66th IFLA Council and General
Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August
Code Number: 072-112-E
Division Number: I
Professional Group: Library and Research Services for Parliaments
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 112
Simultaneous Interpretation: No
The workings of the Parliamentary Library in India: How it responds to the needs for information and research support in the context of new information technology
Lok Sabha Secretariat, Parliament House
New Delhi, India
An attempt is made in this Paper to present a brief overview of the Parliamentary Library of India and how it serves the information needs of Members of Parliament. Mention is made of the different categories of Library collections. The description of the extensive databases created by the Library forms a major part of the Paper. The various tools of modern information technology currently in use are described to indicate the way the Library is collecting, processing, storing, retrieving and dissemination information. Computer linkages with outside agencies/organizations available for exchange of information and the home page of the Library on the Internet are also described.
In a parliamentary democratic system, as in India, the representatives of the people need objective, factual and timely information with a view to ensuring executive accountability to the legislature. That being the case, it is imperative that a Parliament should have its own information reservoir and information management system, away from the control of the Executive Branch. In the Indian Parliament, the multifarious information needs of members are met by Parliament's Library and Reference, Research, Documentation and Information Service, more popularly known by its acronym 'LARRDIS'.
The Parliamentary Library was established in 1921, long before India's independence, when representative government was then under the control of the administration of Britain. The Library grew in size and stature only after the achievement of national freedom in 1947. The demands of the parliamentary system contributed to the growth of the Library and in 1974 a total transformation was effected in its organizational set up when it acquired a larger role and the present name, the LARRDIS.
Ever since its inception, LARRDIS has endeavoured to live up to its role as an information provider and also as an information manufacturer. The Parliamentary Library is a key component in the LARRIDS system, with a collection of about one million volumes. The Library collections include books, debates of Indian Parliament, State Legislatures and some foreign Parliaments, reports of Central and State Governments and United Nations and its Agencies, Gazettes of Central and State Governments and other documents, including periodicals and publications brought out by the Secretariats of the two Houses of the Parliament.
The collections of the Library are primarily in English. India being a nation of diverse languages, the Parliamentary Library has of course a sizeable number of books and other publications in Hindi and a large number of other national languages. Collections in foreign languages are not maintained in any significant numbers.
The traditional approach of collecting books, issuing them out to those who ask for them and answering simple queries of the customers was all that was expected of the Libraries till very recently. But the phenomenal growth in the range and dimensions of the sphere of the government has made it impossible for the modern legislator to be self-reliant in the field of information that he needs in the discharge of his duties as an effective representative of the people. The situation has necessitated the establishment of not only a well-stocked Library but also an efficient research and reference service to which Members of Parliament can always turn for help and assistance.
Remarkable developments in the field of science and technology in recent years have revolutionised all aspects of human endeavour --especially in the context of information management. People today live in an information society and without a doubt an informed electorate and Legislature are valuable assets to a successful democracy.
The advent of new technologies has not gone unnoticed or unutilized in the Parliamentary Library in India also. We have been making a modest but sustained attempt to harness the advantages of modernizing our Library so that we can serve the Members of our Parliament better.
It was in the mid-eighties that the Parliamentary Library of India initiated measures to keep pace with the technological advancements in information management. Thus, in December 1985, we made a modest beginning towards automation. A Computer Centre was set up for managing the Parliamentary Library Information System (PARLIS) with the help of the Government run National Informatics Centre (NIC). There has not been any looking back since then. In fact, within a decade and a half, we have succeeded in automating almost the entire Lok Sabha Secretariat, besides LARRDIS. The software required for different services of the Secretariat are developed in-house in collaboration with the NIC and another Government-owned firm, the Computer Maintenance Corporation (CMC) Ltd.
It may be worth mentioning that the modernization of the Lok Sabha Secretariat has indeed been a welcome development in further facilitating the varied roles of a Member of Parliament. Inevitably, the informational needs of members have also been greatly addressed with the computerisation of the Secretariat and its Branches dealing with Questions, Committees, Reporting, Members' Services, General Administration, Budget and Payment, Recruitment, Pay and Accounts, etc., and LARRDIS. Two separate but inter-linked Computer Centres are now functional - one in Parliament House and another in the Parliament House Annexe.
The Parliamentary Library has put special emphasis on developing its own database, since the need for objective and non-partisan information for a member is vitally important. As of now, the following are available by on-line information retrieval:
- Business of the House
- Parliamentary proceedings (Indexes of relevant parliamentary proceedings from 1985 to 1993; retrievable by the Member's name and keyword, with a facility for year-wise filtering)
- Select Parliament Questions (since 1985; lists may be generated by giving the Member's name or subject or date)
- Text of the Constitution and the Constituent Assembly Debates (List of Members and full text of proceedings)
- Bills (Index of Bills - Government & Private Members - retrievable by name of Member, subject, Bill number, amendment number, etc., available from 1985 onwards)
- Practices and Procedures [Rules of procedure and conduct of business in the Houses, Decisions/Observations/Directions by the Chair (Indexes available, besides text of Directions from 1952; retrievable through the serial number of the Direction and subject)]
- Ministers and Members
- Council of Ministers (names and portfolios of the Union Council of Ministers since 1947)
- Consolidated Index of Members (names and membership from the time of the Constituent Assembly onwards)
- Bio-data of Members (of Ninth to Thirteenth Lok Sabha and of Rajya Sabha from 1986 onwards; statistical data relating to age, sex, education, profession, party, previous political experience and socio-economic background of members of Lok Sabha from 1952)
- Obituary References (made in the Houses since 1921)
- Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections (details of all elections since 1952)
- By-elections to the Lok Sabha (since 1952)
- President's rule in States/Union Territories (since 1957)
- Library Catalogue (books/reports added since 1992; search by author, title, classification number, subject, keywords in title, keywords in context) [A programme to include all data pertaining to book acquisitions prior to 1992 is in the planning stages and we hope to have this completed soon].
