More Notes from the Library Roundtable

Jackie Curro

Jackie Curro

Jackie Curro from Maryland discussed an issue that faces all of our libraries – reaching the members of our legislatures.   Of their 188 member offices, about 30 are constant library users.  A few never contact the library.  About three years ago they decided to talk with members in their offices.  The library is  required to provide copies of the Annotated Statutes, which is now up to 50 printed volumes, to all members. They offered to have a librarian come to member’s offices to tell them how to use the statutes (and hopefully encourage them to use them  online!). Each session is about  thirty minutes, and effective because the librarian can address just what the member needs to know about searching. About 20 members have signed up each of the three years. They feel it´s been successful, especially since they have made contacts with many staff  members too.  Jackie’s question to the group was, ‘Should we be moving on to podcasts to try to reach more members?”  The group´s advice was to look into online tutorials.  Short webinars can be very effective.  Mary Camp noted that many people have come to rely on the library, but it’s because of the personal contacts.  It’s a balancing act – making as much as possible online, yet maintaining the personal contacts that lead to effective delivery of services.

Mary Camp,  Director of the Texas Legislative Library, noted that the Texas Legislature meets every other year, Jan-May.  Their staff complement is library has 26 fte, 31 during session.   They are creating an all-time legislator database, but it is still internal only as they complete it.  They are undergoing a project to digitize all bills from the first session to the present, in-house, as time permits.  An outside consultant predicted that it would take 20 years to scan the mountain of paper, but they are 13 years ahead of schedule!  They continue to maintain their extensive news clipping service, a veto database, an executive order database, and a state of the state speech page.

Shelley Day from Utah is involved in a bill scanning project for bills from 1896-1989; the State Archives is doing the scanning.  She reported that 3/4 of her time is taken up with helping people with legislative histories, so she created web pages to help users get to as much information online as possible.  She also developed a popular staff directory application to help legislators quickly identify and contact staff.  On their secure site, the staff directory allows searching by first or last name, and area of work, and is formatted for Blackberries.

Frances Thomas from Louisiana talked about the subject indexing that the librarians do for bills and acts.  The indexing application, which was developed by outside consultants,is easy to use, but the task is enormous, involving constant changes as bills are amended.   “It’s fun, though,” Frances claimed!

Minnesota librarians were told, “One minute each!” as they quickly showed the library’s main page blog (not really a blog, because comments are not solicited), the Legislators Past & Present Database, the Executive Orders database, the Veto database, and to discuss our move to online newsclip files.

Robbie LaFleur

Getting Started

DSCN2078Shelley Day from Utah and Heather Morton from NCSL.  Heather is very organized!

Social Media in Libraries

Tracy Baker, Minnesota Historical Society

Tracy Baker, Minnesota Historical Society

This session showcased interesting uses of Web 2.0 technology by Minnesota libraries.  Tracy Baker described a new online commenting tool being used at the historical Society,  WOTR, for “write on the record.”wotr It has been added to many of their most popular databases, including the Death Certificates Database, the Birth Certificates Index, and the Photo & Art Database.  Sometimes the comments are requests for corrections; often they include added information about the subjects of the records.  Since adding the function a year ago there have been around 6000 comments.  Tracy showed one comment in the form of a sweet letter to a long dead grandfather.  The WOTR tool was written by MHS staff in open source code, so if there are other institutions interested in using it, Tracy could help.

The Historical Society hosts Placeography, a wiki-based collaborative site about places. There are pages for towns, neighborhoods, or buildings.  If you come to St. Paul, you could take the John Dillinger Slept Here Tour.

Dennis Skrade from the Minnesota State Law Library talked about starting a Twitter feed with the goal of making the Law Library and its services know to a larger audience.  Dennis follows a number of library and legal-related websites and blogs, and his tweets focus on libraries and the legal field.  He posts a link to a funny item each Friday.  (I think these West Publishing videos were intended to be one of those.)  He encouraged everyone to learn as much as possible about Web 2.0 technologies.  He is one of many Minnesota librarians who took advantage of the 23 Things on a Stick program – it’s closed now, but you can still see the suggested applications to learn.  After the course, Dennis used a wiki to consolidate the technical services manuals at the Law Library.

