I have recently finished my second internship for 2015, this one in the Australian Parliamentary Library, Canberra. This post, though I am very tempted to make it into a discussion about data management goodness (as the Parliamentary Library is doing some very interesting things there), is instead going to be an insight into the structure of one of the coolest libraries in Australia. It is my hope to help out those who want to apply for the Parliamentary Library internship in future with some background information.

The Parliamentary Library internship goes for 20 working days and I chose to do mine in an intensive block while living in Canberra for the month of November. Though, both internships I completed this year have changed me as an information professional, the one at the Parliamentary Library helped me to truly visualise what information management will look like in ten or twenty years.

Flagpost on top of Parliament house, Canberra, ACT.


Like most information and cultural institutions the Parliamentary Library has made a huge effort to bring their services to clients in digital form. They have the usual – access to e-books and online journal articles, along with an increasing amount of digitisation projects. However, what intrigued me most was the Library’s efforts to combine information at their disposal and present it in into informative digital formats (instead of just content in PDF’s) such as creating a web app of the Parliamentary Handbook; which will contain web hosted content optimised for use mobile devices, but I digress.

So, who works in the Parliamentary Library? Some pretty awesome people, is who! The Parliamentary Librarian is at the top of the ladder and she reports to Senators and Members on the Parliamentary Library Committee. She also has a small team who support her in client relations. The Parliamentary Librarian’s eyes and ears within the Library are the two Assistant Secretaries who see to the day-to-day running of things.

Library functions are separated into two branches. Assistant Secretary Liz Luchetti looks after collections and database management and Assistant Secretary Jonathan Curtis looks after research (which many of us would know as reference librarianship). Then there are all the Directors who watch over specific parts of the whole.

In research the Parliamentary Library covers topics of most interest to Parliamentarians. The people who work in this branch are specialists and have such an in-depth knowledge of their field that I felt a bit intimidated each time I talked to one! However, I didn’t let that stop me for long as I soon discovered that same knowledge base also made them fascinating conversationalists.

2015 Organisational Chart of The Parliamentary Library.
2015 Organisational Chart of the Parliamentary Library.

On the collections and database management side of the Library you will find people with skills in traditional librarianship such as indexing, cataloguing and collection maintenance. There are also a few with skills in new librarianship like database management, data management and licensing agreements.

The internship I did only covered the collections and database management branch, if you have an interest in seeing the research side of things I suggest voicing that early on. Not that there isn’t enough to do/learn/cover in the collections and database  branch! I spent one week in collection management, one in databases and media services and one at the central enquiry point.

Everything covered in collection management with Oliver Lewis’s team was what I expected. If cataloguing is your thing, it may interest you to know that the Parliamentary Library is fully RDA compliant. Or, if you like the dynamics of negotiating licensing agreements, show your interest and you will be taken under the wing of one of the most proficient in the business.

Wall sign for the Parliamentary Library, Canberra, ACT.

In databases and media services some great digitisation projects are under way. If you are interested in capturing VHS content before it disintegrates beyond recovery, put your hand up! Or, if you prefer managing the metadata side of digitisation projects, there is plenty of work for you there as well.

At the central enquiry point you get first-hand experience dealing with clients. Many of the Parliamentary Library’s clients email their enquiries or call. However, there are some who still walk through the Library doors. Working in this department you also get plenty of experience handling inter-library loans. I suggest you ask to work here during a sitting week as that’s when things really heat up.

You may have done the math at this point and realised I have only covered 15 working days. Well, in the last week you get to work on a mini project all of your own. The library has a few suggestions for this week and each of them are great. However, my advice to you is to use this week to showcase where your own talents can fit into the “Parliamentary library scheme of things”. As it says in the Library’s section of the annual report:

Continued innovation is critical to the Library’s future success and sustainability.

So run some ideas past your mentor (did I forget to mention you get assigned one of those?) and do your best to stand-out… whilst being helpful.

View of Parliament house from the back of the Old Parliament house.
View of Parliament house from the back of the Old Parliament house.

Till next time!
DFTBA (Don’t Forget to be Awesome)