Hello, Legislative Librarians!
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as the 2022-23 chair of the LRL Executive Committee. Over the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of you at NCSL events in Montana, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida and Georgia. Though I’m a member of several law librarian and public librarian professional associations, NCSL and LRL provide the most relevant and valuable programming and networking. I’m honored to be in this position.
This year has brought me incredible opportunity, growth and transition. In addition to assuming the chairmanship of the LRL Executive Committee in August, I was appointed director of the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library in early October. While I could see my leadership of LRL coming for a few years, being promoted to director was unexpected. The experience has been inspiring and has strongly reinforced what we know intuitively—the support of the team and community to which we belong is essential to our success and happiness as individuals. Though significantly understaffed and weary from almost two years of pandemic response, staff turnover and leadership transition, my staff has gone above and beyond to support me and make sure the library meets its goals. The other nonpartisan office directors at the Maine Legislature have generously provided encouragement and guidance.
My experience with LRL has been the same. When I started attending programs as a new legislative librarian in 2017, LRL was welcoming and provided learning opportunities that are hard to come by for such a specialized profession. The knowledge and personalities of members—including our recent LRL Staff Achievement Award recipients, Teresa Wilt and Eric Glover—made me feel like I had found my niche as a librarian and inspired me to become more involved in NCSL. Thanks to Teresa, my library found an excellent new tool to reinvent and expand our database of legislator biographies. Thanks to Elizabeth in Minnesota, my library is going to look into getting a Westlaw password that our patrons can “check out.” At StaffHub Atlanta last month, LRL members shared and problem-solved their libraries’ challenges and created relationships that can provide ideas and support for years to come.
I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the legislative research librarian and legislative staff communities to which you belong and to become more involved. NCSL and LRL have a range of options depending on your interests and the amount of time you can commit. If I can be of assistance or answer any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Summit 2022 Summary
Ingrid Hernquist, New Jersey
I enjoyed sessions on a wide range of topics, including professional development and important issues affecting state governments, as well as networking with fellow librarians and presiding over the Notable Document Awards ceremony.
The Summit provided many sessions this year, and below I describe the professional development sessions that I found particularly enriching.
The Summit started with the general session “State Meet & Greet and Building World Class Teams—The Essential Elements of Human Synergy,” in which world-champion adventure racer and San Diego firefighter Robyn Benincasa, who was part of the winning team in “The Toughest Race on Earth,” provided the “T.E.A.M.W.O.R.K” tools needed for difficult challenges.
Another interesting professional development session was the general session “Lessons in Trust: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” presented by NCSL’s Curt Stedron.
During the session, Stedron answered the following two questions:
1. How did the enemies build up trust?
2. How do adversaries of any kind build up trust?
He explained that trust is a component of friend relationships and mistrust is a component of enemy relationships. Stedron explained how people can go from a distrust to a trust relationship. He looked at World War I, where there was a constant threat of death, water trenches, lice and rats. A commonality between Germans, other Europeans and Americans was shared misery. Misery outweighed the mistrust. The soldiers all had a shared purpose on the day of Christmas. Both sides would get identical benefits with a ceasefire. A shared goal could help modern-day legislators to put aside differences. Stedron introduced the concept of GRIT, or “graduated and reciprocated initiatives in tension reduction.” Here there is a shared vulnerability and this shared humanity will create trust. After 24 hours of trust, the WWI soldiers went back to fighting—but it proves that trust can be achieved.
The next professional development session I attended was “Winning Body Language: Stand Out, Win Trust, Gain Credibility.” Body language and communications expert Mark Bowden spoke at this session, explaining that you can change your own body language to communicate what you really want. There are four types of communicators: friend, enemy, mate, indifferent (the last one describes most people). An enemy is one who has hands down and is crunched over. If you put your hands in the air by your face, people might think you are lying. If you use your hands too much, then the listener might think you are exaggerating. A friend is someone who has good posture, with hands up and open palms. If you present yourself as a friend, the listener will want to understand what you say.
