LRL Newsline Fall 2020

10/30/2020

Chair's Corner

Welcome to the Fall 2020 issue of Newsline!

By Eric Glover (Idaho), LRL Chair 2020-2021

On behalf of the LRL Executive Committee (Vice Chair Ingrid Hernquist, N.J.; Secretary Travis Moore, Neb.; Immediate Past Chair Teresa Wilt, Nev.; and myself), welcome to the Fall 2020 issue of “Newsline.” I am honored to serve as the 2020-21 LRL chair. For those who do not know me, I am the legislative librarian for the Idaho Legislative Research Library. Prior to joining the library in 2016, I was a law librarian and professor at Concordia University School of Law in Boise, Idaho, and prior to that, practiced law in both the government and private sectors.

As I write this article, I think of how much has changed over the past eight months. In early 2020, many of us were looking ahead to exciting plans. The Executive Committee was hard at work planning for the August Legislative Summit in Indianapolis and the October Staff Hub ATL 2020 professional development seminar (PDS) in Atlanta. Then everything came to a halt. There would be no PDS, and for the first time in NCSL’s 45-year history, there would be no Summit/Annual Meeting.

Realizing that some important LRL operations were tied to the annual Summit, we’ve had to make some adjustments, including having our first virtual annual business meeting and updating our bylaws to allow the Executive Committee to conduct its business when no Summit is held. Thank you, Teresa Wilt, for doing a great job leading us through this difficult time.

Even with so many unknowns about travel budgets and restrictions, NCSL is moving forward with plans for the 2021 Legislative Summit in Chicago. Future conference dates and locations are listed in the mark your calendars section below.

Since a PDS in 2021 is up in the air depending on how COVID plays out (not to mention state budgets), we are working on opportunities for networking and professional development, including having virtual meetings, webinars and other online trainings for our members. I think it is as important as ever for librarians to stay connected and demonstrate value to their legislatures while many are still working remotely, and library collections are increasingly digitized and can be accessed by remote users.

I would like to again congratulate the 2020 LRL Legislative Staff Achievement Award recipients, Julia Covington (N.C.) and Travis Moore. Julia is a former LRL chair and mentor to many, and Travis is our newly elected secretary on the Executive Committee.

Thank you to LRL Liaison Megan McClure for her service to LRL. She’s been a great advocate, administrator and resource for the Executive Committee and the entire LRL membership. I would also like to thank the following LRL regional directors for their service: Christine McCluskey (Conn.), Annette Haldeman (Md.), Marva Coward (Fla.), Debbie Tavenner (Ohio), Elizabeth Lincoln (Minn.), Joanne Vandestreek (N.M.) and Lindsay Pealer (Calif.).

I know it’s not the same when we all can’t be together in person. Please know that the LRL Executive Committee is hard at work thinking of ways to connect virtually and welcomes your thoughts and ideas to make this happen. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this issue.

~Eric

Mark Your Calendars

A photo of a spiral bound calendar with red bordered pages fluttering

LRL Virtual Training/Programming

With tight budgets being projected in the future, it is even more important now for libraries to show the value (and volume) of work they are doing for their legislatures. Keep an eye out for two upcoming LRL National Zoom Calls. The first will be around the topic of tracking and reporting the work your library or office does. The second will cover marketing and outreach for legislative libraries to their patrons.

NCSL and LRL Inperson Programming

  • 2021
    Summit: Chicago, Ill.
  • 2022
    Summit: Denver, Co.
    PDS (Staff Hub, including LRL, LSPA, LINCS, NLPES, NALFO, RELACS): Atlanta. Ga.
  • 2023
    Summit: Indianapolis, Ind.
    PDS (LRL and RELACS): Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 2024
    Summit: Louisville, Ky.
    PDS: Raleigh, N.C.

NCSL Base Camp 2020 Write-Ups

Over three days in September, NCSL brought legislative staff, legislators, policy and soft skills experts (not to mention Captain America, Chris Evans himself) together to learn, share information and network with peers from across the nation for the first ever NCSL Base Camp. Below are summaries of a few sessions written by LRL members who attended along with a few blogs about sessions that may interest LRL members.

Your Brain on Pandemic: Decision-Making in an Unpredictable World
By, Ingrid Hernquist, N.J.

The speakers for this seminar were Becky Rayburn-Reeves, senior behavioral researcher; Joseph Sherlock, applied behavioral researcher; and Judson Bonick, senior behavioral researcher. The moderator was Stacy Householder, division director, Leaders and International Program, NCSL.

This session provided an overview of how behavioral science can inform why and how we make the decisions we make and how these decisions can affect policy, particularly for COVID-19. Bonick gave an overview of behavioral science. He presented the character Spock from “Star Trek” as the optimal way people should think. Spock is completely rational. He accumulates information, accounts for probabilities, accurately weighs costs and benefits, maximizes his own utility, and has stable preferences. If people were like Spock, simply giving them information would lead to changes of behavior. On hearing the statement “smoking kills,” for example, they would stop smoking. However, this is not reality. Most people think more like Homer Simpson: They do not save money, they eat too much, they do not exercise, they text and drive, they put recyclables in the trash. Many variables and factors in the social environment affect our decision-making. The environment needs to be redesigned so decisions have better outcomes. Policymakers need to look at the friction that is stopping people from making better decisions and think about what motivates people, such as incentives and social pressure.

