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LRL Newsline | Summer 2020

July 9, 2020

Chair's Corner: Welcome to the Summer 2020 issue of Newsline!

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

I never thought I would be able to do my job from home, and I really never thought I would like it so much. I love the challenge of responding to requests from my makeshift office/library and the delight of finding creative ways to do so. I love having lunch every day with my husband. I love my mini-Library Annex, populated with some important items that haven’t yet been digitized. I love being able to start a pot of tea whenever I want, taking a five-minute break to water my flowers or check on my tomatoes. I love that I don’t have to wear a sweater indoors when it’s 90 degrees outside. I love sleeping in instead of commuting. I love über-casual attire. I am afraid I may have gone feral.

That said …

I miss the softly lit cocoon of an office I had created. I miss having a real office chair. I miss sneaking baked goods into the breakroom to share (and sneaking samples from others). I miss seeing my staff and coworkers and being able to bounce ideas around and having random, unexpectedly fascinating conversations both deep and shallow. But I love how even more appreciative I am of my coworkers (as both coworkers and the stellar human beings that they are) and how wonderful it is to see that I am not alone in that increased appreciation. And I love how my LRL colleagues continue to adapt and develop and innovate and grow, and do it as if it is nothing unusual or special.

This will be my last “Chair’s Corner” article. It has truly been an honor to serve as your LRL Chair, a privilege to serve with the wonderful officers I did (Catherine, Julia, Betsy, Eric, and Ingrid), and a pleasure to be able to get to know as many of you as I have. Although I know you will be in good hands with your new Chair, Eric Glover, who will be taking over the reins later this summer, you folks will always have a special place in my heart.


Mark Your Calendars

Legislative Staff Certificate Program: Applications are now being accepted for the inaugural Legislative Staff Certificate Program. The deadline for applications is Aug. 7.

NCSL Base Camp: A three-day virtual training conference for NCSL members is set for Sept. 15-17, 2020. More details to come.

Summit 2020: Canceled

From Our Executive Director

With great regret, NCSL has decided to cancel the 2020 Legislative Summit scheduled for Aug. 10-13 in Indianapolis. This decision was made in consultation with our partners in the Indiana General Assembly. The leadership and staff in Indiana had a blockbuster meeting planned, making the decision especially difficult. We are forever grateful to them for their support. The only silver lining is that we are able to gather in Indianapolis again relatively soon—for the 2023 Legislative Summit.

After spending weeks considering options to conduct a large meeting under social distancing guidelines that are very likely to remain in place through the coming months, it was clear NCSL could not convene thousands of legislators, staff and others safely without severely compromising the high-quality event we are committed to. We postponed the decision as long as we possibly could, hoping to find some way to move forward. However, due to our desire to give you notice as soon as possible, as well as the need to review and renegotiate contracts, it was time to make the difficult choice. 

This will be the first time in 45 years NCSL is not holding the Legislative Summit. The loss for our community of legislators, legislative staff, Foundation for State Legislatures partners, the NCSL staff and many others is palpable.

Having said that, I know we will be back, and I think we will be stronger and better. As horrible as the public health and economic circumstances are, I believe we must look for opportunities to innovate. We must work to get even better at achieving the mission of NCSL­—to strengthen the legislative institution. That is what we will do.

NCSL remains committed to providing the tools and information necessary to support you as you focus on getting your state back on track. NCSL has developed massive COVID-19-related research and produced numerous webinars and networking calls between states in just the past few weeks. Online resources are updated daily and shared with our members constantly through dozens of communications channels.

Finally, stay tuned. We are working on some cool plans for virtual events in the late summer to provide you with opportunities to learn and connect.

—Tim Storey

If you have any questions, thoughts or comments, please email me at and I will make sure someone from NCSL gets back to you quickly.

Staff Hub ATL 2020 Postponed to 2022

The Staff Hub ATL 2020 has been postponed to 2022. This joint professional development seminar will be held in Atlanta, Ga. Dates are TBA. Join colleagues from RELACS, NALFO, LINCS, NLPES, LSS and, of course, LRL. 

