budget briefs then provided background information and analysis of over 35 measures proposed in this year’s Budget cross the full range of policy portfolios.

Budget Reviews are always prepared under time significant pressures. However, this was particularly intense this year given the circumstances of the 2016–17 Budget, which saw the Budget presented to Parliament on 3 May, followed by a truncated program of Senate estimates hearings following two days, rather than the customary two weeks, later. Writers, editors and the publishing team worked closely together to ensure that chapters were available online as soon as possible, having regard to the committees’ schedule.

Welcoming new parliamentarians

The 2015–16 financial year saw four new senators and two new members take their seats in the Parliament. Assisting them to settle into their new roles was a priority for Library staff. A contact officer was assigned to each new senator and member to help them become familiar with the services the Library offers, and to help channel research enquiries correctly. Each was also given a customised information pack, which included maps and statistics relevant to their state, an example of a research paper relevant to their region or individual interests, and a guide to Library services.

Increased engagement with parliamentary committees

Parliamentary committees (both the parliamentarians and the secretariats that support them) are key clients of the Library. It is therefore essential to ensure that the Library is contributing effectively to their work. Both the 2015 evaluation of Library services and consultation with committee chairs and secretariats identified this as an area in which our focus needed to be sharper.

What our clients said:

‘I thank … the Library, who provide professional and politically proper advice.’
Kelvin Thomson MP, ‘Governor-General’s Speech: Address in Reply’, House of Representatives, Hansard,
5 May 2016, p. 4525

Accordingly, in the reporting period, the Assistant Secretary of the Research Branch initiated regular consultations with his counterparts in the Senate and the House of Representatives committee offices and with their committee secretaries. The Library also began to monitor systematically new references to committees. As a matter of routine, now, when a committee receives a new reference from the houses, the director of the relevant research section contacts that committee secretary directly to offer briefings, information or other background material. This practice had been happening to a greater or lesser extent across Research Branch, but not on such a systematic basis.

Anecdotally, there has been a strong positive response to these initiatives, which is reflected in a 34 per cent increase in client jobs done for committees over the past year (from 189 in 2014–15 to 255 in 2015–16).

Electorate office visits

One of the recommendations of the Client Service evaluation 2015 was that the Library increase its focus on orientation programs and refresher courses and consider conducting some of these in other capital cities to make it easier for electorate staff to attend.

The Library has approached this is two ways. Parliamentary Library staff travelling for meetings or conferences have begun contacting electorate offices in the vicinity, offering to drop in and provide an overview of Library services and to answer any questions electorate staff may have. Staff taking part in the visit program are required to have a good understanding of all Library services and be confident in discussing services that are not within their principal areas of expertise.

In addition, the Director of Client Relations began a program of visits to capital cities to offer orientation and training, particularly to electorate staff that may not have the opportunity to travel to Canberra. The selection of offices for the initial series of visits was based on location and proximity of electorate offices to the metropolitan area and to each other.

In 2015–16, visits were made to electorate offices in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia before the program ceased with the dissolution of the houses. Both initiatives will continue in the 45th Parliaments.

Showcasing our products—Library ‘drop in’ centre in the Senators’ and Members’ Reading Room

Although all of our Parliamentary clients use the Library in some way, we are aware that many are not familiar with the full suite of our products, particularly given these are regularly refreshed to enhance our service offerings. Sometimes too it can require quite a detailed understanding of a Library product to realise its full potential. To bridge this gap, the Library held regular ‘drop in’ centres in the Senators’ and Members’ Reading Room during sitting weeks.

The Library’s mapping specialists offered seven sessions covering the variety of statistical information which can be incorporated into customised maps. The news services team held four sessions focusing on how clients can get the most out of the Library’s diverse media sources. Library research specialists also walked clients through some of the Parliamentary Library’s specialist services, gave briefings on key issues and answered questions, including sessions in budget week to assist clients navigate the suite of budget documents.

The Library will hold further ‘drop in’ sessions over in the 45th Parliament.

Ensuring a high and consistent quality in services

Improving research quality and client focus

In 2015–16, in response to the findings of the client evaluation, Library staff and management explored a range
of strategies to enhance the quality and consistency of its research output, particularly client advices.

Library publications have long had formal and quite stringent clearance processes involving, in most cases, second and third readers, and often external subject matter experts. The volume of, and tight timeframes for, commissioned research makes the implementation of an equivalent tiered clearance system impracticable. With the exception of inexperienced or more junior staff, individual researchers are primarily responsible for ensuring that their responses to client requests are of a high quality, and

  • are based on sound analysis and authoritative services
  • are accurate, objective and impartial
  • identify all underlying assumptions, necessary caveats and the basis for any calculations and
  • are presented in a professional manner.

However, except in cases where the urgency of the job precludes it, researchers now routinely seek peer review of their advice before sending it to clients. Section directors are also copied into all client advice emails. In both cases, this formalises what were previously more ad hoc arrangements. Directors, the Assistant Secretary of Research Branch and the Parliamentary Librarian continue to review the weekly ‘greens’ to monitor workload, quality and trends. The Library will continue to investigate further quality assurance mechanisms in 2015–16.

The 2015 evaluation also pointed to a need for greater clarity in the way client requests are assigned and prioritised. To improve communication with clients, and for other than simple requests where a response can be sent immediately, researchers now routinely send clients a confirmation email summarising the request, the nature of the answer required, its due date, and contact details of the researcher doing the work. This process also serves the important function of improving consultation with clients to ensure that researchers properly understand what the client really wants so that advice is useful and on point.

The revised Governance paper setting out these procedures (Governance Paper No. 5.2 – Library – Policy – Responses to client requests) was discussed and endorsed by the JSCPL at its meeting in March 2016.

See also the discussion of training at page 124.

What our clients said:

‘I want to put a special plug in for the library staff—it is a magnificent library we have here. We often use it and I acknowledge the work that they have done. They have done a great deal of work in relation to the Centenary of Anzac. It is worth looking at what they have done and the resource the library can be for you.’
Bruce Scott MP, ‘Governor-General’s Speech: Address in Reply’, House of Representatives, Hansard, 4 May 2016, p. 4425

Feedback system

The Parliamentary Library is committed to continuous improvement in service delivery. Client feedback, including compliments, complaints and suggestions is vital to help us to: improve our services and products; develop new services; prevent problems from occurring in the future; and ensure consistent service delivery.

The triennial client evaluation of Library services is invaluable in this regard, as are discussions with the Presiding Officers and the JSCPL. Throughout the year, the Library also seeks feedback from clients in other ways, both formal and informal, including through targeted surveys, meetings with individual senators and members or with parliamentary committees and their secretariats. The Library also regularly receives unsolicited email bouquets from happy clients.

However, eliciting feedback about specific Library products or advice from busy clients remains a challenge, particularly if their expectations have not been met. If sufficiently dissatisfied, a client may complain; however, they may instead simply choose to look elsewhere for advice.

To help facilitate such feedback, the Library has developed a feedback button that will be included on our website and in our emails and advices in 2016–17. The button will generate an automated, pre-formatted email to the Library to enable a client easily to give feedback in as much or as little detail as they wish. The Library will also include information on feedback mechanisms in all of its products.

Editing skills and professionalism

A less visible part of the Library’s work, but one essential to producing high quality and readable products, are the editors who check all the Library’s publications for readability, structure, correct grammar, and consistent style.

Recognising the importance of this role, the Library formed an editors’ group, which meets quarterly, and provides a forum for the Library’s editors to swap notes, discuss issues and increase their skills. The group has also hosted specialist editing training attended by not only Library staff but also staff from other parts of DPS and other parliamentary departments, as well as a number of guest lectures that discuss specific issues in editing practice, such as the use of statistics and evidence.

What our clients said:

‘In speaking today, I would like to acknowledge the work of the research team in the Parliamentary Library.’
Ann Sudmalis MP, ‘Defence Legislation Amendment (First Principles) Bill 2015: Second Reading’, House of Representatives, Hansard, 30 November 2015, p. 14022

Proactive management of the Library collection

The Library maintains a modest and carefully curated collection to meet the contemporary needs of the Parliament—such selectivity being enabled by the Parliament’s ready access to the National Library of Australia’s extensive holdings.

The Library aims to keep the collection at around 135,000 monograph titles. It has around 36,260 individual print and electronic journal titles, including those contained in the large aggregated subscription services. New material is acquired, and outdated, damaged or redundant material is discarded regularly, while materials on Australian politics, legislation and constitutional matters are retained permanently.

The major part of the Library’s collection expenditure is therefore on current (and digital) sources of information: journals, reference materials and, particularly, news services.

During 2015–16, the Library spent $2.534 million on information resources. Of this $0.587 million was allocated to news services––daily press clips, breaking news, social media monitoring, iSentia Mediaportal, Library Press Display, Newsbank, Proquest ANZ Newstand and hard copy newspapers.

