Spring 2003


Chair's Column
Profile of a Member Library: New Jersey
News from the States
Directory Updates Needed!
Professional Development Seminar
2003 NCSL Annual Meeting
Goodbye to a Good Friend

Chair's Column

by Robbie LaFleur, Minnesota
LRL Chair

On the radio today I heard a quote by Bertrand Russell. "'Change' is scientific, 'progress' is ethical; change is indubitable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy." That might be true in our situations. We are concerned with budget changes and the difficulty of providing adequate services to support the legislative process in our states. There are others who might view the downsizing of government offices as a sign of progress.

Our Legislature in Minnesota is wrapping up a short special session that immediately followed our regular session. The omnibus appropriations bills are falling into place; 'shared pain' is the order of the day. Our Library faces a 15% cut for the coming biennium, on top of cuts we already received in the past two years. You can read about the budget challenges facing other legislative libraries in our "News from the States" section.

During our budget process this year, I heard a member's comment that the Library wasn't so necessary, "now that we have the Web." Those are fighting words for a librarian, and I responded with a handout to all the key committee members, titled, "Not everything is on the Web." Because I thought that other librarians might find occasion to do something similar, tailored to their situations, I have included an abbreviated version in this NEWSLINE. I posted the full handout at: http://www.leg.mn/lrl/pdf/NotEverythingIsOnTheWeb.pdf

Librarians embrace change, new technology, and new modes of providing information. It will be a definite challenge to work through these budget changes and deliver progress in information services. It's great to have the support of dedicated colleagues in this endeavor.

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Not everything is on the Web

(Note: This text is taken from a handout prepared for Minnesota legislators. Even though many examples are unique to our state, many of the categories and points are relevant to the services of other libraries.)

Types of materials not on the Web include many current and most older state agency reports, non-current Attorney General Opinions, Statements of Need and Reasonableness, Environmental Impact Statements, etc. For example, a caller recently asked for a copy of an Executive Order from the early 1980s. We have all of the Executive Orders in notebooks. "I couldn't find them on the Web," the caller apologized.

Not everything on the Web is available for free. The Library pays for access. Non-current newspaper article archives are not free, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press. In addition, photos, cartoons, ads, and charts that appear in print are often not available in the online equivalents. Due to the Tasini U.S. Supreme Court decision, articles by non-staff writers are not available in the online archives, including columns, and op-ed pieces by elected officials and Minnesota personalities. The Library's print clipping files are still invaluable.

Many reports on the Web are only there because we PUT them there. Library staff members scan mandated documents that are not already available electronically. A member of the public asked for a document that was required by the Legislature, Legislative Report on DNR Natural Resource Officers, published in January, 2003. It is not on the DNR's site; we were able to provide it electronically from our scanned copy.

Some things were on the Web at one time, but no longer exist electronically. Even if a state agency or an organization puts a report on the Web today, there is no assurance that the report will be available electronically in the future. The agency or the organization may not even exist.

Some information is on the Web only because it was created by Library staff and put there. Librarians compile, publish, and update legislative lists and statistics, including party control over time, special sessions, turnover in legislative seats, and vetoes since 1939. When the Politics in Minnesota Politics in Minnesota newsletter highlighted a new list created by Library staff, the section was titled, "When You Really Want to Know, Go To LRL."

Information on the Legislative Web Site is available, organized, and secure due to the work of the Library. Legislative Library staff members coordinate the efforts of many legislative offices to present information in a usable manner. Library staff organize and program the joint pages that lead to the Revisor's bill tracking system, the Statutes, and the pages of the House, Senate, and joint agencies. Librarians answer many questions from constituents about use of the Web site, and give presentations on accessing legislative information on the Web Site to legislative staff and the public. Library staff members coordinate the Website security activities of the various offices, critical in this era of increasing security threats.

Just because it's on the Web doesn't mean it is easy to locate. Experienced librarians save staff time and locate the most authoritative information. Librarians locate the information that researchers need quickly, and provide training (formal and informal) on effective Web searching. The institutional memory and research experience of the librarians translate to efficient and thorough research.

Finally, even techies recognize the value of libraries and librarians. PC Magazine advises "Go back to the Library. Library reference departments are still great sources of information," in the May 27, 2003, cover story, "How to Find Anything Online."

"Yet even Google has a long way to go. The latest challenge is the Deep Web, which represents data that can't be crawled, not because it's in pages that the spiders can't recognize, like PDFs, but because it doesn't exist in static page form (except as answers to database queries), or because it's hidden behind authentication screens. And this information is often the cream of the crop: magazines, books, peer-reviewed journals. To get to it, you need to research the database content yourself and then pay a hefty fee or, ironically, you need to go to a modern library (they're not so quaint and irrelevant, after all) that has access and, ideally, a reference librarian to help you get started."

