Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the fifteenth meeting of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament.
From the agenda that was circulated, you're aware that today we'll be looking at different initiatives of the library, including Parliament 2020, youth engagement initiatives, and a possible international edition of Quorum.
Appearing today, from the Library of Parliament, we have Sonia L'Heureux, Assistant Parliamentary Librarian; Lynn Brodie, Director, Information and Document Resource Service; and Dianne Brydon, Interim Director General, Learning and Access Services.
Before we begin, I wish to mention that there's the possibility of a vote. Should one occur, of course, the session here will be interrupted while we go for the vote.
I'll ask you, witnesses, if you have an opening statement, to present it before answering questions from the committee members.
Yes, we do have opening remarks.
Co-chairs, members of the Committee, I would like to thank you for your invitation to speak with you today. Opportunities to interact with you help the library determine how best to offer products and services that are relevant and useful to parliamentarians. The library welcomes this opportunity to receive input from the Standing Joint Committee members as representatives of all parliamentarians, in particular as it looks to the future to inform how best to meet your evolving needs.
Together, my colleagues and I strive to keep abreast of the needs and expectations of parliamentarians in order to make the best possible use of the resources afforded to the library to support you today and in the future.
As assistant parliamentary librarian, I oversee the library's reference and research service.
I am joined this afternoon by my colleague Dianne Brydon, the director general of learning and access services, who will outline for you our current and potential activities related to youth engagement.
I am also joined by Lynn Brodie, director general of the information and document resource service, who is responsible for media monitoring services and delivering the news, including Quorum. She can discuss with you the possibilities and issues arising in the production of an international version of Quorum.
As information providers, we are keenly aware of the tremendous impact the development of new technologies and the advent of social media tools are having on how you access information and engage with citizens. It is no secret that youth are engaging in democracy using different tools and means of communication. To support you in building youth engagement in democracy, it is important that the library better understand your needs and expectations.
To that end, the library is participating in an international comparative study assessing the knowledge requirements of the Parliament of the future. This initiative, named Parliament 2020, is a collaborative project between Canada and four other national parliamentary libraries and research services from Australia, Chile, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Parliament 2020 is not focused on technology per se. Rather, it seeks to identify how communication technology might support new models for democratic engagement and to identify what the barriers to implementing these might be. It is hoped that this guided visioning exercise will help the library identify a way forward for a digitally enabled Parliament.
This exercise is meant to help identify practical ideas and a road map for incremental change, focusing on the workings of Parliament, external and internal communications, and public outreach. This information will help the library better support your needs as you engage with citizens, including young people.
I brought copies of the information sheet that was provided to participants for your information. I believe they're being distributed by the clerks.
The target date for completion of the Canadian portion of the project is December 2009. All parliamentarians were invited to participate and many have accepted and are currently being interviewed, including members of this Standing Joint Committee. Senior parliamentary officials will be meeting tomorrow and focus groups with young people who are first time voters are planned for early next week.
The library anticipates being able to share progress on Canada's report with this Committee in the spring of 2010. A final five-country report will be prepared by the Hansard Society in the UK and will be released in the fall of 2010.
In parallel with Parliament 2020, the library is also active in leading youth engagement initiatives to better understand issues related to democratic engagement of youth in a parliamentary context.
I will now ask my colleague Dianne Brydon to outline for you the library's current and potential initiative in that respect.
I'm delighted to be here.
Since 1995 the Library of Parliament has had a mandate to deliver parliamentary outreach activities on behalf of Parliament. Because it serves both houses, the library has created a variety of media services and programs to explain the work of Parliament and parliamentarians. The library works closely with the Senate and the House of Commons, as well as other federal and not-for-profit agencies, to identify trends, themes, needs, and gaps that will inform service delivery.
Several federal agencies deliver programs on a variety of different aspects of citizenship, voter rights and democratic literacy. Along with the Library of Parliament, these include Canadian Heritage, Citizenship and Immigration and Elections Canada. To date, activity has been isolated, with very little consultation or collaboration, which has often resulted in overlaps in some areas, and gaps in others. Since June, the Library of Parliament has chaired a committee of representatives from nine federal agencies with a view to extending the reach of federal activities and avoiding duplication.
On September 25, 2009, the library convened a dialogue session on youth and democracy. Participants came from federal agencies and non-governmental organizations such as Student Vote Canada, Apathy is Boring and the Historica-Dominion Institute, as well as those conducting research in the field. They are dynamic individuals respected for their expertise and leadership in the domain of youth civic and democratic engagement. The report from that session is included in your briefing binder.
Participants at the dialogue session identified trends, challenges, and opportunities for engaging youth in democracy, and visualized a way forward.
As a special note, Robert Barnard from Decode, a company that specializes in youth-related research, presented data that indicated the least engaged are those he defined as “independent youth”. These are the young people who have finished their education but who have not yet married or started a family, and many are still living at home. The number of young Canadians in this group is increasing. He also noted a tendency for public agencies and NGOs involved in youth engagement activities to focus their energies on youth still in school rather than on this growing, least-engaged cohort of young adults.
Participants in the dialogue session concluded that there are gaps and duplications of effort among their activities and a real dearth of research necessary to address the problem of youth engagement with democracy. They expressed a desire for more communication and collaboration among agencies that encourage young people to engage with democratic institutions, among federal and NGO communities. They called for more and shared research, because we just don't know enough about this, and they suggested the creation of a central locus of activity to communicate research and program activity among the players, coordinate potential collaborations, and maximize the reach of programs.
They specifically recommended that the Library of Parliament take the lead on this kind of convening role, given that the library is outside of the executive and that it has a mandate for public outreach on behalf of Parliament. The report from the session is also in the binder we distributed.