The LRL Reunion planned to coincide with the Staff Hub has also been postponed. 

Winners of the 2020 Notable Document Awards Announced | Elizabeth Lincoln

LRL is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2020 Notable Document Award winners!  My fellow judges—Ingrid Hernquist (New Jersey), Jenna Steward (Louisiana), and Elaine Settergren (Minnesota)—and I had two favorites this year.  Food Trucks: An LRO Backgrounder from the Nebraska Legislative Research Office starts with a history of food trucks back to 1872, discusses the contributing factors of why they are booming, and regulatory issues that can prevent and encourage them in Nebraska and elsewhere.  Another favorite is Emerging Farmers in Minnesota. The average age of Minnesota’s farmers is 56 and most are white. This report examined opportunities “to create pathways for building wealth in historically underserved communities within Minnesota.”

Here’s the complete list of award winners:


Emerging Farmers in Minnesota: Legislative Report—Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Oregon Wasted Food Study—Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Portland State University


Addressing Discrimination Against Transgender New Jerseyans—New Jersey Transgender Equality Task Force


Homeschooling In Kentucky—Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, Office of Education Accountability 

Teacher Shortages And Supports For New Teachers—Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, Office of Education Accountability

Innovative Study

 Food Trucks: An LRO Backgrounder—Nebraska Legislative Research Office

Labor and Employment

Comptroller Survey Concerning Wages of Direct Support Professionals—Tennessee Comptroller's Office of Research and Education Accountability

Employment and Community Inclusion Services for People with Developmental Disabilities—Washington State Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee

Public Health

Report of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Advisory Task Force on Lowering Pharmaceutical Drug Prices—Minnesota Attorney General's Advisory Task Force on Lowering Pharmaceutical Drug Prices

Opioid Prescribing Patterns and Prescriber Discipline in Tennessee—Tennessee Comptroller's Office of Research and Education Accountability

Public Records

Final report of Ginger McCall, Oregon Public Records Advocate—Oregon Office of the Public Records Advocate 


Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation in Minnesota—Minnesota Department of Transportation

Winners of the 2020 LRL Legislative Staff Achievement Awards

LRL is thrilled to announce the 2020 LRL Legislative Staff Achievement Award Recipients:

Our first recipient is a familiar face: Julia Covington, Reference Librarian for the North Carolina General Assembly and former LRL chair.

Julia has had a long, successful career as a reference librarian starting with her early days with the University of North Carolina Law Library and the State of Arizona Law Library, to her recent time with the North Carolina Legislative Library. Julia recently celebrated her 16 year anniversary with the NC Legislative Library.

Julia has filled many roles in her work at the North Carolina Legislative Library, including developing and conducting group classes and one-on-one training programs for new staff; overseeing the NCGA Westlaw program; managing the Library and Legislative Analysis Division webpage, including major redesigns in 2008 and in 2019; and creating and maintaining library publications and marketing materials.

Julia has been an active member of the LRL staff section for many years. She served on the LRL Executive Committee from 2015-16 to 2018-19. As LRL chair, Julia planned and oversaw a thorough updating of the LRL Directory. Her leadership style was supportive and collaborative. Julia is admired by her colleagues for being hardworking, patient and thoughtful. Her commitment to the Legislative Research Librarians professional association continues to make us stronger.

On a less professional note: Julia is extremely artistic, loves the arts, does yoga and meditation, and adores her son Alex and niece Margot. She recently brought into her home a Cairn terrier puppy named Niles and is head over heels.

Comments from Colleagues:

Karen Cochrane-Brown, legislative analysis division director: "Julia has been a wonderful asset to the Legislative Library and to the broader General Assembly. Recently, she updated the library website and did a fantastic job. It is much more interactive and user friendly. In addition, she designed a really neat display of the legislative process that will be placed in the display case on the third floor of the Legislative Building. She has been taking courses in website and graphic design and I know that she has assisted ISD with some projects. We expect that she will become the GA’s primary graphic designer as a result of taking on this new skill set."

