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ICT Handbook for Parliamentary Libraries

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 2 - Selection and Management of Library ICT Services

Chapter 3 - Core Library Services

Chapter 4 - Archives and Records Management

Chapter 5 - Social Media and Web

Chapter 6 - Impact measures and statistics


Further Reading

Background to the Handbook

This handbook has been sponsored by the Global Centre for ICT in Parliamentary Libraries and the IFLA Parliamentary Libraries Section. The handbook has been prepared by Dr Edmund Balnaves in conjunction with an international editorial committee comprising Soledad Ferreiro (Chile), Moira Fraser (New Zealand), Adolfo Furtado (Brazil), Daniela Giacomelli (Global Centre for ICT), John Pullinger (United Kingdom), Roxanne Missingham (Australia), Sari Pajula (Finland), Albert Nuntja (South Africa), Andy Richardson (Switzerland), Innocent Rugambwa (Uganda), Donna Scheeder (United States of America), Raissa Teodori (Italy), William Young (Canada).

Chapter 1: Introduction & Roadmap

The ICT-based Library

The purpose of this handbook is to provide a template for the implementation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Parliamentary Libraries. The library has a significant role for information provision in the Parliament. Information and Communications Technology can enhance this role by facilitating effective access to information resources – both to the physical assets held by the library and electronic resources held locally and through electronic gateways. ICT can also enhance the capability of the library to provide timely, accurate and impartial research advice to Parliamentary members and their staff. There are several classes of software that facilitate the management of libraries, and this handbook will explore these systems and practical experience in Parliamentary libraries deploying these systems. These systems can be best understood by reference to the wider role of the Parliamentary library that is covered by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) publication “Guidelines for Legislative Libraries”. This handbook presents current developments in ICT for parliamentary libraries, with specific reference to software, standards and case studies.

Classes of software that this handbook explores are:

  • Research and Reference Desk Services
  • Library Management Systems
  • Digital Library System
  • Document Delivery Systems
  • Content Management System
  • Digital Archives
  • Social media and Web 2.0 applications

Taken together, these systems can provide a powerful platform for effective service delivery in the Parliamentary library. The “Guidelines for Legislative Libraries” situate the Parliamentary Library in the context of their:

  1. Focus on parliamentary needs
  2. Impartiality
  3. Synthesis from different sources
  4. Public Policy coverage
  5. Confidentiality
  6. Collective memory
  7. Quantitative success factors for parliamentary systems

The roadmap in this section and the chapters that follow present ICT practice that can enhance the role of the library and reinforce these values.

Using this handbook

This handbook provides an overview of Information Communications Technology in Parliamentary Libraries. Each section has a discussion of technology and ICT services and further information categorised into:


This handbook also includes a Glossary that explains the many acronyms and technical terms used with ICT systems for libraries.

The World Wide Web has transformed information discovery behaviour of clients and the technology available to libraries. These have the potential to transform the way in which Parliamentary Libraries work and their capability to delivery resources to members, clients and the general citizenry that the library serves.

Web-based information resources

Libraries have long used web-based database services to provide detailed research for their clients. The last decade has seen increasing availability of rich database and web information resources directly available to users on the Web, such as Wikipedia and various Google research services. A Delphi study by the library of the Parliament of Australia identified the elements of the research services provided by the library that were valued by clients:

* Impartial…

  • Independent…
  • A gateway…
  • Understanding…
  • Builders…
  • Flexible…
  • Focused on the whole of parliament…
  • Connected… (Missingham 2011 p. 58)

Encouragingly, these echo the sentiments of the IFLA “Guidelines for Legislative Libraries”. However the Delphi study also identified new attitudes to information discovery, such as Google, as a potential threat to the current role of Research Services in the Parliamentary library, unless harnessed as a vehicle of communication by the library. These new information pathways could have the potential to marginalise the library as an information source. The relevance of the library can be maintained through its ability to focus on the specific needs of their clients and provide accurate research and analysis in an impartial and confidential manner, and to provide an effective research synthesis using the information resources available to the library.

Web 2.0 and two-way communication

The World Wide Web (WWW) has provided a general platform for connecting people to information resources and services. A significant phenomenon of the last 10 years in the Internet has been the impact of Web 2.0 in the expectations of interactivity and two way communication with services and interactive communication between Internet users. The increasing depth of information and changing modes of communication have an inevitable impact on Parliamentary Libraries. Social media is changing the mode of communication between the citizenry and their representatives, and through members to a need to deploy new technologies and interactive communication (Missingham 2011) in the Parliamentary Library. The 2001 Delphi study by Parliament of Australia identified this trend as both an opportunity and a threat. The opportunity lies in the trust value placed in the library as an authoritative information source – parliamentary library and research source.

