LRL Newsline | Winter 2019


Chair's Corner

Welcome to the Winter 2019 issue of Newsline!

By Teresa Wilt (Nevada), LRL Chair 2019-2020

Welcome to the fall 2019 Newsline. This issue covers a lot of ground, including the annual Legislative Summit in Nashville, Tenn., the Professional Development Seminar (PDS) in Portland, Maine, a librarian’s-eye view of the Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI), and an introduction to two of our newest members, Joanne Vandestreek of New Mexico and Nathan Elwood of Missouri. It’s been busy!

As many of you know, in August we start a new term for LRL officers. I’d like to thank our outgoing chair, Betsy Haugen (Minnesota), for her hard work and planning, all performed with a poise that made it seem easy. We certainly reaped the fruits of her labor over the last couple of years. Thankfully for me, we will still benefit from her experience as she continues her service as immediate past chair.

My thanks also go to Eddie Weeks (Tennessee), Summit host librarian; Jessica Lundgren (Maine), PDS host librarian; Julia Covington (North Carolina), penultimate immediate past chair; Eric Glover (Idaho), LRL vice chair; Ingrid Hernquist (New Jersey), LRL secretary; and NCSL’s Megan McClure, liaison-extraordinaire, for not only their great ideas, but their willingness to implement them.

Nashville was an incredible place to hold the Summit and, as you will no doubt read later in this issue, Eddie was an excellent host and tour guide. Unfortunately, I had to miss this Summit, but everyone I have spoken with who attended gave it rave reviews. These conferences are wonderful resources for both professional development and networking, so I hope you can join us Aug. 10-13 next year when the Summit moves to Indianapolis.

We held our PDS in Maine this year, spending one day at the Capitol in Augusta and the other two in Portland. Twenty librarians (including one from the Library of Congress), representing 10 states and the District of Columbia, can now attest that Maine is indeed a delightful fall destination. 

We had some great sessions, learning about building digital collections on our own and in collaboration with other agencies; ways to promote our libraries' services; conflict management; and—my favorite session title ever—"What Pregnant Lobsters Can Tell Us About the Law," an outstanding session from a retired Maine judge on "the interplay of statutes, legislative intent, agency rules, other agency materials and actual practices in the real world." The weather was beautiful, camaraderie was high and no pregnant lobsters were harmed during the seminar.

I encourage you to mark your 2020 calendars for the Super PDS to be held Oct. 5-9 in Atlanta. The main goal of the Super PDS planning committee is to create an opportunity for “cross-pollination and shared learning between professional staff associations.” We are excited that LRL will be “pollinating” with five other staff associations:

  • Leadership Staff Professional Association (LSPA)
  • Legislative Information and Communications Staff (LINCS)
  • National Legislative Program Evaluation Society (NLPES)
  • National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices (NALFO)
  • Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS)

Both the 2020 Summit and Super PDS are in the early stages of planning, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions on sessions, or if you are interested in being a presenter, please let Megan or I know.

Thank you all for allowing me the honor of serving as your chair for 2019-2020. Until next time …


Mark Your Calendars

Upcoming RELACS/LRL Webinar: Nov. 13: May Statutory Annotations be Copyrighted?

Staff Week: Week of Nov. 18
Celebrate the dedication and hard work of legislative staff with a webinar, podcast, blogs and other activites and materials created specifically for legislative staff.

The 2020 NCSL Legislative Summit will be held Aug. 10-13, 2020, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Keep an eye out for additional programming details for legislative librarians and legislative staff in general.

A Super PDS is in the works for 2020 in Atlanta, with six staff professional development associations committed to participating. Join colleagues from RELACS, NALFO, LINCS, NLPES, LSS and, of course, LRL. The last time NCSL put together a Super PDS was in 2012 in Madison, Wis. We’ll let you know more details as planning continues through the rest of the year.

LRL at the 2019 Legislative Summit | Session Recaps

Recaps and see photos from LRL activities and sessions at the 2019 Legislative Summit in Nashville. LRL members participated in two sessions as well as multiple tours while they were in Nashville. The full agenda with session resources can be found HERE.

LRL Business Meeting / Dutch Treat Dinner

By Betsy Haugen, Minnesota

On Tuesday evening the LRL group held a combined Dutch treat dinner and annual business meeting at Makeready restaurant in the historic Printer’s Alley area of Nashville.

LRL members in attendance voted on and approved previously announced amendments to the organization’s bylaws, reflecting changes in terminology and practice that have taken place since the last revisions of the bylaws in October 2014. NCSL has adopted the name “Professional Staff Associations” instead of “Staff Sections” to describe NCSL’s nine staff groups. We also celebrated LRL Legislative Staff Achievement Award recipient Catherine Wusterhausen.

Tennessee Capitol Tour

By Betsy Haugen, Minnesota

A photo of Eddie Weeks genturing outside the Cordell Hull balcony A group photo of LRL members outside the Tennessee State Capitol Eddie in the Tennessee House of Representatives

The LRL group headed to the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville Tuesday afternoon. Eddie Weeks, who has been the Tennessee legislative librarian since July 1996, took us on an amazing tour of the 1859-built Capitol designed by noted architect William Strickland who considered it his crowning achievement. When Strickland died suddenly during construction in 1854, he was buried in the north facade of the building—a truly unique feature!