Cathy Martin, former library director, North Carolina Legislative Library: [Julia's]…"greatest work-related accomplishments are in reference (excellent customer service, dog-with-a-bone tenacity, staying on top of her own skills training, creating useful finding tools and substantive guides); web design (see Karen's comments - Julia has helmed virtually every Library web redesign and is now a major influence over all NCGA web design), and training (outstanding teacher, professional demeanor but highly energetic and enjoyable as she teaches all levels, also handles Library orientations and oversees Westlaw training). It was a joy to be her supervisor, as I received nothing but laudatory comments from members, staff and legislative assistants!"

Catherine Wusterhausen, assistant director at the Texas Legislative Reference Library: "It was truly a pleasure to work with Julia. Julia was always well organized, well prepared, and ready to take on new projects like the LRL directory update. Julia also has a wonderful ability to make connections and get people involved in any activity."

Betsy Haugen, LRL past-chair and Minnesota reference librarian: "Julia has been an amazing mentor to me in my role as LRL chair last year and I can't thank her enough. Serving on LRL's executive committee, she continued to provide guidance and support, going above and beyond, and we are grateful."

And the second recipient of the 2020 LRL Legislative Staff Achievement Award is an up and comer in LRL, Travis Moore. The incoming LRL Secretary (see below), LRL Newsline Contributor, Magazine Staff Profile and LRL PDS and Legislative Summit attendee.

Somehow, Moore manages to juggle the full workload of a research analyst with librarian duties at the Legislative Research Office in the Nebraska Legislature. His colleagues know "that there is never a doubt that Travis will know what we have and where it can be located." HIs co-workers see him as an invaluable asset to the entire legislature.

He was given the gargantuan task of planning and orchestrating the move of the entire Nebraska Legislature's library collection (into a temporary space that was too small to fit all of the collection) while still doing his research and running the day to day operations at the library. Travis took this daunting task as an opportunity to update the online catalog and the move went off without a hitch. Travis is a tremendous asset to the Nebraska Legislature, NCSL and LRL. We are excited to welcome him to the 2020/2021 LRL executive committee and congratulate him on receiving this year's LRL Legislative Staff Achievement Award!

Welcome Incoming LRL Secretary Travis Moore

By Betsy Haugen

On behalf of the LRL Officer Election Committee, I am happy to announce that Travis Moore, research analyst with the Legislative Research Office of the Nebraska Legislature, has been unanimously confirmed by all of you to serve as the new LRL secretary.

Here’s a note from Travis:

“My name is Travis Moore and I am a research analyst with the Legislative Research Office of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature. I have worked for the Nebraska Legislature since 2011 and have been with the Legislative Research Office since 2015. Our office provides policy research and analysis, as well as library services to legislators, their staffs, division staff, other governmental agencies, and lobbyists. In 2017, the librarian in our office retired, and since that time I have been responsible for maintaining the reference library collection and overseeing routing services. My primary library duties include ordering and cataloging new library pieces, maintaining and updating the catalog, processing periodical subscriptions, handling library-related research and interlibrary loan requests, and creating a monthly publication that promotes new materials and services.

“I am especially grateful for the opportunity to learn and network with my fellow legislative librarians through NCSL and the Legislative Research Librarians staff professional association. I was able to attend the 2018 Professional Development Seminar in Harrisburg, Pa., and the 2019 Summit in Nashville, Tenn. Outside of the Capitol, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my four children, cooking, reading, playing board games with my wife and friends, and volunteering in my community.”

 Please join me in congratulating Travis!

Finally, many thanks to Eric Glover (Idaho) and Ingrid Hernquist (New Jersey) for their participation on the LRL Officer Election Committee.

Applications are Open for the Legislative Staff Certificate Program

NCSL’s Legislative Staff Certificate Program will be held online in October 2020 during five two-hour sessions. This month-long training program is for newer legislative staff who are seeking a broader context about legislatures and the legislative process and will focus on five core competencies. Staff with at least one legislative session and two to five years of legislative experience are invited to apply, with the approval of their supervisor.