In addition, capital funding of $0.725 million was spent to replace depreciating and outdated items in the collection, such as monographs and reference books.

The Library’s budget for information resources is intensively managed throughout the year to ensure that the collection remains relevant and focused and that Parliament gets the best value from the resources available. Library staff review usage of online databases, and consult with clients and research staff to help ascertain collection priorities and to avoid duplication.

The Library has, in recent years, increased the range of digital resources so that senators and members have access to this information regardless of time or location. Approximately 70 per cent of the collection budget was spent on electronic resources; and 71 per cent of items added to the catalogue in 2015–16 were electronic resources.

Review of inter-library loan arrangements

One of the priorities in the 2015–16 Business plan was to monitor trends in resource sharing and interlibrary loans (ILL), and to put in place strategies to ensure the Library was not disadvantaged in its ability to access for its clients materials not held in its collection.

The Parliamentary Library has, for many years, participated in free reciprocal ILL arrangements with a range of libraries, including the National Library of Australia and members of the Australian Government Library and Information Network (AGLIN).

The decision to review this arrangement arose following the National Library’s decision to charge us for access to material from its collection, and the closure or consolidation of several AGLIN libraries. A review of data showed the Parliamentary Library provided a significantly greater number of free ILL materials than it requested, particularly from AGLIN libraries. As a consequence, the Parliamentary Librarian determined to introduce charges for ILL with effect from 1 July 2016. This decision will not affect existing reciprocal loan arrangements with state and territory parliamentary libraries or with Flinders University Library (upon whose collection we rely heavily for ILL materials).

What our clients said:

‘I want to recognise the staff of the parliament, most especially—I have to say—the library. … To come down here and to have that tremendous support was so refreshing.’
Laurie Ferguson MP, ‘Governor-General’s Speech: Address in Reply’, House of Representatives, Hansard, 5 May 2016, p. 4517

Thesaurus review

The Parliamentary Library indexes articles for its ParlInfo Search databases using subject terms from the Parliamentary Library thesaurus. The thesaurus provides a consistent and controlled language around subjects of interest to the Parliament. Using these subject terms users can retrieve articles on the subject of their search regardless of the words used by the journalists and authors writing on that subject.

The thesaurus was created in 1989 and the way it is used has changed. In 2010, the thesaurus was incorporated into an automatic indexing system that is used to assign subject terms for the newspaper clippings database as they are published into ParlInfo Search. With over 18,000 subject headings, the system and users struggled to find the appropriate terms.

The first systematic review of the thesaurus ran from February 2015 to August 2015. The aim of the review was to reduce the number of subject terms and simplify the thesaurus structure to help the end user more easily identify appropriate terms for retrieval and also improve the effectiveness of the computer assisted indexing of newspaper clippings.

Overall, the number of terms in the thesaurus has decreased by 13 per cent.

Review of collection layout in the Senators and Members Reading Room (SMRR)

In late 2014, the Library commissioned MoveCorp, a specialist storage and logistics solutions consultancy, to undertake an audit of the collections located in the second floor library and the Senators’ and Members’ Reading Room (SMRR). The report noted that at present both were at capacity, with free space available only in the basement.

In 2015–16, Library staff reviewed the collection layout in SMRR to identity materials that could be relocated to basement storage to accommodate collection material with higher use. (A similar process was undertaken for the second floor Library in 2012–13.) In addition, the SMRR collections were weeded and refreshed. This work will continue in 2016–17.

Communication plan

The 2015 evaluation of Library services provided valuable insights into clients’ preferred communication methods including proposing a more strategic use of our most read publication, the What’s New e-bulletin. The evaluation noted also the need to remind clients about the range of services the Library provides.

Accordingly, the Library has updated its communication plan for its clients. The draft plan will be submitted for consideration by the JSCPL in the 45th Parliament. However, as first steps, the Library has commenced a program of visits to electorate offices (see page 105) and has made changes to the format of What’s New to improve its layout and readability and to tie it more closely to the program of parliamentary business.

Increasing digital access and service

Growth of online resources

Parliamentarians require ready access to accurate and up-to-date information. Resources need to be as easily accessible to those in electorate offices or travelling as to those working in Parliament House. Because electronic material is available to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Library’s focus is on collecting material in digital format and, more recently, providing this in ways that are device-neutral.

The percentage of the Library’s collection available in digital form, which allows clients to have easy access to material wherever they are located, increased from 38.2 per cent at the end of June 2015 to 41.2 per cent at the end of June 2016. Within the serials collection alone, the number of titles available in electronic form increased to 88.7 per cent with some 27.6 per cent of monographs being available in full text.

Use of these electronic collections is highest when Parliament is sitting. This has been a consistent trend over several years.

In May 2015, the Parliamentary Library announced the inclusion of several of our news services on the Web@Work browser, including Senators’ news clips of the day, the Members’ news clips of the day and the breaking news feed. This enables Library clients to access these products on their mobile devices, without the need to be connected to the Parliamentary Computing Network.

In 2015–16, the Monthly Statistical Bulletin, Federal legislation, 2011 Census profiles, Electorate Rankings
(2013 Boundaries) and the Electoral Pendulum (2013 election) were also added to the suite of products available via Web@Work—meeting the target of five new services set out in the Library’s 2015–16 Business Plan.

The Library will continue to work with DPS ICT to deliver more Library services via the Web@Work.

The Library has been endeavouring throughout the year to negotiate agreements that enable clients to access online news content from the major Australian daily newspapers that is behind paywalls. This has proved challenging given the immaturity of the market and the fact that vendors were slow to develop appropriate corporate licences. In 2014-–15, the Library negotiated an agreement with News Ltd to access The Australian and Business Spectator, with a further agreement reached with Fairfax Media Ltd in April 2016 to obtain full IP authenticated access to The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review. The subscription also allows the Library to copy and archive content for its newspaper clippings databases.

Better management of our digital collections

To ensure our digital collections as well managed as their physical counterparts, the Library has developed a digital preservation framework and a digital preservation policy—both priority actions on the 2015–16 Business Plan.

Increasing digital access and services has long been a priority for the Library, and requires a strong focus on building its capacity to collect, preserve and provide digital content. These framework and policy documents formalise the Library’s commitment to the long-term preservation and discoverability of its digital collections. The policy sets out a statement of the criteria for preserving the Parliamentary Library’s digital collections and sets out the standards to be used for each file type (including metadata standards).

The digital preservation framework and policy will be provided to the JSCPL for its consideration early in the
new parliament.

Enhanced functionality of the Library catalogue

Several enhancements were made to the Library catalogue during 2015–16 to make the system more user-friendly for our clients. These included a refresh of the look-and-feel of the catalogue interface, the introduction of a ‘New Titles’ function, and a Summon search link (facilitating access to the Library’s federated search engine).

The Library’s A-Z search portal was also enhanced, providing a single-point-of-search facility for accessing the Library’s numerous collections.

A new social media monitoring service

The Library introduced a social media monitoring service for clients in July 2013. Given this was a new service type and there was uncertainty about the extent of demand, the contract, with AAP/Sentiment Metrics, was for one year, with an option to renew for a second year subsequently taken up.

To help determine whether to continue to provide this service type, the Library surveyed users in the latter part of 2015. While the rates of usage were not high, the great majority of those that responded to the survey indicated that social media monitoring was important to them.

Accordingly, the Library issued a Request for Tender in January 2016, receiving nine responses by the closing date. iSentia was selected as the preferred Tenderer on a best overall value for money basis and has been contracted to provide services for the period June 2016 to 30 June 2017, with an option to renew the contract for two years on a 1 + 1 basis. This will enable the Library to reassess its options regularly in what is a very dynamic and changing environment.

To ensure clients were not inconvenienced during the pre-election period, the Library negotiated a one-month extension to its contract with Sentimentmetrics so that both systems were available in the month of June.

The Library is promoting training and support programs to help ensure a smooth transition between the two products.

The online Parliamentary Handbook project

The Parliamentary Library publishes a Handbook for each Parliament that has become a comprehensive reference work on the Commonwealth Parliament, including summaries of the parliamentary service and political careers of senators and members, together with statistics and historical information.

Since 1999, the full text of the Handbook has been available electronically on the Parliament’s website and through ParlInfo Search and routinely updated to ensure its currency. As reported in last year’s Annual Report, the Library has been engaged on a project to improve digital access to this information about the Parliament, parliamentarians, and their service.

This work will benefit both the Library and our clients by providing a ‘single point of truth’ for information. With an integrated system, when changes occur Library staff will only need to update the information once, rather than across numerous special-purpose databases. For our clients, as the project develops in future years to incorporate other data, it will be possible to link all the various types of information relating to the history and operations of the parliament, enabling easier searches and analysis—work that currently manual searches and counts. Once the system is complete, an adjunct project will commence to capture historical data back to 1901, including better links to parliamentary service in other jurisdictions.