Wednesday started with the Legislative Staff Breakfast and the session “I Think Therefore I Err: Using Brain Science to Explain Irrational Behavior,” presented by bestselling author Eric Bailey, who began by stating that if we do things differently, we can achieve different results. The reason why people do not do things differently is due to fear of failure. Heuristics are mental shortcuts that allow people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. Our brains like to project certainty (even when there is none). The only things in life that we can learn are things that we don’t yet know.
Bailey also spoke about the power of distinction. Without distinction we don’t even know what we are missing. He next spoke about perception versus reality. What you say and do (reality) matters less than what you hear and feel (perception). Perception guides our behavior, and people perceive and experience the world differently. We often look for evidence to confirm that which we already perceive in order to validate the truth. In order to understand others, we need radical curiosity, which means to try to understand the person across from you before expecting them to understand you. The power of awareness ultimately provides opportunities to connect with others. This session was also offered at Base Camp 2022.
The next professional development session I attended, “How to Say What You Need to Say,” was moderated by Kurt McDonald and Terry Rubin, the co-founders of the Professional Communicators consultancy. Communication matters when public speaking, and the following four skills are needed to be communication superheroes:
1. Avoid the curse of knowledge. You might be an expert in what you do, but listeners take away only a small amount of information during a presentation. You need to look at who your audience is and decide the following: 1) What do they need to hear? 2) Why are you talking? 3) What do you want people to take away? 4) What do you want the audience to remember?
2. Be a storyteller. Stories make the presentation tangible, induce action and make the information more memorable.
3. Be organized. Deliver a concise message. Use a one-sentence road map early in the story to tell the audience what will be covered. During the presentation, provide signposts announcing where you are. Every transition needs a signpost in order to keep an active listener.
4. Be dynamic. How you say it matters. Deliver your message in an engaging way, using emphasis and communicating emotion to keep people paying attention.
Another interesting professional development session was “Compelling Communication: Projecting Confidence and Credibility,” presented by communications coach Rachel Beohm. Nonverbal communication is the biggest component of communication. Authoritative body language communicates stability. Posture and body movement affect your tone of voice. Compelling language adds power. Get rid of the following: 1) “I think/feel,” which means “I don’t know.” Instead, say, “Here’s what we need to do.” 2) “In my opinion” communicates a soft directive; instead, use “in my experience.” 3) “Sorry” communicates that you’re at fault; replace it with “thank you.” Body language to avoid: crossed arms, hands in pockets, biting lips, furrowing or raising brows, eye-rolling, smirking or sneering, and head shaking. Open body language communicates confidence, collaboration and trustworthiness, and good eye contact means respect. How you deliver your message is as important as what you say.
The two-part closing session featured an insider’s look at the Artemis Project, NASA’s planned return to the moon in 2024, from astronaut Matthew Dominick, then insights on new economic opportunities that state legislators should be aware of, from investor and “Shark Tank” host Kevin O’Leary.
It is always a pleasure to speak with my fellow librarians and go on tours to other government libraries. During this Summit, librarians were able to tour the Colorado Supreme Court Library. The library supports the research needs of the state’s judicial branch, primarily the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. It also supports the judges and staff located in the judicial districts and county courts throughout the state. The library is also open to members of the Colorado Bar and the public.
The law library staff assists in researching legislative history, journal articles, secondary materials, practice treatises and unpublished opinions, and in suggesting alternative resources and search terms, among other services. The library, which contains about 80,000 volumes and 12,000 titles, includes a complete set of historical Colorado statutes and regulations and all of the primary law from federal and other state governments. Lexis and HeinOnline are available on computer terminals in the library.
Summit attendees were also able to tour the state Capitol tour and its library. The Capitol opened in 1901 and incorporates many building materials from Colorado. The rose onyx stone used in the building is no longer available. The Capitol houses the Senate, the House of Representatives, the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor, and the Department of the Treasury. The General Assembly, which includes 35 senators and 65 representatives, meets 120 days a year starting in January. The building also houses numerous donated artworks.
A highlight of Summit for me is always the LRL Notable Document Awards Ceremony, as I have been a contest judge for 25 years.
We selected 15 winners from 40 submissions, 17 different states submitted documents, and representatives of four states attended the document ceremony. I read off the winners and handed the certificates to the recipients. It was interesting to speak with the winners and learn more about what was involved in creating the documents. For example, the project submitted by a group from West Virginia was a major undertaking. A team of 25 people digitized the West Virginia Code going back to 1931 to make the laws accessible to the public on the internet. The majority of the work was done during the pandemic, and the team members all brought scanners home to scan the acts. The team received the top award in the “Increased Public Access” category.