The next speaker addressed how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped behaviors, thoughts and emotions. The pandemic has added other factors to the way people make decisions and has influenced key behaviors. It has increased isolation and reduced social interaction, creating stress and depression; it has created uncertainty about the future, which causes anxiety; and it has created changes in information and misinformation, which leads to mistrust. A barrier has been created because social norms have been disrupted. People change to conform to the people around them. Information needs to be shared to encourage social responsibility. The following strategies will help to overcome barriers and change people’s behavior during the pandemic:

  1. Social Distancing: Create the message that most people are following social distancing, and this will encourage people to do it themselves.
  2. Face Coverings: If it is a social norm, people will tend to agree that wearing masks will help to decrease infection.
  3. Handwashing: It’s not a new behavior, but it can be promoted to become a habit. Doing things such as placing stickers on handles can remind people to wash their hands.
  4. Vaccination (COVID-19 and flu): People will not get vaccinations due to mistrust and misinformation. Social media platforms can be used to provide accurate information and launch peer-influence campaigns.
  5. Framing of Infection Rates: Promote role models who are conforming to desired behaviors rather than those who are not. Barriers can be reduced by reframing actions as the right and easy thing to do.

The next speaker presented two tools that are being developed to assist reopening effectively. The first tool uses a behavioral science model to weigh the benefits available if changes are made: benefits to others, who benefits, certainty of benefits, costs, etc. The second tool uses a checklist and focuses on safety, trust, ease and risks.

U.S. Economic Outlook
By, Debbie Tavenner, Ohio

Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics, explained that the economy took a very severe V-shaped dive in real GDP in March and April 2020. He noted it was the shortest recession in history. (There was a nine-month recession following World War II.) As of June and July, the economy was about one-half recovered. He expects continued slow growth until there is an effective vaccine but does not see a full recovery until late 2023. At that time unemployment could be in the 4% to 4.5% range.

His model is based on a few assumptions: that we have seen the worst of the pandemic, that a vaccine will be widely distributed by early 2021, and that policymakers “keep their foot on the accelerator” to stimulate the economy. So far, the Federal Reserve actions to keep the interest rate at 0% and other measures to help credit markets have been essential. He sees those efforts continuing. More action from Congress is needed, and at the top of the list is assistance to state and local governments. He said during the Q&A period that this type of aid is a tried-and-true economic technique. At the time of the presentation, he said the aid package should be known by Oct. 1 to keep things going in the right direction. He predicts state and local government shortfalls to be between $450 billion and $650 billion. In his view the federal aid package needs to be between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion.

In terms of unemployment, he reported that 22 million jobs were lost, but 11 million are back. Of the 11 million to go, 6 million were held by those on temporary unemployment or furloughs, and those will be back. But 5 million jobs in businesses that failed or substantially changed—brick-and-mortar retail, leisure industries, the airlines—may be lost permanently. He said in the Q&A that he does not believe business travel will ever come back as it is a huge expense for companies and the pandemic has shown there are alternatives to travel.

He noted that the recession hit all regions of the country. There was a link between the level of infections and the state of the economy. Certain industries, like tourism and energy, were also very hard hit. Hawaii is struggling the most; Las Vegas and the District of Columbia were also very hard hit.

He predicts there will be global negative fiscal event on the other side of the pandemic in the 2023-24 time frame. At some point, aggressive government fiscal stimulus will have to pivot. He said there will not be a V-shaped recovery, and that the recovery will take a lot of hard work.

Virtual Workplace: Managing Teams and Networking
By Ingrid Herquist, N.J.

The presenter for this seminar was Trina Hoefling, speaker, author, executive coach and virtual team developer. The moderator was Angela Andrews, director, Legislative Staff Services Program, NCSL.

The seminar presented best practices for working remotely, how to keep employees engaged and ways to maintain effective virtual teams. The speaker explained that people miss seeing their co-workers, the small talk, interacting with colleagues, collaborating in person with the team, and the separation between work and home.

Since the pandemic started in March, data indicates that 61% of workers are now working full time from home in comparison to pre-pandemic, when only 9% of people were working from home. Remote employees can feel isolated and out of touch, with 70% saying they feel less productive and 85% worrying about disconnection and the security of their jobs. Anxiety is getting in the way of productivity. Employees want clarity and guidelines. Conversations are needed to work more effectively as a team. The computer network now becomes the workplace and provides connection. The most effective virtual leader now has to connect on purpose with their employees in order to maintain trust and productivity.

The speaker presented a three-fold path to achieving high performance in the virtual work environment.

  1. Path one: Create a team culture based on trust. Rules need to be clear. Develop focus teams, confirm the teams’ purposes and decide how the teams will collaborate. Adapt workflows and decision-making processes. Technology enables efficiency and it can be a mediator between people and a pathway to connection. The speaker said email is a flat form of communication and the telephone is a medium form. Videoconferencing is a rich form of communication since traditional collaboration has been face to face.
  2. Path two: Support and activate the team community. Talk one on one to each colleague.
  3. Path three: Produce successful outcomes through collaboration. Share leadership and give credit to others. Reward individual and team contributions.

