Honourable co-chairs, senators and members of the House of Commons, it is a great pleasure to be back before you to present, along with my colleague, the assistant parliamentary librarian Catherine MacLeod. We look forward to hearing your views and advice on client feedback mechanisms. I can think of no better forum to have this discussion.
Shortly after assuming my new role as Parliamentary Librarian, I signalled to my management team and to all employees that active and ongoing communication with parliamentarians and their staff is essential to going forward.
This issue was raised at one of your committee's previous meetings. Mr. Ouellette then asked how we will consult members. He also wanted to know whether those consultations would be followed by a report, as well as concrete measures.
That was an excellent question, and we discussed it among ourselves afterwards. I will share with you what I learned and the ideas we propose to improve our approach.
We want to hear from you, your colleagues, your staff and the public who interact with us. Client feedback is a popular subject, thanks in part to social media. Those who receive bad service or faulty products have recourse to an international platform to complain immediately. This environment has sensitized private and public sector organizations to stay close to their clients and to listen carefully.
While social media is not the primary driver to improve client feedback at the library, it's important as part of the larger context in which we operate.
Continuous improvement of our products and services is absolutely essential. Our role is to support and serve you. We need to align what we offer to what you need. As your needs change, so must we.
The library has always been receptive to constructive feedback, be it negative or positive. Library employees are in regular and close contact with the people they support and with whom they have ongoing exchanges and communications.
From experience, I know that parliamentarians are not usually reluctant to say what they think. We are happy to work in an environment where we hear your comments. It is our pleasure to respond to them.
For example, our analysts work closely with committee chairs and members and they adapt their products in accordance with the instructions and comments they receive.
Library management has consulted with committee and association chairs about the support they receive from the library. Nevertheless, the issue is that our connections with parliamentarians may be irregular and infrequent. They leave out some of our products and services, and the feedback we receive is not consistently captured or shared in the library to inform improvement, modernization and change.
Concerning this point, you can see on the third slide a list of many tools we already use to find out what you and your staff think about our work. Members of the public, for whom we provide guided visits and educational programs, are also part of our clientele. Therefore, we also want to get their feedback.
If you have the same reaction to this list as I had, you may be asking if this covers all that the library delivers.
How do we gather and analyze what we hear and, possibly, how do we take what we have learned and improve our work to deliver what parliamentarians want?
I would now like to take a few moments to talk to you about one of our points of contact with you and your colleagues, as that is one of my priorities.
I am talking about the library ambassador program. This outreach program has existed since 2011, and it assigns a library ambassador to each new senator or MP.
Those employees are trained and well-versed to brief new parliamentarians on all library services and products. Ambassadors connect parliamentarians and their staff to the appropriate library experts based on their needs and interests. They can provide customized follow-up.
The thing with the ambassadors program, though, is that while it is solid, it could be, and will be, even better. For example, in the past it generally operated in the year following an election and then withered away. Given the very high turnover of staff in many parliamentarians' offices, it is my view that this program should be ongoing. There is an opportunity to help you by educating your new staff about all the ways in which the library is available to support you. We have recently launched our recruitment campaign for library ambassadors. We hope that many library employees will volunteer to be part of the program. The enhanced program will allow us to have an ongoing relationship with you and your offices, which I hope will facilitate the sharing of constructive feedback.
Now I would appreciate your advice. Parliamentarians have an extensive and diverse set of responsibilities and commitments, and I know that your time is precious. The question is this: How do you think we should ask you about the support we offer? Given that we are in an extremely busy year, my sense is that we should increase our channels for feedback incrementally. I would appreciate your views on the following two-step approach. We've broken it down.
We now go to the next slide.
What we would like to do between now and the federal election is improve the rating form for individual research requests and develop a rating form for reference requests. We'd like to expand client feedback efforts in the library branches. We would also like to implement a client feedback initiative for new tours in the Senate of Canada building and in the West Block. Perhaps we could have short interviews with participants in these tours. We would also like to develop a feedback mechanism for the library collection services.