- Serials Control (journals/periodicals added since 1989; title, subject, keyword searches possible); Parliamentary Documentation (this Current Awareness Service provides indexes to select books, reports and articles from 1989, retrievable under parameters like period, subject and country).
- Press Clippings (about 600 new press clippings on a wide variety of subjects available daily for on-line scanning; search is also possible through various parameters)
- Library management functions like acquisition, processing and issue and return of books have been computerized by using the software package LIBSYS. Members can access the catalogue of the Parliamentary Library through the terminals installed at the Library counters. Indexes of important articles published in newspapers and journals and publications of national and international organizations are also available through the terminals. Subject bibliographies and select lists of publications on various subjects are provided to members on request. Further expansion of the computerization efforts is envisaged to cover some other areas, including parliamentary activities like Papers tabled in the House; Pay Rolls of Members of Parliament; rare collections of Parliamentary Museum and Archives; and telecasting of parliamentary proceedings.
Supply of Computers to Members
Keeping in view the immediate and succinct information requirements of Parliamentarians, a need was felt to provide computer facilities to them at their residences/work places. Accordingly, each Member is being provided with a computer (lap top/desk-top, as per his choice) along with all accessories like printer, data/fax modem card, etc. Free Internet and e-mail connections have also been given to each Member.
A user friendly menu-driven software under the Windows environment has been developed by the NIC and the CMC which would assist the Members of Parliament in the following areas:
- Constituency functions management system: census statistics; and election statistics
- Personal information system: correspondence and grievance module; local area development system; and lists of service beneficiaries
- Office automation activities: multilingual word processing facility; e-mail facility for sending mail to fellow MPs, Parliamentary Secretariats, Ministers and their offices, etc., fax facility, voice mail, telephone diary; greetings preparation, Directory of Who's Who; appointment planning; etc.
- Parliamentary Library Information System (PARLIS)
In order to provide on-line services such as e-mail facility and access to the parliamentary databases, other Government databases and databases of foreign Legislatures to the Members, a central computing facility has been set up in Parliament House and connected to the NIC's satellite based network, NICNET, through a Micro Earth Station (VSAT) and leased lines. Presently, Members of Parliament can have access to computerized information/databases available in the Computer Centre (in the Parliament Library) from their residences/work places through their personal computers.
As mentioned earlier, PARLIS is connected to the NIC's satellite-based network called NICNET, which in turn is linked to the capitals of all the 32 States and Union Territories and the 600 odd District Headquarters of the country. The linkages help in the quick search for information as needed by Members.
The Library is also working on a comprehensive scheme for developing a national on-line network for inter linkage of databases of PARLIS with databases of State Legislatures under a National Legislatures Information System.
Parliament of India Home Page
The Indian Parliament's Home Page, which became operational in March 1996, was accessible at the Internet site http://alfa.nic.in. The site has now been changed to http://parliamentofindia.nic.in to facilitate the search.
A large volume of information is available on the Home Page. The information includes the texts of the Constitution, Constituent Assembly Debates, Select Addresses by the President of India, Rules of Procedure, Directions and Decisions from the Speaker, Bills and National Policies, bio-data of Members, current Debates of the Houses, indexes of Debates, etc. (part of the information is available from specific years only).
For the optimum utilization of space and better preservation of documents, the Parliamentary Library set up a Microfilming Unit in 1987. Substantial work has since been accomplished. Documents now available for computer assisted retrieval include Debates of the Legislative Council and the Central Legislative Council (representative institutions which existed during the pre-independence period), Debates in the Constituent Assembly and Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and the Indexes thereof, Reports of various Parliamentary Committees and the Indian Parliamentary Group, Papers tabled in the House, rare books, Government Bills, Constitution of India, Journal of Parliamentary Information, etc.
Within the LARRDIS is a Reference Service which is devoted exclusively to attend to the requests for information from Members. The various tools of information technology now available in the Library have helped in ensuring a speedier and better response to the queries from Members, especially on matters coming up for discussion in Parliament.
The new advances in the field of information technology, as we have seen, have enabled the expansion of the services that are made available to the Members of Parliament. Apart from this, a noteworthy yet often ignored achievement has been the speeding up of the already existing practices and procedures in the service of Members. These include the faster supply of more comprehensive information on demand, preparation of briefs and notes in anticipation of needs, etc. Application of IT has thus resulted in an overall improvement in the quality and content of the services rendered by the Library in the areas of reference and research support for Members of our Parliament.