Use the following link to see the 2022 winners: https://www.ncsl.org/legislators-staff/legislative-staff/research-librarians/lrl-notable-document-award-recipients.aspx#2022
During the Salute to Legislative Staff Lunch, the recipients of the Staff Achievement Awards and Notable Document Awards were recognized along with the NCSL staff association chairs. As chair of the Legislative Research Librarians group, I was featured in the recognition.
The 2022 Legislative Summit in Denver provided me with great opportunities to further develop my communication and managerial skills. I truly enjoyed networking with other legislative research librarians and attending the Notable Document Awards session to honor the recipients.
NCSL’s New Website
NCSL is excited to launch a new, more modern website in January! Because NCSL is a member-focused organization, it is imperative that legislators and legislative staff can quickly and easily find the information they’re searching for on the organization’s website. Web technology advances quickly and it has been several years since NCSL has upgraded the technology powering its massive website. The new website will significantly improve mobile responsiveness and user experience. In particular, navigation is being simplified and search functionality is being improved.
Staff Hub ATL 2022 Write-Ups
Staff Hub Atlanta
LRL Staff Roundtable
Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022
By Jessica Lundgren, LRL Chair
After a tour of the beautiful George Capitol and a continental breakfast, each staff association convened its roundtable discussion. LRL had a great turnout of about 15 members. We introduced ourselves and gave updates on our libraries. In particular, each member shared a challenge that they’re facing or working on. Here’s what we heard:
- Several libraries are located in buildings that are undergoing renovations, and they’ve had to move their collection or offices.
- Some libraries have undertaken cataloging projects, such as book-by-book cataloging or finding a new ILS or classification system. One library is trying to decide how to accession state depository documents received in electronic form during the pandemic shutdown: Should these reports be cataloged as digital only or printed out and added to the physical collection as well?
- Digitization is still a concern for legislative libraries as they lose space or historic materials become worn and commercial access is cost prohibitive.
- A member asked if other libraries deliver results to patrons by email or by memo. In at least one state, response memos are entered into a KM database for help with future research.
- One member library has introduced a circulating Westlaw password that can be “checked out” to certain patrons.
- Other topics of concern to our members are staff turnover, hybrid schedules and digital accessibility.
During the session “Maximizing Energy in a Challenging World,” Cindy Maher and Jamie Guite, from the life coaching consultancy Leading Edge, provided insight on how to reach your personal maximum energy potential. They first explained that energy comes from four wellsprings: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
For the physical body, you need good nutrition, adequate sleep, reasonable working hours and short breaks during work. For the mind, you need to reduce multitasking, control technology interruptions, and make the most critical priorities the first order of business each day. For the emotional wellspring, you need to control and have a heightened awareness of your emotions, cultivate a positive outlook and practice expressing appreciation toward others. For the spiritual wellspring, you need to understand your own personal and core values and practice them daily, feel a sense of purpose in your work, do what you do best and enjoy most at work, and allocate time and energy to all areas of your life, including work, family, health and helping others.
The “Data Visualization: Tools and Trends” session provided a look at the tools used by legislative offices across the country to communicate more effectively. The speaker, Ann Wrigley Miller from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, first presented a list of visualization tools, including the Microsoft Office suite (Excel and PowerPoint), Google suite (Sheets and Slides), Microsoft BI, Tableau, and Qlik. She next spoke about how to tell a “data story.” To be an effective storyteller, she said, you need to know your audience. Who you are presenting to will dictate how the presentation will look. For example, with peers it is OK to use shorthand and complex charts, and work through big ideas. For managers and supervisors, the presentation should be brief and crisp, but you need to explain everything. For the executive director, be brief and provide logical recommendations.
Your story should be a narrative supported by data in a logical and captivating way that will make it memorable. She listed the six storytelling elements, using a budget analysis as an example: 1. Theme/purpose (budget or policy issue); 2. Setting (state policy and historical context); 3. Characters (lead agency and partners); 4. Plot (historical trend); 5. Conflict (the budget forecast); 6. Story arc (resolution to solve the budget issue). Decide what you want the audience to learn from the presentation, she said, and keep this as the center of your presentation.