I would like to draw your attention to this last point. As you probably know, our collection is mostly used by our librarians and analysts to conduct analysis and research. While perhaps less visible than other parts of the library, the collection is an integral resource for us to support you. It is very much a part of this picture.
For the 43rd Parliament, we will have an extensive orientation program. This will include briefing sessions for all parliamentarians and their staff, provided by library ambassadors. We will have a series of seminars and information sessions that respond to parliamentarians' specific needs early in the life of the new Parliament. There will be targeted research publications on current and emerging issues of interest to parliamentarians. We will have promotional activities to raise awareness of the library service offerings, whether it be in-branch reference services, news monitoring or public education programming. There will also be a refreshed library-parliamentary intranet providing access to our products and services. As mentioned, we will ensure that the ambassador program includes return visits and the solicitation of feedback.
In the future, we will continue to improve our mechanisms for obtaining client feedback. Our goal is to adopt a strategic approach containing targeted, adapted and integrated feedback mechanisms, which will enable us to assess and continuously improve your spaces, our products and our services.
I see this committee as playing an important role in helping us to better understand and act on the needs of parliamentarians. As always, we look forward to your views, your advice and your comments.
Thank you very much for your question.
Right now, the way feedback is captured does not enable us to analyze it easily. There isn't really a more comprehensive follow-up. For instance, if you provide feedback, be it to tell us that you are very satisfied or to point out a problem, we communicate with you to determine what the nature of the problem is and to find solutions.
However, we do not necessarily carry out an analysis to check whether there are, across the feedback received, more difficulties concerning a specific publication or less satisfaction with regard to a particular element. The connections are not being made.
When I was talking about developing an institutional strategy in the coming year, it had to do with the implementation of ways to capture the information that would enable us to work in a more strategic manner, instead of limiting ourselves to our relationship with a single parliamentarian or a single member of staff. The approach will become more global.
We plan to create a library working group that would bring together employees from each service to consider what we currently have in place and to find ways to better capture and use feedback, while respecting confidentiality when circumstances require it. However, we still want to apply the principles.
That is one of my goals this year, and we will certainly come back to you in the coming months—I hope—to tell you about what we have implemented. We will have really spent some time on assessing where we are at now, and we will then be ready to move forward.
Anecdotally, I would say that there is likely to have been a decrease, especially in terms of the West Block branch, which is a bit hard to find. It's not a space that you would necessarily walk by. We have an obligation to reach out to you and communicate where we are, what we can offer and how you can find us. I do know from speaking to the librarians assigned to that branch that it can be quite quiet there.
I don't know how many of you have had a chance to see the branch in the Senate of Canada building. It is right outside the cafeteria. It is a through space. Because one side is where people are eating their lunch, and the other side is the library branch, assessing traffic—how many people have come to the branch, and how many have gone for coffee—can be difficult. I think it lends itself physically to higher traffic, but we still need to build the knowledge of our branches, and why it's worth coming. Why does it matter?
One of the key things to remember is that we have two librarians on staff in those branches at all times. You can ask questions and consult with them. There are iPads you can take out. There are documents.
We're developing and implementing quite an active communication strategy. Some of you might know that we have an open house next week, where there will be special exhibits in each branch, to bring people in, because we're not getting the traffic that we need.
I'll now go to our reporting and tracking issue. Right now, we don't have reliable statistics on how many people are using our branches, and that's something I think we need to look at. Your point about 180 Wellington, Mr. Van Kesteren, is a really good one. It is a spectacular space that deserves to be used enormously. Again, because people don't necessarily know it's there, it doesn't get the use we want it to have.
I'm committed to increasing traffic, increasing use and making it a place you and your staff want to be. The Hill is a busy place. Sometimes, you just need a place you can go to have some quiet time for reflection. I know that's a hard thing to find time for in your lives. I would encourage you to use all of our branches for that. We are working to market those spaces for you.
