You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: the Commons Library is your best friend. It employs over 100 specialists to publish open-access research AND provide confidential information to Members. It runs free training sessions. It hosts deposited papers. The Library is basically a lifesaver.
So we’ve put together our TEN TIPS to make sure you’re using the Library like a pro.
1. Visit the website
First day at Parliament, waiting in line to get your pass? Check out the Library website and find everything you never knew you needed. It lists all Library services and holds a tonne of impartial research which you can share with whoever you want. It even has new, improved search functionality so you can easily get research on any topic you want.
2. Get email alerts about new research
A modern classic, research alerts allow you to subscribe to get the latest research on the topics you’re interested in. Every time a briefing on a topic you follow comes out you get an email the next day, curated just for you. If you’re looking for something a bit more in depth, you can subscribe to Library updates for MPs and MPs’ staff. Take a moment to subscribe to both lists. Do it. Now. You’ll thank us later.
3. Make sure you’re staying on top of debates
Sometimes just finding out what the business of the day is feels impossible, let alone understanding the context of a debate. Luckily the Library keeps it’s very own ‘This week’ page which not only lists key business but also provides the relevant Library research available! If you haven’t cried tears of relief reading a Library Bill Briefing at 2am on a Tuesday, have you even lived?
4. Get confidential answers to confidential questions
If you can’t find what you’re looking for and you need reliable answers ASAP, don’t forget you can ask the Library for help: MPs and those who work for them can request information and research from Library specialists on pretty much anything they desire. All requests are confidential. And the Library will not share requests or responses with anyone outside the Library service, including other MPs and their staff.
5. Get data on your constituency
Data dashboards are extremely useful and the best thing to happen to Parliament since jerk-alerts. Are you trying to find how many people are claiming unemployment benefits in Brent Central and compare it with Brent North? Or maybe you were asked to compare three decades of house prices between Cardiff and Central London? Or then again it was broadband speeds, or road traffic accidents? Or perhaps you’re just curious about what your MP has been up to? Whatever it is, the Library likely has some easy-to navigate-data tool for it.
6. Deal with constituents the right way
Speaking of constituencies, we know doing constituency case work away from Westminster can feel isolating, but the Library is there for you no matter where you are. In fact, it has a whole bunch of resources just for constituency case workers and anyone else dealing with constituent queries. They are a must-read.
7. Induction is free
Wow this is all a LOT, and we’re only half-way through the list. If you’re feeling overworked, you can book a Library induction session and have a qualified member of staff walk you through all of this . Don’t be shy. We’ve all done it and we’re all the better for it. And if you found that useful you should check out the Library’s full range of training resources and materials.
Are you still feeling lost and confused? Give ‘em a call or send ’em an email. You can call x3666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even go to the Members’ Library front desk. Someone will be there to pat you on the back and say “there there now” before helping you:
- find an elusive document,
- book a training session,
- catch a ghost,
- understand what Blackrod is,
- get a physical copy of a briefing,
- find a specialist,
but do keep in mind that use of the Member’s Library reading rooms is reserved for Members.
9. Take out a book
At its core, the Commons Library is in fact a Library. So, feel free to borrow and reserve books via the Library Catalogue. You can also request books in other libraries around the UK, including the British Library, and access a range of journals via the Library. For any loans enquiries you can call x1515 or email email@example.com.
10. Follow ‘em online
Follow the Library to stay up to date with House business and their latest research while you’re online. You’ll inadvertently get to see it publicise some of it’s more niche research and might even develop your own passion for a surprising area of research.
These guides can be downloaded from the intranet or you can pick up a hard copy from the Members’ Centre.
The first four are linked from this page: https://intranet.parliament.uk/people-offices/offices-departments/commons-departments/commons-information-services/commons-library/publications/
1. Online Resources from the Library
This includes key resources such as Library Research Papers, Standard Notes and Debate Packs; it also includes parliamentary documentation and more specialised subscription resources, such as law databases, Who’s Who, journals, and news and media sources.
2. Services for Members Staff
This leaflet gives an overview of the Library services available to Members’ staff
3. Information Skills Training
Information on the training that the Library provides in the use of online resources.
4. Using the Library from the Constituency
The House of Commons Library may not be physically near you, but almost all of the services available to Westminster-based staff are also available to constituency staff.
5. Library Loans Service
The Library Loans Service provides loans of books and other published material (journals and official publications), DVDs and CDs of parliamentary and current affairs programmes, and an inter-library loans service for material not held in the Library.
This guide is provided by Working for an MP (w4mp). Most of the material in Guides is subject to Crown copyright protection. Unless otherwise indicated material may be reproduced free of charge in any format or media without specific permission. This is subject to the material being reproduced accurately and not being used in a derogatory manner or in a misleading context. For more details see our Copyright page