House of Commons Library Annual Report
The Library's purpose, in summary, is as follows:
The Department of the Library is responsible
for the provision of research, analysis and information services
for the House of Commons and for the management of the Members'
Library and the Derby Gate reading rooms. It provides its services
in a timely, accurate and non-partisan manner. All work for individual
Members is done on a confidential basis and in relation to their
The Library's overriding priority is to maintain
and, where possible, enhance the standards of service for Members
and other users and to do so efficiently within the resources
available. Its principal goal is to maintain the Department's
position as the leading provider of high quality and impartial
information, research and analysis services to Members of Parliament,
and of information about the House of Commons for the public and
schools. The second major goal is to improve the Library's cost
effectiveness. Many components of the business plan contribute
to this goal. In this way, the Department seeks to meet increased
demand and greater sophistication of demand, while minimising
the need for additional staff and other resources.
The Library's core functions described below have
remained broadly unchanged during the year. The information revolution
is, however, continuing to bring about changes in the range and
methods of delivery of services, as well as enabling direct access
by users to information. These changes are happening because of
both the increase in the amount of information available and changes
in the way it is transmitted. There has already been a substantial
impact on how the Library functions and the process of change
has accelerated during the reporting year. Key aspects of these
- the need to manage the volume and range of information
now available, coupled with the continuing need to present it
in a usable, targeted form suitable for busy Members of Parliament;
- the growing scope for direct access by users
both at Westminster and in the constituencies to Library-provided
information, for which the Library needs to provide training and
- the need for Library staff to master developments
and learn new procedures, while maintaining their existing expertise;
- the continuing need to provide a full range of
subject specialists, while ensuring that the available technology
supports their knowledge, activities and specialist skills.
The Library's key method of recording activity levels
has over many years been enquiry numbers for various parts of
the service. The development of the Parliamentary Intranet, combined
with the policy of making material directly accessible to users
wherever possible, means that enquiry numbers have become only
a partial (though still very important) indicator of levels of
use of services. Similarly, the decline in the number of printed
research papers has been more than matched by a very substantial
increase in the number of "standard notes" (briefing
papers) and increasing use of both in electronic form.
Standard notes are often used to deal quickly with
individual enquiries and their production has probably contributed
to the slowing in growth of "logged" enquiry numbers,
while the proportion of "unlogged" enquiry numbers has
risen. There is already firm evidence that the availability of
selected standard notes in electronic format on the Intranet is
rendering some individual enquiries to the Library unnecessary.
The same may be true of other Intranet services.
During 2000-01 preparatory work has been undertaken
for a significant re-organisation of the Library's material on
the Intranet, which will make material more accessible to users.
Satisfactory measures of the use of Library material on the Intranet
and Internet are not yet available, but the Department is seeking
to develop them. The information that it has is encouraging. For
example, in the first three months of 2001 there were over 33,000
"requests" for Library Research Papers via the Internet.
2. Plans and achievements
The following text records achievements against the
Department's business plan for 2000-01.
The Library provides a wide range of material for
consultation including newspapers, Hansard, Parliamentary papers,
official publications and general reference works. Library staff
provide information from these and from a variety of on-line and
The target for all reference enquiries is to reply
by the specified deadline while undeadlined enquiries are to be
answered within two weeks of receipt. Given the high volume of
transactions, many of which are completed immediately, very few
reference enquiries are recorded on the Enquiries Database and,
as a consequence, there is no statistical measure of the extent
to which these targets are met. Complaints when received are investigated
and appropriate action taken.
|Reading room enquiries: ||1997-98
2.2 RESEARCH SERVICES
Subject specialists provide a briefing service in response to
enquiries from Members across the range of their parliamentary
duties. They also prepare research papers on new legislation and
on other topics of current interest. The research service is grouped
into subject-based sections each of which holds specialised collections
In order better to coordinate the Library's work on the subject
of Parliament itself, a Parliament and Constitution Centre was
established in 1999. This has reduced duplication, making better
use of existing resources and producing a new range of outputs
of widespread use. To date, these include a web-based parliamentary
current awareness service and a new series of information lists.
These, and other materials designed to help a wide range of internal
and external users, are being developed and enhanced as resources
allow, and full use is made of the Internet and Parliamentary
Intranet to deliver them.
