Library and Research Services for Parliaments Section publishes 2021 survey on operations during COVID-19
IFLAPARL has published the report of its 2021 survey on library & research services of parliaments response in the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey is a follow-up to the 2020 survey of pandemic impact and responses in parliamentary library and research services. The report shares the experiences of more than 50 respondents worldwide – in confidence, as the survey report presents only anonymised information, allowing challenges and failures to be freely reported – to the benefit of the entire professional community.
The report and three case studies will be discussed on 6 October (14:50 UTC) in a panel at the IFLAPARL-IPU conference.
The report’s author, Iain Watt, Chair of IFLAPARL 2019-21, picks out ten features of a new environment based on his reading of the survey responses
“The impression from reading and analysing the responses is of a sector that is showing resilience and achieving quite some success in the face of a massively changed environment. Ten features of this new environment stand out. These are explained at more length in the report, but in summary:
People, working on-site and off-site
- Three-quarters of the services responding are working to a hybrid model, and almost half of services have decided to make it permanent or are considering it.
- There is an emergent new approach to onsite (library) services.
- In some cases, Members and selected parliamentary staff are meeting in person, while library/research service staff can only work at distance – asymmetric change.
- If anyone doubted before, mental health has definitely become a mainstream work issue and a management responsibility.
Digital and remote services
- There has been a rise in curatorial enterprise.
- There are ‘digital divides’, and they have been deepened by the pandemic.
- Enterprise has been shown in using ‘free’ online and remote service tools but could there eventually be some hidden costs and consequences?
- Interest in inter-parliamentary cooperation has grown.
- A health crisis is a crisis made for a service based on evidence. There have been some positive consequences for many parliamentary library & research services.
Conservatives, progressives and revolutionaries
- Opinion on long-term consequences is divided: 20% believe that their service will return to normal operation as pre-COVID (‘conservatives’), the other 80% think the changes are permanent. Of the 80%, half believe the pandemic has only accelerated a transition that was already happening (‘progressives’). The other half thinks that the change in service model has been radical, revolutionary – and/or that it has created the urge and/or opportunity to be radical or revolutionary. Without deciding who is right – and they all might be, in their context – how managers act on these beliefs can itself bring significant change.
The new survey was prepared by Iain Watt, Fotis Fitsilis, Janice Silveira, Julie Anderson and Ellie Valentine, with the kind input and oversight of the IFLAPARL Standing Committee. The responses were seen only by Iain Watt, as Chair of IFLAPARL, and the report is anonymised in line with the condition of confidentiality offered to respondents.
The survey was open from May to July 2021. Fifty-five responses were received (compared to thirty in 2020). Location of responses (2020 figures in brackets): Europe 23 (16); the Americas 8 (6); Asia-Pacific 21 (6); Africa 3 (2).
Responses were very rich in content. In this report there is much more direct quotation of the responses – one reason for the length of the document – so that colleagues can hear the voices directly. In the 2021 report there is also more editorial commentary/analysis than in 2020.
As in 2020, the survey was advertised to respondents from the IFLAPARL mailing list, COVID-19 discussion forum, the IFLAPARL Standing Committee and professional contacts in the sector.