The European Parliament library in a new information environment
Parliamentary libraries today operate in environments of information overload, multiplying information channels and rapidly changing information technology. Do parliamentary clients need a service which promises more information to add to their load? What place for libraries in the new technologies? Has a service model which added value in Babylon still got something to add?
One problem in analyzing the work of parliamentary libraries is the dearth of objective, academic, studies relating to this class of library. The literature is almost all by practitioners. In the absence of independent studies, it is difficult to be sure what constitutes a successful model for a parliamentary library, which are the ‘best-practices’ that should be adopted and what are the current strategic issues facing parliamentary libraries.
Parliamentary libraries have had various histories and operate in various contexts, but they face some common challenges. In 2003 the Secretary General of the European Parliament launched a reform to strengthen intellectual support to Members. This reform programme – entitled ‘Raising the Game’ – included significant changes to the parliament’s library. Raising the Game of the European Parliament Library has been an attempt to develop a parliamentary library for the early 21 st Century. It has also been an attempt to lay bare the value of the traditional library to an audience of sceptical decision-makers, themselves not direct users of the service. For libraries in general, and for the EP Library in particular in the midst of Raising the Game, the new world of information and knowledge management should be one enormous opportunity – but have libraries got the people, the guts and the managerial and political skills to take it?