One of the oldest working capitols in the United States, the Tennessee State Capitol serves as home of the Tennessee General Assembly and houses the governor’s office. The building, one of 12 state capitols that does not have a dome, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1971.

After our tour, Weeks showed off the newly renovated Cordell Hull building and his charming legislative library.

Tennessee State Museum

A photo of Dan Pomeroy during the LRL tour of the Tennessee State MuseumThe LRL group in front of the Tennessee State MuseumDan Pomeroy, chief curator and director of collections, took us on a fact-filled tour of the beautiful Tennessee State Museum, in its third home since being established in 1937. The new building opened in 2018 and is in a prime location adjacent to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. This very modern museum takes full advantage of multimedia to educate and amaze visitors.

The museum’s collection contains a representation of Tennessee, its land and its people, from prehistoric times to present day.  Significant artifacts related to the state’s history have been acquired over several decades, including art, furniture, textiles and photographs produced by Tennesseans. We were fortunate to hear the interesting background stories on some pieces of the collection from our knowledgeable guide. The museum’s permanent collection includes a fascinating section on the Civil War and Reconstruction (1860-1870) period, a monumental time of conflict and change for the people of Tennessee.

What I Wish I Knew When I Started in the Legislature

A photo of Eric Glover and his fellow panelists at the What I Wish I Knew When I started the Legislature session at the 2019 Legislative Summit in Nashville, TennesseeLRL Vice Chair Eric Glover, of the Idaho Legislative Research Library, was one of six legislative staff panelists at the “What I Wish I Knew When I Started in the Legislature” session on the legislative staff track at Summit.

For more on the session, see the NCSL blog post by Julie Lays, "What I Wish I Knew … ."

The Introvert's Perilous Plight

An intrepid group of introverts braved a packed room at the recent Legislative Summit in Nashville. Read my blog to get the full details.

Deliberate Creativity: Three Elements of Innovation
By Ingrid Hernquist, New Jersey

Creativity is not a special talent we are born with and only some of us have.  In fact, we all have the capacity to be creative. That was the message presented by Dr. Amy Climer during a session titled “Deliberate Creativity: Three Elements of Innovation” at the Legislative Staff Breakfast co-hosted by LRL on Aug. 8 during the Legislative Summit.

Climer, who hosts the podcast “The Deliberate Creative,” revealed how individuals and organizations can reach new levels of innovation by becoming deliberately creative. “Deliberate creatives” know that being creative is an active practice that develops over time. Climer stressed that anyone who works hard can be more creative.

Climer cited the department store Sears as an example of corporate management that was not creative, keeping it from becoming a success like Amazon. At the turn of the century, millions of American lived in rural areas and were unable to go to stores, so people received products through the U.S. Postal Service. In 1897, Sears, Roebuck, and Co. was keen to capitalize on this well-developed system so it launched its first catalog. By capitalizing on the Postal Service the company could get its products to people anywhere in the country. By 1909 the catalog was more than 500 pages. By 1993, however, Sears closed its catalog business to respond to the shifting needs of the country.  During the 1990s shopping malls were extremely popular so Sears opened up many stores. After 2010, again, people’s shopping habits changed and instead of going to stores to buy things many people purchased items online. This time Sears did not capitalize on the current trend and eventually the company filed for bankruptcy. 

Next, Climer presented a successful example of a government entity that was creative. Due to the application and the application process set up by the U.S. Department of Education for school lunch programs, certain schools were getting too much funding while others did not receive enough. The processes were revamped so funding was more evenly distributed—and the DOE saved $600 million.

According to Climer, creativity is not an option. People need to be deliberative to be creative, she said, and deliberate creatives must practice the following three elements of innovation:  mindset, skillset and toolset. The main thing blocking creativity is people’s mindset. People need to get past their own mindsets and learn to be open to new ideas. Overactive inner critics, who criticize themselves and others, limit creativity.

The next element of innovation that needs to be practiced is skill set. To get past your inner critic, Climer said, you must understand the difference between divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is generating many big ideas, using the “yes and” question to generate creativity. Convergent thinking is seeking the best idea. Most people move to solving the problem too quickly before exploring possibilities. After generating many ideas, people need to sort through and select the best ideas to move forward with. To do this, people need to engage in convergent thinking. This is the opposite of divergent thinking where people focus on generating many, diverse ideas. Convergent thinking is narrowing in on the best answers or solutions.

The third element needed is the tool set. When searching for ideas, most people default to brainstorming but it is not the most effective tool. She recommended using Post-it notes or lists to jot down ideas and then taking time to examine them all. Climer said listening is another key tool for achieving creativity. She recommended speaking to other people working on the same project, listening to their ideas and bringing back all the ideas to generate even more ideas. She said people often search for one right way to find one right answer but there are many different approaches to come up with different ideas that will work. 

Legislative Staff University: Becoming a Multiplier

By Eric Glover, Idaho Legislative Research Library

by Rob DeLange, at the Legislative Summit.

According to DeLange, multipliers use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them, while diminishers drain them. He said a study has shown that, on average, diminishers get less than half of people’s full capability whereas multipliers get virtually all of it.

During a small-group exercise during the presentation, participants identified some diminisher characteristics, such as taking credit for employees’ work and ideas, constantly reminding employees who’s is in charge and not leading by example. Characteristics for multipliers: trusting others to work freely and being encouraging and approachable.