The speaker also spoke of a fourth path that enhances career relationships. You can do this by connecting with colleagues, joining social media groups, joining a committee or volunteering for new projects.

In closing, the speaker advocated being kind to each other, accepting mistakes, providing clarity and connecting on purpose.

NCSL Blogs of Other Base Camp Sessions:

Implementing Reference Chat Service at the Missouri Legislative Library

By Nathan Elwood, Mo.

My interest in adding a virtual chat option for our reference service stemmed from my experience in university libraries. At Forsyth Library of Fort Hays State University, where I previously worked, we used the LibAnswers chat client (part of the larger SpringShare platform) for many years, with varying degrees of engagement. While I was initially unsure if such a service would be beneficial to the much smaller Missouri Legislative Library, the events of 2020 forced our hand.

On March 12, we were asked to close the library and begin working from home as a COVID-19 safety precaution. While I initially believed this departure would be short-lived, we did not return to the building until early May. Even now, access to the library itself is by appointment only, a protocol we expect to maintain through the next legislative session.

Because of our absence and current limited accessibility, a chat service became necessary to increase communications options for our patrons, and to better replicate the reference service our patrons had come to expect at our service desk. In late March, I began searching for a chat service that would match a defined set of criteria to produce these outcomes.

Selection Process

Pop-out messages, activated on a timer after visitors connect to our website, was a priority. Evidence from my previous library experience demonstrated that this was essential to driving use. While Forsyth Library had a chat service available through a website button for many years, when pop-out chat was integrated in February 2019, the library saw a 360% growth in reference inquiries through the platform in that month alone.

Distinct user profiles and internal communication were also beneficial features we looked for, since my research clerk and I wanted a more efficient means of communicating with each other while “on the desk” than email or text. A ticketing system that allowed transfer of reference questions to different users was also a must-have.

The chat client would need some degree of customizability to match the look and feel of our website, as well as easy integration. The ability to send and receive files was also a necessity, given the nature of many of our requests from legislators and other patrons.

Above all, however, the first consideration was cost. As a small institution with a staff of only two, the Missouri Legislative Library did not have the resources to support a full-suite offering such as the SpringShare platform. Even a specially designed library chat service like LibraryH3lp seemed like more than we were able to justify at the time.

Instead, we examined cost-effective options generally offered to small businesses. After trials of several products integrated into the library website, we ultimately chose LiveSupporti, which coupled the features we required with low pricing. At only $99 for a lifetime subscription that included unlimited chats and users, this option was extremely cost effective. We also found that it was easy to integrate into our library website, and easy to customize to our exact specifications on the back end.

Staff Training

Training required for this service was minimal. If users have experience with instant messaging clients like Facebook Messenger or Skype, the service will be intuitive to them. A greater priority for training employees on using the service will be in messaging etiquette. While the digital format may feel a bit strange, it’s important to use the platform to replicate the same steps of a reference interview that a librarian would go through in person. While automated features like the pop-up chat are meant to simulate the approachability and interest of a staffed reference desk, it is up to the library worker to emulate the actual interview, asking engaged questions, keeping the patron informed of progress, and conducting a follow-up.

In addition, users need to respond to patrons immediately after receiving an initial prompt or question. Online users have become used to instant feedback, so this is necessary to prevent them from losing interest or exiting the site altogether. Something as simple as, “Hi [Patron], let me see what I can find for you” can do wonders to hold your patrons there while you conduct the search process.

Implementation

At our library, we view the chat service as a temporary replacement for our traditional reference desk, and staff it in the same way, alternating morning and afternoon shifts. While we prefer to staff the chat client from our workstations, in an emergency the chat can also be monitored from the LiveSupporti app, available for both iOS and Android. This option does lose some functionality, but it still allows for easy communication with patrons while on the move.

The live chat has not become the juggernaut that it was at my previous library, but since its integration we have recorded approximately 20% of our reference transactions coming through the chat client. Some of our patrons have even adopted it as their standard means of communicating with the library. As the client also records unique IP visits to our website, it has also had the side benefit of helping us to monitor our daily traffic without having to consult the Computer Information Systems department of our building.

While a chat service may not be necessary for every library, it has definitely helped us to maintain our level of reference service despite the strange circumstances we find ourselves in. Smaller legislative libraries like our own may be intimidated by the cost of such a service, but there are a variety of options that provide full functionality, customizability and ease of use, all for a fraction of what administrators may have expected.

The Low-Tech, Low-Budget Library Materials Quarantine

By Teresa Wilt, Nev.

Problem: Like many of you, we are working from home more than we are from the library. The Sedway Office Building, our home, is closed to the public, but legislative staff can still access the library. Without library staff present, we have no idea what is being used and when, and these days there are possibly serious consequences to not knowing the answer to the question, “Do you know where that’s been?” To give us and our patrons a small measure of safety, we set up a basic quarantine system for any library materials that may get used in our absence.