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Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee

By Arthur McEnany, Louisiana

Since my original flight into Quebec was canceled by the airline, I had to fly into Montreal and drive 160 miles to Quebec City. It was dismal because of the weather. It rained for almost the entire three-hour drive. Finding Le Chateau Frontenac was easy since it sits on one of the highest points in "Old Quebec". This beautiful old hotel was built in 1892 - 1893 by railroad barons and overlooks the St.Lawrence River.

Friday morning, May 2nd, was taken up with committee meetings and Friday afternoon with task force meetings. On Friday evening we were hosted to a reception and dinner at the Quebec National Assembly by the Deputy Speaker. Saturday was pretty much a rerun of Friday with committee and task force meetings. A group of us enjoyed a wonderful meal at the hotel. Sunday morning we boarded a bus and took a day tour to Charelvoix Region. On the way there we made a brief stop at Montmorency Falls, which has a drop of 84 feet. The Charelvoix Region still had snow on the ground despite being May. Our hosts treated us to a great lunch at the Manoir Richelieu, which is a Fairmont hotel property that is built in the chateau manner and also overlooks the St. Lawrence River. The drive back to Montreal was in full sun and I especially enjoyed seeing all the geese heading north to their summer breeding grounds.

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Profile of a Member Library: The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services

By Ingrid Hernquist, New Jersey

The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services Library provides professional research, library and information services to the New Jersey State Legislature, its officers, committees, commissions, individual members and their staff.

The library consists of three major components. The first component offers traditional library services. The library is a repository for 20,000 plus documents. We acquire and develop the collection according to the needs of the legislative staff. When the items come in they are cataloged and the online catalog is available on the legislative staff's desktop computers. The library maintains an extensive collection of legal, legislative, and government documents, newspapers, periodicals and general reference resources, as well as a comprehensive reference collection on New Jersey's constitutional, legislative and political history.

The library staff provides both general and legal reference services to all legislative staff including the Central Management Unit of the Office of Legislative Services, the legislators' district offices, and partisan staff. The requests that we handle include those for New Jersey legislative and government documents, including bills, statute sections, legislative histories, hearings, reports, New Jersey Administrative Code and Register, court cases and rules, annual and special reports of agencies and commissions, governor's executive orders, veto messages, reorganization plans and attorney general opinions. The district offices often call the OLS library first for legislative research. For example, one district office called for us to do a 50-state search on vicious dog bills and statutes and newspaper clippings about pit bull attacks before introducing legislation on pit bull ownership.

The district offices also call for assistance in answering constituent questions. These range from volunteer fire fighters wanting to know what kind of benefits they are entitled to by law to a senior citizen who wanted to know whether or not she could keep a chicken as a pet in a senior citizen housing project.

We also provide and assist the legislative staff in accessing valuable online research databases. Many of these databases are available for the staff on their desktop while others are only available on the four computer terminals in the library. Databases include the library's own newspaper archives, WestLaw, Lexis-Nexis, Gann Law, and EBSCO as well as many other valuable databases available over the Internet. The library staff has posted a list of these databases on the library's Intranet page.

The second component of the library consists of the maintenance and updating of the New Jersey Legislature Website (www.njleg.state.nj.us). The site includes the roster of members with biographical information, committee and leadership listings, bills and bill statements, the New Jersey Statutes and Constitution, live and archived legislative proceedings, legislative reports, and transcribed hearings. We also answer the questions that the public addresses to the Webmaster via E-mail. These questions vary greatly from a student who was doing a paper on a hit and run accident resulting in death and wanted to know the criminal penalties to a person needing information about the laws and regulations on owning pigeons.

The third component consists of a daily clipping service. Our staff clips newspaper articles, editorials and other pieces from 14 newspapers that are of research and informational value to legislators and staff. The packet is available daily by 9:00 a.m. in hard copy and online. It is then filed in the library by subject and date. The subject files are available on microfilm from 1984 to 1997. In addition, each article is individually indexed by headline, journalist, newspaper name, subject heading and date and entered into a database so it is fully searchable by any word appearing in the article. Coverage dates back to January 1997. Requests for articles range from a legislator who wanted to see articles concerning cross burning to debarking of dogs. The library staff also maintains a database called Reports in the News which includes reports referenced in the newspaper articles, which are downloaded and made available to staff on the library's Intranet site.

We also receive and welcome questions from other state Legislative Research Librarians.