In 2015–16, the Library completed development of a new data architecture that includes:

  • personal information—date of birth, place of birth, age, death, honorifics and post-nominals, history of electoral service, party representation, electorates/states, and events (election, by-election, casual vacancy) educational qualifications, occupations, military service plus digital photographs.
  • parliamentary service— ministerial and shadow positions, parliamentary positions (speaker, president etc.) and committee memberships.
  • electorate profiles— electorate representation history, electorate boundaries 1901–1989 and associated elector counts, redistribution dates, electorate profile histories, election results and maps of electorates.

The beta system has been subject to extensive testing to ensure the information it produces is complete and accurate. As a consequence, final adjustments are being made to data structures and formats and further data entry will be necessary due to complexity of moving from a text-based system to a machine-readable database. We anticipate an internal release of the first generation of the system in 2017.

What our clients said:

‘The work of the parliamentary library has been sensational. The amount of research that they have done in preparing some of the reports and information that has really informed this debate is truly worth commending. I want to thank Catherine Lorimer, Indra Kuruppu, Kai Swoboda, Jonathan Chowns, Liz Wakerly and Les Neilson. I hope I have not missed anyone. I certainly also want to acknowledge Anne Holmes, the former head of the economics team at the parliamentary library, who has moved on to bigger and better things.’
Senator Dastyari, Senate Hansard, 18 August 2015, p. 5596

Improving our mapping services

The mapping team in the Library creates custom maps for clients using specialised mapping software, and a range of thematic and election data. Geo-spatial systems and mapping products help illustrate public policy issues and demographic data. In 2015–16, the Library’s mapping team generated over 1,100 original maps. Over 1,500 hard copy maps were also printed and distributed to clients, with additional maps sent via email.

The Library also incorporated historical electoral boundary redistributions since 1901, which had been digitised in 2014–15, into its interactive mapping products.

Work continued on updating the mapping data warehouse, using information from a range of online data sources such as, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Electoral Commission, Geoscience Australia, state and territory government, and industry sector portals and websites. The Library is currently examining the feasibility of purchasing national scale street address and postcode datasets that would widen the range of information that can be incorporated into maps prepared for clients, providing even more fine-grained analysis.

The mapping team also began to develop processes to automate map series production for welcome packs for all senators and members, and to use feature manipulation engine tools to automate base topographic maps for general map production. Once implemented, these tools will help streamline the production of all types of maps and improve capacity to manage colour scales and labelling in ways that are currently unavailable through our software.

Throughout 2015–16, the Library continued to redevelop ParlMap, the Library’s online self-service mapping system that allows users to create their own maps using census and election results. The new version has a new interface that will provide access to a wider range of data, as well as an improved interface and functionality.

The new ParlMap is based on the same architecture as the NationalMap, which is a website for map-based access to spatial data from Australian government agencies. NationalMap is managed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in collaboration with Data61 (a business unit of the CSIRO), the Department of Communications and the Arts, Geoscience Australia and other government agencies. This has enabled the Library to utilise an existing architecture that already included a wide variety of data that are expected to grow over time.

By the end of the financial year, the ParlMap system had been developed and installed. However, detailed testing revealed a number of technical issues with the way the underlying system uses data sets from third parties, particularly ABS census data. The Library continues to work with Data61 and other parties to resolve these issues, and looks forward to releasing a complete online mapping system to our clients in 2017. As an interim measure, the Library plans to release a cut-down version of ParlMap containing selected datasets before the end of 2016.


Digitisation of material in the Library’s collection, both contemporary and historic collections, remains a priority.

News archives

The Parliamentary Library has been compiling information files from newspaper clippings, press releases and journal articles since the 1950s. While this is now a largely automated process involving material that is ‘born digital’, the Library still has significant archives of paper and analogue audio-visual material. These holdings constitute a unique collection relating to Australia’s political and public policy history.

The bulk of this material dates from 1969 when the Library established a Current Information Section to provide senators and members with ready access to current material on practically every matter of interest to the Parliament. Clippings from Australian and overseas newspapers and journals, press releases, bibliographies, parliamentary speeches and questions formed comprehensive subject files. Separate files were produced for each senator and member with their speeches and questions indexed chronologically, as well as a separate series of files for each ministry.

By the time this service was replaced by digital clipping and indexing systems in 2000, the Library had amassed some 2,100 linear meters of subject and member files—a unique national resource which is still used by clients, Library staff and occasional visiting scholars.

In order to ensure this resource is preserved and to improve access to it, in 2014–15 the Library began a systematic and multi-year digitisation program. Two million pages were digitised in the first year; and in 2015–16, the Library again met its key performance indicator, digitising a further two million pages (at a cost of $410,000 from its capital allocation).

The Library aims to digitise three million pages in 2016–17.

In 1975, the Library also began to monitor, record and transcribe radio and television news and current affairs programs. The Library’s collection of pre-2004 audiocassette tapes and audio-visual tapes amounts to 55,000 hours of video footage and 38,000 hours of audio recordings. In many cases these are unique holdings as the television stations that originally produced them no longer archive them.

What our clients said:

‘We have been looking at attempts to adapt the family tax benefit program for two years now. As I said, there has been great discussion and debate. We then had the bill come before us and, again, there was not open modelling about what would happen. In fact, we got more information from the Bills Digest from the Parliamentary Library, which did come forward with information on how this bill would operate and some of the impacts. It was not in a submission from the department but, nonetheless, we got the information from the Bills Digest.’
Senator Moore, Senate Hansard, 30 November 2015, p. 9310

During 2014–15, the Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS) commenced digitising ABC video content dating from 1990. Over 1,200 hours of content were digitised in the first year. In 2015–16, the Library digitised a further 2,312 hours of ABC video broadcasts and 1,398 hours of radio broadcast.

The Library plans to continue this project next financial year with the aim of digitising a further 5,000 hours of analogue content.

This work is made possible by exemptions in the Copyright Act 1968 (see page 115).

‘Condolence Packs’

For many years, the Library has produced a biographical information pack upon the deaths of former senators and members. These packs contain resources such as a first speech, key articles and chronologies and are useful aid to senators and members preparing condolence speeches. The packs have been produced since the mid-1990s. Until recently, they were only available in hardcopy and had to be picked up or ordered from the Library.

However, in 2014–15, responding to a recommendation from the client evaluation of library service, the Library began to make these packs digitally available in ParlInfo Search (with access limited to parliamentary clients for reasons of copyright). In 2015–16, the Library completed digitisation of its historical collection of biographical information packs.

Completing the Bicentenary Oral History project

As part of the Australian Bicentenary, the Australian Parliament undertook a program of publications and an oral history program. In 1982, the Parliamentary Library engaged 15 oral history interviewers around Australia to interview former senators and members about their political careers.32 Around 170 interviews were completed as part of the process, amounting to more than 2,200 hours of recording, with around 140 of these being transcribed before work on the project concluded in the mid-1990s.

The aim of the project was to build up an historical archive for future scholars on the Australian Parliament. Interviewees agreed to participate on the basis that the tapes would be deposited in the Parliamentary Library to be held in perpetuity. However, to enable the public to listen to the oral histories which had ‘open access’, copies of the transcripts and a set of cassette tapes were given to the National Library of Australia progressively as the transcripts of the interviews were completed.

Recognising that these cassette tapes were a unique resource and were reaching their end of life, the Parliamentary Library commenced digitisation of the remaining tape collection, giving priority to those that had not yet been transcribed, amounting to 540 hours of recording. Hansard staff enthusiastically agreed to partner in the project by transcribing the digital files whenever they had spare capacity. At 30 June, some 140 hours of recordings had been transcribed by Hansard and reviewed by Library staff.

In 2016–17, the Parliamentary Library will create indexes for these new transcripts and progressively transfer copies to the National Library’s Oral History and Folklore collection, together with a copy of the access conditions set by the interviewee to apply during his or her lifetime. Once this work is complete, the collection will become available to parliamentary clients (subject to access conditions being satisfied).

32 Brenda McAvoy, ‘The Commonwealth Parliament’s bicentenary oral history project’, The Oral History Association of Australia Journal no 5 1982-1983 pp 107-108.

Library Systems Advisory Group

The Integrated Library System (ILS), Summon, Reftracker, the Parliamentary Handbook database and ParlMap are key information systems for staff in the Parliamentary Library. The ILS and Summon also provide Library clients with access to key Library information resources. These systems are maintained and managed by the Parliamentary Library and are referred to as ‘Library Systems’.

During 2015–16, the Library Systems Advisory Group was established as a governance model for Library systems to ensure these systems:

a) receive appropriate and timely management oversight
b) remain aligned to corporate goals and strategic directions
c) receive input from all relevant stakeholders; and
d) are appropriately supported through future enhancements and changes.

New systems implemented by the Parliamentary Library will also fall under the governance of the Library Systems Advisory Group.

The establishment of the group has forged stronger relationships between the Library and DPS ICT, enhanced the delivery of Library services and provided a forum to develop system enhancements and new products requiring
ICT input.

