As one of the principal clients of Parliamentary Libraries, many parliamentarians see the inherent value in these institutions--even if their own jurisdiction doesn't have one. In this modified roundtable discussion, the Canadian Parliamentary Review has compiled interviews with four parliamentarians discussing how and why they use their Parliamentary Library, or what they do when they don't have access to one.
CPR: How soon after becoming an MLA did you become acquainted with/start using the Legislative Library? If your jurisdiction doesn't have one, what did you do to meet your research needs?
Nathan Neudorf: I was elected a little over a year ago and we were in session almost immediately after the election. I took a tour of the Legislative Library right away. It was a huge source of information for a completely new job task for me: speaking in the Legislature. Whether it was related to a bill, or a member's statement, or my maiden speech, using the archives was an immediate help to understand how previous MLAs in my constituency had done things. Within a week or two I was already using those resources and files.
Shane Getson: I became familiarized on the first day. It was part of the tour and orientation. I love libraries, and the one that we have at our disposal is amazing. The service that the Library has of pulling relevant articles from local Alberta papers and breaking them down by region is an immense help.
Kevin O'Reilly: I had used the Legislative Library before I was a Member as it had several polar and circumpolar journals of personal interest. I used the Library within the first six months of my start as an MLA for both those duties and my personal interest. The Library is very helpful in terms of locating documents and what was previously said in Hansard on any issue. For my personal research and interest, they were able to track down a 1920s era mining statute for Newfoundland. My first constituency assistant was also well-versed in the Library and made use of its services behind the scenes.
Liz Hanson: We don't have a Parliamentary Library in Yukon. In small jurisdictions like Yukon we have the same gamut of issues that any parliamentarians have to deal with, but we have few or no resources. The staff resources that are dedicated to parties in a small jurisdiction are miniscule. You have one staff member, or maybe two. MLAs often end up doing all the research on their own. It's interesting, but it does not lend itself well to any sort of continuity of source or documentation. That's one of the concerns I have. On procedural matters that arise relating to conduct within the Assembly itself, we certainly rely on the good work of the clerks. But other than that, we reinvent the wheel a lot and you waste a lot of time. I'm not sure that it really contributes to a very healthy debate if you don't have information about precedents or things done prior. Nothing is really new under the sun.
CPR: How easy was it to get/become familiar with how to use your library? Were there individual/group training sessions? Did you do independent work to familiarize yourself?
SG: Honestly I have only scratched the surface on the services that are available. Orientation covered the basics, but the staff at the Library is very helpful.
NN: I come from a construction background, so the orientation was very helpful. The Library could be a bit intimidating based on its size, the volume of resources, and the type of material it holds, but the staff make it incredibly accessible. I rely...