Enquiries from all and sundry
Fiona Green, the Head of Public Enquiries, explained how well-used they are as a service, fielding enquiries from the public, individuals and campaign groups, law firms and schools. They are concentrating on outreach work to reach new audiences, starting with a project in public libraries last year asking them to display a poster in the library, tweet a picture of it on display and monitor if it drives traffic to the website. This will be done on a larger scale during Parliament Week this year, 14-20 November 2016.
There are several leaflets and posters produced along these lines, they are free from the House of Commons Information Office http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/guides/
They are well-written and a great starting point for learning about Parliament. I have a set that I may well foist on my children’s school during Parliament Week!
Parliament’s Education Service also produce some smashing resources and run visits and workshops http://www.parliament.uk/education/. The videos on this website are short and informative. And someone has done some very nice work on the UK Parliament Facebook page, it has the lengthiest timeline of any page I’ve seen, going back to 1215 (Magna Carta, not lunchtime).
Aspects of Parliamentary History Exhibition
Last to speak was John Prince, Historical Sources Specialist, who encouraged us to go and take a turn around the exhibition containing many interesting sources, including one of my favourites: the London Illustrated Times. The articles, illustrations and advertisements are a great way to lose yourself in history.
He also told us that Hilary Saunders, the librarian from 1945-1950, was also the author of many spy stories and wrote the story that was made into the Hitchcock film: Spellbound. There was a nice film on the BBC website recently where John Prince takes a journalist on a tour of the library; so you could have just watched that and not bothered to read my efforts.
If you watch the video you will get a flavour of the tour we took; this included such snippets as the most popular books borrowed by MPs, a look at the record of Parliamentary proceedings that included the discovery of gunpowder in the cellars in 1605 and the delightful discovery that there are many works of poetry on the shelves. Amongst the popular periodicals in the foyer of the library, along with Private Eye, The Spectator and New Statesman I was very pleased to see the Which? magazine.
As we took the tour, we had a weather eye on completing a 20 item quiz we’d been given with the entreaty not to use Google. Whilst I was not too pleased with my score of 10 out of 20, I was comfortably ranking along with the majority, and in the company of information professionals I wasn’t unhappy with that.