DeLange provided a handout defining five disciplines within each leader type:


  1. The Empire Builder: hoards resources and underutilizes talent.
  2. The Tyrant: creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability.
  3. The Know-It-All: gives directives that showcase how much they know.
  4. The Decision Maker: Makes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization.
  5. The Micromanager: drives results through his or her personal involvement. 



  1. The Talent Manager: attracts talented people and uses them at their highest  point of contribution.
  2. The Liberator: creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work.
  3. The Challenger: defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch.
  4. The Debate Maker: drives sound decisions through rigorous debate.
  5. The Investor: gives other people ownership for results and invests in their success.

Start an Imagination Library in Your State

By Debbie Tavenner, Ohio

A photo of Dolly Parton wearing a white long sleeve dress Speaking with Tennessee State GovernorDuring an inspiring opening session of the Legislative Summit, country music legend Dolly Parton spoke about why she started Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a program of the Dollywood Foundation. She said she wanted to honor her father, who could not read, and noted more than once during the presentation that her father said her work with the book program was the best thing she had ever done.

Parton treated the audience to two songs, “Coat of Many Colors” and” Try,” a song she wrote for the Imagination Library. Check out the NCSL Blog for more on the session.

The next day, the Dollywood Foundation’s David Dodson, CEO, Jeff Conyers, president, and Nora Briggs, executive director, led a breakout session to discuss the Imagination Library program.

Parton started the organization in 1995, focusing on Sevier County, Tennessee, where she grew up. Her idea was to get books to children ages 0-5, no matter their socio-economic status, at no cost to the child. The books are mailed to each child (with his or her name on the packaging) once a month for five years. In 2000, the decision was made to expand outside the county and, in 2004, the state of Tennessee pledged to support the program statewide. It is now statewide in North Carolina, almost statewide in Arkansas, and will be expanding in Ohio with state support. The program is also available in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia. No matter where the program is offered, it still holds that the books come to the child at no cost and everyone in the service area is eligible.

In areas where the program is in place, local organizations, called “Local Champions,” form to raise money for the cost of the books and mailing, and to get children in the area to sign up. Once a local organization is up and running, the foundation bills the local community organization about $25 a child per year. All money raised locally stays local. The foundation covers the overhead costs associated with making the program available to the local communities, including all services related to book selection, address database maintenance, arrangements with the publisher and mailings. It adheres to strict privacy standards.

Each year, a Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee chooses books appropriate for the age groups. All the books are published by Penguin Random House. About one-third of the books are swapped out each year.  The first book a child receives is “The Little Engine That Could” and the last books a child receives is “Look out Kindergarten. Here I Come!”

As of July 2019, 123 million books were mailed. For more information, the website is filled with lots of details:

The Power of Story

By Catherine Wusterhausen, Texas

In a packed session moderated by NCSL Executive Director Tim Storey, professional storyteller Donna Washington was joined by “Road to Now” podcast hosts Benjamin Sawyer and Bob Crawford in exploring the ability of stories to forge connections between individuals and groups. 

The speakers highlighted the power of stories to build community and change minds.  Washington identified three elements of a great story:  It creates community; it makes you consider your own thoughts and biases; and it makes you understand the world just a little bit differently.

This session was broadcast live as part of the “Road to Now” podcast and is available online at

Post-Summit Tours

By Megan McClure

After Summit was said and done some LRLers stuck around to take backroom tours of The Parthenon and Nelson's Green Briar Distillery.

Our visit to the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the iconic Ancient Greek landmark in the middle of Centennial Park in Nashville was more than we could have imagined. Built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, adorned with cast replicas of the sculptures that wound around the original Parthenon’s facade. the Parthenon now serves as Nashville’s art museum. The collection focuses around a 63-piece collection of paintings by James M. Cowan as well as a re-creation of the 42-foot statue of the Greek Goddess, Athena (which will seem familiar to fans of Percy Jackson). LRLers were treated to a behind the scenes tour by Assistant Curator, Mark Medley where he displayed documents, photos and other historical and artistic artifacts from the creation and rebuilding of the Parthenon and the development of the Cowan collection and other artworks now housed in the museum.

At Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, we learned of the long and fascinating history of an enterprising man whose descendants, through pure happenstance and luck uncovered their roots in whiskey distillation in American.  A family and company history spanning two continents; persevering in the face of maritime tragedy, civil war and prohibition that has been brought back to life by two brothers.

2019 LRL Professional Development Seminar | Session Recaps

Hear about all of the wonderful programming that LRL members attended while in Portland, Maine for the 2019 LRL PDS. See your fellow librarians learning with and from each other as well as touring many sites in Portland and Augusta. The full agenda with session resources can be found HERE.

The Maine Constitution: Past, Present and Future

By Dana Combs, New Jersey

Marshall J. Tinkle speaking to LRL members about the origin, evolution and future of the Maine State ConstitutionAll 50 state constitutions have similar objectives and structure and were treated as the fundamental law of the states before federal law eclipsed their importance in the 1930s, Marshall J. Tinkle, author of “The Maine State Constitution,” said at the start of his session. However, he continued, there has been a resurgence to restore the status of state constitutions in legal cases in recent years.  