Further work has been undertaken to integrate the research service's
resource staff in order to enable them to manage more effectively
the increasing amount of online and other information and to contribute
more to research output. An Intranet Planning Working Party has
made recommendations on how this can be assisted by collaborative
working. In addition to increasing the number of standard notes
provided on the Intranet, an interactive version of the popular
Constituency Profiles has also been launched. About 1,300 requests
to this service were made between its launch in January and the
end of the year.
The demands on the research service are measured in two ways.
The Enquiries Database is used to log the more substantial requests.
Other requests, mainly telephone calls seeking immediate briefing
or advice, are not routinely recorded, but week-long surveys of
demand carried out in June-July and February allow the Department
to estimate the total number of requests dealt with during the
year. The targets for the research service as a whole are to answer
all deadlined enquiries within the deadlines and all undeadlined
enquiries within two weeks. In 2000/01 96% of logged deadlined
enquiries were answered by the deadline and 86% of logged undeadlined
enquiries were answered within two weeks.
|Logged research enquiries
|Unlogged research enquiries
|Number of research papers published||137
|Standard notes on the Intranet at end year
Targets for publishing research papers for all government bills
in time for the second reading debate are generally met. The Department
aims to have the text of all papers on the Internet and Intranet
by the time the paper version has been reproduced for distribution.
2.3 NETWORKED INFORMATION
The Library aims to develop the services it provides over the
Parliamentary Intranet to Members and their staff and has been
seeking to maximise the return on the investment made. This has
been done in collaboration with other departments, especially
in respect of the POLIS service which includes components managed
by the Library on behalf of other departments and the House of
This has been achieved by the following initiatives:
- revised information for new Members of Parliament about the
Library and how to use its services have been prepared in anticipation
of the 2001 general election;
- the Library completed the transition to browser-based Intranet
services for its databases by 2001, in conformity with the Parliamentary
IS and IT strategies, and in the interests of facilitating and
- the Library has explored the cost-effectiveness of putting
on the Intranet for widespread use any of its paper sources that
become available in electronic form with the aim of developing
a cost-effective periodicals collection. Additions this year include
JSTOR, BL Inside and other services for searching for journal
articles and legal material. Facilities for making electronically
available data more easily usable have also been developed where
- improvements have been made to the Intranet and Explore Parliament
to provide better guidance to users;
- the Library has increased the training in the use of electronic
information services it provides for Members and their staff including
those located in the constituencies. In addition to sessions on
parliamentary information on the Internet and Intranet, courses
on media and legal sources and on Internet searching have been
- with the opening of Portcullis House, the e-Library came into
operation, dedicated to providing support for Members and their
staff to allow them to benefit fully from the investment in the
provision of electronic information services; and
- a shared POLIS service to ensure a full exchange of information
on Parliamentary documentation has been extended to include records
from the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland
Assembly. Hypertext links have been added to many POLIS records
to provide pointers to the full text of retrieved references.
The indexes to Commons Hansard and the list of Deposited Papers
generated from POLIS are now easily accessible from the Intranet
|IT training course attendees||1,057
|Help desk calls||4,775
|Items added to Press database||-
|Items added to POLIS||96,382
The European Scrutiny Database has now been made available on
the Intranet. It contains references to European documents deposited
in Parliament and traces them through the scrutiny process. This
is a joint project with the relevant Committee Offices in both
The Press Association NewsLine service is now being provided on
The target of eight sitting days for inputting the name and subject
indexing to written parliamentary questions in the POLIS Current
database was regularly achieved and often exceeded.
The POLIS system is used to generate printed indexes to both Hansard
and the sessional parliamentary papers (House of Commons and Command).
The target for the production of the printed indexes to Hansard
is to produce an index for each volume published within the year.
The 1998-99 Sessional index was sent to TSO two months ahead of
the agreed schedule in December 2000. Similarly there is a target
to produce each year the copy for one index to the sessional parliamentary
papers. This too was achieved.
The IS Section's target of ensuring 99.5% availability of the
main POLIS services during scheduled availability hours was exceeded.
The targets of not more than 4 service incidents per year, and
not more than 30 minutes' downtime per incident, were missed.
There were five service breaks, of which one was under 30 minutes
in duration. Of the others, one was of 35 minutes duration, two
of 45 minutes, and one of 110 minutes.
The Library has a substantial loan collection of books and pamphlets
and also borrows material from other libraries when necessary.
