A successful visit to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre took place on Monday 14th November. The visit started with a tour of the Parliament building including the Debating Chamber. SPICe staff, Simon and Edna, explained about the different parts of the building and functions and facilities that exist. In the Debating Chamber we had a look at where different MSPs and officials, special advisers and the public sit and learned about how voting takes place and how it is tracked. Also how the sessions are recorded and documented with substantive notes.
SPICe provide information for committees to make changes and recommendations. They provide specialist skills and bring in other external experts and gather information in different places in order to inform and provide knowledge for research committees.
Then there were two presentations which were very interesting and informative.
Kathryn explained about the Collection Management and Development. The collection consists of a small physical collection and a large electronic collection including PQs papers, Laid papers etc. They publish everything electronically rather than on paper. They provide an ILL service, material for debates, online subject guides on relevant and current topics e.g. referendum and newspapers and journals. The current topics are constantly changing so the collection has to be based on acquiring the latest information.
Some of the challenges, which are similar to many other libraries and information centres, are the budget and the shift to digital resources and how this impacts on staff and services. They have to make decisions on what to buy, whether to borrow or buy an item and consider different licence agreements.
Shona delivered a presentation about Enquiries and the CRM. She explained about the different types of enquiries and how they handle and record enquiries and provide management information. The ‘customers’ of SPICe are MSPs and their staff, parliamentary committees and Scottish Parliament staff. The enquiry desk is in the garden lobby which is on the main thoroughfare of the building so very accessible.
80% of the enquiries come through the central point. On the enquiry desk, staff deal with face to face enquiries and telephone enquiries but not email so that staff can give their full attention to the enquirer and get all the details especially the deadline. It is important for them to manage customer expectations especially about the ‘hot topics’ where in information has to be sourced for the first time or from 3rd parties.
Emails are dealt with off the desk and they work out whether it is a reference or research matter. If a research matter then gets passed on to a researcher, if reference then it is dealt with by the enquiry team. Most of the enquiries are received by email.
Enquiries are recorded in a database/IT helpdesk system which provides a knowledge base. The subject is recorded e.g. justice, economy, finance, education, health etc.This provides an insight into the most popular subjects and also on recruitment and expertise.
They have a Customer Relationship Management system which is proving valuable for responding to customer needs, working out what the question is, pre-empting issues and complaints and providing timely information via electronic channels.
They run Open Days and inductions for individual members and offer support for changing responsibilities. One of their future challenges is going to be how to supply information in a usable format in real time.
We had a look round SPICe, the library. The library supports the researchers who support the MSPs. The staff are there to provide answers to questions. The researchers suggest what is needed for acquisitions.