After this overview, Tinkle explained the origins and development of Maine’s Constitution. Part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony since the 1650s, Maine remained part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until an act of separation in June 1819 officially began its path to statehood. The week-long Constitutional Convention occurred four months later. The delegates used Massachusetts’ Constitution as a model; however, Maine’s Constitution deviates from Massachusetts’ in several ways and is considerably more liberal. The Maine Constitution also shows influences from other state constitutions, such as Delaware, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, as well as the U.S. Constitution. The result, Tinkle mused, was a synthesis document unique to the state. Approved by voters in December 1819, Congress admitted Maine into the Union in March 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise. 

The Maine Constitution is the fourth-oldest state constitution still in continuous use and has never been repealed or replaced. To date, there have been 173 amendments to the Constitution, but its fundamental character remains apparent. While there have been periodic calls for a second Constitutional Convention, Tinkle does not see this happening for various reasons, including cost. Instead, he feels there will simply be more amendments in this constitution’s future.

Berries. Breeders. Keepers. Shedders. V-notching

By Anthony Aycock, North Carolina

Jusice Kennedy talking about What Pregnant Lobsters Can Teach Us About the LawThese are not terms from the adult film industry. Rather, they are from a different arena, one retired jurist John David Kennedy calls “one of Maine’s iconic professions”: lobstering.

More than 100 million pounds of lobsters are caught annually in the Pine Tree State. Six lobsters—about 10 pounds worth—formed the basis of one of Kennedy’s most interesting cases, which he discussed Sept. 23 in a presentation cleverly titled “What Pregnant Lobsters Can Tell Us About the Law.”

On Dec. 14, 2007, a lobsterman named Dale Richard Weeks was cited by the Department of Marine Resources for possessing six lobsters with mutilated right center flippers. Why is this illegal? To protect the state’s breeding stock, egg-bearing females can’t be kept. Lobstermen must throw them back after first V-notching them—i.e., marking them with a V-shaped cut in the right rear middle flipper. Lobsters already V-notched, or damaged in such a way to obscure that mark, must also be abandoned. Anyone who doesn’t risks a fine and, devastatingly, possible loss of their lobster license.

Kennedy offered a wonderful tour through Maine lobster culture, teaching attendees about conservation measures, how the industry self-polices (cutting offenders’ trap lines is only the beginning), and dishing out a smattering of lobster slang. Getting down to the Weeks case, he discussed what made it so challenging: the disconnect between statute and policy.

The statute is crystal: “A person may not take, transport, sell, or possess . . . Any female lobster marked with a v-notch in the right flipper next to the middle flipper or . . . mutilated in a manner that could hide or obliterate that mark.” A Bureau of Marine Patrol policy, however, asserts that “a naturally regenerated flipper is considered legal.”

This was the crux of the case. The state said these six lobsters were illegal because they had mutilated flippers. Weeks argued they weren’t because the flippers were regenerating.

How did it end? Kennedy found four of the six lobsters illegal and imposed the minimum fine, about $350, which the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld. He also chided Marine Resources for the ambiguous policy, urging a rewrite to deter further confusion. What started as a case about six banged-up lobsters turned into a canvass of statutory construction principles.

As a Mainer might say, that’s a wicked pissah.

Tour of the Maine Historical Society’s Brown Research Library

By Elizabeth Bateman, Maryland

A photo of Jamie Rice of the Maine Historical Societies Brown Research Library speaking to LRL members inside the libraries main room.During the LRL PDS the group toured the Maine Historical Society’s Brown Research Library, located next to the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, the first historic house museum in Maine, which is also run by the historical society. The library is privately funded but open to the public.

Jamie Rice, director of collections and research, conducted the tour, which included the main reading room on the first floor and a 13,000-square-foot archive. Genealogy comprises about 50% of the research done at the library. Another common topic is architectural or property research, as the Brown Library houses an extensive collection of proprietor’s papers and architectural drawings from early in Maine’s history. The library also has a large collection of Maine maps. Many of the photographs and maps are available digitally through the Maine Memory Network.

One of the more fascinating collections housed at the library is the John S. H. Fogg Autograph Collection, which includes autographs and letters by various famous individuals, including Ferdinand and Isabella, signers of the Declaration of Independence and Harriett Beecher Stowe.

Outside, the Longfellow Garden contains plants native to Maine and is also open to the public seasonally, from May to October.

Better Than Google

By Christina Finch, Washington, D.C.

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” —Neil Gaiman

Maine State Senior Law Librarian, Jessica Lundgren speaking about how legislative library resources are Better Than GoogleDuring the 2019 Legislative Research Librarian (LRL) Professional Development Seminar, Jessica Lundgren, senior law librarian for the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library (LLRL) gave a detailed presentation to legislative librarians from various states titled “Better than Google: The Law and Legislative Digital Library.”

The presentation, which took place at the Portland Main Public Library, highlighted details of the Maine State Legislature Legislative History Collection database. This database provides both the legislature and public full text access to historical documents related to, informing, or reporting on Maine legislative measures dating from 1984-present. Information provided includes bills, public laws, committee reports, amendments, floor proceedings and relevant news articles. A hyperlink or reference citation is provided for each document listed in the legislative history.

This database is the result of hard work by library staff at LLRL, a nonpartisan organization that serves all three branches of Maine’s government: judicial, executive and legislative. In addition, LLRL also serves as Maine’s state law library. The LLRL staff of seven librarians and library associates took more than three years to completely digitize these legislative histories. Their work digitizing, organizing, and making accessible this previously disconnected information provides clear evidence once again that librarians are better than Google.