  • Materials: You will need five bins or boxes; a few pieces of paper; and a table, counter or floor space on which to set these items out.
  • Prep Time: Under 15 minutes.
  • Cost: Almost free, just some printer paper and toner. (We already had the bins in storage.)

Print five labels, one for each day of the week: Lay out the bins/boxes on a convenient-to-access table or counter. Place the labels on or near the bins. Print out instructions and place them near the bins. See the accompanying photo for the completed setup.

The process is simple: an item returned on a Monday would be placed in the bin marked “Mon,” and after the quarantine period has passed the library staff puts it back into the collection.

The following instructions are posted in the library and were also emailed to legislative staff:

LIBRARY MATERIALS QUARANTINE

WHAT DO I DO WITH LIBRARY MATERIALS AFTER I AM DONE WITH THEM?

If you have used any library materials—books, memos, magazines, etc.—please place them in the wire bins on the large table. Use the appropriate bin for the day you are returning them. (If it is Monday, put them in the bin labeled “Mon,” for example.)

WHY ARE WE USING THESE BINS?

We are quarantining materials for one week based on OCLC’s study of how long the virus may live on various common library materials.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MATERIALS AFTER THE QUARANTINE PERIOD IS OVER?

Library staff will periodically re-shelve/re-file the materials after they have been through their quarantine period.

HOW DO I FIND WHAT I NEED OR GET OTHER LIBRARY ASSISTANCE?

Please IM or email us (library@lcb.state.nv.us) and a librarian will assist you. If it is urgent, please call Teresa at 775-XXX-XXXX.

We began with a three-day system, expanded it to five days, and recently increased it to a full week, all based on the results of the REALM testing. While we still do not know the likelihood of infection from contaminated objects, we felt there was no harm in playing it safe. So far, the system has worked well. Non-library staff feel comfortable coming in and using our materials while we are out, and the library staff has a better idea of how long it has been since the items were last handled.

NCSL’s Bill Information Service Training

By, Amber Widgery (NCSL)

NCSL has partnered with LexisNexis State Net to provide legislators and legislative staff access to NCSL’s Bill Information Service (BIS) a 50-state searchable legislation database containing the full text of every bill in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Congress for the current session. You can also search the bill archive for legislation in previous sessions going back more than a decade.

Bills are searchable by (1) bill number, (2) term or phrase, (3) author or sponsor, or (4) location/state. You can term search within your search results or sort by status, legislative stage, or content type. Bills, amendments, executive orders and ballot measures are all included in the BIS. Information on bill status is updated throughout the day and search results can be e-mailed with links to the most recent bill text.

The BIS also provides additional legislative resources, such as session calendars and deadlines, weekly session schedules with links to upcoming committee hearings and other state-specific resources.

You must have an NCSL account and be logged into the NCSL website to access the BIS here. Register for an upcoming live training on how to use the BIS here.

BIS Quick Guide

Library Question

An image of q question mark that is made up of many multi colored booksQuestion:

What measures has your library put in place to ensure the health and safety of staff and visitors?

Responses:
 

ALABAMA
Helen Hanby
Our library is very small and open to staff only. We wear masks and have plenty of hand sanitizer available.

ALASKA
Jennifer Fletcher
Our building is still closed to the public and we are primarily working from home. Trips to the library for tasks that must be done in person have been staggered, with a 72-hour gap between librarians whenever possible to allow for cleaning and viral deactivation. These measures are in addition to those adopted by the agency more generally, which include symptom monitoring, leave use, social distancing, masks, and prolific use of hand sanitizer.

CALIFORNIA OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL
Lindsay Pealer
The library is closed. However, the building that we occupy has put up signs about social distancing and masks. Otherwise, no other adjustments have been made.

CALIFORNIA RESEARCH BUREAU
Sabah Eltareb
CRB staff continue to work remotely, fielding requests from Capitol clients for research, documents and articles submitted by email, phone and via the “Ask a Librarian” functionality on the library’s web pages. The Capitol library branch office remains closed for now and will reopen as soon as it is safe for the Capitol community to return to the building. California state agencies and departments are required to submit their reopening plans to the California Department of Public Health for approval. The State Library’s initial plan was approved and it is implementing limited curbside services by appointment and following safe social distancing and practices (face mask and/or shield, gloves, etc.). The library also monitors the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museum (REALM) Project and incorporates its research findings into practices, guidelines and the operational plan in place. All State Library public services desks have had plexiglass shields installed as barriers separating staff from patrons for the time we reopen. There are signs on the floors, walls and elevators laid out 6 feet apart containing printed reminders to practice social distancing for safety; hand sanitizers near the public PC stations and at the staff reference desks in the public reading rooms; and other recommended practices from REALM, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the state’s Public Health Department.

CONNECTICUT
Catherine McCluskey
The Legislative Library staff have been working from home since mid-March. The library has been closed to visitors since then, but staff are allowed to go in briefly when necessary (for example, to do historical research using books that have not been digitized). On the rare occasions when one of us goes back into the library, we make a note in advance on the office-wide shared Outlook calendar to ensure that people with workspaces near each other are not there at the same time. We put our masks on before we enter the building; our temperatures are checked by a security guard upon entering; and we limit our time there to what is necessary to complete work that can’t be done at home. Plexiglass barriers have been put in front of our desks in anticipation of our reopening, whenever that may be.