Library risk management and business continuity planning

In 2015–16, the Library completed its business continuity plan (BCP) identifying the arrangements needed to maintain the continuity of key services to the greatest extent possible after a major, unexpected disruptive incident.

The BCP was developed by drawing upon a range of better practice guides and the Australian National Audit Office’s Business Continuity Management: building resilience in public sector entities. It identifies the types of risks that could affect our ability to deliver high quality information, analysis and advice; measures to reduce the likelihood of these risks; and, arrangements that will need to be put in place to ensure that our services are resumed as quickly as possible in the event of a disruption.

The need for developing and maintaining this BCP arises from the DPS Risk Management Policy and Framework and the DPS Business Continuity Policy and Framework. The importance of such arrangements was highlighted in the 2014–15 when a major vendor system failure significantly affected the Library’s media monitoring services.

The Library also finalised a disaster recovery plan for its physical collection.

A group of Library staff also participated in DPS wide training, both to improve skills levels and to help ensure that the Library is taking an approach that is consistent with wider DPS planning. Many high priority elements of this planning are complete, and over the coming year, we plan to complete these arrangements and test their effectiveness through participation in the DPS exercise program.


The Copyright Act contains specific exemptions that provide that the parliamentary libraries use of copyright material to assist a member of parliament in the performance of their duties does not infringe copyright.33 These exceptions recognise the importance of unimpeded access to information by parliaments and parliamentarians; and are critical for the provision of affordable and timely services to senators and members.

As a consequence of the Library’s submissions to the ALRC inquiry Copyright and the digital economy, the Copyright Agency contacted the Parliamentary Librarian to discuss and clarify some aspects of these exemptions, particularly in relation to material created in digital form. Following these discussions, in July 2015 the Copyright Agency, in consultation with the Copyright Council, issued a Copyright Guide for Australian Parliamentary Libraries that addresses such issues as archiving, technological protection measures and documentation. The Guide provides a valuable resource for staff of parliamentary libraries around Australia. The Copyright Agency’s initiative and assistance is very much appreciated by the Parliamentary Library and other member of Association of Parliamentary Libraries of Australasia.

33 Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), subsection 48A and 104A.

Supporting the Parliament’s engagement with the community and the ongoing development of parliamentary democracy

Regional engagement

Support for the Fiji Parliament

Three senior researchers from the Parliamentary Library –Cat Barker, Marilyn Harrington and Anne Holmes – were seconded to the Fijian Parliament’s Research and Library Services (RLS) from 20 June to 1 July. The researchers were part of a seven-member United Nations Development Programme project that included staff from the Scottish, New Zealand and Victorian parliaments.

The aim of the project, under the leadership of Heather Lyall from the Scottish Parliament, was to assist the RLS to provide practical support to Fijian members of Parliament to analyse and debate their national budget. Associated goals were capacity building and the promotion of the RLS within the Fijian Parliament.

The project involved producing a package of briefs on the 2016–17 Budget, including: an overview of the Budget and key economic indicators; and several themed briefs on priority areas and cross-cutting issues highlighted in the Budget. This was the first time that budget briefs had been produced so the work included conceptualising the briefs, and developing templates and processes. The international team also assisted with the compilation of Bill summaries for the Budget’s revenue Bills.

The culmination of the project was a seminar for members, at which the local researchers delivered presentations and fielded questions on the budget briefs. The members’ responses to the briefs and the seminar were very positive.

Photo 2: Parliamentary Library researchers with their counterparts.

Parliamentary Library researchers with their counterparts from the Victorian, New Zealand and Scottish Parliaments, and the Secretary‑General, Deputy Secretary-General, Director Legislature, managers and research staff of the Fijian Parliament, Suva.<
Parliamentary Library researchers with their counterparts from the Victorian, New Zealand and Scottish Parliaments, and the Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General, Director Legislature, managers and research staff of the Fijian Parliament, Suva.
Source: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji.

Pacific Parliamentary Scholars

The Parliamentary Library again participated in the Pacific Parliamentary Scholarships Scheme, which is part of the Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships initiative funded under the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Initiative (2012–22).

Scholarships were offered to staff of Pacific parliaments interested in developing their research skills, and working with women parliamentarians on a gender equality issue of relevance in their country. Staff from four Pacific Parliaments were awarded scholarships in in 2015–16:

  • Perelaaroi Fereti (the Legislative Assembly of Samoa) whose research project looked at promoting the representation of women in Parliament
  • Gabrissa Hartman (the Parliament of Nauru) whose research focused on the underrepresentation of women in the Nauru Parliament
  • Loupua Pahulu-Kuli (the Legislative Assembly of Tonga) who explored the issue of advancing women’s rights to land in Tonga, and
  • Karurua Rabaere (the Parliament of Tonga). Unfortunately, Ms Rabaere was not able to complete her placement for family reasons.

The Library anticipates hosting further Pacific Parliamentary scholars in 2016–17.

Association of Parliamentary Librarians of Asia and the Pacific

The Association of Parliamentary Librarians of Asia and the Pacific (APLAP) held its Tenth Biennial Conference at Australian Parliament House between 30 November and 3 December 2015. APLAP was founded in 1990 to encourage cooperation and knowledge sharing between parliamentary libraries and research services in the Asia-Pacific region. Its major focus is improving the quality of library and research services provided to parliamentarians by its member organisations.

The theme of the 2015 conference, which was attended by over 50 participants from 22 member countries, was the ‘role of legislative libraries and research services in supporting the Legislature and the development of inclusive democratic governance’. In addition to formal presentations under each of the themed sessions—research services in Parliamentary Libraries, gender mainstreaming parliamentary library research, understanding clients, library trends and innovation, and issues in collection and information—the program featured short ‘Postcard sessions’ in which members talked about issues affecting their library or research service. The Chair of the IFLA Library and Research Services for Parliament, Lillian Gassie (Congressional Research Service), also attended to talk about IFLA’s Parliamentary section and to deliver a personal message from Donna Scheeder, the IFLA President.

A meeting of delegates from Pacific Parliaments was convened following the conference.

At their general meeting on 1 December 2015, APLAP members elected a new executive:

  • President—Dianne Heriot—Australia
  • Vice President Asia—Emma Rey—Philippines
  • Vice President Pacific—Asha Kumar—Fiji
  • Treasurer—New Zealand—Katherine Close

Photo 3: Participants at the Tenth Biennial APLAP Conference

Ms Gai Brodtmann MP, Joint Chair of the Joint Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Library with some of the participants at the Tenth Biennial APLAP Conference.
Photo 3: Ms Gai Brodtmann MP, Joint Chair of the Joint Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Library with some of the participants at the Tenth Biennial APLAP Conference

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

Guidelines for parliamentary research services publication
Guidelines for parliamentary services book

IFLA is the leading international body for library and information services and its ‘Library and Research Services for Parliaments Section’ brings together specialist legislative information services from around the world.

In May 2015, the Parliamentary Librarian was re-elected to the Standing Committee administering the Library and Research Services for Parliaments Section and was a member of the working group preparing a new IFLA standard, the Guidelines for parliamentary research services—a joint publication of IFLA and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The standard was endorsed by IFLA’s Professional Committee in August 2015, and launched at the Section’s annual pre-conference that same month at the Parliament of South Africa in Cape Town. The publication has been translated into French, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese.


The Library continued to be an active member of the Australian Government Libraries Information Network (AGLIN) that represents and supports the interests of its members in the delivery of information services to Australian Government organisations.

The Library also remained active in the Association of Parliamentary Libraries of Australasia, a collaborative network of federal and state parliamentary libraries in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, including through managing the Association’s website.

What our clients said:

‘I went to the Library—that fantastic research facility we have here…’
Cathy McGowan MP, House of Representative Hansard, 26 February 2016, p. 2583


In 2015–16, the Library hosted staff from the NSW and Tasmanian Parliamentary Libraries keen to explore aspects of our online service delivery.

During the year, Library staff presented to the 2016 Inter-parliamentary Study of Parliament Course, and met with parliamentary delegations and staff and government representatives from China, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Japan, Samoa, the Seychelles, and Vanuatu.

In November 2015, Jonathan Curtis, Assistant Secretary Research Branch, participated in 6th International Seminar for Parliamentary Research Services, hosted by the Korean National Assembly Research Service in Seoul. The seminar involved participants from twelve countries, and explored the theme of relations between the executive and the legislature. Mr Curtis served as moderator for the first session as well as presenting a paper on the Australian experience in a later session. He was also able to utilise the time in Seoul before the conference to meet with counterparts in the Research Service.

Taking advantage of opportunities arising from private travel, members of the Library Executive also met with staff from the House of Commons Library, the research service of the Scottish Parliament, the European and German parliamentary libraries and the Swedish Parliamentary Research Service.