Have Legal Resources, Will travel
By Erin Brown, California

“Have Legal Resources, Will travel: Outreach Instruction @LLRL,” presented by Jessica Lundgren, senior law librarian at the Maine State Law and Legislative Library, offered a brief primer on marketing and outreach to patrons.

The main takeaways included:

  • Be assertive about resources. Customize training to fit the needs of your patrons, know your audience and be flexible.
  • Always says yes. When asked to participate in planning, say yes. When asked at the last minute to do a tour, say yes, etc.
  • Advertise. Provide presentations of your resources; find ways to get the word out about your library resources.
  • Pursue opportunities. Attend conferences; find opportunities to be part of your legislative community.

Building a Digital Library on a Shoestring

By Nathan Elwood, Missouri

Maine Law and Legislative Library Director, John Barden talking about Building a Digital Library on a ShoestringThis discussion, led by Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library Director John Barden, looked at how libraries can coordinate successful digitization projects with a minimum of time or resources.

The presentation began with a discussion of digitization projects carried out by various libraries, before transitioning to the main example for the discussion, the Maine Law and Legislative Digital Library (LLDL). This growing collection includes legislative history collections, a legislative record stretching back to 1897, Maine public documents from 1833 onward, pre-statehood Massachusetts laws and more.

Barden insists that a key element of a successful project of this kind is to define its parameters from the beginning. The LLDL is a digital library, not a digital repository. The scope and purpose of a digital library, Barden explains, is more defined, and this has guided the policies governing the project throughout the process.

Therefore, the first step in a successful digitization project is to “determine your scope.” Barden advocates working closely with the strength of your collection, and responding to the needs of your patrons, rather than adopting a one-size fits all approach. For the LLDL, this meant a “digitize-on-demand model.”

With the scope of the project determined, Barden next recommends evaluating your resources and workflow. For the LLDL, much of the scanning can be accomplished on a standard copy machine. Depending on your materials, this may be enough for your library, or you may need access to more advanced equipment. Later in the presentation, Barden notes the importance of possible collaborations with other parties within your institution, or with other libraries, to gain access to greater resources. However, keep in mind that collaboration can mean a compromise on scope.

For document management, the LLDL uses OpenText Alchemy, though Barden acknowledges that several options, both paid and open-source, were considered. While getting raw documents themselves may be easy for your library, Barden observes that sorting, filing and creating the metadata takes far more time. As part of this process, anticipate the points of access. Will this be publicly accessible? Spreadsheets may be a versatile way for your library to catalog materials internally, but they are not as accessible or understandable for a public audience. Account for your users in the decisions you make.

Consider limitations on time when considering your workflow and try to reduce redundancies. For example, rather than scanning new materials, see if they can be captured electronically in order to save on time and maintain file quality.

Barden encourages libraries to promote their projects as much as possible, and to be aware of the importance of branding. “As you digitize, publicize,” he says. Mention every milestone to your legislature: in a newsletter, via social media, whatever platforms are available to you. Wherever possible, use these opportunities to demonstrate the benefit of the project to your library and to your users.

Above all, Barden recommends not waiting to begin a digitization project. Start right away! Planning is important but avoid being bogged down in the details if they prevent meaningful work from the beginning.

Legislative Librarian Self-Care: Highlights from the AALL Digital White Paper “Legal Ease: Self-Care for Library Staff”

By Molly Riley, Reference Librarian, Minnesota

Senior Law Librarian, Alex Burnett talking about Librarian Self CareFrom time-crunched legislators in a rush before a committee hearing to frustrated public patrons looking for their government to fix their ills, every legislative librarian has probably felt pressure, stress, or even burnt out in our unique line of work. Taking time to consider ways we can alleviate stress is an important aspect of growing as a professional. To this end, Alex Burnett, senior law librarian at the Maine LLRL, presented on strategies for self-care, particularly tailored to our unique work as legislative librarians.

His presentation was based on an AALL digital white paper of which he was a co-author: “Legal Ease: Self-Care for Library Staff.” Burnett touched on six major themes: unplugging and mindfulness; social and community wellness; professional development; setting boundaries and asking for help; burnout and mental health treatment; and the role of the library in self-care.

It may feel counterintuitive to “unplug” from things like state and national news when so much of our work centers on being informed and connected with what’s happening in our states and country. But Burnett challenged us to consider how staying so plugged in—to news, email, social media—affects our mood and work performance. Can we find ways to balance the need to be informed at work with the need to rest when we’re not?

The largest portion of his presentation was devoted to discussing boundary setting with various types of patrons we encounter in our libraries. This section sparked a discussion in the group about specific encounters with patrons and legislators, and the challenges we’ve faced in setting the right boundaries and expectations. One of the most helpful reminders from this discussion was that having a library-wide standard of service helps reduce patron confusion about what they can or can’t expect from their legislative librarians.

Are You a Turtle, Fox, Dove or Tiger?

By Richard Sigwald, Maryland 

HR Generalist, Amanda Goldsmith talking about conflict managementConflict resolution was the topic of the final session of the Reference Librarian Professional Development Seminar in Augusta, Maine, with human resources generalist Amanda Goldsmith presenting a wonderful talk titled “Turning Conflict into Opportunity.”