Thank you so much for your presentation, and for being here today and all the great work you do.
I have some comments and then a couple of questions because you asked for some feedback so I would like to provide it.
I'm probably one of those people who has completely forgotten that the Library of Parliament actually exists. I say that lamentably because my first job in the whole entire world was working at a library for four years, so I have very fond memories of libraries.
You mentioned the ambassador linked to an MP. I do think that's important. To be honest, I think that should be on our speed-dial. That should be on our phone—Library of Parliament, your ambassador's name is Yvonne—and there's a phone number there, and that carries with us through our term. I think my having that one person would really be helpful so that even if there's a changeover in the office, I constantly know that this resource is there.
I agree with you in terms of regular contacts with MP offices because there are always changeovers in staffing. I think whether it's a twice-a-year check, at the beginning of the year, back in September, or whatever, I think it's a good idea.
I also agree that there needs to be automatic feedback every time there's a research report—something that pops up. I would say it would be sent directly to the MP as well as to the staff member who actually asks for it. I think you might get some different aspects in terms of feedback.
I think you mentioned that you do seminars. Do you do courses in any way? For some reason I thought that some of my staff had been involved in something at the Library of Parliament. Are there only seminars about what the library offers, or do you offer anything else on other topics?
I also thank the witnesses for joining us this afternoon.
I apologize for being late; I was at another committee meeting.
I have heard that a lot of progress has been made. When a move takes place, it is normal for there to be some obstacles. I can say that you have done very well. We are here, and everything is going smoothly.
Like my colleague, I love libraries. I even met my wife in a library. That is the quietest and most restful place ever. I unfortunately do not have a lot of opportunities to visit libraries or to go sit in them, as our work always makes us run around a lot.
I have heard that there will be a lot of changes when we come back. What exactly are you looking for and what specific data do you want to gather? What are you trying to improve? You mentioned that there were challenges, but what are they? Is it a matter of helping members and their office staff improve their knowledge of the services the library provides?
In that respect, I may make a small suggestion. In every government building, there is a SourcePlus centre. Two or three people work there, or sometimes a single person. I have made extensive use of the services provided in those centres, and their employees help us resolve all sorts of issues. I think you could use those centres to get closer to members and their office staff. Someone from the library could present the services you provide there and help people understand better what exactly they consist of.
I know that you are doing certain things, and I'm not saying that you are not doing enough—you are probably doing a lot of that stuff already. I often tell new employees to pay you a visit. I think that kind of bridge-building would be desirable, as it would enable you not only to spark the interest of members and their office employees, but also to learn about their needs.
This may seem quite trivial, but you could, for instance, implement an activity—which would become something of a best practice—on the way to use Excel software.
We may need guidance on creating tables in Excel, and you probably know more about that computer work than we do. By providing that type of a service, you would attract people to you, and they would learn other things at the same time.
That would also enable you to establish more extensive contact with employees working in members' offices. When staff members from our riding come to the Hill, they could attend a course on best practices in terms of new products the library provides.
Before I delve into this year's main estimates, I think it might be helpful if I highlighted a few of the key accomplishments of the library in 2019-20, since they provide the context for this year's budget and our priorities.
In 2018-19, as you know, we successfully opened retrofitted branches at 125 Sparks Street and in the Confederation Building, as well as opening the two new branches that I spoke to you about a few minutes ago. We now have five branches in the parliamentary precinct to serve you.
We ceased operation at the main library and moved our employees, as well as the collection, for the period that Centre Block will be closed. Most of the collection was relocated to our retrofitted building at 45 Sacré-Coeur in Gatineau, and the rest was distributed to our five branches. The collection remains available to you. You can request office delivery, but you can visit our branches, and where applicable, you can request digital delivery.