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News from the States

Compiled by Robbie LaFleur, Minnesota

This spring we received several long responses to our plea for information - too many pages to include in their entirety! So this will be a synopsis. For the full text of the states' submissions, go to: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/lrl/statenews0503.htm

We continued an examination of budget cuts and libraries by first asking whether budget cuts have had an effect on staffing in the Library or legislative-wide. CO, MN, UT, and WI are in a situation that is probably common to many states, similar to what Marian Rogers (WI) wrote: "At this time, position vacancies in our bureau are not filled as people retire or move on to other job opportunities. So far, our budget cuts have been covered by not filling these vacancies, as well as keeping a close eye on bureau-wide expenditures." But cuts are happening. Joyce Grimes (SC) reported that they no longer have money for student help, and student duties have been reassigned to permanent staff. In Minnesota, we will have to reduce staffing with our 15% cut. David Harrell (OR) reported, "Our library suffered a 50% cut in FTE at the end of the 2001 session. I am now a 'gang of one."

Have you made cuts to your materials budget? What types of materials have you dropped, or what service cuts have you made in your library? Several states reported cutting periodical subscriptions to titles available online, whether on the Web or through Nexis. Arnold Weinfeld (MI) reported, "To put it simply, we have essentially dropped subscriptions to any and all periodicals, magazines, newspapers, etc. that we can pick up on-line." In Colorado, they negotiated a long-term contract for Lexis-Nexis service. They could only choose one legal online service, and discovered that a switch from Westlaw would save money in their situation. Karen Mau (HI) mentioned they are considering dropping access to statutes through Westlaw. Debbie Tavenner (OH) reported that they have dropped some legal materials in print. Though they currently have access to both Westlaw and Lexis, that may change in the future. Libraries are cautious and frugal in buying new materials. Penelope Dukes-Williams (TX) wrote that they are only ordering materials for the collection when requested by a legislative office. Shelley Day (UT) mentioned that, "No office supplies, equipment, furniture, or computers have been ordered unless absolutely necessary."

With Montana in a similar situation, Lisa Mecklenberg-Jackson noted, "The library will not be getting the new scanner we had been promised, dang it!" Dave Harrell (OR) added more bad news from his state, "I have been asked to reduce expenditures for materials and acquisitions by about 70% and am in the process of doing so. Not fun."

With states on different session schedules, some libraries are still waiting to see if they are facing cuts. Taran Ley (IL) said, "Too soon to tell--the budget process is just beginning." Penelope Dukes-Williams (TX) said the budget for 2004-2005 has not been finalized.

Joyce Grimes added a positive spin to budget problems. "Our fiscal crisis in the library has provided a wonderful opportunity to promote the use of the Internet as a resource tool! Sole practicing librarians staff many of the libraries in our local law community. It is only through sharing our collections and knowledge that we are able to keep our heads above water!" It is refreshing to network with a group of folks that not only understand the need to share, but also promote working smarter.

In other news, Molly Otto (CO) said the Colorado Legislative Council recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. She also had a positive experience working with three library graduate school interns. "It has been rewarding and enriching working with these students, and I highly recommend it." Marian Rogers (WI) reported that they will be relocating, closer to other legislative service agencies, and to one floor, rather than being spread over four floors. Marilyn Johnson (ND) reported on their recent special session, the first time the governor had brought back legislators immediately following session since 1937. "Being part of history is exciting but sometimes being too close is nerve-wracking." Marilyn also related how a blown motor on their microfiche reader/printer led to a fortunate equipment purchase and the ability to e-mail legislative histories. Read more about these stories in the fuller Web report, at: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/lrl/statenews0503.htm.

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Directory Updates Needed!

The 2003 LRL Directory needs your updates! Due to budget problems, the release of the directory has been temporarily delayed. We ask that you re
-send any updates to NCSL so we can get the 2003 edition out soon.

Please double check your listing in the 2002 directory and send any changes by June 13 to Janna Goodwin, 7700 East First Place, Denver, CO 80230, fax 303-364-7800.

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LRL's New Liaison

Hi! My name is Janna Goodwin, and I will be staffing the librarians' staff section. Unfortunately, I have been appointed under very sad circumstances, but I am eager to get to know you all and continue to make LRL a strong, resilient group.

Just to help you get to know me, I was born in Minnesota and reared in Iowa. I attended Drake University and am currently investigating the University of Denver's Master's program. Hobbies include reading, writing, Greek mythology, web page design and watching football (go Vikings!). I am the proud parent to one "kid"--a beautiful gray Nebelung named Meursault.

At NCSL, I work on a variety of different issues. The "big" topics that I handle include computer crime, sports (go Vikings!), electronic surveillance and ticket scalping. In addition, I dabble in a little web site work (although I am not responsible for the layout or look of NCSL's web site-wink!).

I've always regarded LRL with high esteem--all of you have been warm, friendly and enthusiastic whenever I met you at past Annual Meetings. I look forward to working with you in the future.