Despite being late in the day after a bus trip to Augusta and thorough walking tours of the Capitol grounds, the audience was thirsty for information and alive with discussion. Goldsmith used personal experiences to speak about being aware of our own paradigm coloring our perceptions of others. She reminded us that it’s possible for us to be wrong in a conflict and to be aware of our “possible incompetence” in handling the situation. Goldsmith also discussed that conflict can be good, as it can provide an opportunity to learn and collaborate. 

We learned about the five approaches to resolving conflict; avoidance, accommodation, domination, compromise and collaboration. These can be split into unilateral or bilateral approaches. Avoidance, accommodation and domination are unilateral, where only one person gets what he or she wants. Compromise and collaboration give concessions to both sides and are considered bilateral.

Four of these methods are represented by animals; turtle is avoidance, tiger is domination, dove is accommodation, and fox is compromise. The attendees took a survey to determine which one of these methods they lean toward and this is where discussion really picked up. 

Some wonderful takeaway phrases from this session include being “soft on people, tough on issues,” bringing a “backpack of feelings and experiences” into conflicts, and “focus on the needs, not the position.” But, most important, were the four steps to resolution: eliminate false conflicts, analyze the needs of all parties and issues, find final solutions that work for all parties, and come to an agreement.

We were reminded that once an agreement is reached, also set up a date for follow-up to make sure the resolution is working. Goldsmith then left us with one last quip that resonated with the room, “Look in the mirror, not out the window.” 

Lobstering Cruise

By Rebekah Cerame, Maryland

The last day of our conference was spent cruising around Casco Bay on a lobstering boat tour. Our guide, a seasoned lobsterman, took us on a cruise by lighthouses, historic civil war forts and beautiful summer cottages.  Our lobsterman guided us through the daily routines of hauling up lobster traps, measuring lobsters to ensure they are legal size and conservation efforts to protect egg-producing females. After a fun morning on the boat, we finished up our lobster adventure at Portland Lobster Company.

The LRL group on board the St. Croix lobster boat

A photo of the LRL group in front of the Maine State Capitol

A photo of the LRL group in side the Maine State Capitol









A Librarian's Take on the Legislative Staff Management Institute

By Karen Mau, head research librarian, Hawaii

LSMI? What is that? That was my first reaction when I was encouraged to apply to the Legislative Staff Management Institute. A self-admitted introvert, I freaked out at the thought of spending eight days with a group of legislative employees I've never met before! My next thought, was, “OK, I have to apply to attend LSMI—maybe I won't be selected.” I tend to overthink things and having too many conversations in my head did not help.

Two weeks later, I learned I was selected. Gulp. Well, I'm going, so I may as well embrace this opportunity and try to make the most of it. That was my mantra.

As the date got closer, a slight degree of panic set in, yet I was relieved to know two other Hawaii legislative staff members were also going to be in attendance. I spoke to past attendees for their perspectives, and one told me, "it was life-changing." That intrigued me. How can this program be life-changing? Now I was curious and perhaps even looking forward to seeing how this could help me personally and professionally.

LSMI packed a lot of information into those eight days and it was life-changing. It was an opportunity to get together with 42 other dedicated state legislative staffers. However, being the only LRLer there initially did intimidate me. Many worked in fiscal and policy, IT and various staff leadership roles. 

The program challenged each of us to broaden our views in understanding risk, being resilient, learning about our social style, changing perceptions, managing diversity, being mindful, and learning the skills of negotiation and collaboration, along with team-building exercises. We also explored the California State Fair, went on a whitewater rafting adventure and took on an escape room exercise. It was self-discovery, self-awareness and fun!

Classroom exercises gently forced you to get out of your comfort zone and, for me, it was well worth all the anxiety I felt before I attended. We all shared parts of ourselves, bonded and became friends by the end of the program. If you have an opportunity to attend LSMI, this is a very well-thought-out program and it's geared just for legislative staffers. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to attend LSMI and I highly encourage other LRLers to apply and enjoy an adventure outside of your comfort zone! 

More information about the 2020 Legislative Staff Management Institute can be found HERE.

A Librarian’s Perspective on the RELACS PDS

By Joanne Vandestreek, New Mexico

I attended the NCSL RELACS Professional Development Seminar from September 18-20, 2019 in Santa Fe. While the majority of the seminars targeted researchers, proofreaders and bill drafters, there were many takeaways that could apply to our roles as legislative librarians.

The seminar kicked off with a review of major SCOTUS cases from the previous and upcoming terms of interest to legislative staff. Several researchers then spoke about their best research methods, including how they organize their research and rely on human experts. The topic of what is considered an authoritative source was brought up frequently. Kae Warnock, policy specialist with NCSL, also spoke about advanced search techniques to use in search engines. There were also excellent trainings applicable to all, including trainings on communication and presentation skills.

One session especially of interest was “Practical Data Visualization Strategies for Legislative Research,” presented by researchers from Wisconsin and Texas. It provided demos of several tools being used to create interesting and dynamic research products, such as ARCGis, QGis, Adobe Creative Suite, Visme and Tableau. These were primarily used for demographic reports, and reminded me that we research librarians have probably seen other data visualization tools used in libraries that we could apply to our agencies’ work.

The conference provided an excellent opportunity for me to meet researchers and to learn what they use or don’t use in their research, or whether they use their libraries or not. One researcher mentioned during a roundtable discussion that he does not use his library for research because he felt he was more familiar with the topic. That one statement has stayed with me since the conference, and I hope that legislative librarians continue the discussion surrounding this and other ways we can apply our librarianship expertise to the research needs of our respective agencies.

