Newsline is the newsletter of the Legislative Research Librarians Professional Staff Association.
By Eric Glover (Idaho), LRL Chair 2020-2021
In February, LRL hosted two information sharing webinars for LRL members. The first, “Tracking and Reporting Methods,” involved different methods libraries use to track patron data and usage and using this accumulated data to generate insights and reports. The second, “Outreach and Marketing,” involved different ways libraries are promoting their services to legislators and other legislative staff. Both events had multiple presenters and about 30 people in attendance. Even though most of us are in the middle of the legislative session, I would like to thank everyone involved for making these events a success. We hope to bring more information sharing sessions to the LRL members soon, including online joint training with the Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) professional association.
NCSL recently announced the 2021 Legislative Summit has moved from Chicago to Tampa, Fla., and will occur this Nov. 3-5. And I am excited to say NCSL will be holding Base Camp, a premier online learning event, again this year, Aug. 3-5. Along with training and professional development with experts and state legislative peers, LRL will present the 2021 Legislative Staff Achievement Awards and LRL Notable Document Awards. Stay tuned for more details. And if you have any suggestions for topics or speakers for either Summit or Base Camp, please reach out to NCSL’s liaison to LRL, Megan McClure.
LRL Executive Committee Secretary Travis Moore announced he has accepted a new position outside of the Nebraska Legislature. While we are sad to see Travis leave us, we are excited for his new opportunity as a corporate policy and government relations analyst with an electric utility company. Pursuant to the LRL Bylaws, the Executive Committee is currently working to appoint a new secretary to fulfill the remainder of Travis’s term.
For the 2021-2022 term, the LRL Nominating Committee is currently seeking nominations for the office of Secretary on the LRL Executive Committee. I encourage you to reach out to Teresa Wilt (Nev.), chair of the nominating committee, if you have an interest in getting more involved in LRL and NCSL. My experience serving on the LRL executive committee has been both professionally and personally rewarding. I highly recommend it. See the nomination announcement below for more information.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Newline and are off to a great start in the first few months of 2021!
NCSL Legislative Staff Week
May 3-7, 2021
NCSL Base Camp - Virtual Programming
Aug. 3-5, 2021
NCSL Legislative Summit
Do you know a legislative staffer who goes above and beyond? Who does the field of legislative librarianship proud?
The annual Legislative Staff Achievement Award was created by the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee to recognize excellence in supporting the work of a state legislature and strengthening the legislative institution. Each staff section associated with NCSL may name up to two recipients—individuals, teams or legislative offices—for recognition each year. Award recipients are presented with a plaque and are recognized by the NCSL Staff Chair during the staff luncheon at the NCSL Legislative Summit.
This year’s committee consists of chair Julia Covington (N.C.), Nathan Elwood (Mo.), and Bethany Reisch (La.)
All members of LRL and legislative libraries are eligible for this award. Nominations may be submitted by the nominee, a supervisor or by other members of the staff section.
Click here for more information, the nomination form and award criteria.
The Legislative Research Librarians (LRL) professional staff association is seeking nominations for candidates to run for secretary. The deadline for declaring your candidacy is Monday, May 3, 2021. This year’s nominating committee is chaired by LRL Immediate Past Chair Teresa Wilt.
Under LRL Bylaws, the role of the secretary is as follows: “The secretary shall serve a one-year term and shall record minutes of all staff association meetings and perform additional duties as may be assigned by the chair. The secretary shall preside at LRL executive committee and staff association meetings in the absence of both the chair and vice chair. The secretary shall succeed the following year to the office of vice chair.”
The secretary serves for one year and then automatically moves up for one-year terms as vice chair, chair and immediate past chair. By virtue of serving as vice chair and chair, you will also serve on NCSL's Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee, which meets four times a year in various fabulous locations. Attending these meetings is not mandatory, but it is valuable to LRL and you as it provides the opportunity to meet the officers from other staff associations, learn more about other states’ legislatures, and contribute to work that benefits all legislative staff.
For more information or to submit names of nominees, please contact LRL liaison Megan McClure.
By Elizabeth Lincoln, chair, Notable Document Awards Selection Committee
Every year, hundreds of documents are produced through the work of state legislatures or to help support the work of state legislatures.
NCSL and the Legislative Research Librarians (LRL) professional association are looking for documents that go above and beyond and stand out from the pack.
Each year, LRL sponsors the competition for outstanding state and legislative documents. Deadline for submissions is May 14, 2021.
Any state or legislative document published in the last two years is eligible. Submissions are generally made through each state’s legislative librarian, but any legislative staffer may submit documents.
The Notable Documents Awards:
In February LRL held a Zoom Call about Tracking and reporting methods in legislative libraries. 6 librarians shared their methods, tools and practices. Below are short write-ups of each presenter’s information along with an image or two of the spreadsheets, search interfaces and graphic reports they use to keep track of and report out the integral work they do.
