The Parliamentary Library aims to provide an effective knowledge centre for the Parliament through the provision of high quality, timely, and impartial information, analysis and advice. These services are provided through two sub programs:
Research services: these services include responding to requests from individual parliamentary clients and committees for information and research, and the production of print and electronic publications.
Library collections and databases: information services are provided to the Library’s clients by acquiring and providing access to information resources, including through the selection, processing and indexing of material for library and media databases in ParlInfo Search.
Staff from the Office of the Parliamentary Librarian contribute to the work of both programs.
Progress in key projects identified in the Library’s Business Plan 2019–20 was the subject of discussion in the previous section. The Performance Report focuses on analysis of the Library’s achievement against service standards set out in that same document.
Performance is assessed using indicators that cover quality, quantity and price. Indicators, performance results and relevant comments are shown against each of the Library programs.
Key priorities and key performance indicators for the Parliamentary Library are approved each year by the Presiding Officers as part of the Library’s Annual Resource Agreement. The KPIs in each Resource Agreement set out the outcomes and key deliverables for that year and also measure the:
percentage of clients using the Library’s services
number of completed client requests
number of publications produced
number of online uses of the Library’s publications
attendance at training courses and events
timeliness of research and library services
number of items added to the Library’s Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS) and ParlInfo databases
number of new titles added to the catalogue
percentage of the collection available online, and
use of the Library’s collections and databases and the iSentia Mediaportal.
The Library uses the RefTracker Information Request Management System to manage client requests and other client related work. This provides a rich array of client related data, including number of requests, usage, and timeliness. Satisfaction data is derived primarily from a formal evaluation of the Library’s services conducted once in every Parliament, the most recent being undertaken in 2017. Data regarding the number of publications produced and the number of items added to the EMMS and ParlInfo Search databases is obtained from the APH website and ParlInfo Search. Data relating to visits to the Library client portal (intranet) are captured by Sitecore’s engagement analytics. The Parliamentary Library currently uses Google analytics and Splunk web-analytics application to analyse statistics for use of publications and collection items. A manual count is used to report on attendance at training courses and events and new titles added to the Library catalogue. Reports generated from the Integrated Library System provide information regarding the percentage of titles in the Library’s collection available online in full-text. Statistics on the use of the Library’s collections and databases is formulated from Integrated Library System reports, Splunk data and vendor provided usage statistics.
Crosscutting performance measures
Service usage and client satisfaction
Table 22: Service usage and client satisfaction measures
Percentage of primary clients using the service
High level of client satisfaction
Number of complaints from clients remains low
As measured in Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library: client service evaluation 2015.
As measured in Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library: client service evaluation 2017.
During 2019–20, all of the Library’s primary clients (parliamentarians and their staff, including ministers) used the Library’s services at least once, the great majority being repeat users. This reflects the success of the intensive outreach program undertaken in the early months of the new Parliament.
As noted above, a formal evaluation of the Library’s services is commissioned each Parliament. The 2017 client service evaluation found the general response to the Library, both its staff and its services, was ‘extremely positive’.14 Satisfaction among parliamentarians and their staff was high at 94 per cent (though slightly below the target of 95 per cent), and the likelihood of recommending the Library even higher at 99 per cent. The percentage who were extremely satisfied increased by five per cent to 50 per cent compared to the 2015 evaluation. Six per cent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied; and, importantly, only one per cent indicated they were dissatisfied compared to five per cent in 2015.
Most respondents considered Library staff to be hard-working, professional and friendly and the services to be of a high quality. Clients valued the Library’s independence and its capacity to provide analysis; and regarded the Library very highly as a source of trusted information. It was found to perform strongly on issues of balance, impartiality and confidentiality.
This is consistent with feedback received in the Library Executive’s meetings with parliamentarians, during electorate office visits, and with spontaneous feedback received from clients throughout the reporting period.
The Library received no complaints in 2019–20.
The approach to market for the evaluation of Library services for the 46th Parliament was deferred until July 2020 due to COVID-19 related restrictions.
Client outreach, training and seminars
Table 23: Client outreach, training and seminars
Client training and seminars
Attendance at training courses and events (e.g. Vital Issues Seminars)
During the year, Library induction and orientation services continued to be successful in providing—through individual and small group sessions—a timely and detailed introduction to Library services. Contact officers acted as ambassadors for the Library for all new senators and members taking their seats in the 46th Parliament, including by casual vacancy, meeting the Library’s 100 per cent target.