FLORIDA
Marva Coward
The Florida Capitol and most state agencies remain closed to the public. While most legislative and state agency staff are teleworking, they are still able to visit the library if they have a cardkey to enter the Capitol building.

In order to protect staff and visitors we adhere to the citywide mask ordinance. If a person does not have a mask when entering the library, we maintain a supply and provide them with one. A large plexiglass shield has been erected at our main service desk to protect both staff and library patrons. We also have signs posted at the library entrance and at other strategic locations asking visitors to please respect social distancing guidelines. We have also placed green tape on the floor indicating where visitors should stand while interacting with library staff.

We have created a quarantine area in the back of the library for materials to be placed for a minimum of two days when returned. We have a supply of disposable gloves, Clorox and Purell wipes, Lysol spray, paper towels and hand sanitizer to be used on items when returned. We also wipe down tables and chairs after each use. A couple of months ago, we started delivering library materials to staff offices and offering curbside pickup to legislative staff as well as other persons unable to visit the library.  

HAWAII
Karen Mau
The Hawaii State Capitol remains closed to the public. However, we continue to work in the office in shifts of three to four people and from home. In the library we have installed plexiglass sneeze guards around the circulation and reference desks, moved furniture to create distance between areas and removed chairs. Hand sanitizer is available on every table and use of face masks is required throughout the Capitol. We have created protocols for sanitizing and disinfecting high-touch areas, returning library items and assisting patrons with electronic document delivery whenever possible. With few offices answering phone calls, we find ourselves being the information referral hotline; callers seem relieved to speak to a person.

IDAHO
Eric Glover
We have face masks and hand sanitizer available for staff and patrons. We also had a plexiglass barrier installed around the front desk near the library’s entry.

 

INDIANA LEGISLATIBE INFORMATION CENTER
Debbie Weber
Plexiglas® has been installed in front of the employees at the counters and there is a sanitizer stand for persons as they walk in the office.  She wipes down door knobs and counters.  The Governor requires everyone wears masks in the building.

KANSAS STATE LIBRARY
Cindy Roupe
The State Library of Kansas is only open to people doing research who have made an appointment. Even with an appointment, there is limited access to the collection. Every book used is quarantined for at least 72 hours. Our full list of precautions can be found at https://kslib.info/DocumentCenter/View/8538/Preparing-for-your-visit?bidId= . Fortunately, our reference librarians have been using IM for reference since 2008, so we are comfortable in using it.

LOUISIANA HOUSE
Frances C. Thomas
The Poynter (House) Legislative Research Library is only open to legislators and staff as users. Most of our interaction with them is by phone and email. Other visitors come to quickly drop off material and leave. We do not have the challenges faced by libraries open to the public and state agencies.

The library is located on the 13th floor of the Louisiana Capitol. The observation deck at the top of the building is currently closed, greatly reducing the number of people in elevators. Each person entering the building is checked for temperature and the usual questions on COVID, etc., are asked before entering. A sanitation crew comes through at night to disinfect surfaces. This week each floor of the House received two air purifiers.

The library follows Louisiana Guidance for Libraries (https://opensafely.la.gov/OpenSafely.aspx ) in as much as they apply to our library. We do not wear masks in our offices. We are fortunate to have offices that are large enough to talk to each other from a doorway and maintain proper social distancing. We wear masks when we leave our offices and have hand sanitizer throughout the library for use before we handle any materials. All print material passed from one librarian to another is marked with a date and time for a 24-hour delay before they are touched by another person. The vast majority of reference requests are handled by email. Our person-to-person contact is very limited.

MAINE
John Melendez Barden
The Law Library staff have been working mostly virtually since March 17, while the Statehouse is closed to the public. At first, we were strongly discouraged from entering the building. We arranged laptops for a number of key staff to enable secure login and access to network files through VPN. This enabled many staff to continue to perform services and complete projects. Now, the prevailing attitude toward building entry is slightly more relaxed; we have one staff member stationed regularly in the Law Library to receive deliveries, etc. Other staff members rotate through spaces or come in on an as-needed basis. Although plans were drawn up for plexiglass barriers and higher partitions in public and workstation areas, these measures have not yet materialized. Fortunately, the spacing of our workstations and our staggered schedules permit us to socially distance effectively, so long as the building remains closed to the public. Since the largest portion of our traffic is electronic anyway, most of our patrons have not seen an interruption in services.

MARYLAND
Annette Haldeman
In the Library and Information Services unit of the Department of Legislative Services, most staff are primarily at home teleworking if they can do so. Staff who are unable to telework have recently begun coming into the building on alternating schedules (two weeks on/two weeks off or one week on/one week off). Other staff who primarily telework come into the building as needed to retrieve materials only available on-site in the library. Staff who are coming into the building more regularly and staff who primarily telework but need to come to the building to retrieve materials are recorded on a contact tracing calendar to ensure that we know who is in the library each day throughout the week. Signs have been placed on shared equipment, requesting that users wipe the machine off before using and after use. Sanitizing wipes for typical use and small sanitizing wipes for electronics have been placed in various locations in the library. We have also been purchasing some electronic subscriptions (journals, databases, etc.) that we did not previously have, thus eliminating use of some print sources and also enhancing the work of those able to primarily telework from home.