Finally, she said, all visualizations should be well-labeled and support the narrative. Overloading on data and complex visuals will confuse the audience and distract them from the point of the presentation. A successful visualization will lead the audience to question what will be done next. A tip she gave for chart making is to use color wisely, assume that the participant is color blind, be consistent in color usage, use color to bring attention to parts of the visualization, and use different color palettes.
The “Researching and Summarizing Legislation” session was also very interesting. Legislative researchers, librarians and other analysts write summaries of bills and provide research for patrons. The panelists shared research tips and best practices on how they create these summaries. In researching legislation, the librarian on the panel said that for local resources she uses her state legislature’s website, the library catalog and the newspaper clipping files. For national resources, she uses Westlaw, Lexis, NCSL’s Bill Tracking Database, NCSL’s 50 State Bill Information Service, and the LRL Listserv.
The next presenter recommended first describing the problem the legislation is trying to solve, then asking questions such as the following: How have you managed without the legislation? Are there partnerships already addressing the issue? Is the legislation the right solution? Are there previous versions? Do other states have similar legislation? How will this look 20 years from now? Who is being affected by the legislation? What mechanism is being used for the change? How will the legislation be implemented? How much will this solution cost? Does the legislation have a fiscal note? What are the negative and positive impacts? Where is the legislation taking place? Is there room for growth? Will there need to be further legislation in the future? If it changes legislation already in place, is the change needed or are there other alternatives?
The “Legislative Histories” session provided guidelines for researching state legislative history and intent. One panelist stated that legislative histories create a timeline. Legislative intent can be tracked through language changes. Sources she uses to find legislative history include the following: notes after statute sections, previously introduced legislation, case law, vetoes, governor statements on signing, transcripts of hearings, Westlaw and Lexis, law reviews and treatises, fiscal impact reports, interim committee meetings, newspaper articles, reports required by statute, and databases maintained by HeinOnline, LLMC Digital, NCSL, Uniform Laws Commission, and the American Law Institute.
Another panelist suggested creating a legislative history checklist that includes the following: 1. Legislative (statute sections, bill number, chapter law, fiscal and policy notes, various versions of the bill, and amendments); 2. Judicial (case law); 3. Executive (signing or veto statements, annual and mandated reports); 4. Other (newspaper stories, professional association reports, law review and secondary legal resources).
Still another panelist presented her legislative history checklist, which included the following: court cases, law review articles, treatises, bill drafting information, state website and microfilm, committee reports, house and senate journals, governor’s messages and vetoes, annual and other reports by executive agencies and the judiciary, reports of professional and trade associations, documents from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the American Law Institute’s model code, and newspaper and journal articles.
Base Camp 2022 Write-Ups:
The session “Retaining Your Focus: Strengthening Attention with Mindfulness” was presented by Amish Jha, director of contemplative neuroscience and professor of psychology at the University of Miami.
The session focused on strengthening attention through mindfulness. Jha has done extensive research on brain mechanisms of attention and working memory. She explained that attention is the brain’s boss. Factors such as stress, mood and threats decrease attention. Studies consistently show that people pay attention just 50% of the time at any task. However, the brain can be trained to retain attention. The only effective training to enhance attention is through mindfulness meditation. This is low cost, low tech and portable.
Jha went next went through three major points:
1. Attention is powerful: The brain has subsystems that are antagonistic with each other. If one subsystem is active, then the others are not. The first subsystem is focus, which is narrow and directed. It is like a flashlight. Wherever you direct the light, the thought becomes clearer and more focused. The next subsystem is the ability to think more expansively where actions of the brain are broad and receptive. The third subsystem is executive functioning, which is critical when it comes to decision-making. This is when goals and action are aligned. All three subsystems are needed.
As an example of how executive control works, she showed a list of font colors using a picture of colored X’s. The next picture was of the words describing the colors. It was easier to name the colors by seeing the color rather than reading the color names because your brain automatically reads rather than perceiving the color. The brain needs to be trained to overcome the automatic process and focus on the task-related process.