The work in our facility in Gatineau also includes a significant upgrade of the rare book room, increased shelving capacity and upgrades to the workspaces so that collections can be serviced and maintained throughout the closure. We implemented a new service model, which Catherine spoke about just a few minutes ago, with more face-to-face contact, collaborative spaces and an opportunity to use media walls and newer technologies.
The closing of Centre Block had a significant impact on visitor services. Tours were offered in Centre Block until January 25 and, a week later, new guided tours began in the Senate of Canada Building and West Block. Visitors were able to use the new electronic ticketing system, which was successfully launched in the fall of 2018, and the library undertook an extensive promotional campaign to raise public awareness regarding the new tours. A new, modernized boutique with expanded offerings also opened in the new Visitor Welcome Centre.
Last year, the library significantly increased access to digital resources, including historical parliamentary publications, high-calibre research databases and statistical datasets. We also expanded our visualization capacity for research and reference products.
We continued to strengthen our research support to parliamentarians by building our capacity to provide cutting-edge analysis and products. We provide GBA+ analysis and detailed infographics, as well as increased support for your international work.
We are also making good progress on our cutting-edge project with the National Film Board to give virtual access to Centre Block during the years of rehabilitation. Technical development of the virtual reality environment has been completed, and the immersive VR, online 2D experiences and national travelling classroom program are on track to launch this fall.
With the committee's permission, I would like to table a status update on this project, which I hope you will find interesting.
Another important accomplishment last year was to enhance the library's presence on the Parliament of Canada's website, including new content with improved usability, especially for mobile devices.
These are just a few of the highlights of last year.
Each year, the library provides the speakers with an account of the library's accomplishments against a set of strategic priorities that are established by the speakers in consultation with the parliamentary librarian. While there is no legislative requirement to produce an annual report, the library has consistently published such reports, because we believe it is important to be transparent, to account for our resources and to report our results.
For the last two years, the library has produced its annual report in a digital format first. A printable format is also available. We have received praise from parliamentarians that our annual reports are well designed, accessible in presentation and clear in content. Earlier this year, the 2017-2018 annual report was shared with the members of this committee. We received some very positive feedback, and if there are others who have feedback to share, it would certainly be most welcome, as we are beginning to work on the 2018-2019 annual report.
We are committed to producing a document that is of interest to you and meets your needs.
The library is now in the process of fine-tuning our priorities for 2019-20. They have just been submitted this week to the Speakers for approval. They are subject to change, but I'm pleased to give you a sense of some of our key priorities for this year.
They include, as you now know, enhancing outreach to parliamentarians and staff, ensuring operational efficiency and effectiveness of the new and renovated branches, enhancing public education programs to maximize visitor experience, and meeting demands of the 43rd Parliament including developing the orientation program I spoke about. We want to enhance our internal and external communication. We need to respond to the new requirements of legislative changes adopted by Parliament as they apply to the library. We will be promoting a respectful work environment with a focus on mental health and values and ethics, and finally we will be promoting diversity and accessibility at the library.
Of course, these priorities must be delivered in the context of our day-to-day operations. I will not repeat our mandate; I think that you are already very familiar with it.
Of course, if you have any questions about the work that we do, today or anytime, we are very happy to answer them.
To deliver on our day-to-day operations and priorities in 2019-20, the library requested funding through the main estimates in the amount of $49,952,016. Roughly $34 million is for salaries, $5 million is for the employee benefit plan and $10 million is for goods and services.
These estimates represent an increase of $1,866,011 or 3.9% over the 2018-19 main estimates funding levels. The basis for the increase in the main estimates can be captured in four broad categories: ongoing program funding, one-time program funding, economic increases and an increase in the rate of the statutory employee benefit plan. I will present each of these in turn.
To ensure excellent service to parliamentarians and Canadians, the library has identified several areas where an ongoing increase in program funding is required to cover additional operating costs. The library requested $1,306,860 to relieve operational pressures resulting from the closure of Centre Block and the opening of new branches.