Recognising the importance of supporting the development of professional skills in the library community, the Library once again hosted a group of library students from Charles Sturt University.

Australian Parliamentary Fellowship Program

Australian Parliamentary Fellowship

The Library has, on behalf of the Parliament, managed the Australian Parliamentary Fellowship since 1970 to contribute to scholarship on the Parliament and its work and support to early career scholars (that is, those who have completed a PhD within the past three years). The Fellowship provides an opportunity for researchers to conduct research into areas of direct interest to the Parliament including the way that Parliament and parliamentarians operate, or the way a broad issue in national politics is dealt with in Parliament. (The Fellow is employed in the Research Branch of the Parliamentary Library for up to six months fulltime, with provision for part time or broken periods of employment).

Dr Edward Scarr was appointed as the Australian Parliamentary Fellow in2014–15, the first time the position had been offered for several years.

Dr Scarr concluded his appointment in 2015–16; and his monograph, Changing attitudes to mental illness in the Australian Defence Force: a long way to go…, was published in June 2016.

Parliamentary Library Associates

In 2011–12, the then Parliamentary Librarian established an adjunct position of Parliamentary Library Associate to help build and sustain relationships between the Library and individuals with demonstrated expertise in issues of interest to the Parliament. Associates sign an agreement with the Parliamentary Librarian granting access to the Library collection, in association with the preparation of research products and assistance to the Library’s research specialists.

What our clients said:

‘I am pleased to be able to make a contribution to the valedictories of the 2015 sitting of the parliament…. [thanks to] the library staff, who are particularly important when you are in opposition...’
Anthony Albanese MP, House of Representatives Hansard, 3 December 2015, p. 14661

Two Associates continued work in the Library in 2015–16: Ms Janet Vallee, formerly a senior researcher in the Politics and Public Administration Section; and Dr David Headon, a historian and Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at ANU.

Ms Vallee updated a chronology covering ministerial resignations and dismissals since Federation, worked on the oral history project, and contributed her extensive subject-matter knowledge to the work of the Politics and Public Administration Section.

Dr Headon’s first paper for the Library, on Alfred Deakin, is due for release late in 2016. A Parliamentary Library lecture and small exhibition on Deakin will accompany the release.

Summer Research Scholarship

Established in 2013, the Parliamentary Library’s Summer Research Scholarship offers honours and post-graduate tertiary students the opportunity to undertake a research project at the Parliamentary Library. The objectives of the scholarships are to support research by a postgraduate student examining an aspect of policy, lawmaking, governance, democracy, politics or parliament, on a topic of direct relevance to the Australian Parliament to:

  • further the student’s research knowledge
  • increase their research expertise
  • contribute to scholarship on the Commonwealth Parliament and its work and
  • promote the work of the Parliamentary Library and its potential as a future employer.

Scholars are able to research a subject that is relevant to the Parliament, and which is of mutual interest to both the scholars and the Parliamentary Library. Scholarship recipients undertake a six-week placement in the Library during the summer academic break. They receive access to the Library’s collections and facilities, the opportunity to interact with expert librarians and researchers, mentoring for their research project and a small honorarium.

The 2016 Summer Research Scholarship round opened in August 2015, with 23 applications received by the closing date (23 September). Following a merit-based selection process, the Parliamentary Librarian awarded scholarships to:

  • Georgia Allen, a Juris Doctor candidate at the University of Sydney, who examined recent reforms to the Senate electoral system
  • Steven Jones, a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, who researched the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight in defence procurement in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, and
  • Muhammad Suleiman, a PhD candidate at Macquarie University, who examined the relationship between political communication of anti-terrorism laws and trust in public institutions.

The three scholars presented work-in-progress seminars during their placements. They also submitted research papers that are currently being reviewed with a view to publication on the Library’s website later in the year.

In addition to completing research projects, the scholars participated in a series of joint events with summer scholars from Canberra cultural institutions. As in previous years, the Library provided access to its collection to summer scholars from the Museum of Australian Democracy.

The Presiding Officers hosted a reception in the President’s courtyard at Parliament House for the summer scholars from all participating institutions.

Advertisements for the 2017 round are scheduled to appear in August 2016.

Photo 4: The 2016 Summer Scholars and the Australian Parliamentary Fellow with the Presiding Officers, February 2016

The 2016 Summer Scholars and the Australian Parliamentary Fellow with the Presiding Officers, February 2016

Interns and Graduates

Parliamentary Library intern programs

In 2014 the Library piloted two intern programs —one in Research Branch and one in Library Collections and Databases Branch—with the objective of:

  • fostering relationships between the Parliamentary Library and Australian tertiary institutions
  • providing interns with an opportunity to develop their research and/or library skills
  • providing Parliamentary Library staff the opportunity to develop supervision and mentoring skills and
  • promoting the work of the Parliamentary Library and its potential as a future employer of choice.

What our clients said:

‘I just want to take a few moments of the Senate’s time to put some absolute facts from our good friends at the Parliamentary Library on the record.’
Senator Gallacher, Senate, Hansard, 3 February 2016, p. 268


Both programs offer a four-week work experience placement to tertiary students enrolled in internship units as a formal part of their courses or degrees. Placement on the programs is by merit-based selection.

Library Collections and Databases intern program

Applications for library interns are open to tertiary students enrolled in an ALIA accredited librarianship course at an Australian institution.

The Library Collections and Databases program offers these students an opportunity to develop their skills in a well-regarded Library with highly professional and experienced staff. In turn, the Library benefits from an increase in work capacity and the next-generation skills brought by the students. Interns spend a week working in each section in the branch and also undertake a special project of their choice.

The Library received 22 applications for the pilot program, with two interns receiving placements. Due the success of the initiative, three library interns were appointed in the 2015 academic year. The Library received 39 applications for its 2016 program, with four interns winning placements.

Of the six library students who have completed the Library Collections and Databases Branch program, four have gained employment in the Parliamentary Library (two ongoing and two in non-ongoing positions).

Research Branch intern program

The Research Branch internship program currently offers placements to students enrolled at the law schools of the Australian National University and University of Canberra.

To date, eight legal interns have completed the Research Branch program (six from ANU and two from University of Canberra), with another intern currently undertaking the program.

Research branch interns are required to write a research paper on an agreed topic relevant to the work of the Parliament. In addition, legal interns assist with basic research tasks under the direction of their supervisors.

Where interns produce research judged to be of sufficiently high standard and relevance to the work of parliament, the Library may publish the research as part of an intern papers series, similar to those of other interns in Parliament under the ANIP and the Summer Scholars papers.

Australian National Internship Program

This year the Library also agreed to host an intern as part of the Australian National Internship Program administered by the Australian National University. This program, open to undergraduate and postgraduate students, offers 13 week research internships at the Commonwealth Parliament, , ACT Legislative Assembly, Australian Public Service agencies and as well as embassies, think-tanks and NGOs (see

This program covers all academic disciplines so offers the potential to bring interns into any of the Library’s research sections. This year’s ANIP placement, Simon Gottlieb from ANU, prepared a research paper on Environmental policy development and federalism. Simon was the first ANIP placement with the Library for some years, and we look forward to hosting further interns under this program.

Participation in the Australian Public Service Graduate Program

This year the Library had the assistance of two graduates from the APS Graduate Program, both from the Department of Human Services, who had placements in the Social Policy and Economics sections.

The Library has again found participation in the scheme to be beneficial, with the graduates contributing to their sections’ work including preparation of bills digests, client research and publications. The graduates enjoyed the opportunity to increase their knowledge of Australia’s political system and parliamentary environment, as well as conducting complex research.

Assistance to the Parliament Shop

Since July 2014, the Library has been responsible for selecting and recommending politically themed book titles within the Shop.

The Library’s acquisitions team has recommended over 300 titles during this period, and the initiative has proved successful. By utilising the Library’s extensive acquisitions expertise, the Shop’s staff have been able to capture relevant titles in a timely and effective manner. The objective is for The Parliament Shop to be the place to go to for politically themed books; and this initiative has greatly assisted them in achieving this goal.

World War I Centenary

The Parliamentary Library continued its commemoration of the centenary of WWI, under the title ‘A deadly and often doubtful struggle’: Parliament, War and Empire.

As well as the usual annual update to the Anzac Day Kit, the Library hosted two lectures:34

  • The Australian Red Cross and the First World War, presented by Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, from Flinders University and
  • Our life goes on the same’—the Great War at home, presented by Professor Peter Stanley, from the University of NSW.

Members who Served’ exhibition poster

At a remembrance ceremony at Parliament House on Armistice Day 2015, the Library launched its ‘Members who Served’ exhibition, commemorating the 119 Commonwealth members of Parliament identified as having served during the First World War. (The exhibition features 16 of these men who were also members of Parliament during the war years, including nine who served in Parliament while at the same time being engaged in war service.)