Click here for short summaries and examples from each presentation.
By Nathan Elwood – Missouri Legislative Library Administrator
Since March 2020, the Missouri Legislative Library has operated under a mixed-access status. While our services have still been available to legislators, staff, and the public by phone, email, or chat, our doors have been closed, and physical access to the library has been limited to library staff or patrons by appointment only.
The Missouri Legislative Library, which is fully open to the public under normal circumstances, offers a great opportunity for Missourians to engage directly with the history of the Missouri Legislature. I wanted to find a way to bring that experience into a digital space. I determined to do this through digital displays that would highlight interesting periods in the history of the Missouri General Assembly, similar to a museum display.
For the first display I created, I wanted it to focus on something relevant to the current situation, such as previous epidemic outbreaks that have disrupted the work of the General Assembly. My first instinct was to look at the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, but the Missouri General Assembly, which met biannually at the time, did not meet at all during 1918, and so legislative business was unaffected. However, our Research Clerk Barb Wilde discovered that there had been a Smallpox Outbreak in Jefferson City in 1907, which we focused our display on instead. Research was primarily conducted through legislative documents and contemporary newspapers.
In creating a digital display, I needed to meet a few requirements specific to our library. We do not have back-end access to our website, so I needed to be able to create the display separately, with the ability for the Senate technology staff to easily plug it in to our website after the fact. I needed the display to be able to host both text and image artifacts, and I wanted it to be arranged in a way that flowed visually based on the needs of the narrative.
For our first display, I chose the tool Sutori. The free version of Sutori allows for the creation of a simple timeline that features both text and images, which can be easily embedded into other websites. I found using the tool was extremely intuitive and would be easy even for someone with minimal technical know-how or experience.
However, I found myself wishing for the features available in the $99/year “Unlimited” option, such as headings, links, the ability to add videos, and visual customization.
Like many smaller legislative libraries, we have a very small budget, and I am extremely cautious about signing up for ongoing subscriptions. I began searching for alternative options for our displays that may offer a reduced cost.
Eventually, I found TimelineJS, an open-source tool developed by KnightLab. TimelineJS allows for the creation of an embeddable slideshow timeline. It offers far more options for visual customization than the free version of Sutori and came without the obligatory branding that I disliked from the Sutori experience. Best of all, as an open-source project, it was completely free!
TimelineJS, it should be noted, is far less intuitive to use than Sutori, and you may have to do a fair bit of experimentation to get the results you are looking for. The content of your slideshow is added in a Google spreadsheet, which exists separate from the actual timeline itself. Going back and forth from your spreadsheet to your slideshow to determine how your changes look in the final product can become disorientating and tedious.
However, once past the learning curve, TimelineJS allows for excellent customization of your timeline, and allows for the creation of a visually appealing interactive display. In addition, you can continue to easily edit and update your slideshow even after it has been embedded in your website.
Our second display, which was created entirely in TimelineJS, focused on the Satanic Panic in the Missouri General Assembly during the late 1980s and early 1990s, a topic I have been personally researching for several years.
The reception that both of these displays received from Legislators and Staff was extremely positive, both in terms of traffic to our website and messages we received as feedback from staff, legislators, and even members of the public.
Based upon this positive response, I later presented an expanded lecture on the Satanic Panic to the 63rd Missouri Conference on History, which was also well-received. Since we have full control over the presentation on the back-end, I intend to add additional stories that I included in the conference presentation to the digital display.
Additional display topics I have considered for the future include the history and decline of third parties in the legislature, the story of the first Black legislator in the Missouri General Assembly, and the story of a battle on the House chamber floor between Legislators and Staff that took place in the late 1800s. I have also put out a call to Legislators and Staff for suggestions for display topics.
Digital displays are an excellent way of highlighting the unique history of the State Legislature while maintaining social distance and can be assembled at no cost and with minimal technical knowledge. This is a project that I particularly recommend for smaller legislative libraries during intersession periods, though would also be an excellent project for student workers or interns in the fields of history, political science, and library/archival science.
By, Amber Widgery (NCSL)
NCSL has released a new way to search for legislation in the Bill Information Service, an exclusive benefit for legislators and legislative staff. Now, with more than 1,000 ready-to-use topic searches, finding bills is easier than ever. The new topic searches cover policy areas from A to Z including agriculture, education, energy, labor and employment, law and justice, taxation and more!
Search legislation by:
Haven’t Logged In Yet?
Register for our next training to learn more about the 50-State Bill Information Service and the new topic searches.
Get a Head Start!
NCSL policy experts have done some of the legwork for you compiling pending and enacted legislation on trending and perennially popular topics. In addition to the Bill Information Service, check out these bill-tracking databases organized by topic. View the databases
California Research Bureau – Lindsay Pealer
Kentucky Legislative Library – Leslie Smith
The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission reports the Library is working on a project to list all of our former members (right now back to 1900) with district, party, and years served. It will be on their webpage.