This unique program will provide newer legislative staff important perspectives and insights about their roles in supporting the legislative institution. Participants will also have an opportunity to engage in peer-to-peer learning and networking with legislative colleagues from across the county. Participants will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Applications are due by Aug. 7. 

The ADA Turns 30! Register For “The ADA’s Impact on Accessible Legislatures” and More!

July 26, 2020, marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the most sweeping piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted for people with disabilities. During the week of July 20, we will be holding a series of virtual meetings covering various disability topics. You may be especially interested in Friday’s session “The ADA’s Impact on Accessible Legislatures.” Check out our website to see everything that we have planned, including a few surprises!

LRL National Conference Call Write-Up

On May 7, 2020, LRL held its first-ever national Zoom call for members to come together and discuss topics related to COVID-19 disruption and how different states were managing remote work, virtual session and other related topics. Thirty-four LRL members from 21 states participated in robust discussion and plenty of opportunities to ask each other questions and advice.

Main topics of discussion included, when legislatures were going back into session or if they were already procedures being put in place for reopening libraries and offices, how folks are making sure that people know about their library’s services and how to access them, how are folks routing journals and periodicals if at all, where and how the legislatures are posting information related to COVID-19 and so much more.  Keep an eye out for information on upcoming LRL National Zoom Calls soon as we are planning more.

Navigating the Morass: Google Operators to Make Your Searching More Effective

By Joel Rudnick

Image used with permission from the Raymond H. Fogler Library at the University of Maine.

Whether searching for Buffy episodes referencing “Mr. Pointy” or seeking out the public’s reaction to the current emergency declarations, most researchers would agree that search engines are a valuable tool. However, many researchers are often flummoxed by the number and prominence of imprecise results. What to do?

Many search engines have advanced search options that can help in navigating the morass of irrelevance and nonsense in order to make the web seem more like an extremely chaotic desk rather than shreds of paper in a stiff breeze. Google is no exception to this. Googling “Google hacks” or some such term can provide some of the advanced options Google has to offer. These hacks have changed over the years, and there doesn’t seem to be an official list, so the currency of the information you might find on this matters.

Here are a couple of Google operators I have found to be amazingly helpful:

The “site:” operator is probably the single coolest capability Google has to offer. Using this tool, you can limit to a particular part of a web address, such as the domain, top-level domain, subdomain, or path (see image). The syntax is site:[web address]. (Note that there is no space before or after the colon.) This operator is particularly useful for limiting to government and higher education sites, as .gov and .edu are the only common top-level domains that are currently restricted. You will get whatever appears before or after the web address, so “site:gov” will bring up pages on, etc. You can add keywords, so Googling “nursing” will be restricted to sites about nursing within the Bureau of Labor Statistics domain.

Another really neat Google trick is using a hyphen to exclude certain words from your returns. For example, when searching for information on the state of Delaware, I can come up with information on the city of Delaware, Ohio, in my results. Searching “Delaware -Ohio” will help with this. I sometimes combine negation with the “site:” operator to see what one site might say about another. Want to know what people are saying about NCSL who are not on the NCSL domain? Just Google “NCSL”

I’d be happy to talk with anyone about these and any other tools we use to serve our patrons. I can be reached at or (302) 744-4308. Take care and happy searching!

Welcome New Librarian: Kim Bonen

My name is Kim Bonen and I am the new digital resources coordinator for the South Dakota State Library. I received my Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern State University and my Master of Library Science with a concentration in leadership from Emporia State University. I also received a certificate in public history from Northern State University. I have worked in both academic and public libraries and look forward to continuing my journey at the South Dakota State Library.

Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) Summer Meeting Report

The Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) met virtually (for the first time ever) on Friday, June 5 at 3 p.m. ET. NCSL staff chair, Martha Wigton of Georgia presided. Each work group chair gave a report on the work of each group. Angela Andrews arranged for innovative use of breakout rooms to allow for discussion of each work group’s report to mine for questions and check for clarity among the group.