Social media has recently been profoundly influential in changing the governance landscape. The extent of penetration of social media will vary from country to country, but the impact of social media applications through mobile devices can be magnified even where Internet access is not widespread. The influence of Web 2.0 is demonstrated by the increasing transparency of government forced by ubiquitous and variable pathways of information flow through Social Media. This has the potential to create new ways of democratic engagement and participation. For example in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies, the E-Democracia site ( provides an example of how Web 2.0 is being used to foster democratic engagement and participation. It has discussion forums, wiki and other collaboration tools that allow citizens to interact with members who are reporting specific issues in their committees or on the Floor. This puts new and unusual pressure on Parliament to engage with these new technologies. The parliamentary library needs to be conversant in these issues and in some cases may lead the transformation of parliamentary web services to support Web 2.0.

The fifth chapter explores tools and approaches to social media and Web 2.0.

Open Source Software (OSS)

The “open source” movement emerged as a systematic method of distributing software in full source code in a manner that ensured it's ongoing availability in open source with no license fee. The success of this movement has hinged on the ease of collaborative programming in an Internet environment, and service-based and reputation-based business models for software development. Libraries themselves have an established history in systematic development of standards and the implementation of data interchange systems. For instance, the Library of Congress has released a range of tools in open source to support MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging). The Z39.50 standard has enabled open inter-networking of library catalogues, and open source code libraries have facilitated the inclusion of Z39.50 in open source solutions for libraries.

The first comprehensive suite of software released in open source for libraries was the Koha Library Management system. It has an active developer community internationally and has been translated for use in a multi-lingual environment. The first experiments in open source library management systems have also helped evolve the sophisticated database schema's supporting current open source library management systems such as Greenstone, Evergreen and Koha 3. Open source options are now available for the core systems needed for most aspects of library operation although they vary considerably in functionality, capability and levels of support. One of the challenges in implementation of open source is the selection of a sustainable support model for ongoing support. This involves the scrutiny of the levels of professional support available internally and externally to support an open source installation and ongoing operation. A popular model emerging for open source delivery is external hosting and support.

The technical knowledge to install and maintain an open source solution may be unavailable to a small library. Where open source is to be internally supported, it is important to focus on open source solutions that can be supported through the current ICT architecture used in the Parliament. A common confusion is that open source means “free”. While OSS has no license fees, no information technology system operation is free. The ongoing nurturing of a system, software upgrades over time, support for customisations and enhancements, server administration, network costs are just a few of the base-line elements of managing an information system. Nevertheless, the amortisation of the software support across a wide installed base makes for an effective cost model for smaller institutions. OSS can provide a level of certainty for an institution in their operation costs once established. The larger the community of adopters of open source the stronger the overall support. OSS can also provide a level of security in that there is no proprietary lock-in and the code is visible (and therefore can be corrected). The functional depth of this security will be improved by the work of those adopting the open source model.

Digital Libraries

The Parliamentary Library manages an increasing diverse collection of electronic resources, including material that was “born digital” and managed by the library (digital publications, media releases, parliamentary records), information digitised by the library for preservation, access to electronic collections, digital news feeds and Online catalogue access. The increasing complexity of these resources introduces challenges to maintain simplicity in the context of growing complexity in the underlying resources - leading to requirements for federated searching and single sign-on. In addition, integration of digital services with more traditional print based resources ia a challenge for both management and staff, particularly in parliamentary libraries with a long tradition of print resources and services. Parliamentary Libraries such as Library of Congress and Universities were among the first to have fostered the development and adoption of Digital Library systems. Universities, in particular, have supported the development of rich, stable, open source software for Digital Library management.

The Digital Library can act as a repository for digital documents management by the library - either items born in digital form or items that have been converted to electronic format by the library. Open source can also be an enabler for the adoption of open access in an institution. Digital Libraries are becoming prevalent in Parliamentary Libraries both to support the role of the library in preserving the collective memory of the Parliament and in providing ready access to news, current affairs and electronic resource relevant to the Parliamentary Members.

Open Access

Open Access (OA) publishing models have gained increasing acceptance. Open Access publishing has two common models: where the author places a pre-publication copy of their work within their own Digital Library (or institutional repository) or where the publication is submitted to an publication that funds publication by charging the author rather than the subscriber for the cost of publication/distribution. Adoption of OSS and OA has been has progressed in parallel, and in similar time-frames. The Open Access model is in part a response to the increasing cost burden to institutions of traditional publishing models and in part a desire by authors to gain greater visibility for their work. Open Access publishing benefits libraries and their clients by making information more readily accessible.