LIBRARY OF MICHIGAN
Diana Donham
The Library of Michigan building has been closed to the  public since March 16, and to staff since March 24, but we have continued our usual Monday – Friday service hours (8 am – 5 pm)  throughout the whole time.  Initially we were only able to take questions via email, but in August we  were cleared to use Jabber software so that we can take phone calls from patrons, as well.  Early on we were able to extend remote access to most of our online resources to our public patrons as well as our state employee patrons, and implemented an online library card application for the public patrons to support that.  We had already provided that option to state employees.  All non-essential state employees have been told to expect to continue to telework at least through January 2, 2021.  When we do reopen, we expect to do so in stages, staggering the number of employees in the building at a time, maybe offering curbside services before inviting patrons in, etc.  When we do open we will install Plexiglas® sneeze guards at our service desk, and will remove computers and microfilm scanners to enforce social distancing, and constrain traffic flow.

MINNESOTA
Betsy Haugen
Our library has been closed to the public since March, with staff mainly working remotely and the librarians going in to access print materials as needed.

NEVADA
Teresa Wilt
The legislative staff office building that the library is located in is closed to the public and we are mostly working from home, so no visitors. We do now have a plexiglass partition on the reference desk (it just appeared one day). The rest of the measures are probably the same as most other places: self-administered health screening, masks required in the building, hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere, janitorial staff on overdrive, working from home as much as you can, etc.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Mary Searles
The New Hampshire Law Library is located inside the Supreme Court building, which is open on a restricted basis. The law library has been entirely closed to foot traffic, but at least some of the staff have been working on-site throughout the year. The court requires all court staff to wear masks whenever we are in hallways, common areas or any area where more than one person may be present, and we all answer screening questions about our health. We do not have temperature checks on-site. Library staff members all have their own spaces so we haven’t had to stagger shifts or move people around. To the extent that our individual duties allow, working from home is allowed. We have been operating a curbside lending program for several weeks and all returned materials are quarantined for three days.

Since this library is the only public law library in the state, being accessible to the public is important, so we are reopening next week. Access will be by appointment only starting with one person at a time to, eventually, a maximum of four people. Appointments will be in three-hour time blocks and we will not be scheduling any appointments during oral argument days or if there are any other activities going on at the court so that we can minimize the number of people in the courthouse. Any materials handled by visitors will be quarantined and the workstations they use will be disinfected after use. Public-access computers and worktables for the public have been shifted to ensure social distancing, and visitors to the library will be required to wear masks at all times unless wearing a mask would be contrary to their health and safety in accordance with the court order.

NEW JERSEY
Ingrid Hernquist
The entire agency of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services is working on a hybrid schedule. The agency staff is divided into two teams, Y and Z. Team Y of the library staff comes into the library Mondays and Tuesdays, Team Z comes in Thursdays and Fridays, and the two teams alternate Wednesdays. The days when staff are not physically in the office, they work remotely. Most library staff now have GoToMyPC, making it more efficient to work from home. Users of the library are now making requests by email. If a person needs to come to the library physically, s/he needs to call ahead of time. Everyone in the agency must wear a mask. In order to make social distancing possible, the library accommodated by letting another unit use one-half of the library space. Four library staff members alternate sharing two desks. There are now two computers set up at each of the two desks. The copy machine, files, supplies and some books are located in the room being used by the other unit, necessitating that staff go into that room as little as possible to continue social distancing. In addition, the library has an early morning clipping service. The part-time clippers are all working either remotely or at their personal desks within the agency.  

OHIO LEGISLATIVE SERVICE COMMISSION, LIBRARY
Debbie Tavenner
Signs have been posted asking users, mostly our staff, but some House and Senate staff, not to reshelve books, but return them to a couple of locations. We will wait about 6 days and then reshelve them. There is rarely a member of the public who comes to the Library (this is the same as before COVID-19.). Hand sanitizing supplies and cleaning supplies are scattered through the office, including the library. Staff are required to wear masks in all public areas.Building management limits elevators to four persons.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Elizabeth Taylor
Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer are kept in the library and masks are required to be worn.

TENNESSEE
Eddie Weeks
As for Tennessee, the legislative library is now closed to the public. State employees from non-legislative agencies needing access to the library have to request permission from the Office of Legislative Administration.
All employees’ temperatures are checked as we enter the building.
All elevators are carded so that no one may use them except staff and legislators.
In the library itself are signs asking anyone coming in to wear a mask inside.

UTAH
Sara Thomas
Our library is only accessible to staff and because staff has been working remotely since March, they consequently have very minimal access to it. We’ve placed hand sanitizer in a central location and asked anyone who uses the library to be sure to use it and take all other appropriate precautions when in the space.