Professional Staff Association Officers working group chair Eric Nauman reported that the group discussed the new meeting overhead allocation formula, the new formula is directly tied to attendance numbers at each meeting and eliminates the “cliffs” that had been present in the current formula. There was continued discussion of including language in each association’s bylaws pertaining to choosing designees to attend LSCC if no officers are able to attend. Also work is progressing on the NCSL meeting safety best practices document being put together by Martin Brock and his subcommittee.

Certificate and Career Development Workgroup spoke about the new Legislative Staff Certificate Program being held for the first time this fall. Originally the program was going to be in-person on the day before the Staff Hub ATL 2020 in Atlanta. Now that Staff Hub has been postponed to 2022 and CDC safety guidelines restrict large groups from congregating in person, the Staff Certificate Program will happen virtually over a month in October. The Young and New Professionals (YNP) subgroup is working on a document that outlines the purpose, history, previous work and recommendations for strengthening the NCSL YNP group.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library’s 50th Anniversary | Elizabeth Lincoln

More than 100 legislators, legislative staff and current and former LRL staff gathered on Feb. 13, 2020, to celebrate the 50th anniversary—one year late—of the opening of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

A national movement to increase professionalism and staff support in state legislatures combined with a 1968 Minnesota think tank report recommending the establishment of a legislative library prompted discussion and quick action. The Library opened its doors on the first day of session in January 1969. The new library began with several small rooms on the first floor of the Minnesota Capitol, the files of a legislative research office, and two staff members. The number of staff increased steadily, peaking in 1999.  The automation of some tasks reduced the need for some staff and the number of staff has held steady at 14 for the past decade.

The Library moved from the Capitol to the State Office Building in 1985 and opened an additional reading room in the new Minnesota Senate Building in 2016.

The 50th-anniversary celebration included lots of food, a display on the history of the Library and commemorative bookmarks. 

Library Question


In the wake of the significant disruption to normal legislative business that COVID-19 has caused in most states, LRL want's to know: What new tools/technology are you finding useful right now?



Helen Hanby: Not so much related to just the library, but our office has been using Microsoft Teams to have meetings when we’ve been working at home.


Jennifer Fletcher: The Alaska Legislative Reference Library has started using Microsoft Teams, VPN and remote desktop software significantly more than we have in the past. This is allowing us to do most of our work remotely, with occasional visits to the library on an as-needed basis to access material we have not digitized.


Office of Legislative Counsel, Lindsay Pealer: Zoom

California Research Bureau, Sabah Eltareb: The tools and technology, in no particular rank or order:

  • Microsoft Office365—especially its OneDrive and Teams apps
  • Zoom
  • Slack
  • VPN


Karen Mau: We have relied on email.


Bethany Reisch, Poynter Library: The Poynter Library utilized LogMeIn to access our computers remotely while working from home. This software provides all the functionality of our work computers, along with access to all files and internal networks. We were able to receive and conduct research requests, continue cataloging and adding to our collection, keep our newspaper files current, perform indexing, and send required reports to our members. Library staff came into the office, on a limited basis, as needed to complete tasks not remote-capable (hard copies of legislative histories, etc.). All staff are reporting to work because we are in session until the end of June. We have the software as a backup tool. LogMeIn is a very useful tool and we would be willing to use it again, should it be necessary.


Annette Haldeman, manager, Reference Services, (DLS) Library: We have been working from home since the end of March and anticipate doing so throughout the summer. Some of the most useful tools and technology that we are using right now are resources that we had access to while on site but are now using with more frequency and/or in different ways than we would be if we were in the physical library. Reference librarians have found that electronic database access has been invaluable when working from home and have used the available resources to conduct legislative history and other related research without using print materials from the library. The electronic resources, in this instance, are used as more of the primary resource rather than as a supplement to this type of research, and some who have primarily used print sources in the past have found the electronic resources to perhaps be even more efficient and useful. We also have access to the Maryland General Assembly network via remote or laptop access, which has been helpful in providing us with access to materials saved on our personal work computers and to Microsoft programs, including Outlook. Several librarians have gotten Wi-Fi adapters in order to connect to their modems more easily and put their computers in a comfortable space to work. Google Drive has also been a tool used to share files and add to shared documents.