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

There has been a movement in enterprise architectures toward Service Oriented Architectures. This trend has emerged in an increasingly complex ecosystem of ICT services. Systems designed around a SOA principle expose their processes and business rules at a number of layers, creating multiple points at which these systems can interconnect. For instance, Koha includes not only a web-based interface but also service interfaces for archive harvesting (OAI/PMH), self sign-on (CAS) and several service-level interfaces to the circulation work flow - as well as Web 2.0 interfaces such as RSS. The “loose coupling” of system design allows the substitution of different user interfaces, business rules and process interfaces. ICT software for libraries is gradually making a transition to SOA frameworks and design principles.

Semantic Web and inter-operability

There has been substantial progress toward service inter-operability in the key ICT systems for libraries: the Digital Library and the Integrated Library Management System (ILMS). For example the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI/PMH) is a well established metadata interchange framework which has been widely implemented in library systems. It can provide a method for making the ILMS resources and the Digital Library resources visible to Federated Search engines and to regional resource catalogues. The Semantic Web, a method for resource description in the world wide web context, along with Resource Description Framework (RDF) is another framework for providing effective inter-operability of library resources through rich linked data sets. The movement to Semantic Web adoption and web service interoperability help to increase the visibility of library resources outside the traditional catalogue.


Many of the systems discussed in this handbook require a careful and planned implementation process to achieve success. The first step in this planning is to understand the particular requirements of your Parliament. The typical parliamentary library has a range of stakeholders, including members, staff, citizens, regional collaborating libraries, and the wider global community via the Internet. It is important to understand their needs in framing the technology priorities for the library.

This planning process also entails planning for effective service delivery using ICT to achieve benefits from the ICT systems deployed by the library. Unfortunately, a large number of information technology projects fail to achieve their goals or fail entirely. Over-ambitious targets or lack of internal capacity can mean that ICT fails to yield its promised benefits. Failure of an information technology project can be due to cost escalation, poor software fit, infrastructure issues or other similar causes.

The following Roadmap charts an approach for software evolution in a Parliamentary Library context. You should judge the order of implementation of systems based on the current needs in your Parliament, the availability of resources to implement and support systems and the existing ICT capability within the Parliament. For instance, where Internet availability is not strong, the focus may be more on building fundamental resources such as the catalogue and the Digital Library.

Step 1: Situation analysis of Core library services

When implementing a new system in the Parliamentary library, it is important to understand the needs of the clients that the library serves. These clients include most importantly the members, their staff and the citizens they are elected to represent. The information systems deployed by the library will have a dual role of preserving collective memory over time and meeting the current information needs of the library clients. These information needs can be assessed through:

  1. quantitative evaluation of current and previous requests placed through the library, to help focus on the development of resources to meet these information needs (for instance holding a focus group with members or their staff)
  2. qualitative research (for example interviews, Delphi studies, surveys) of members and their staff to review their current needs (for instance using an online survey on your intranet perhaps with free survey tools such as SurveyMonkey).
  3. the library staff are involved in and part of committees and other activities of the Parliament.

This survey of the current information needs can help to provide the focus and priorities in selecting the investment by the library on information systems to meet these needs. This focus might be on:

  • improving accessibility of the current collections through an improved Integrated Library Management System (ILMS), or
  • providing improved gateways to information resources relevant to parliamentarians, or
  • implementing a digital library to improve access to media releases and current awareness items (for example collections of news items on and about parliamentarians), or
  • improved systems to support the research serves of the library.

Chapter Two provides guidelines on the process of developing an Information Strategy, and for software selection and the typical project management steps in implementing software. Chapter Three outlines Core library service - that is, the set of software tools that will typically be used in Parliamentary libraries. The specific focus on which systems that are relevant to a specific library depends on this review of current requirements.

Evaluate your library against the core areas for Parliamentary libraries identified in Chapter Three.

Reflect on key factors that drive effective Parliamentary library service delivery:

Focus on parliamentary needs - what services would most facilitate the work of parliamentary members, their research staff and the parliamentary institution.

Impartiality - evaluate your technological infrastructure and review the degree to which it delivers access to information in an impartial / confidential manner.

Synthesis from different sources - the library has a trusted role as a reliable information source.

Public Policy coverage - the provision of effective research services, and the integration of current awareness and news feeds in information flow provided by the library

Collective memory - the management of digital and physical resources that reinforces the role of information in sustainable parliamentary democracy. In the ICT context, this can include the support for records management systems, digital libraries and digital news feeds.