Training and orientations were also offered to all staff commencing work in new and returning parliamentarians’ offices.
During sitting weeks, the Library supplemented its regular one-on-one training with other training programs including ‘drop in’ sessions in the Senators and Members Reading Room. These sessions provided an opportunity for Library clients to learn about Library services and see products and services in action. Between July 2019 and March 2020, nine sessions were offered—on news services, election data, e-books, and mapping.
Library staff also participated in a ‘pop-up shop’ for new parliamentarians in July 2019.
The Library continued its program of electorate office visits, reaching 35 offices in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory between July 2019 and March 2020.
The Library also continued its program of consultation and outreach to parliamentary committees.
The Library refreshed its program of lectures and seminars, significantly increasing the number of events in sitting weeks to enable parliamentarians and their staff the opportunity to hear, first hand, expert opinion on a broader range of topics. The following lectures and roundtables were offered in 2019–20:
Future directions for the Australian Public Service–Parliamentary Library Roundtable Talk and Discussion, Professor Andrew Podger and Dr Gordon de Brouwer
The Australian labour market—unpacking the ABS statistics, Bjorn Jarvis, Australian Bureau of Statistics
Colonial frontier massacres, Professor Lyndall Ryan, University of Newcastle
One year until the next presidential inauguration: What to expect from America in 2020, Kim Hoggard and Dr David Smith, United States Studies Centre and University of Sydney
The prerogative, the courts and article 9 of the Bill of Rights, Professor Anne Twomey, University of Sydney
Nuclear power overview–Parliamentary Library Roundtable Talk and Discussion, Professor Ken Baldwin and Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Australian National University
Why Politics? Ambition and Ideals in Alfred Deakin's shifting political vocation, Emeritus Professor Judith Brett, Latrobe University
Challenges for trust, fairness and regulators in an AI and algorithm-driven economy, Peter Leonard, Professor of Practice at UNSW Business School
Political marketing and democracy, Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment, University of Auckland
Puzzles of a Prime Minister—Alfred Deakin revealed, Dr David Headon
So much more than a Prime Minister—Andrew Fisher, Dr David Headon
Declining trust in politics: what can be done about it?, Professor Ian McAllister and Professor Patrick Dumont, Australian National University
Protecting and nurturing the role of the APS in serving the Government, the Parliament and the Australian Public: reflections on the APS Review, Professor Andrew Podger, Australian National University
Australia’s press freedom: how do we compare against international standards?, Dr Julie Posetti, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford
Productivity — the main driver of living standards, Ralph Latimore and Ben Dolman, Australian Government Productivity Commission
Right wing extremism, Dr Geoff Dean, Adjunct Professor Griffith University
First contact: Cook and the Indigenous experience, Professor John Maynard, University of Newcastle, and
Bushfires–Parliamentary Library Roundtable Talk and Discussion, Dr Kevin Tolhurst, University of Melbourne.
Most lectures are available for download from the APH website.
The services contributing to this program are as follows:
commissioned information, research and advisory services—these are tailored and confidential responses prepared following requests from individual parliamentarians and their staff, and other parliamentary clients, and
general distribution publications (publications)—these are prepared where strong client demand is anticipated for briefing on specific policy issues. Publications include the Parliamentary Handbook, Briefing Book, Budget Review, Bills Digests, Research Papers, Quick Guides and FlagPost blog posts. Publications are available to clients and the public through the Internet.
Table 24: Research services—deliverables
Individual client requests
Number of individual client requests completed
Client service delivered to timeliness service standard
Number of online uses of the Parliamentary Library's publications, including the Parliamentary Handbook, through ParlInfo and the internet
Number of publications produced
Figure 18: Distribution of client service hours by service type 2019-20
The KPI for individual client requests describes the number of requests completed in a particular financial year—not the number received—with jobs-in-progress remaining in the system at 30 June. Complex, multi-part requests are generally recorded as a single client job although they may require significant and discrete input from researchers in different sections.
The Library answered 11,472 individual client requests in 2019–20, exceeding its target of 11,000, and significantly exceeding the number dealt with in the previous financial year. Client demand was very high in the first months of the new Parliament and remained relatively steady throughout the final four months of the financial year.