Professional Development Seminar
October 15-18, 2003
Portland, Oregon

Admit it! You need to visit the "real" Portland this fall. The City of Roses wants you to visit. You need to spend constructive time with your colleagues. You need to spend relaxing time with your colleagues. You need to visit the State Capitol and learn about some of Oregon's legislative innovations. You need to visit a few of the wonderful Portland libraries. You need to stroll along the banks of the Willamette at twilight, or through the Pearl district, or hear some great jazz, or visit the Columbia River Scenic Area, or visit the Oregon Garden, or dip your toes in the Pacific. 

So please, mark your calendar and make your plans to visit us hear here on the left coast. We don't have a sales tax, you don't have to pump your own gas, and I guarantee it won't snow!


Annual Meting Highlight:
"All the News That's Fit to Find."
NCSL Annual Meeting
Wednesday, July 23rd - 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

Do you need to search for news on a tight budget? Which search engines and news sites are best?. Are some news stories missing, never to be found again? Join Richard Geiger, Research Director, San Francisco Chronicle, and Donna Scheeder, Deputy Assistant Director for Information Rresearch, Congressional Research Sservice, as they explore, free and inexpensive news sources, and describe what's not there and why. Special attention will be paid to good sources for tracking public policy issues.

Preliminary Agenda
Legislative Research Librarians
NCSL 2003 Annual Meeting & Exhibition
San Francisco, California, July 21-25, 2003

LRL Sessions are in bold.

Note: For the most recent version of the agenda, click here, where the schedule will be continuously updated.

Monday, July 21st

12:00 pm - 5:00 pm Registration
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm Technology and Office Management
Co-sponsored by Leadership Staff Section and National Association of Legislative Information Technology
3:15 pm - 5:00 pm Programming Versus Content in Building and Maintaining Legislative Web Sites 
Co-sponsored by Research and Committee Staff Section

Tuesday, July 22nd

7:00 am - 5:00 pm Registration
1:30 pm - 3:00 pm  Opening Plenary
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm Tour of San Francisco Chronicle
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm NCSL Welcome Reception

Wednesday, July 23rd

8:00 am - 5:00 pm Registration
9:00 am - 4:00 pm Exhibit Hall Open
12:00 n - 2:00 pm Legislative Staff Luncheon 
Presiding: Gary Olson, Director, Senate Fiscal Agency, Michigan, and NCSL Staff Chair
Speaker: Bruce Tulgan, Founder, Rainmaker Thinking, Inc.
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm All the News That's Fit to Find: Web News Sites
Co-sponsored by the Legislative Information and Communication Staff Section and the National Legislative Program Evaluation 
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm LRL Reception

Thursday, July 24th

8:00 am - 5:00 pm Registration 
9:00 am - 4:00 pm Exhibit Hall Open
9:15 am - 10:30 am  Plenary 
12:00 n - 2:00 pm LRL Luncheon and Awards
2:15 pm - 5:00 pm Homeland Security and Civil Liberties
Co-sponsored by Legal Services Staff Section
6:30 pm - 9:30 pm California Social Event

Friday, July 25th

8:00 am - 12:00 pm Registration
9:00 am - 12:00 pm Exhibit Hall Open
9:15 am - 12:30 pm NCSL Policy / Business Meeting
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm Closing
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NCSL Publications

  • State Higher Education: Is It Measuring Up?
  • Welfare Reform State Policy Choices series: Job Retention and Advancement Strategies
  • Energy Efficient Schools: Policies and Opportunities
  • Energy Security
  • Tax Policy Handbook for State Legislatures
  • "Mastering the Rules"
  • "Family Support: Strategies to Strengthen Families"
  • "Funding Crime Information Improvements"
  • "Addressing Truancy, Preventing Delinquency"
  • "Long-Term Care Waivers and the Independence Plus Initiative"
  • "The Effect of Retiring Dentists"

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Goodbye to a Good Friend

By Marilyn Johnson, North Dakota

Rita Thaemert came to LRL in 1996. In the spring issue of that year, Newsline reported the previous staff section liaison, Chris Pattarozzi, lost her position as NCSL faced a budget crisis. "In order to correct a structural deficit, NCSL recently was forced to downsize its staff. Unfortunately, Chris' position was among the several that were cut to balance the NCSL budget." Now for similar reasons Rita met the same fate. Makes one ponder the wisdom of assuming the LRL mantle at NCSL.

For the last seven years, Rita has given her energies to assisting the Section with details in producing our newsletter and the annual directory of our counterparts, and coordinated our annual and professional development meetings. Returning from LRL meetings, Rita carried the Section's administrative concerns to the organization's hierarchy. She has been our trusted voice at NCSL. Thank you, Rita, for your service, par excellence. LRL wishes you well in whatever venture next awaits you.

Editor's Note: If you would like to keep in touch with Rita, I'm sure she would love to hear from you. She regarded many LRL companions as close, dear friends. Her address is:

Rita Thaemert
2028 South
Sherman Street
Denver, CO 80210

Her phone number is: (303) 722-2203

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