Quantitative success factors for parliamentary systems. From an Information Technology perspective: develop service level agreements that cover you main service delivery areas. Ensure that your library systems collect information in a systematic manner that supports aggregate reporting on quantitative success factors. Statistics are an important factor in communicating the relevance of the library. They can also assist the library to direct its focus in the area of information delivery most needed by the members and staff of the Parliament.

Your information strategy should provide a framework for preparing a business case for ICT implementation in your library. Consider your ICT services in terms of their “product placement” and therefore the marketing and communication strategies required to ensure awareness of these services. Parliamentary members and their staff have a broad range of competing information sources and information demands, and they may not be aware of the benefits for focused service delivery that the library can provide. Member induction programmes, newsletters and information bulletins are one means of communicating awareness of the capabilities of the library. Building a presence in the Web 2.0 social media forums and having a physical presence in critical Parliamentary forums (such as committee meetings) can also play a part.

Step 2: Develop a plan for your library for development of your core library services:

Chapter Three explores the core services that will be typical of all parliamentary libraries. It covers:

The library management system - this is your principle tool for collection management of the physical assets - from acquisition, to cataloging, search and discovery, and circulation.

Electronic collection building and digital libraries - the provision of access to electronic resources, including Digital Libraries as a repository for digital resources owned by the Parliament, and access to subscription databases, e-books and e-journals.

The reference/research services - this is the primary point of personal contact with your members and the means for provision of targeted research relevant to the current needs of the Parliamentary members and their staff.

The library and parliamentary websites - the intranet, extranet and public websites of the library are an important point of contact for resource discovery. With the transition to digital resources these points of access may be the principle point of contact with your clients.

The particular focus for your library in implementing these systems depends on the priorities defined in your evaluation of current needs and requirements.

Step 3: Develop a plan for your library for management of parliamentary records and electronic services

The parliamentary library may have a records management role, and will increasingly have an intersection with the management of digital resources. Where the parliamentary records are to be maintained in hard copy, the ILMS can play an important role in the management of these records. Record Management in through the ILMS workflow can track the accessioning, location and availability of parliamentary records. The ILMS can facilitate periodic review/stocktaking of parliamentary records, and the identification and management of the archival Copy for Record and the copy for loan. Finally the ILMS can support the discovery of parliamentary records through it search interface and web services. This can be important in supporting the role of the Parliamentary Library in preserving the collective memory and acting as a resource to the nation and regionally.

Parliamentary records are increasingly in digital form. The implementation of a digital library can be large project. It is important to ensure the correct infrastructure of the digital library is in place (see Chapter Three). The lead time in implementing ICT services to support these activities can be several years. It is therefore important to survey the expected role of the library in this area. The fourth chapter in this handbook explores the management of digital resources. These come in a variety of shapes. The digital library can be an important resource to sustain the role of the library in maintaining the collective memory of the Parliament. The digital library may contain a variety of resources that are the result of digitisation, information feeds from other sources, the collection and metadata description of news releases, and potentially the management of the digital records of the parliamentary sittings. The Library must be prepared to manage the entire digital life cycle including preservation of these digital resources. A second recurrent factor in the evolution of a digital library repository in the Parliamentary Library is the requirement for effective work flow processes to mitigate the labour-intensive nature of digital library management. The work flow processes man encompass steps to make the ingestion process more efficient, and work flow processes to ensure the metadata description of the resources.

Step 4: Develop a plan for your library for social networking and Web 2.0

Web 2.0 provides opportunities for the library to make services more visible and more accessible. The challenge of Web 2.0 is to maintain the relevance of the library in the context where parliamentary members and their staff are drawing on divers information sources. Their awareness of the ongoing role of the parliamentary library and the ways it can support their function is critical. In the Web 2.0 engaged world, this can entail exploring social media to ensure that the library is present in the domains of discourse favoured by their clientèle. The fifth chapter in this workbook explores the role of social media and Web 2.0 The values expressed in the “Guidelines for Legislative libraries” are potentially challenged or enhanced by the pressures the social network and Web 2.0 place on the parliamentary library. Members and their staff may now have divers sources of information to draw on. In this context, it becomes all the more important to focus on parliamentary needs by situating the library in the information “places” that they frequent. Equally, it is all the more significant to robustly project the role of the library as an effective and impartial information source for members. Channeling information synthesis through distribution channels that include web 2.0 may be a growing part of the picture for libraries.

Social networking can be an asset for library staff, but time and investment in professional development in the new services and resources available in this context is also important.

introduction.txt · Last modified: 2011/10/19 18:45 by admin

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