It is the Library's aim to maximise use of its loan stock. To
help achieve this the following projects were carried out in the
- a replacement library stock management system was introduced
at the end of Summer Recess 2000. This included for the first
time an automated loans system, which will generate information
about the use of the Library's book collections, thus improving
selection and storage policies. It will also enable the Library
to recall books quickly when an election is called or when Members
or their staff leave the House, thus reducing losses. The new
system has also improved the Library's ability to manage the acquisition
and processing of book and periodical stock;
- a contract was let for classifying the Members' Library loan
stock using the Dewey Decimal System and re-arranging it for maximum
usability during the summer of 2000. This has been well received
by the Members who use the reading rooms. Shelf labelling was
improved at the same time.
|Book and video loans
2.5 SERVICES FOR
School visits to Parliament
The House of Commons Information Office provides information about
the work, history and membership of the House of Commons for the
general public. The Parliamentary Education Unit provides an education
service for schools for both Houses of Parliament. The Library
maintains contact at official level with overseas parliamentary
libraries and research services.
The Library aims to continue to develop its services to the general
public and to schools as far as resources allow. This has been
done bearing in mind increased demand, the inclusion of citizenship
in the National Curriculum and the need to exploit the opportunities
offered by new technology, particularly the Internet. Library
staff have played a leading role in the work of the Group on Information
for the Public and have collaborated with other departments in
both Houses on other matters to do with visitors to Parliament.
Other initiatives in 2000-01 included:
- the education web site (Explore Parliament) was launched to
acclaim in 1999 and was developed further during the period with
a range of features aimed at pupils of all ages and at supporting
teachers. During 2000-01 around 200,000 user sessions were recorded
involving some 2½ million page views; and
- the Library has been working with the Group on Information
for the Public to improve the services provided by the House of
Commons Information Office and to integrate these better with
services provided by other departments.
The HCIO's telephone bureau has a target of answering 85% of calls
within 20 seconds which is typical for telephone enquiry services.
An automatic call distribution system collects the relevant data.
In 2000-01 62% of calls were answered within 20 seconds, a substantial
improvement on the 45% recorded in 1999-2000.
|Information Office enquiries||118,001
Within the total number of HCIO enquiries there has been a significant
switch away from telephone calls towards e-mails. In 2000-01 the
HCIO received 8,783 requests via e-mail compared to 5,751 in 1999-2000.
The Parliamentary Education Unit started an additional visits
programmes during 2000-01, Citizenship for the 21st Century,
to support the teaching of the new National Curriculum Citizenship
programme for Key Stages 2 and 3. This new service is designed
for pupils in years 3-9, giving them the opportunity to find out
about political literacy and to learn about Parliament's role
The information and research services are supported by documentation
and information technology services and by library services such
as selection, acquisition and processing of material. The Library
is the House's repository for the definitive set of parliamentary
papers, Hansard and other categories of official material.
The Library has continued to develop and maintain its stock of
Parliamentary Papers, official publications, books and other material,
with a view to ensuring that it meets users' needs as fully as
possible and in a cost-effective manner, making efficient use
of new technology. In consultation with other departments, it
has been exploring the most effective means of preserving and
making available essential parliamentary publications that are
deteriorating owing to the paper and ink used in the past. A project
board is considering the possible funding for digitising Hansard
of both Houses from 1804 until 1989 (from when it is available
electronically) and having it available on the Internet.
Approximately 20,000 volumes - older, often rare or valuable,
but little-used - will be transferred from the store in Broad
Sanctuary to the British Museum's King's Library, probably in
early 2003. The books will be available for use by scholars in
the British Museum's Central Library and will appear in its catalogue
as well as on POLIS. Some conservation work is being carried out
on this material in preparation for the transfer.
Figures not comparable over time. Before January 1999 manually
collected telephone data underestimated the true number of enquiries.
Since January 1999 automatically collected data are more reliable,
but include some non-enquiry calls. Back
Partially estimated because of failure of automatic call recording
Partially estimated because of failure of automatic call recording
Logged enquiries are the more substantial enquiries received.
There is a continuing high demand for immediate oral advice. Such
enquiries are not logged, but in the most recent 'snapshot' survey
they constituted more than half the total number of enquiries. Back
Estimates based on twice-yearly "snapshot" surveys. Back
The service was closed for three months during 2000/01 as a result
of the reclassification project. Back