Something new that we have explored is the use of Zoom and videoconferencing tools. Library staff has never worked or met remotely before now, so we are learning more about how to use this tool to hold meetings when face-to-face communication isn’t possible.


Elizabeth Lincoln: We have three responses! First, we started using Teams as soon as we began working remotely as our default instant messaging system. We also found the Teams channels/threads to be really useful for conversations about a particular project (such as purchasing decisions for new materials) or for brainstorming ideas (on such things as outreach efforts, tweets or other writing projects). Second, we’ve been using Zoom for weekly staff meetings. Third, the Google Scholar Chrome extension is a great way to quickly find full text.

Missouri Legislative Library, Nathan Elwood: The Missouri Legislative Library installed a new ScanPro 2200 microfilm/microfiche scanner with auto-fiche carrier last week. Thanks to the Auto-Scan feature and OCR software, our small library (only two staff members) is able to start on a large-scale digitization of the Missouri General Assembly Bills preserved on microfilm and microfiche extending back to 1909, converting them to fully searchable PDFs that will be hosted on our website.

New Jersey

Ingrid Hernquist, Manager, OLS Library Services: The only new tool that the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services Library is using is GoToMyPC so two librarians are able to access their computers and files to keep up with the routine tasks and research.


Kelly Pickett: I am using the Hathi Trust and the Internet Archive I was able to check out an electronic copy of DDC22 from the Internet Archive that I’ve been using for cataloging at home. I uncovered a collection of Interstate Commerce Commission reports through the Hathi Trust that was indispensable for a question about time zones. Both are nice because you don’t need an institutional account to access, like Hein Online.


Christine Chen, Office of Library Resources, Oklahoma Department of Libraries: During the pandemic, we use Microsoft Teams for communication mainly: meeting, sharing files and posts all via Teams


Mary Schaff: This month the Washington State Library moved from OCLC’s QuestionPoint service to Springshare’s LibAnswers and LibChat. The updated interfaces and workflows are a big improvement!

Creating the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services Library Archival Collection

By Dana Combs

In 2001, staff of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services Library began to collect historical items related to the New Jersey Legislature, creating the OLS Library Archival Collection. What began as a handful of purchased and donated materials has grown into a collection of over 2,000 unique items chronicling the history and development of the New Jersey Legislature and its members from 1776 to the present. Many of the items date to the 19th century and include books, pamphlets, photographs, manuscripts, correspondence, artifacts, campaign memorabilia and ephemera as well as oral histories and a growing digital collection.

While the archival collection is not open to the public for visits, staff are currently working on increasing access to the collection by digitizing items to make them available online in conjunction with our in-house Legislators Biographical Database. Between the archival collection and the database, the public will have access not only to biographical information on individual legislators but also to archival items related to members that we have in the collection as well as historical information bridging the two to give users a more complete picture of the New Jersey Legislature’s history.

Please contact Dana M. Combs with any questions or requests regarding the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services Library Archival Collection at 609-847-3160 or

How Long Does Coronavirus Remain on Library Materials?

"REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) is a research partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle to create and distribute science-based information and recommended practices designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and visitors who are engaging in the delivery or use of museum, library, and archival services."

LRL Member News

Minnesota: Elizabeth Lincoln

There are two staff changes in the Legislative Reference Library: Carol Blackburn is retiring after 35 years, and Laura Bell has been hired as the new cataloging and reference librarian, effective July 1, 2020.

Oklahoma: Christine Chen

One of our staff resigned and moved back to her home state at the end of May. Our library is staying open during the pandemic, just switching the focus of our services to online. Most of our staff work at home. We started a “By Appointment Only” model in April to limit access and maintain social distancing.

  • Contact NCSL

  • For more information on this topic, use this form to reach NCSL staff.