The exhibition was based upon a Library publication, Commonwealth Members of Parliament who have served in war: Colonial Wars and the First World War. The 18 posters which featured in the exhibition can be downloaded from the APH website.35

The Library also worked closely with staff from Parliamentary Experience Branch to develop an interactive, multimedia kiosk on parliamentarians who served.

Library staff have now provided text and photos for senators’ and members’ service from the colonial wars to the end of World War II for the kiosk. Although every effort has been made to provide comprehensive information, entries may not be complete due to the nature of the source materials used including historical records.

34 The lectures can be downloaded at

Strengthening our staff’s capability

Needs assessment and workforce development

A priority of the 2015–16 business plan was the development of capability assessments and a workforce plan and training and development strategies for Library staff to help:

  • attract, develop and retain staff
  • ensure their skills remain relevant
  • promote a culture of collaboration and learning, and a healthy and productive workforce, and
  • ensure the Library is able to adapt to changing client needs.

Work on these initiatives was well progressed by the end of the reporting period.

The workforce plan (now in final draft form) looks at the changing environment in which the Library operates, and resourcing. It examines in some detail changes in its workforce composition over the past ten years, including: size, age, average length of service, classification profiles, qualifications, separation and recruitment. The plan also looks at separation rates, recruitment and professional development, identifying key challenges and strategies to address them.

The workforce plan and associated professional development and training strategies will be the subject of discussion with the JSCPL in 2016–17.

Training and skills development

The value of the analysis and advice provided to our clients depends in large part on the professional skills and knowledge of the Library’s staff, researchers and library professionals alike.

In 2015–16, staff regularly attended corporate training (notably in tendering and contract management), as well
as seminars, conference and the like as part of their professional development. This included library system vendor workshops and events (SirsiDynix Nationwide Roadshow, Maintaining Digital Repositories/ALIA).

However, the Library also recognises that there are core parliamentary specific areas of knowledge that are not always readily available externally.

To address this, the Library hosts a regular program of in-house lectures and training that in 2015–16 covered areas including legislative drafting, statutory interpretation, copyright, constitutional law, drafting of bills digests, mapping techniques, and client service skills (in addition to the editing training noted elsewhere). Some sessions have been presented in-house; others have involved senior staff from the Australian Government Solicitor and the Copyright Council. The Library also invites colleagues from the chamber departments, and particularly the committee offices, to attend. A presentation from the First Parliamentary Counsel is scheduled for early in 2016–17.

A staff member from Library Collections and Databases Branch was also accepted for the Aurora Institute for Emerging Leaders, a premier training program for emerging library leaders in Australian and New Zealand.

Finally, in preparation for the 45th Parliament, the Library ran an intensive program of contact officer training.

Communities of practice and in-house seminars

Few public policy issues fit into neat subject categories and there is a global recognition of the need for interdisciplinary, or cross-sectoral analysis. Similarly, the Library’s clients require information and advice on issues from numerous perspectives, combining for example, economic, legal and technical analysis.

The Library is exploring ways to promote this cross-disciplinary thinking, such as through in-house seminars on specific subjects—small group conversations run on ‘Chatham House rules’ and focusing on gaining insights into current issues. Library researchers are joined by invited guests from other parliamentary departments, universities and government agencies, providing a forum to build relationships with other experts in the fields.

Three such sessions were held in the second half of the 2015–16, and we intend to build on them to develop more widely based communities of practice in broad fields such as regulation or federalism.

Workforce issues

At 30 June 2016, the Library’s workforce comprised:

  • Office of the Parliamentary Librarian—12 employees
  • Collections and Databases Branch—47 employees
  • Research Branch—86 employees.

During 2015–16, the Library workforce:

  • increased from 139 to 145 employees, and in FTE from 129.6 (as at 30 June 2015) to 135.7 (as at 30 June 2016)
  • maintained representation of non-ongoing employment at 17 per cent (24 compared with 121 ongoing employees)
  • had a median age of 44 years (a fall from 46 years in 2015).

Age profile

At 30 June 2016, 30 per cent of the Library’s ongoing employees were eligible to retire (i.e. aged 55 years and over). A further 27 per cent will move into that age cohort within the next 10 years.

The Library could, potentially, suffer a significant loss of corporate knowledge and expertise if many in this age cohort choose to retire without a succession plan being in place. As noted above, the Library is developing a comprehensive plan for workforce development and training which includes strategies to address this risk.

As can be seen in Figure 6, the age profile of the Library’s ongoing employees remains somewhat older than that for the Australian Public Service (APS).

Figure 6: Age profile of ongoing staff

Figure 6 Age profile of ongoing staff

The Library’s relatively older age profile has been evident for some years, but is less pronounced than it was a decade ago: the proportion of employees aged 45 and over has fallen from 71 per cent in 200736 to 58 per cent in 2015 and fallen again to 57 per cent in 2016.


Given the nature of much of the work undertaken in the Library, the classification profile overall is concentrated at PEL 1, with 44 per cent of ongoing employees being at this level (the majority of whom are in Research Branch). In contrast, only 20 per cent of ongoing employees in the APS are at the equivalent EL 1.37 However, over time, there has been an increase in the proportion of Library employees at PSL 4–5 and PSL 6, as shown in Figure 7 below. This shift reflects the Library’s growing focus on developing potential career paths for less experienced employees to ensure continuity of skills and opportunities to expand corporate knowledge. In Research Branch, an additional benefit of having lower level staff is freeing up senior researchers to concentrate on more complex work.

Figure 7: Classification profile of Library staff

Figure 7 Classification profile of Library staff

The proportion of employees at middle management (PEL 2) is below the APS average— the Library has 14.8 employees at lower levels for each PEL 2, compared with 9.4 for the APS.38

Employment status and gender

As noted earlier, the Library’s non-ongoing workforce at June 2016 accounted for 17 per cent of all employees, unchanged from the previous year. Non-ongoing employees are generally engaged to meet demand in peak periods, and while recruitment processes are underway. Using fixed-term positions (one or two years) also allows flexibility to redirect resources according to business needs as new areas of interest to the Parliament emerge.

The proportion of non-ongoing employees in the Library is higher than in the APS (10 per cent),39 reflecting the sessional nature of many of our work patterns.

Having surge capacity is important to allow us to meet client demands at peak periods. This year, the Library continued to refresh our temporary employment register to support this demand. The Library also participated in a number of placement programs for academic courses related to the Library’s needs, and this has helped raise the Library’s profile as an employer of choice.

The Library has a similar gender profile to that of the APS, with 58 per cent of ongoing employees being women—the same proportion as in the APS. For non-ongoing employees, the Library has a much higher proportion of women (76 per cent compared with the APS 63 per cent).40


During 2015–16, there were 34 new external employees recruited—seven were ongoing and the remainder were engaged on fixed-term or sessional basis.

  • Research Branch recruited 22 new employees: five ongoing and 17 non-ongoing. All sections recruited new employees, with six in Economics, five in Social Policy, three in Law and Bills Digests and two each in Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security, Politics and Public Administration, Science, Technology Environment and Resources, and Statistics and Mapping sections.
  • Library Collections and Databases Branch recruited nine new employees: two ongoing (one each in Central Enquiry Point and Collection Management) and the others on fixed term non-ongoing contracts in Collection Management and Database and Media Services.
  • The Office of the Parliamentary Librarian recruited three new employees: all were non-ongoing and engaged to replace staff on extended leave.


Thirty staff left the Library during 2015–16: 13 were ongoing employees, and the remainder were non-ongoing on fixed-term contracts. Of the non-ongoing separations, five had been engaged during the year on short-term contracts.

For all staff, the separation rate was 21 per cent, a slight reduction from 24 per cent the previous year. For ongoing staff, the separation rate of 11 per cent was somewhat higher than that for the APS (8 per cent in 2014–15).41

The reasons for separations were:

  • Age retirement (5 employees)
  • End of contract (14 employees)
  • End of temporary transfer (2 employees)
  • Transfers (six employees)
  • Resignation (2 employees)
  • Invalidity retirement (1 employee).

The following table shows separations for ongoing and non-ongoing employees by branch during 2015–16.

Table 15: Separation by organisation

Separation method





Age retirement




Library Collections and Databases



End of contract or temporary transfer from APS





Library Collections and Databases



Office of the Parliamentary Librarian



Permanent transfer to APS or Parliamentary Service









Office of the Parliamentary Librarian



Invalidity retirement

Library Collections and Databases



36 Department of Parliamentary Services Annual Report and Financial Statements 2008–09, p. 41
37 Australian Public Service Commission, APS Statistical Bulletin 2014-15, Table 11
38 Ibid, Table 11
39 Ibid, Table 1
40 Ibid, Table 1
41 Ibid, p 68

Performance report

The Parliamentary Library 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 programs:

  • Research Services. These services include responding to requests from individual parliamentary clients for information and research, and the production of print and electronic publications.
  • Library Collections and Databases. 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 Search.

Staff from the Office of the Parliamentary Librarian contribute to the work of both programs.