Aside:  The Minnesota LRL also posts on Twitter about new services and new items in the library.  We often cite new reports with a short note about what they say about MN – for example, “Rates of preterm birth by state, 1990 and 2006: MN preterm birth rate increased by 30% http://bit.ly/jrmD1”  The librarians also use Twitter as a news feed by following several media outlets. especially during session.  We follow all legislators with feeds, and have found their postings during session especially interesting.  One member’s posts resulted in an ethics hearing.

Marian Rengel from the Minnesota Digital Library, a collaboration of Minnesota libraries and museums, spoke about the Minnesota Reflections database.  There are 45-50,000 items in the online collection so far, submitted by partner organizations (including the Minnesota LRL).  They use ContentDM.  They created a comment project based on PM wiki, and receive  about a dozen comments per month.  For example, see this comment on this charming photo of a “Motorette on duty.”  The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library has received grants from the Minnesota Digital Library to digitize photos of former legislators for inclusion in our Legislators Past & Presenta database.  (example of a legislator’s record)

Robbie LaFleur

Our Canadian Friend

Disclaimer:  These session notes will be sketchy at best, just noting some interesting comments or points, rather than attempting to capture all of the content!

The Library Roundtable session is a perennial favorite at LRL Professional Development Seminars, and it was a great way to kick off the conference get to know our colleagues and their institutions.

Leslie Polsom started the hour with a description of the the Saskatchewan Legislative Library, which is the oldest library in the province, and their services.  She joked that she comes from the easiest-to-draw province in Canada.  They have 18 FTE.  They provide a weekly Table of Contents  service,  and new book listings, tailored to the subjects of interest to the  members.  The Member Services Librarian is responsible for working with the 58 members of parliament and creating custom searches for them. The Library has developed an interesting annual workshop for social studies in the province, to teach them about the parliamentary process.

The Saskatchewan Parliament, which is unicameral, meets twice each year, from late October to the beginning of December, and another session beginning in March, approximately 70 days in all.  The spring session begins with an opening day tea and a very formal  presentation of the executive branch agenda (we thought it seemed similar to a “State of the State” speech) called the “Speech from the Throne.”  The Speaker of the House is not the leader of the majority party, but elected by the entire body.  The speaker votes only in the case of a tie; the position is a nonpartisan administrative post.

Two versions of the journal are published.  The minutes are bare-boned, and Hansards, verbatim gavel-to-gavel transcripts, are published for meetings of the full body and committee hearings.

Leslie was asked about the references to the Queen’s Printer and Speeches from the Throne; it seems so British.  Of course Canada is a separate country, she said, but still part of the Commonwealth.    “We just never had the revolution.”

Robbie LaFleur

The Queen’s Printer

Leslie Polsom, Saskatchewan

Leslie Polsom, Saskatchewan

Frances Thomas, Louisiana

Frances Thomas, Louisiana

The conference attendees arrived in St. Paul yesterday.  Several met one another for the first time, particularly Leslie Polsom, Director of Reference Services at the Saskatchewan Legislative Library.  This is her first PDS.  Legislative libraries differ greatly in administrative structure, size, and responsiblities within their legislatures.  Frances Thomas, Senior Information Specialist/Systems Librarian at the Legislative Research Library in Louisiana, was talking about how their librarians produce the indexes for their bills and acts.  (I’m glad that our Revisor’s Office does that task!)   Frances also said that the Secretary of State actually publishes the statutes in Louisiana, not the Legislature.  The executive branch also does the publishing in Saskatchewan, except theirs are published by the Queen’s Printing Office, which sounds so exotic.  “And when we get a king,” she added, “It will be the King’s Printing Office.”

Robbie LaFleur

A Warm Welcome to Cold St. Paul

lrlIn 2009, which marks the 40th anniversary of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, we are happy to host the NCSL Legislative Research Librarians 2009 Professional Development Seminar.

It’s a dismal economic year, which means that many of our colleagues aren’t able to travel.  It seems completely crazy that the librarians from Wisconsin can’t take a drive on I-94 to join us; their out-of-state travel ban is stringent.  Couldn’t they just stay overnight in Hudson, Wisconsin?  So our group is small, but the scheduled presentations will be great.  We will share as much of the content we can via this blog.  For those of you who are not here in person, join us virtually.