Attention is needed for leadership, she said, because it is powerful and pervasive. Attentions fuels successful thinking.
She went back to the three subsystems. For being narrow and directed, the thinking process is able to follow a train of thought. For broad and receptive brainstorming, this covers all possible solutions. And for goals and actions, the brain can make rational decisions. When you are fueled up your thinking is logical, rational, empathetic and emotionally balanced. When the fuel has been used up your thinking is illogical, irrational, disconnected and dysregulated.
2. Attention is vulnerable: Stress makes the attention “fuel tank” go empty and that is when you need attention the most. She summed it up with a business managerial acronym: VUCA, meaning “volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.” VUCA circumstances demand attention. Attention still matters during high-demand cohorts but during high-stress situations attention decreases. Attentional performance declines over high-demand intervals. Stress exacerbates vulnerability.
She next discussed mental time travel, or mind wandering. Rewind and you reflect on the past (ruminating, reliving, regretting). Fast forward and you think about the future (catastrophizing, worrying). The capacity to mentally time travel can get you into trouble. Mind wondering leads to errors. By default, the brain rewinds and fast forwards. Mindfulness can be used to bring the mind back to present time to focus on what is needed in the moment. The brain needs to be trained to be mindful. When the mind wanders you can bring the focus back to the present by doing breathing exercises, which can be done anywhere.
3. Attention is trainable: Mindfulness training can be used to improve thinking (attention, memory, emotion regulation), connecting (marital, workplace, team), feeling (mood and psychological health, depression, anxiety, panic, ADHD, PTSD), and performance (athletic, academic, workplace). Research shows that as little as 12-15 minutes a day can make a significant difference. However, the more time you devote to practicing mindfulness, the more beneficial it is.
Base Camp Write-Up: Fundamentals of Parliamentary Procedure
Dana Combs, New Jersey
All of the sessions I attended during NCSL’s 2022 Base Camp, Nov. 15 and 16, were interactive and engaging. But one that I found quite interesting was “Fundamentals of Parliamentary Procedure,” presented by panelists Jeff Tackacs, the clerk of the Florida House of Representatives, and Tara Perkinson, the chief deputy clerk for the Virginia General Assembly, and moderated by NCSL policy specialist Mari Henderson. Despite my position as archivist for the New Jersey Legislative Services Library and the fact that we have several books on parliamentary procedure—including Thomas Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice and Charles Sitgreaves’ New Jersey-specific Manual of Legislative Practice—in our collection, I know very little about this unique piece of legislative history and current practice.
Tackacs and Perkinson opened the session by explaining that parliamentary procedure provides legislatures a structured and organized way to talk as well as rules by which chambers can conduct their business. They explained that while every chamber passes bills and communicates, the details vary by state and even by chamber. The three guiding principles of parliamentary procedure, they said, are to balance the chamber; to aid in decorum and order to ensure an efficient legislative process as well as to avoid confusion; and to avoid clashing personalities and provide focus on the various ideas within the chamber.
They then demonstrated the importance of parliamentary procedure by inviting participants to think of how our legislatures would function without these practices in place. Most likely, there would mass confusion, conflicts and very little business accomplished. Parliamentary procedure allows our legislative leaders to come together for the business of the people and allows the work to progress, they said. It brings everyone on the same page as to how a chamber runs and passes bills.
The presenters listed common sources for parliamentary procedure, including the rules of a particular chamber, a state’s constitution, Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, or a conversation with your clerk or legislative parliamentary expert. For examples of historical precedents to apply in current situations, they recommended various historical parliamentary and legislative procedurals, such as the aforementioned Jefferson’s Manual and Sitgreaves’ Manual.
With recent struggles in almost all professional sectors recruiting and retaining staff, we asked you the following questions:
- Is there a high vacancy rate for government employees in your state?
- If so, is it due mostly to retirements or people leaving for jobs in the private sector?
- What is your state doing to recruit more applicants?
Responses from LRL member libraries are below:
Alaska Legislative Reference Library
- Is there a high vacancy rate for government employees in your state? Anecdotally, yes. I have not compared with historical trends or other data to verify or determine severity, however.