The increase in program funding consists of two amounts, the first being $843,646 that will enable the library to add eight more front-line library resources to serve senators and members now that we have five branches. The second allocation in this area is $463,214 to increase the number of parliamentary guide hours to support tours in two locations: the Senate of Canada Building and West Block.
In terms of one-time program funding, the virtual reality experience of Parliament program is seeking a net increase of $119,105 for 2019-20. This amount includes salary, operating funds and statutory benefits.
Another budget pressure relates to economic increases that were granted to two groups in 2018-19. The library negotiated economic increases with one of its bargaining units and the Treasury Board Secretariat released the economic increases for their executive cadre. In order to remain competitive, the library sought and received approval from the Speakers to mirror these Treasury Board increases. These two developments have resulted in an amount of $407,461 being allocated in the main estimates for economic increases for Library of Parliament employees.
Finally, the library's main estimates also include an increase in statutory expenditures in the amount of $32,585.
This amount relates to the increase in the rate of the statutory employee benefit plan, which is a non-discretionary, statutory expense that, in accordance with Treasury Board benefit rates, has been adjusted from 15.2% to 15.3% of salaries, effective April 1, 2019.
Approval of the library's main estimates submission was given by Speaker Furey and in December 2018. It is this submission that is before you today. My colleagues and I look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much.
Absolutely. There are two key drivers. The first one, and perhaps the one that would be most obvious, is the closure of the Centre Block, and the opening of the new branches. By no longer having that one branch, and tours only in the Centre Block, we need to increase our capacity. Now we have tours in the Senate of Canada building and in the West Block. A guide used to be able to run a tour through the whole building, showing both the Senate and the House of Commons, but we now need more personnel simply to manage the fact that we have tours in two locations. That's one significant pressure.
We also have more branches, and because of what Madam MacLeod was speaking about, in terms of wanting to modernize our service offering, and have more face-to-face contact, it's really important to us that those branches are not empty or just have books. We want our staff there to serve you in those branches.
We have five branches now, and need to increase the number of front-line library staff to meet your needs. That's the second kind of front-line pressure.
In terms of the other element, the virtual reality experience project, which I think is of great interest to all of us, is an extraordinarily complex project. We have worked very effectively, I believe, with the National Film Board. The project was conceived with an extraordinary vision, but as we have worked through the actual complexity of what we are building, it has proven to be a bit more expensive than we originally thought it would be. That's where you see about $119,000 added this year. It's part of the complexity of meeting those needs.
Finally, I'm sure you can appreciate that when economic increases are granted to employees, be it through negotiated settlements or implementing the government-wide increases to executives, we simply don't have the capacity to absorb that money internally. Salaries do grow bit by bit, and the need for us to be able to fund this growth is obvious.
Those are really the only pressures we have included here.
Could you capitalize a little more on the boutique?
You have a much larger space than before. Could you change the items that you sell?
Not long ago, I went into the boutique. To be honest, I didn't see many items that appealed to me. Perhaps it would be necessary to change the products.
You could make this change by involving the members of Parliament. In their provinces, there may be items that are labelled “Canada” and that are made by someone from the province. That way, tourists would have the opportunity to purchase items from different parts of Canada.
We would need to receive an email from you, which we could then forward on your behalf. In the email, you would introduce the West Block and the items in the boutique. We all have constituents who visit Ottawa. Sometimes, we don't know that they're visiting or we hear about their visit after the fact. We could make posters and advertisements for you to inform people about what they can expect to find.
For example, if I travel to Italy, I'll do a Google search.
What is the hot tourist item to buy at this point? It's exactly the same thing I'm trying to bring here.
Why not sell products that are very popular with tourists who come from around the world? It would be necessary to have items that are much more popular than the current items. That way, you would perform better. First, the boutique would pay for itself, and second, the revenues from the boutique would help you pay for other things. I think that the boutique's revenues should be maximized.
It would also be useful to consider setting up a boutique at the Senate to cater to visitors. All visitors must be given the opportunity to purchase a souvenir.