VERMONT
Michael Chernick
In Vermont, the Statehouse, where the extremely limited Legislative Counsel’s library is located, is closed to the public and staff is working primarily on a remote basis. The collection is primarily for the use of staff and state legislators, with an occasional public visitor. With the closure, several years ago, of the Vermont Law Library, Vermont Law School now serves as the public reference resource for state legal materials.

LRL Member News

CALIFORNIA OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL

No staffing changes. However, two employees are on ATO (administrative time off), which means they are not working. Erin Brown and I are both working from home. I go into the library when necessary.

CALIFORNIA RESEARCH BUREAU

Our library technical assistant, Rebecca Ray, retired in September after working for the state for 40 years, the first 20 years in various sections at the State Library and the last 20 years in our bureau. Two new librarians are joining our team in November, Monica Stam and Sarah Harrington, and we are looking forward to and planning for their arrival. We virtually hosted 16 interns from the University of California Berkeley’s “Cal in Sac” program this summer who researched a variety of COVID-19 topics and impacts on vulnerable populations in the state. We also hosted a California State University, Sacramento, Center for California Studies Executive Fellow for the last 10 months who assisted on a variety of public policy issues bureau staff were involved with during that time. We are planning for a major renovation at the Capitol building that will close the Annex portion of the building as soon as the temporary space being built a block away is completed. The temporary “Swing Space” will hold most of the offices currently in the Annex, in addition to some general meeting and hearing rooms. While our Capitol branch library will temporarily be housed at the CRB main office space, it is less than a block away, so we are planning on the move out of the Annex within a year, the space and shelving needed to accommodate the materials currently residing in our Capitol branch library, and beefing up our services virtually. One of the unanticipated benefits of COVID-19 is that we have all been forced to work virtually the last seven months, and making more use of the tools we have to communicate and work is providing a good foundation for the four-plus years that the Capitol will be under construction. When it reopens, we anticipate moving back into our Capitol branch library with a totally different library and way of providing reference and research services.

HAWAII

In early August, the library’s 25-year-old carpet was replaced. Check out the before and after photos.

This project was scheduled from last year and so we packed everything up—well, almost everything. Thankfully, we could leave most of the collection on the shelves and they were covered with plastic and the carpet was laid around the base of the shelves that were bolted to the walls or attached to metal stabilizers. And with great planning and organization from our IT team and contractors, they were able to complete the project almost on time. Hawaii was in the direct path of Hurricane Douglas that week and again, thankfully, it missed us! After working six years at the library, Pete Gayatinea has moved on. We wish him the best! Stay well everyone!

MAINE
Retirement: Elaine Apostola, deputy director.
New hire: Jessica Van Buren, as deputy director, effective Nov. 2. (Jessica was most recently the State Law Librarian for Utah.)

LIBRARY OF MICHIGAN
Janice Murphy, the force behind the Michigan Legislative Biography Database, a 2010 Notable Document selection, retired on January 31, 2020, after some 30 years at the Library of Michigan.

MINNESOTA
A recent notable project for the Minnesota Legislative Library involved organizing and shipping off 2,200 tapes from various Minnesota legislative commissions. We are using grant funds to digitize these historical tapes. They are being processed in Utah right now!”

The Minnesota Legislature won NCSL’s 2020 Online Democracy Award sponsored by NALIT. The website is a shared work of the House, Senate and joint offices, including the library. We were honored to be recognized. One of our favorite comments from the selection committee was: “The Minnesota legislature’s website was recognized for its ‘humongous’ amount of content, which is organized and structured in a very user-friendly manner…”

Resources for Staff Training

Image of a cartoon brain with arms, holding two dumbbells with the words "brain training" underneath

COVID-19 Resources Page for Legislative Staff

NCSL is committed to providing our members with timely responses to state research requests and the essential knowledge needed to guide state action. This page is updated daily to reflect new resources in policy areas ranging from education to health care costs and access. Check back often—resources will be updated as they become available.

Upcoming Webinars

With tight budgets being projected in the future, it is even more important now for libraries to show the value (and volume) of work they are doing for their legislatures. Keep an eye out for two upcoming LRL National Zoom Calls. The first will be around the topic of tracking and reporting the work your library or office does. The second will cover marketing and outreach for legislative libraries to their patrons.

NCSL Bill Information Service: For legislators and legislative staff only (this webinar is held on a monthly basis as an introduction to the NCSL Bill Information Service).

Archived Webinars
  • Legislative Staff Webinar Directory: A comprehensive and regularly updated list of archived NCSL webinars for legislative staff across a wide array of subjects, including COVID-19.
  • Let's Zoom: Take a crash course in Zoom.  Learn to navigate basic and advanced Zoom operations to better facilitate remote meetings in 2020 and beyond. Learn tips and tricks to make your next meeting a success. Learn the settings that will enhance security, how to share your screen and use PowerPoint, run a Zoom poll, and run breakout rooms for your participants. Bring your questions and leave with a better understanding about how to effectively use the platform.Speaker:  Kae M. Warnock, policy specialist, Legislative Staff Services, NCSL
    Let's Zoom Handout

  • Crisis Communications: Best Practices for the Worst Times: A global pandemic, protests and incident response. While many look forward to moving past 2020, this year has revealed the value of preparing for a crisis. For those who must communicate during crises—whether internally or externally—it helps to plan ahead. This webinar explores the elements of a solid crisis communications plan, including best practices for when and how to gather and deliver accurate information during challenging situations, and offers real-world examples faced by the Washington State Legislature. 