The Library also met its timeliness target for commissioned research, with some 99 per cent of client requests answered within the agreed time-frame (target: 95%). However, this outcome can mask the level of unmet demand. Due dates are subject to negotiation with and agreement from individual clients, and the outcome reflects the percentage of client requests completed in accordance with this deadline. It does not reflect circumstances where commencement may be delayed or scope varied due to internal capacity constraints. This was particularly the case in the last quarter of the year with recruitment paused and little use of staff on casual intermittent contracts due to the rapid transition to remote work arrangements across the Library.
Figure 19: Client requests—relative indicators
2019–20 saw the continuation of the trend towards increasingly complex client requests. While year-to-year outcomes vary, over the same period there has been an overall increase in the average amount of time spent per FTE on individual requests. The average amount of time per FTE per request in 2019–20 was 5.1 hours, compared to 4.2 the previous financial year, and a considerable increase from the 2000–01 figure of 1.6 hours. The unusually sharp increase in 2019–20 is likely a product of the unique circumstances of the year, including the challenges of providing client advice and briefings on policy and legislative issues relating to the rapidly evolving pandemic.
The Library will continue to monitor usage closely and consult with clients to ensure services are appropriately targeted.
In meeting the need to provide high quality information, analysis and advice to parliamentarians, the Library produces information and advice for individual clients on an ‘in confidence’ basis. It also produces publications for broader distribution in areas where there is strong client interest and demand, or where such demand is anticipated.
In the context of prioritising research work, Bills Digests and client requests receive the highest priority, with other publications worked on as time permits.
In 2019–20, the Library issued 302 new or revised research publications. Hours spent on publications decreased when compared to the previous financial year (15,270 compared to 19,100 in 2018–19), reflecting the increased number of client requests completed.
Between March and June 30, the Library revised its publication schedule to focus primarily on the pandemic, releasing 24 publications on COVID-19 related issues in this period. The Library also created a webpage drawing together the Library’s resources and pandemic related research undertaken by other legislative research bodies.
The online use of Parliamentary Library publications jumped to 9 million, an increase of some 13 per cent from the 7.9 million recorded the previous year (the target remained constant at 5.4 million).
Bills Digests provide an independent analysis of legislation before the Parliament. Of all Library publications, they remain the most heavily used, and most keenly awaited. Every effort is made to produce a Digest for every Bill where it is considered it would add value by providing:
independent analysis, background information and additional perspectives not provided in the explanatory material associated with the Bill, and
information that is important for parliamentarians to be able to contribute effectively to debate.
At times, a Bills Digest cannot be produced in time for debate in the second chamber. This may be due to the amount of time allowed between introduction and debate, a change in the legislative program, or constraints on the resources available to address the number and complexity of Bills in the legislative program. Where it is not possible to produce Digests in time for debates, every effort is made to support clients by providing draft Digests or other briefing material.
In 2019–20 the Library published 109 Bills Digests, as compared to 80 in 2018–19 (an election year) and 133 in 2017–18. The outcome reflects in part the reduction in sitting weeks in 2019–20 due to COVID-19. Digests were not produced for 56 Government Bills. As in previous years, the Library is not able to produce Digests for Bills which pass rapidly through both chambers. This was the case with the package of Bills responding to COVID-19, most of which passed the houses on the day of their introduction. FlagPost blog posts were published on nine of these Bills.
The following table illustrates the costs associated with providing research services.
Table 25: Research services – price indicators
Cost of research services
Average cost per individual client request
Average direct cost per self-service client request (staff time only)
Library Collections and Databases
The services contributing to this program include:
the Library collection—development of the collection to meet users’ needs and provision of access through the catalogue, discovery service Summon and ParlInfo Search
online full-text content such as news clippings
media services—desktop access to television and radio news and current affairs programs broadcast in Canberra, provided to senators and members for their parliamentary duties
commercial databases—including online full-text journal and newspaper services available through the Library Client Services’ portal and the Senators’ and Members’ Services Portal, and
client services including self-help services.
As far as possible, usage rates of all of these services are monitored to ensure that they remain relevant and are of practical assistance to senators, members, and their staff.