Presentation slides, notes and handouts for this event can be found at

Getting to Know You: Q & A with a New LRL Member

Joanne Vandestreek
Senior Legislative Librarian
New Mexico Legislative Council Service

I’d like to introduce you all to Joanne Vandestreek, one of our newest LRL members. She just joined the staff of the New Mexico Legislative Council Service this summer and graciously agreed to answer my 10 random questions so that we could all get to know her a bit better.

What is your library/education background?

I received my undergraduate degree in art history from Northwestern University and my MLIS from San Jose State University. I’ve worked primarily in law libraries, with a few years working in law firm libraries in Chicago, but most of my law library work has been in courthouse law libraries. I spent eight years with the state of Utah Law Library and three-and-a-half years with the 19th Judicial Circuit Court Law Library in Illinois. I’ve also worked in public libraries, most recently the Milwaukee Public Library.

What is the best thing about your library?

Our library is part of a supportive and nonpartisan environment in which there is a lot of teamwork, collaboration and collegiality.        

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I loved performing in high school plays and either wanted to be in theater or a performance studies major, but switched to librarianship when I first started working in my university library as an undergraduate. College theater was way more competitive than I expected!

Do you consider yourself a cat or a dog person?

Definitely a cat person! I have one tuxedo cat, Miss Oreo, but she does not like other cats. I can tolerate dogs though.

What is the best/worst question you have been asked in a job interview?

I can’t think of an answer to this question.

What car did you learn to drive in and who taught you?

I didn’t learn to drive until I was 21. I took classes through a private driver’s license educational program using my dad’s Hyundai Sonata.

What is your favorite thing about where you live?

I’ve only lived in New Mexico two months, but I do enjoy the scenic views and great food. Green and red chile is added to every food here, which at first made me a little intimidated but now I love it!

What is your favorite dessert?

Anything dense with chocolate, such as a brownie or flourless chocolate cake.    

When you are not working, what is your favorite way to spend your time?

In my free time I enjoy going to the gym, exploring new restaurants, and enjoying me-time with massages, pedicures or shopping.

What is one thing that can instantly make your day better?


If you have a new staff member or would like to nominate someone in your library for a Q & A session, please let us know. Just send an email to Megan McClure at

Introducing the New Missouri Legislative Librarian!

A photo of new Missouri Legislative Librarian, Nathan Elwood. Holding a tiny crabNathan Elwood became the new library administrator of the Missouri Legislative Library in late May, 2019, succeeding Rachel Alexander in the role. Prior to this appointment, Elwood worked for three years as an instruction and electronic access librarian at Fort Hays State University, in Hays, Kansas. There, he served as liaison to the social sciences departments, including political science, criminal justice and sociology. He also served as the library liaison to the Fort Hays international students and faculty.

Elwood is originally from Eureka, Mo., and received his Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Missouri in 2016. In addition to working as a graduate reference assistant at the University of Missouri’s Ellis Library during his time as a graduate student, Elwood has worked at Logan University in Chesterfield, Mo., as a library assistant, and conducted a volunteer practicum at Moniteau County Public Library in California, Mo.

In his new role, Elwood seeks to modernize and expand the Legislative Library’s services. He is excited at the prospect of serving the legislators, General Assembly staff, and citizens of the great state of Missouri.

Welcome, Nathan!

Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) Fall Meeting Report

By Teresa Wilt (Nevada)

A photo of the Hawaii State Capitol

NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) serves in an advisory capacity to NCSL’s Executive Committee. LRL officers serve as members of the LSCC to represent the interests of LRL members and legislative staff before NCSL. The chair and vice chair of each of the professional staff associations of NCSL are members of the LSCC and each member of the LSCC is appointed to a workgroup and a subcommittee. Similar to legislative committees, these LSCC committees conduct the work of the LSCC and you can see the scope, goals and membership of each of the LSCC committees here.

The LSCC meets four times a year and recently held its Fall meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, Oct. 11, 2019. Many thanks to Karen Mau for attending the LSCC meetings on behalf of myself and Eric. Eric and I also participated in some of the meeting via conference call.

Below is an update on what was discussed.

The Professional Staff Association Officers Work Group will be working on a few projects during this conference year. These projects include reviewing NCSL’s Overhead Allocation Formula for Professional Staff Associations, studying the feasibility of giving an award to a professional staff association for the best webinar, developing a policy for staff association designees at the LSCC in order to ensure continuity of work and creating a conference safety guidelines flyer for distribution at PDS meetings. I will be on a small workgroup to examine the staff association overhead allocation and Eric will participate in studying the feasibility of giving an award for the best webinar.

The LSCC is also leading the way in organizing a pilot certificate program for legislative staff. This one-day program will be on Oct. 6, 2019, in Atlanta, prior to the start of the 2020 “Super Professional Development Seminar.” It is for newer legislative staff and will focus on five core competencies every legislative staffer should know – parliamentary and fiscal procedures, the legislative institution, code of conduct, leadership and communication.

In addition, as you may know, LRL will be participating in the “Super PDS”, which will be Oct. 7-9, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. I serve on the planning and oversight committee for the meeting and am ensuring that LRL is represented throughout the planning process.