  • Supreme Court Roundup Part 1: The U.S. Supreme Court had an exciting term with groundbreaking cases and a pivot to virtual oral arguments. Tune-in for this popular program and hear the State and Local Legal Center Chief Counsel and Executive Director Lisa Soronen discuss the most meaningful and impactful Supreme Court cases with state impact. This will be the first of two distinct programs and will focus on the biggest cases decided this term.

  • Supreme Court Roundup Part 2: The U.S. Supreme Court had an exciting term with groundbreaking cases and a pivot to virtual oral arguments. Tune-in for this popular program and hear the State and Local Legal Center Chief Counsel and Executive Director Lisa Soronen discuss the most meaningful and impactful Supreme Court cases with state impact. This will be the second of two distinct programs and will focus on cases granted for the October 2020 term.

  • The ABCDE Method: A Tool for Maximizing Productivity: This quick 30-minute webinar, sponsored by NCSL's Young and New Professionals Group (YNP), is designed to give you one more tool in your productivity toolbox. Hear from renowned NCSL trainer Curt Stedron, as he explains the concept behind and how to use the ABCDE Method to increase not only personal but also office-wide productivity. Then hear from Heather Koszka, capitol office director for California Senator Brian Jones (R), as she explains how she was inspired by Stedron's presentation of the method and how she has adapted and implemented the ABCDE Method on multiple levels in her office.
  • Make Your Mark: Practical Tools to Expand Your Personal Presence: Presence. You know it when you see it. Yet did you know there are specific nonverbal skills that create "presence"? By increasing your awareness of your nonverbal communication, you can change how others perceive you. In this presentation, Rachel Beohm will give you concrete tools to communicate a positive, powerful presence.
  • De-escalation Techniques for the Legislature: This webinar focuses on de-escalation techniques to consider when dealing with potentially violent people you may encounter within and outside the legislature.
  • Sexual Harassment Prevention: Legislatures across the country are taking a renewed look at their anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures. Hear from two legal experts on the best way to approach this difficult topic.
  • Be the Change: Culture, Leadership and Self Reflection: Working in the legislature can be intense with long hours, looming deadlines and competing priorities. Patrick Sullivan, director of Montana's State Professional Development Center, is an expert on how to prevent this hectic environment from leading to a siloed team. Whether you are a new or veteran staffer, join us for this webinar to learn more about the context of the inward mindset as it applies to workplace culture and how you can have an impact on the effectiveness of your team.
  • Public Service in Difficult Times: The public sector, legislatures included, has faced intense criticism and scarce resources for many years now. There are techniques available to public employees to not only cope with these challenges but to thrive. This webinar explores various ways in which legislative staff can expand their capacity and practice self-care in challenging times. The key is to transform our mindset from one that is in “survival mode” to one that seeks ways to be helpful and solution-oriented.
  • Speaking with Authority: This professional development webinar, co-hosted by NCSL's Young and New Professionals (YNP) group and Women's Legislative Network, aims to help participants learn to increase self-awareness and personal brand when communicating daily. Whether you are a legislator headed into session or a legislative staffer gearing up for January, we all need to be concise, clear and credible. Ditch those phrases and words that undermine your authority, replace them with words that have impact, making you the expert.
  • Keys to Effective and Engaging Presentations: Presenting complex information to colleagues and policymakers in a concise manner is a challenge—whether you have an hour or 10 minutes. Learn from communications coach Marianna Swallow the steps to delivering an effective presentation and speaking like a pro. She shares the keys to designing an effective presentation, tips to revise and sharpen your talk, and strategies to make your delivery compelling. 
Podcasts
  • COVID-19: Communicating in a Crisis: This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.
    On today’s episode, we talk with two legislative veterans about communicating in a crisis.
  • Mindfulness: Legislative Staff Elixer: Working in state legislatures is a very demanding job. State legislative staff serve in an institution where workload changes can come often and swiftly. The shifting nature of legislation and the mixture of public opinion, rules, procedures and process make session work stressful. But for the estimated 30,000-plus legislative staff that work in legislatures during session, most will tell you the work is rewarding.
  • Tackling Sexual Harassment in the Legislature: Sexual harassment, spurred primarily the #metoo movement, has been front to the forefront of every sector—including government. In this episode, we talk with three experts to get a sense of what types of changes are happening in state legislatures and to find out what types of best practices they should consider.
  • Brain Science for Legislators and Staff: Working in the legislative arena is not always easy. There are long hours, long stretches of sitting at a desk, a need to multitask and often a lack of sleep. Stacy Householder of the National Conference of State Legislatures shares six brain rules designed to help legislators and legislative staff be more effective. Her recommendations are based on research and its relevance for those working in legislative chambers.
Magazine Articles
Blogs
Other Resources

NCSL Publications

LegisBriefs

November 2020 

October 2020 

September 2020 

August 2020 

July 2020