- If so, is it due mostly to retirements or people leaving for jobs in the private sector? There are many other factors involved, such as demographic shifts, hiring freezes, politicization of previously nonpartisan positions, etc. Recent press has focused on net outmigration and a 5% decline in residents age 20-65 since 2013 (the third-highest nationally over that time).
- What is your state doing to recruit more applicants? I am not sure that any coordinated action is being taken, aside from a targeted salary increase for attorneys.
State of Arizona Research Library
To answer your question about recruitment, we have experienced significant turnover in every branch of the state library in the past couple of years. There have been some retirements, but low salaries are an issue as well. In the state library specifically, we have tried advertising on a national level (e.g., ALA), but it is still taking many, many months to recruit and hire qualified staff.
California Research Bureau, California State Library
- Is there a high vacancy rate for government employees in your state? For some positions and classifications, yes.
- If so, is it due mostly to retirements or people leaving for jobs in the private sector? Primarily leaving for job opportunities in private as well as other public jobs (local government).
- What is your state doing to recruit more applicants? Looking at salaries/salary ranges to be/stay competitive, increasing the areas where recruitment takes place, making telework more prevalent throughout state agencies, and encouraging WFH as the new normal where operational.
Connecticut State Library, Law and Legislative Reference Desk
- Is there a high vacancy rate for government employees in your state? Yes.
- If so, is it due mostly to retirements or people leaving for jobs in the private sector? Mostly due to retirements.
- What is your state doing to recruit more applicants? They are thankfully actively refilling, although the process is taking a long time.
I am sorry to report that I am unable to answer questions posed because we have no current statistics.
The report and article below offer insights regarding agency worker shortage:
State agencies are grappling with Florida's worker shortage | WFSU News
Minnesota Legislative Reference Library
The pandemic brought a hiring freeze for state government employees in Minnesota. Retirements were high in 2020 and 2021. Since then, the executive branch has hired about 4,000 employees, but overall staffing is still down 2%.
Regarding state employee vacancies, I located two news articles that included a statistic or discussion of the topic in recent years.
However, it seems the most comprehensive recent study on this topic is a Legislative Finance Committee report: “Program Evaluation: State Personnel Compensation and Classification Plan and Human Resources Authority,” from August 2022:
Tennessee Legislative Library
Yes, there’s a high vacancy rate here, due to both retirement and people leaving. The problem is there’s a high rate of vacancy in the private sector as well; there’s a lot of competition by the employers to find the employees.
Here’s two examples of what’s being done:
VIDEO: Gov. Lee Renews Nationwide Pitch to Join TN Highway Patrol
'Horrific' turnover: Nearly half of new Tennessee DCS caseworkers quit in first year
LRL Member News:
Alaska Legislative Reference Library
Our library has remained stable in the midst of everything, but also has little else to note.
State of Arizona Research Library
Korina Tueller is now administrator of the Arizona Research Library.
California Research Bureau, California State Library
- Very pleased to report CRB has hired two senior data librarians, and even better, two internal candidates—Monica Stam and Sarah Harrington—were chosen from the open pool of candidates.
- Very pleased to report CRB is moving forward with backfilling two librarian positions—recruitment anticipated to open shortly.
- Very pleased to report CRB has hired two new research data specialists: Britnee Pannell and Sumeet Bedi.
- Very pleased to report CRB has backfilled its vacant assistant director position: Devin Lavelle.
- Very pleased to report that CRB has recently published the reports Prescription Drug Pricing and Cost Transparency in California and California Statewide National Security Economic Impacts 2022
Connecticut Legislative Library:
In August, we hired a new library aide, Roka Reid. Roka holds a Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University with a double major in political science and history and has work experience in a number of library settings.
Minnesota Legislative Reference Library
The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library is getting ready for a fully in-person legislative session that will begin on Jan. 3. The library has filled several positions that were open during the time most staff were working remotely. Staff have been working on several large digitization efforts, including digitizing a series of House and Senate journals. The librarians have been working with Senate staff to assist in the transition from paper to electronic committee minutes, which are archived by the library.
We have several new staff in the library this year, mainly due to retirements. We are working on several policies and procedures currently, collection development policy, etc. We might get a renovation for our library pending legislative committee findings.