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

The Library uses the RefTracker Information Request Management System to manage client requests and other client related work. This records, among other things, the number of requests/publications and the time spent on them. The time attributed reflects only the direct time spent on each. However, the ability to provide effective and timely delivery of publication or commissioned services is underpinned by the time Library staff spend in building and maintaining their professional expertise across a range of frequently changing subject domains. In addition, comparisons of the number of jobs and hours across financial years should be made with regard to associated changes in staffing levels from year to year.

Research services

The services contributing to this program are as follows:

  • Commissioned information, research and advisory services—these are tailored and confidential responses prepared following requests from individual senators, members and their staff, and other parliamentary clients.
  • General distribution publications (Publications)—these are prepared where strong client demand is anticipated for briefing on specific policy issues. Publications include the Parliamentary Handbook, Briefing Book, Budget Review, Bills Digests, Research Papers, Quick Guides and FlagPost blog posts. Publications are available to clients and the public, through the Internet.

Table 16: Research services—deliverables








Individual client requests

Percentage of primary clients using the service
target: 100%





Number of individual client requests completed
target: 13,000





Self-service requests

Number of online uses of the Parliamentary Library’s publications, including the Parliamentary Handbook, through ParlInfo and the Internet
target: 5,400,000






Number of publications produced
target: 260





Client training and seminars

Attendance at training courses and events (e.g. Vital Issues Seminars) target: 500





42 In 2013–14 the self-service requests statistic was expanded to include ParlMap.

The following table illustrates the costs associated with providing research services.

Table 17: Research services—price indicators








Cost of research services

Average cost per individual client request





Average direct cost per self-service client request (staff time only)





Client requests

During 2015–16, 100 per cent of the Library’s primary clients (Senators’ and Members’ offices, including Ministers’ offices) used the client request service at least once, and the Library met its target for the number of individual client requests completed (13,000).

The Library will continue to monitor usage closely in the 45th Parliament and consult with clients to ensure services are appropriately targeted.


In meeting the need to provide high quality information, analysis and advice to senators and members, the Library produces information and advice for individual clients on an “in confidence” basis. It also produces publications for broader distribution in areas where there is strong client interest and demand or such demand is anticipated.

In 2015–16, the Library produced 267 publications. This included 63 FlagPost blog posts and 58 research papers.

Of all Library publications, the most heavily used, and most keenly awaited, remain Bills Digests. These provide an independent perspective on, and analysis of, legislation before the Parliament. Every effort is made to produce a Digest for every Bill where it is considered a Digest would add value by providing:

  • independent analysis, background information and additional perspectives not provided in the explanatory material associated with the Bill
  • information that is important for parliamentarians to be able to contribute effectively to debate.

Bills Digests are primarily written for Government Bills but may also be written for Private Senators’ and Members’ Bills where there is a reasonable prospect of the Bill being debated.

A Digest may not be produced where the Bill is non-controversial or not complex and where the explanatory memorandum and second reading speech give a comprehensive explanation of the Bill and any underlying policy issues.

Where there is a suite of Bills introduced into Parliament, generally only one Bills Digest will be produced for the main Bill (where appropriate this Bills Digest will address relevant provisions of the companion Bills).

Finally, production of Digests may be affected by internal resource constraints.

At times, a Bills Digest cannot be produced in time for debate in the second chamber. This may be due to the amount of time allowed between introduction and debate, a change in the legislative program, or resources available to address the number and complexity of Bills in the legislative program. Where it is not possible to produce Digests in time for debates, every effort is made to support clients by providing draft Digests or other briefing material.

The Library published 117 Bills Digests in 2015–16 as compared to 134 in 2014–15. (The reduction in number from the previous year was primarily a consequence of the dissolution of both Houses on 9 May 2016.) Of these, one Digest related to a Private Members’ Bill (the Fair Work Amendment (Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Location) Bill 2015). FlagPosts were also published for two other Private Senators/Members Bills during 2015–16: Australian Government Boards (Gender Balanced Representation) Bill 2015, and the Migration Amendment (Mandatory Reporting) Bill 2015.

Digests were not produced for 12 Government Bills (down from 26 in the previous financial year). Of these Bills, two were introduced and passed both Houses in a week or less, with one passing both Houses within a day of introduction. Of these 12 Bills, two were the subject of other Parliamentary Library publications – one Quick Guide and one FlagPost.

Two digests (each relating to two cognate Bills) were not completed in time for debate. The Bills were:

  • the Education Legislation Amendment (Overseas Debt Recovery) Bill 2015 and the Student Loans
    (Overseas Debtors Repayment Levy) Bill , and
  • the Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016 and Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill 2016.

In the context of prioritising research work, Bills Digests and client requests receive the highest priority, with other publications worked on as time permits.

In 2015–16, hours spent responding to senators’ and members’ enquiries decreased slightly (4 per cent); however this reduction is attributable to a substantial drop in client requests in June following the dissolution of Parliament. Prior to that, hours spent on client requests were on average slightly higher than 2014–15; and the total remains significantly higher than in 2012–13 and 2013–14. Hours on client services to parliamentary committees, parliamentary departments and reciprocal arrangements increased by three per cent.

As the following graph shows, in the reporting period Library staff hours spent on publications decreased significantly (by 24 per cent), and this is reflected also in the reduction in the total number of publications released (267 compared to 328 in the previous financial year). As noted above, in the case of Bills Digests, this reflects the impact of the early dissolution of the Parliament. While this had some effect on also on other types of publications, the relatively low number of other research publications released is primarily a product of the strong focus on training and development, responding to the findings of the client evaluation of Library services. These hours are not reflected in the chart that records only direct client service.

Figure 8: Distribution of client service hours by service type

Figure 8 Distribution of client service hours by service type

Client training and seminars

During the year, Library induction and orientation services were held for 94 clients (down from 115 in 2014–15). These continued to be successful in providing, through individual and small group sessions, a timely and detailed introduction to Library services. This included targeted information sessions conducted in client’s offices. We also offered drop in sessions throughout the year to provide information on specific services such as news services and our mapping and statistics products—46 clients took advantage of these sessions.

Library staff were also appointed as contact officers for senators appointed to casual vacancies and new members elected taking their seats as a result of by-elections.

The Client Relations Director also began visits to selected capital cities to offer orientations/training particularly to electorate staff that may not have the opportunity to travel to Canberra. Library staff who were attending meetings or conferences interstate also took the opportunity to visit offices in the area. Thirty-six visits were made to electorate offices in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia during 2015–16.

Since 1986, the Library has been running a program of lectures and seminars that bring notable speakers to the Parliament to give senators and members and their staff the opportunity to hear, first hand, expert opinion on a range of currently relevant topics.

Parliamentary Library Lectures and seminars attracted 553 attendees in 2015–16 (up from 303 in 2014–15), 105 of whom were attendees at the Library’s annual budget seminar.

In addition to the Budget seminar, the Library hosted six lectures and seminars covering a diverse range of subjects. They were:

  • ‘Islamic state’ in a zone of conflicts within conflicts’, Professor Amin Saikal, Australian National University;
  • ‘What is tax reform and what can it do?’, Professor Peter Stanley, University of NSW;
  • ‘The Australian Red Cross and the First World War’, Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, Flinders University;
  • ‘Migrants and Jobs: Australia’s amazing immigration decade’, Professor Bob Gregory, ANU;
  • Electronic elections: Security and verifiability, Dr Vanessa Teague (University of Melbourne) and Professor Rajeev Gore (ANU); and
  • the Reconciliation Week Lecture, ‘The State of Reconciliation in Australia’, presented by Justin Mohamed, CEO of Reconciliation Australia.

A planned lecture on ballot integrity and security and electoral reform did not proceed due to the dissolution of Parliament.

Most lectures are available for download from the APH website.

Client satisfaction with requests and publications

Table 18: Research services—key performance indicators

Key performance Indicator







Client satisfaction with requests and publications

High level of customer satisfaction
target: 95%





Client service delivered to timeliness service standard
target: 90%





Number of complaints from clients remains low





The 2015 client service evaluation found the general response to the Library was very positive. Satisfaction among senators, members and their staff was high at 93 per cent (though slightly below the target of 95 per cent), with 97 per cent of senators and members indicating they would recommend the Library’s services to a colleague (both figures are consistent with results in the 2012 survey). Most respondents considered Library staff to be hard working, professional and friendly and services to be of a high quality.

The Parliamentary Library is committed to the ongoing improvement of its service delivery across both programs. While the formal client evaluation of Library services is conducted only once each Parliament, the Library regularly receives direct and unsolicited feedback from clients by phone or email about aspects of its service.

The Library Executive also proactively seeks to meet with as many clients as possible each year to help broaden client awareness of the range of service offerings, and also to elicit forthright feedback (where appropriate, these meetings are followed up with targeted training or other client support initiatives). All such feedback from clients is highly valued, be it compliments, brickbats or complaints, suggestions or information requests about services. All are vital to enable the Library to:

  • improve our services and products
  • help prevent problems from occurring in the future
  • ensure more consistent service delivery and
  • communicate more effectively with clients about Library services.

