I’m a research librarian working in the Members’ Reading Room in Leinster House. I’m first in this morning, so I make sure the room is ready for the Members who will use it today. I check and update the display of publications, books, journals and newspapers. The Library Reading Room is used by TDs and Senators of all parties and none. It’s close to the Dáil and Seanad Chambers so Members pop in during the day to do some reading or to request information.
My job is to develop and deliver information and research services to support the work of Members, their political staff and other parliamentary staff. So, I assess the enquiries that have come in by phone and email overnight. I log all the requests in our enquiry database and assign them to the most appropriate person in our team, which could be me. The Library & Research Service has a team of 38 staff, which includes other librarians and researchers with expertise in law, social science, economics, political science and environmental science.
We receive a constant stream of requests from TDs and Senators, their assistants and other sections of the Houses of the Oireachtas Service. They may ask for facts, statistics, reports, media coverage, parliamentary material or bespoke research. We also get requests from Government Departments, academics, researchers, other parliaments and members of the public about our collection of parliamentary and official publications. We respond to an average of 170 enquiries each month, and last year we dealt with more than 2,000 enquiries.
Today, I had an urgent enquiry from a Member who was making a media appearance around lunch-time. They wanted the latest unemployment figures for their local area. All the data is available on the CSO website, so I quickly collated the information and provided a package of media articles about the Member’s local area.
I attend our weekly meeting where about 14 librarians and researchers come together to review the schedules of the Dáil, Seanad and committees to see what legislation and motions are to come before the Houses this week. Knowing the topics that will be coming to the attention of TDs and Senators enables us to have information ready for them. This could be briefings on legislation, statistics, media coverage or background information on a topic for debate, such as Brexit or housing and homelessness. It’s a busy meeting, with input from various teams, where we agree what information and research briefings will be produced and circulated to Members.
Next, I turn my attention to organising an event we’re currently planning, to promote the Library & Research Service to Members. It’s an open day to be held in the Reading Room. There are a lot of new Members following the 2016 election and we’re hoping to encourage them and their staff to come in and get to know more about us and what we can do for them. They will also have a chance to meet our team of researchers who work in a different building. I need to get posters designed and printed, invitations sent out and presentations and demos of our online information resources prepared.
The open day is part of a continuous programme to promote the Library & Research Service and encourage Members to use our full range of services. We hold regular information sessions in the Reading Room, and occasionally in the public areas of the House. For example, in October each year we set up a kiosk in the coffee dock and I work with our economists to provide budget related information to Members.
After lunch I deliver a presentation about our services and online information resources to the constituency staff of one of the political parties. They have travelled to Leinster House to avail of this training, which will help them to better understand and use our online resources, and enable them to find the information they need for themselves. My presentation provides an overview of our online resources. These include a constituency dashboard, legislative briefings, subject databases and electronic journals, an online catalogue and Library & Research Service briefing notes and papers. As part of our information skills programme I also provide one-to-one training to Members and their parliamentary staff. My favourite part of the job is getting to meet ours users and gaining a better understanding of their information needs.
I’m back in the Reading Room, dealing with requests to borrow books from our collection. Our print resources range from historical documents to contemporary books on politics, law, history and economics. Members may also request access to one of our databases of peer-reviewed authoritative publications and subscribe to news alerts on topics of interest to them.
It’s time for me to go home, but the Reading Room stays open as long as the Dáil or Seanad is sitting. Before leaving, I hand over to a colleague who will remain on duty in the Reading Room to assist Members until both the Dáil and Seanad have adjourned for the night. Every day is different here and I enjoy the buzz of working in such an interesting and unpredictable environment.