Canada has one of the libraries in the Commonwealth that provides the most complete range of research and analysis services to legislators. At a recent presentation to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in Singapore, the Canadian Parliamentary Librarian outlined how Canada provides research support to parliamentarians. Over the years many countries have been impressed by the services available to Canadian parliamentarians and have inquired about considerations to keep in mind when establishing similar services. This paper summarizes the thoughts that were shared with international colleagues interested in establishing their own research service.
Early in Canadian parliamentary history, a need was identified for parliamentarians to have access to tailored information and knowledge to help them fulfil their roles as legislators, decision-makers and representatives of the people. In 1876, less than ten years following Confederation, the Library of Parliament of Canada opened its doors on Parliament Hill. At the time, books were the primary repository of "knowledge," and decision-makers had few other sources of information on which they could rely as they steered the young country. Today, one of the unique features of the Library is that its collection focuses on specific areas that are relevant to parliamentarians: law, economics, political theory, international relations, history, and resource management, among others.
Since that time, the Library has evolved to include hundreds of journals and periodicals, as well as electronic material and data; it has also developed a research and analysis capacity in various areas of public policy. In 2015, the Library will celebrate 50 years of providing research and analysis services to parliamentarians. From modest beginnings, with only five researchers in the 1960s, the research service has matured into a professional unit relying on the expertise of over 80 research analysts and a dozen research librarians, supplemented by a separate centre of excellence on economic and financial matters created in 2008 and headed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The growth in demand for research and analysis over the years is directly linked to the relevance of this support to Parliament: 413 parliamentarians, 50 parliamentary committees and 12 parliamentary associations.
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