Palace of Westminster

Parliament for Academic Librarians

Anne-Lise Harding
Anne-Lise Harding

Anne-Lise Harding is the CILIP Information Literacy Group’s government libraries rep. She is the Academic Liaison Librarian in the Research Information Service in the House of Commons Library. In this post she talks about an event that the House of Commons Library and the Knowledge Exchange Unit ran for academic librarians this month, and also offers insight into the work of the House of Commons Library more generally and its relevancy for academic librarians and researchers.

The Knowledge Exchange Unit and the House of Commons Library delivered a training session this month for academic librarians in supporting researchers getting involved with Parliament.

A recording of the event and all materials will be available on the UK Parliament website in June. 

This event acknowledged the role of academic librarians in knowledge mobilisation and brokerage, in particular, in supporting academics in their parliamentary engagement and in enhancing the flow of academic research from higher education institutions into UK Parliament. 

One of the key ways that researchers can extend the impact of their research is through engaging with Parliament. Amongst other things, this can allow them to support Parliamentarians in their work of scrutinising the Government, to shape and change policy and the policy agenda, and to have demonstrable research impact. 

Several areas of UK Parliament use research to support parliamentary debates and scrutiny including: 


Photo of House of Commons Library
House of Commons Library. Copyright: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament

About the House of Commons Library

Since 1946, the House of Commons Library provides an impartial research and information service to Members of Parliament and their staff. 

To do so it:

  • publishes research and analysis on legislation, policy, and statistics in order to support Members in performing their scrutiny role. 
  • answers information requests from constituencies and conducts bespoke analysis to support them. 
  • provides books, journals, databases, training and talks. 

All research produced by the House of Commons Library is available to the public on the House of Commons Library website, to browse and to search as part of the Open Parliament License.

There is a range of research formats to suit the audience, the nature of the work of Members of Parliament or the topic:

  • Insights: Insights are quick read articles on current issues. These are published in line with topical events and provide need to know information on local and global topics.
  • Research briefings: Research briefings provide in depth analysis of bills, legislation, policy, and topical issues. 
  • Debate packs: Debate packs of produced in relation to debate taking place in the Commons chamber or in Westminster Hall. Debate packs contain background information, statistics, parliamentary and press material and suggested further reading.
  • Data tools and resources: these are data sets and interactive dashboard on a range of topics. It ranges from constituency dashboard for headline statistic about constituencies to parliamentary elections data or the latest figures on the economy.
  • Constituency casework articles: FAQ’s and quick explainers to help caseworkers with a range of constituent queries.
  • Podcast: Our first series offers in impartial take on issues in the UK. Each episode tackles a different topic including housing, devolution in Northern Ireland, defence equipment, Universal Credit and more.

All this material provides a great starting point for students, academics, and researchers either at the start of research, for horizon scanning or to gauge what is currently discussed and debated in Parliament.


Engaging through the House of Commons Library

There are several ways you can use the House of Commons Library to support researchers and allow them to engage with Parliament. 

  • You can make them aware of the research products to see what Parliament is currently discussing or areas of interest that have come up from our horizon scanning work or in response to constituency queries for example. 
  • Additionally, you can tell them about data dashboards; an easy way to find aggregated data from different sources
  • You can also encourage sign up (and you can sign up yourselves as well) to research alerts. Research alerts are sent by email every time a new piece of research is published on the website. You can choose a policy area and get an email notification straight away.
  • Some of subject specialists from the House of Commons Library are on Twitter and this is a great way to get in touch and follow their work. Additionally, you can follow the House of Commons Library Twitter account for all our latest news. 
  • Where academics have research or other information that could benefit an existing Library briefing, they can email and name the briefing. Whilst the House of Commons Library is not always able to engage in discussions about the content of our research, they will carefully consider and correct any factual errors.
  • Use Parliamentary Search. Parliamentary Search allows you to search all parliamentary material. There are two versions so make sure to use the public one. It is best used in conjunction with the Parliamentary glossary. This resource is especially useful if you want to track engagement of the school or faculty you support, know where research has been used by Parliament or to see what parliamentary engagement looks like. 


Engagement through the Knowledge Exchange Unit

This event was co-presented with the Knowledge Exchange Unit (KEU). The KEU supports the exchange of information and expertise between researchers and the UK Parliament and facilitates and strengthens this exchange of knowledge in a variety of ways.

They are the first point of contact for any researcher wishing to work with or find out more about UK Parliament.

The KEU have a growing network of knowledge mobilisers, such as university KE staff, impact officers, policy managers, or academic librarians. The KEU works with this network to support researcher engagement, communicate key opportunities and information around engaging with Parliament, and understand the priorities, needs and challenges of the research sector.

As knowledge mobilisers, academic librarians can join the network to hear about such opportunities and communicate them to the faculties or schools they support. You can join by emailing the KEU your title, name, job title, institution, and contact details. 

You can also follow them on Twitter to be notified of opportunities to engage with Parliament. 


Want to get involved?

The House of Commons Library is in the process of creating a network specifically for academic librarians to share good practice and guidance around themed sessions. 

This network is a great opportunity for professional development as academic librarians and provides an insight into the work of libraries in the government sector. 

If this is something you think you’re curious about, interested in and want to know more, sign up or fill in the web form below.


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