Search Parliamentary Material

The newly-formed Research Information Service sits within the Research Directorate and supports the work of the subject specialists with current awareness services; indexing and tagging core material; producing bibliographic information (reading lists etc); resources training and support. This service was formed in April 2015 and works with approach that all library users are customers with different and changing information needs.

Throughout these staffing structure changes the library has also had to cope with being housed in a Grade 1 listed building that urgently needs extensive restoration. Options are being explored for moving out of the palace to allow restoration work to commence. A lot of the reserve collection is housed in the cellars of the palace, 2.5km of shelving in fact. Access to this and the logistics of moving it are tricky, Julia Keddie (Collection Management Coordinator) showed us photos of steep, narrow staircases with 180° bends. Similarly problem-bound are the archives department; they are located in Victoria Tower which is at the opposite end of the building to Elizabeth Tower which houses Big Ben. They have one cramped lift and 8.5km of collections to move. The archives is a shared service of the Commons and the Lords, it is not part of the library. The plans to move the archives will tackle many of the problems they currently have: poor workflow and space provision; severely limited public access and facilities; inability to control access to the repository; and the attendant issues associated with disaster recovery planning and salvage. If the archives vacate the tower it will release 7% of the palace, coveted space in an overcrowded building!

A word or two about cataloguing…

Having spent a lot of time in metadata, these are the kind of gems that I love: Liz Marley, the thesaurus editor in the Indexing and Data Management Section, had a few words to say about parliamentary language being precise and loaded and the key issues of context, the politics of naming things and occasionally getting it wrong.

An example of the latter was highlighted when representatives of the Bahá’í religion objected to a parliamentary indexing term referring to them as the ” Bahá’í sect”; after some discussion this was then changed to ” Bahá’í faith”. This is an example of the power of words and the need to get them right.

The names of countries can be politically sensitive too: whilst the UN refers to Myanmar, the UK refers to Burma as it does not recognise the legitimacy of the regime that changed the name in 1989.

The Independent Commission on Information Retrieval caused some head scratching as to how to index. In and of itself it gives no meaningful clues as to what the work of the commission involves. Research revealed that this is actually the commission to find where all the bodies are buried in Northern Ireland, to try to lay the legacy of The Troubles to rest.

And finally to Islamic State / ISIS / ISIL / Daesh / Islamic State Group. How are they to be indexed? The BBC have stuck to “so-called Islamic State” whilst David Cameron has recently referred to them as Daesh. The parliamentary thesaurus has all terms linked however, so a search for one will return all relevant results.

Finally Liz Marley introduced us to Search parliamentary material  This is a new federated search tool currently in beta which could be a very useful one-stop shop for all research on legislation and UK regulatory affairs. Have a play and see what you can find.

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