Table 26: Information access services—deliverables
Client usage of news services
Senators’ and members’ offices using the iSentia Mediaportal
Material added to Library databases
Number of items added to the Library’s Electronic Media Monitoring Service and to ParlInfo databases
Material added to Library collection
Number of new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue
Percentage of titles (books and serials) in Library’s collection available to clients online in full-text
Use of the Library collection and databases
Use of the collections and databases, including loans from the collection, radio and television programs from the Electronic Media Monitoring Service, and from ParlInfo databases
Target: 4 million searches
Number of urgent new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue within timeliness service standard
New items added to the Library’s Electronic Media Monitoring Service and the ParlInfo newspaper clippings database within timeliness service standard
Previous annual reports have included reporting on the use of social media monitoring. However, in December 2018, iSentia retired its discrete social media monitoring product (BuzzNumbers). The service was rolled into the iSentia Mediaportal enabling consolidated access through a single interface.
Material added to the Library Collection
The number of new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue exceeded the 5,000 target at 5740.
The percentage of titles available online (full-text) increased from 46.2 per cent to 49.6 per cent, exceeding the year’s increased target of 48 per cent.
The Library continues to pursue a ‘digital first’ policy for its acquisitions. A little over 90 per cent of titles in the serials collection, and 31 per cent of monograph titles are available in full text online, and—in 2019–20—around 80 per cent of the collection budget was spent on digital resources.
Material added to the Library’s databases
The Library publishes newspaper clippings in ParlInfo Search, and produces senators’ and members’ news clips of the day by 7.30 am every morning, seven days a week.
In the reporting period, the Library added 178,555 items to its media and other databases, exceeding its target of 150,000. This included the selection and indexing of approximately 9,770 newspaper clippings a month, generally consistent with previous years’ figures (an average of 10,070 a month in 2018–19, an election year when numbers typically increase, and 9,231 a month in 2017–18). Of all the Library databases that are indexed for ParlInfo Search, the newspaper clippings accounted for 97 per cent of the indexed content.
Figure 20: Newspaper clips added to ParlInfo Search by type 2019–20
Use of the Library's collection and databases
The target figure of four million uses of the Library’s collection and databases was exceeded with 4.07 million uses being reported. The increase since 2017–18 reflects the expansion of digital newspapers and clients accessing these through the Library.
Figure 21: Use of the print collection
Use of the print collection decreased with a total of 8,470 loans during 2019–20 compared to 9,557 in 2018–19. The decrease is unsurprising given the transition to remote work arrangements for clients and staff alike in the last quarter of the year; however, as the chart shows, clients still requested print material during this period.
Ebooks comprised 14.6 per cent of all loans. Though still quite low when compared to usage of the print collection, ebook usage increased slightly during 2018–19, with 1,433 loans processed (compared to 1,244 in 2018–19 and 1,100 in 2017–18). This metric does not currently capture the use of digitised books. This will form part of the review of our data collection methodology in 2020–21.
The key performance indicator for ‘urgent new titles (books and serials)’ added to the Library’s catalogue within the ‘timeliness service standard’, measures timeliness in relation to cataloguing items obtained as a result of direct client requests (with a turnaround deadline of 24 hours). These items are classed as urgent and are catalogued as a priority by Library staff.
The cataloguing team met both of its timeliness targets for direct client requests and exceeded the target (5,000) for the number of new titles (books and serials) added to the Library’s catalogue by processing 5,740 titles. The team also exceeded its target of 85 per cent for adding routine items (those selected by the Library’s Acquisitions staff) to the catalogue within the two week service standard, with 98 per cent of material being added within this time-frame. This is a considerable achievement given the circumstances of the final quarter of the financial year.
The Parliamentary Library provides a comprehensive suite of news services for clients, and is proactive in its endeavours to enhance these services within the available budget. These services are well used by parliamentarians and their staff.
This includes the iSentia Mediaportal which provides parliamentarians and their staff with access to a wide variety of metropolitan and regional press and broadcast news media. As of 30 June 2020, 99 per cent of clients have a logon to this service (target 90 per cent).
In 2019–20, the Library spent $0.761 million on news services. This included online news services, the iSentia Mediaportal, other news databases and hard copy newspapers located at the CEP and in the Newspaper Reading Room.
The news services’ KPI in Table 26 combines the performance outcomes of the daily press clips service and Electronic Media Monitoring Service against their individual performance benchmarks or standards. Performance against this KPI was excellent, with both teams overall achieving 96.88 per cent against a target of 95 per cent.
The following table illustrates the costs associated with providing information services.
Table 27: Information access services - price indicators
Cost of information services
Average cost per item added to the Library’s collection
Average cost per item added to the Library’s databases
Average cost per use of the Library’s databases and collection