There are many more initiatives that the LSCC is working on and I hope to share with you in future editions.

State News and Member News

Image of a hand holding a bullhorn with the words "braking news" coming out in a word bubbleVirginia: Longtime LRLer and Legislative Staffer in Virginia, Ginny Edwards is retiring effective Nov. 1, 2019. We thank Ginny for all of her contributions to LRL, NCSL and the Virginia General Assembly. She has served in the Virginia General Assembly in a variety of roles since 1990, her most recent role was director of the Reference Center. LRL and NCSL wish Ginny well and for lots of relaxation and good books in her retirement.

With Ginny's departure, Lily Jones will step in as the new director of the Reference Center. Welcome, Lily!

LRL Reunion

Debbie Tavenner, Ohio Legislative Service Commission

Last October, I spent a wonderful weekend in Denver with Marilyn Johnson of North Dakota; Tracey Kimball of New Mexico; and Susan Gilley of Oklahoma, just for the fun of it. Among the things we did was have tea with Rita Thaemert, a former LRL staff liaison. Marilyn and Susan have organized such gatherings from time to time. Sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller. We all thought it would be fun to have an LRL Reunion, so they put me in charge of organizing it since I still have contacts with the current staff. Betsy said it was OK to use Newsline to get the word out and collect addresses of former and retired staff members who might be interested.

The tentative (and plans are very tentative) idea is to organize a reunion around the Super Professional Development Meeting Oct. 5-9, 2020, in Atlanta. Hopefully, there will be an overlap where we can all get together. Please notify your former colleagues who might be interested and either provide me with contact information, or ask them to contact me directly through email or regular mail. Use, or my address: Debbie Tavenner, 804 Neil Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43215

I am really excited about the opportunity to visit with former colleagues.

Resources for Staff Training

Image of a cartoon brain with arms, holding two dumbbells with the words "brain training" underneathTraining new staff can present myriad challenges and logistical issues. How do you train someone when you already have your plate full with your daily duties? How do you train staff in the middle of a session? Or on a shoestring or nonexistent budget? Below is a list of NCSL resources to help you train new and old staff without overstretching your time, ability and budget!

Upcoming Webinars

Keys to an Effective Message – Story Principles, Focused Messaging, and Communication Styles | Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019
It’s crunch time in the legislature and you are finishing up a big, complex project. Now you need to distill all that work into a summary to share with colleagues or constituents. Communications coach Marianna Swallow will guide you through the steps to develop an effective message. She shares the keys to understanding different communication styles, identifying the main takeaway of your message, and using story principles to engage your audience.

May Statutory Annotations be Copyrighted? | Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 | 1 p.m. ET/ Noon CT/ 11 a.m. MT/ 10 a.m. PT
In Georgia v., Inc. the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the deceptively simple question of whether statutory annotations may be copyrighted. Numerous state legislatures, like Georgia, work with an outside publisher that updates statutory annotations each year. Webinar speakers will cover the implications of this case for state and local governments more generally, the policy and legal arguments each side is making before the Supreme Court, and how this case may impact the legal publishing industry.

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
  • 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.
  • Blurry Boundaries in Public Sector Social Media: Defining Clear Interaction Protocols - July 12: The public sector faces unique challenges with trying to react quickly to constituents yet comply with existing rules and guidelines about reactions and responses. Kristen Walker, a professor of Marketing at California State University Northridge (CSUN) will discuss how data are socially transmitted through everyday interactions and explain how this transmission requires new and flexible (macro) interaction protocols to withstand technological innovation in data-driven environments for data-driven decisions. Moderating interactions requires more than trust and transparency and must include education and verification strategies.
  • Supreme Court Review: Presented by the State and Local Legal Center - July 23: The census citizenship question case and the Maryland and North Carolina partisan gerrymandering cases are expected to be the blockbusters of the current Supreme Court term for states and local governments. Join Judith Vale, Senior Assistant Solicitor General at the Office of the New York State Attorney General, who co-wrote the State of New York’s brief in the census case and Paul Hughes, Mayer Brown, who argued an agency deference case and co-wrote Maryland’s brief in one of the partisan gerrymandering cases, in a discussion of these cases and other cases of interest to states and local governments on topics including: religious displays on public property, takings, alcohol regulation, and employment.
  • 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.
  • The American Court System: Between the two court systems (federal and state), the levels of courts within each system (trial and appellate), and the odd terminology (amicus curiae brief) it is difficult to understand how the American court system works. This session will cover the basics of how a case proceeds through the courts.
  • 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. 
  • Mindfulnes: 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.
  • The Best Jobs of My Life: Legislative Staff Reflect: About 31,000 people work for state legislatures, serving in a variety of jobs. The National Conference of State Legislatures is celebrating Legislative Staff Week. So we decided to take this opportunity on  “Our American States” to interview three legislative staffers and find out more about what it's like to work for a legislature in today's political environment. They tell us about their jobs, how they got there and why it's the best job they've ever had. 
  • 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
  • Reorient Your To-Do List to Unlock Your Productivity Potential: The start of a new legislative session offers the chance for a fresh start. To do things differently this time around, to create new (ideally good!) habits and routines. To make better use of time with the hope of feeling slightly less depleted at the end of the session.
  • Yes, No, Maybe So: Monthly feature on ethics questions pertaining to state legislatures
Other Resources

NCSL Publications

November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019