The Legislature is in session so we are full staff, but we are closed to the public. All of our committee meetings and chambers are available to stream or through the Kentucky Education Television channels. Some of our legislators are attending meetings virtually from their offices. When we are not in session, we are on 1/2 staff in office 1/2 staff working from home.
Library of Michigan– Diane Donham
The Library of Michigan has released their newest Timely Topics Newsletter with resources about School Based Mental Health Services
Minnesota Legislative Reference Library - Elizabeth Lincoln
Library staff continue to work remotely with occasional forays into the physical space to use or send out needed print materials. All House committee hearings and floor sessions are being held remotely as are most Senate hearings and floor sessions. Despite not being on site, the librarians have been very busy with reference questions from legislators and staff. Library staff continue to field many legislative history questions.
Several library staff are working on digital accessibility issues as the Legislature begins the process of working toward compliance with accessibility standards adopted for state agencies by 2024.
A project, funded by a grant from the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants, to digitize 2,200 joint legislative commission hearing audiotapes is completed. Enhancements to the digitized audio files are planned—the addition of the names of commission members and commission hearing minutes will be added as time permits.
Missouri Legislative Library – Nathan Elwood
Business in our library is proceeding much as it has been for most of the pandemic, though I am happy to say that in March I will be presenting at the Missouri Conference on History regarding the Satanic Panic in the Missouri General Assembly, a topic covered by one of the Digital Museum Displays we have created this past year: https://www.senate.mo.gov/LegislativeLibrary/Panic.html - for more details on this check out Nathan’s full length article above.
Nebraska Legislative Research Office
The LRL executive committee is both happy and sad to announce that research analyst for the Nebraska Legislative Research Office and LRL Secretary has accepted a position outside of the legislature and had left both the LRO and LRL as of March 31st. We wish Travis all the best and a bright future in his new endeavor.
North Carolina Legislative Library – Anthony Aycock
Pennsylvania Senate Library
Longtime librarian to the Pennsylvania State Senate and past host to LRL at our 2018 PDS in Harrisburg, Evelyn Andrews retired in December 2020. LRL thanks Evelyn for her service to the Pennsylvania Senate and the legislative institution. We wish her well in her retirement. Check out the Penn. Senate Newsletter for more.
Wyoming State Law Library
Matt Swift from the Wyoming State Law Library reports that the law library has been closed to the public for a year and staff have been working from home on and off. The Library has been providing curbside service for checking out print materials and reference services via email and telephone.
By Angela Andrews, NCSL’s liaison to the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee
Have you ever heard of NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee, the LSCC, for short? It’s a 49-member staff committee that serves in an advisory capacity to NCSL’s Executive Committee. Its purpose is to coordinate the work of the nine professional staff associations of NCSL, promote professional development opportunities for legislative staff and review and evaluate NCSL’s services for staff.
The officers of each of the professional staff associations serve as a member of the LSCC and attend it’s quarterly meetings. Eric Glover (Idaho) and Ingrid Hernquist, (N.J.) are members of the LSCC by virtue of serving as chair and vice-chair, respectively, of LRL.
The LSCC is chaired by NCSL’s Staff Chair, one of NCSL’s three staff officers, and this year the staff chair is Martha Wigton, director of Georgia’s House Budget and Research Office. You can learn more about how the LSCC is organized here.
The LSCC represents the more than 30,000 full and part-time staff that are employed by America’s state legislatures and ensure that NCSL continues to provide high-quality programming, networking and services to help staff do their job better and support the legislative institution.
Below are some examples of NCSL’s programs, services or publications supported by the LSCC.
Read more about how the LSCC supports you, and your role in the legislature, by reading the 2019-2020 LSCC Annual Report.
Both Eric Glover (Idaho) and Ingrid Hernquist (N.J.) attended the Winter 2021 Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee meeting the afternoon of Jan. 23, 2021. The full LSCC along with the LSCC workgroups and subcommittees met virtually via Zoom to continue discussions and advance their work for the 2020-2021 conference year. All of the subcommittees and workgroups met to discuss and update the full committee on their work on the following: creating a legislative success story video that can be shared at the 2021 Legislative Summit, developing an oral history of NCSL with former NCSL staff chairs, reviewing a fitness app for the Legislative Summit, reinvigorating the NCSL YNP Group and website, programming for staff directors, review of the legislative staff outreach efforts, Building Democracy Podcast, planning for the 2021 Legislative Staff Week, increasing the visibility of the Legislative Staff Achievement Awards, approval of a revised PDS overhead allocation charge for the professional staff associations, future plans for the Legislative Staff Certificate Program, and much, much more. If you’d like more details please reach out to LRL liaison, Megan McClure.
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).
State Policy 101: offers legislators and legislative staff more than 25 educational sessions on key, cross-cutting policy issues. Whether you are new to the legislature or looking to build your knowledge in a specific area, these sessions will prepare you for future success.
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