In 2015–16, the Librarian continued its program of consultation and outreach to parliamentary committees.

A planned program of exit interviews with retiring senators and members was curtailed by the early dissolution of both houses in May 2016, with only three interviews conducted.

Research Branch received two complaints in 2015–16. Both related to the quality of commissioned research.

43 As measured in Leapfrog Research Evaluation of Parliamentary Library Services, 2012.
44 As measured in Leapfrog Research Evaluation of Parliamentary Library Services, 2012.
45 As measured in Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library Client service evaluation, 2015.
46 As measured in Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library Client service evaluation, 2015.

Library collections and databases

The services contributing to this program include:

  • the Library collection—development of the collection to meet users’ needs and provision of access through the catalogue and ParlInfo Search
  • online full-text content such as news clippings
  • 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
  • commercial databases—including online full-text journal and newspaper services available through the Library client services’ portal and the Senators’ and Members’ Services Portal and
  • 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, members and their staff.

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

Table 19: Information access services—deliverables








Material added to Library databases

Number of items added to the Library’s Electronic Media Monitoring Service and to ParlInfo databases
target: 150,000





Material added to Library collection

Number of new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue
target: 4,000





Percentage of titles (books and serials) in Library’s collection available to clients on-line in full-
target: 40%





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: 4 million searches






Table 20: Information access services—price indicators








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





Material added to Library databases

The target for the number of items added to the Library’s Electronic Media Monitoring Service and to Library databases in ParlInfo Search decreased to 150,000 in 2013–14 from 190,000 the previous financial year due to tightening of the selection guidelines. This target was exceeded in 2015–16 with 177,644 items added.

Figure 9: Newspaper clips added to ParlInfo by source

Figure 9 Newspaper clips added to ParlInfo by source

In 2015–16, the Library selected and indexed around 9,000 newspaper clippings a month. This accounted for 92 per cent of the content that was indexed by the Library’s indexing team.

Since the introduction of the automated Library Authoring System and Thesaurus (LAST) in 2010, the Library has been able to provide access to the latest newspaper clippings by 7:30 am seven days a week. Recent figures demonstrate that the introduction of LAST has resulted in almost a 44 per cent reduction in time spent selecting items for the database, and a 28 per cent reduction in the time spent indexing. Compared to 2010, there has been almost a 34 per cent reduction in the time spent providing content for this database. We have also seen a significant increase in the selection and indexing rates. The selection rate has increased by 63 per cent, the indexing rate by 28 per cent and the overall rate by 40 per cent.

The newspaper clippings database remains one of the most frequently selected databases. In 2015–16, it was selected 241,810 times.

Material added to the Library collection

The number of new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue again significantly exceeded the 4,000 target at 7,318. The improved performance is the result of the cataloguing team’s return to its full complement of staff (2013–14 performance was affected by the absence of key staff due to illness).

The percentage of titles available online (full-text) increased from 38.2 per cent to 41.2 per cent, exceeding the annual target of 40 per cent.

The Library collection was revalued by Australian Valuation Solutions at the end of the 2014–15 financial year. The fair value of the collection was $4.478 million and the replacement value was $13.345 million.

Use of the Library’s collection and databases

The target figure of four million uses of the Library’s collection and databases was met with 4.44 million uses being reported, slightly lower than 2014–15’s figure of 4.55 million uses. However, the level of use of Library databases in ParlInfo Search indicates that the services remain valuable and relevant. Usage also reflects Library’s ongoing efforts to introduce and promote self-help services at the desktop and on mobile devices.

Use of the print collection also continues to increase and is at its highest level since 2010–11. (The 2015 client evaluation of Library services similarly found that use of the Library’s print collection had increased significantly—from 61 per cent in 2012 to 85 per cent in 2015.) Both point to the strengthening of the Collection Development policy and the expertise of the Library Acquisitions team in selecting items to add to the collection.

Figure 10: Use of the print collection

Figure 10 Use of the print collection

Usage of the Library’s ebook collections remained low during 2015–16, with only 212 loans being processed (compared to 10,442 for the print collection). This may be in part due to user frustration with the complicated software systems associated with library ebook platforms. To help rectify this problem, the Library has updated all of the ebook holdings accessible via the A-Z platform, resulting in a simplified discovery system for these titles. In addition, we subscribed to the Serial Solutions MARC ebook records service, which resulted in over 3,000 ebooks being discoverable within our aggregated databases. The Library also sourced the EZYproxy service in 2015–16, which will provide a more seamless (single sign-on) access to our subscribed ebook collections. EZYProxy is scheduled for implemented in early 2016–17.

Table 21: Subprogram 2—Information access services—key performance indicators

Key performance indicator







Client satisfaction with information access services

High level of client satisfaction
target: 95%





Number of urgent new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue within timeliness service standard
target: 100%





Number of Senators and Members using the iSentia Mediaportal
(new KPI)
target: 80%



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 clients remains low





Client satisfaction with Library Collection and Databases

See the discussion on client satisfaction indicators at page 134.

The key performance indicator for ‘new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue within timeliness service standard’ was changed with effect from 2013–14. It now measures timeliness in relation to cataloguing direct client requests (with a turnaround deadline of 24 hours). These items are classed as urgent and are catalogued as a priority by Collection Management staff. This change was made in recognition of the impact of budget driven reductions in staff numbers in the cataloguing team at the end of 2012–13 and the emphasis of treating client driven requests as a priority.

The cataloguing team met both its timeliness target for direct client requests and, as noted above, significantly exceeded the target (4000) for the number of new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue by processing 7318 titles. Despite the greatly increased number of titles processed, the 85 per cent target for adding routine items (those selected by Acquisitions staff) to the catalogue within the two week service standard was reached, with 97 per cent of material being added within this time-frame.

For the Electronic Media Monitoring Service and the ParlInfo newspaper clippings database, the end of year performance of new items being added to the relevant databases was 94.7 per cent, very slightly (0.3 per cent) under the target.

The Library Collections and Databases Branch received no complaints in 2015–16.

47 As measured in Leapfrog Research, Evaluation of Parliamentary Library Services, 2012
48 As measured in Leapfrog Research, Evaluation of Parliamentary Library Services, 2012
49 As measured in Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library Client service evaluation, 2015.
50 As measured in Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library Client service evaluation, 2015


News Services for the Parliament

The Parliamentary Library has been monitoring radio and television news and current affairs programs for over 25 years through its Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS). Until 2014, EMMS was only able to record stations that broadcast into Canberra (including syndicated programs). For other metropolitan and regional broadcasts, the Library relied on reciprocal arrangements with State Parliamentary Libraries (except for the SA Parliamentary Library, which does not offer this service).

However, more recently, the Library has been able to improve EMMS’ coverage significantly through the use of new technology and enhanced service offerings from external vendors. Senators and members are able to access over 300 regional radio and TV stations through the iSentia Mediaportal. Through the VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television) service, EMMs now also covers the main ABC FM radio stations in state and territory capital cities. For coverage of radio broadcasts outside the capital cities, the Library has negotiated an agreement with the Fairfax Radio Monitoring service and can monitor and archive radio programs from anywhere in Australia an hour after they have been broadcast. Access to such a comprehensive range of regional press was particularly important and addressed a long-standing gap in the Library’s services.

In 2015–16, 89 per cent of senators’ and members’ offices have at least one logon for the iSentia Mediaportal, and these users have created over 906 alerts.

The Library’s suite of news services now includes:

  • Senators' news clips of the day, and the equivalent Members' news clips of the day
  • an Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS)
  • newspaper clippings in ParlInfo Search
  • newspaper clippings from national, metropolitan and regional newspapers through the iSentia MediaPortal
  • regional radio and television news broadcasting through the iSentia MediaPortal
  • a breaking news service
  • a social media monitoring service and
  • digital access to The Age, The Australian, Australian Financial Review, Business Spectator, Canberra IQ, Crikey, The Sydney Morning Herald and the New York Times.

The Library also subscribes to news service databases providing current and archival full text searchable articles from Australian and International sources, including:

  • ProQuest ANZ Newsstand
  • Library Press Display (Press Reader)
  • NewsBank


Financial Report


Resource Agreement 2015-16


Operational funding


Capital funding







Budget ($)

Actual ($)

Expenditure – Operating appropriation

Employee (including entitlements)

Research Branch



Library Collections and Databases Branch



Office of the Parliamentary Librarian



Total employee



Collection (information resources)



Other expenses



Asset maintenance (software licences/maintenance)



Revenue (Inter-Library Loans)



Total Operational expenditure



Expenditure – Capital



Summary by organisational unit (operational + capital)

Parliamentary Librarian



Research Branch



Library Collections and Databases Branch



Total expenditure including capital funding