Since the dialogue session, we have noted an increase in informal collaboration among participants, but little more. Groups continue to develop initiatives, most of them of excellent quality, but with little connection to each other. There's an expectation among participants that the library will move ahead on the recommendations to make the field more cohesive. Our role to date, because of limited resources, has been more that of a cheerleader, encouraging discussion and making connections.
We continue to plan our own activities to help young Canadians learn about their democratic system and institutions, how it is relevant to their lives, and how they can get involved. We continue to seek areas of potential collaboration with others involved in this field.
We keenly await the results of Parliament 2020 — Visioning the Future Parliament. We expect to hear valuable input from parliamentarians and youth regarding how new and emergent technologies can be used to effectively transform the processes of Parliament and its relationship with the public.
In closing, it is most important that parliamentarians are involved in the discussion to ensure that any democratic engagement activities are planned based on what you're already doing to interact with young constituents, what you want to do, and, most of all, how the library can lay the groundwork to facilitate their interaction with you.
This joint committee, with representatives from all parties in both houses, is an excellent forum to steer such a discussion. We look forward to working with you to chart the course ahead.
Co-chairs, members of the committee, thank you for your invitation to address the committee on the subject of an international edition of Quorum. The library certainly welcomes this opportunity to receive your input as representatives of all parliamentarians.
As you're well aware, senators and members of Parliament and their staff are keenly interested in the news in all its formats: print, electronic, and broadcast. The library has endeavoured to keep you abreast of the news, with a snapshot of the top stories appearing in Canadian newspapers, in Quorum since 1979. Through the years, with input from parliamentarians, we've increased the regional content, expanded our coverage, improved the currency of the stories by using electronic versions of the papers, and made efforts to deliver this publication to your offices as early as possible.
It remains, however, a labour-intensive process, taking into account the intellectual effort of the selecting, the production, the printing, and the delivery steps. In 2000 we introduced a scanned or PDF version of the print Quorum, and made it available on your desktop by 9 a.m. If you wish, you can in fact print your own Quorum using that PDF.
We're very pleased with our most recent improvement to Quorum, which we introduced in October this year, Mobile Quorum. Providing you with a version of Quorum on your PDA, which you could read by 10 a.m., and often as early as 8:30 a.m., was made possible by the introduction of NewsDesk, our new media monitoring service.
The benefits of NewsDesk are many.
You can follow issues of interest in over 65 Canadian news sources and six international sources while in your Ottawa office and in your riding or regional office. You can search for specific stories or browse through the popular topics we have highlighted. You can create alerts for worry-free and timely delivery of content on specific issues of concern. You can save time by browsing the topical categories set up by the library's staff to monitor “hot“ issues of the day. You can make use of RSS feeds to stay abreast of news generated by and about Parliament. You can view the full text of articles using your Blackberry and you can view selected daily and archived news clippings from 56 government departments and agencies.
NewsDesk is a powerful, up-to-date, and convenient source of news for members and their staff. The six international sources included in the Library of Parliament's subscription to NewsDesk include Le Monde, Le Monde diplomatique, L'Express, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the London Daily Telegraph. These sources were chosen based on their representativeness and cost. The cost for additional sources is significant, in part because the library includes the right to redistribute the content electronically to our parliamentary clients.
You received a briefing note, “International Media-Monitoring Services: Perspectives Beyond our Borders”, following your September 17 meeting. I'd like to now update the members of the committee on actions the library has taken since then.
To expand access to international news sources, the library has increased the number of licenses to Library PressDisplay that it purchases to 15 users from the previous five concurrent users. The cost for this was $15,000. Library PressDisplay is a service supplying 1,2000 sources from 90 countries, it is fully searchable and stories are presented in a manner that maintains the original appearance and language of the newspaper.
We're in the process of negotiating a subscription to the BBC Monitoring Library as well, which provides articles selected from traditional and new media worldwide, with over a hundred source languages being translated into English to provide a fully searchable current affairs resource. More than 3,000 radio, television, press, Internet, and news agency sources in over 150 countries inform this source of economic and political material.
The library has offered English- and French-language training sessions to members and their staff on making better use of electronic resources, specifically on international news sources on November 13, and on general sources providing an international perspective on November 27. We would be happy to offer additional opportunities to members and staff on the Hill to attend these sessions early in the new year.
I should add that the library has subscriptions to an extensive grouping of international sources, which our staff can and do search on your behalf.
Customized news filtering is a resource-intensive activity to which the library is continuing to devote considerable resources, while operating within significant budgetary constraints. Keeping this in mind, I asked my staff to build on the experience they recently gained developing the mobile Quorum in NewsDesk to create for you a Mobile International Quorum. I am most pleased to share these mock-ups with you today to obtain your feedback.
In your kits you'll find some pages that are screenshots of NewsDesk, showing in the first instance--I guess I can call it a dummy category, or a mocked-up category--an international Quorum. It's highlighted by the red box.
If you select that, you are presented with the next page, which shows you all the stories that my staff selected—on Tuesday of this week, I believe—and you can then choose those stories. You can also choose the PDF button at the top of the page, which is on your third screenshot. It will not only give you the stories themselves but will also provide for you the table of contents shown on the fourth page. So in fact it provides for you a table of contents and all of the selected stories from our six sources.
You also received in your kits a prototype of Quorum. I have to warn you that the cover is just an addition; it's not something you would receive if you chose to PDF the selection. What you would in fact receive is the table of contents, followed by the 26 or 27 stories that appear in it. This just gives you a sense of what the content might be.
We think there are important advantages to this option of using NewsDesk. We can produce this mobile international Quorum within our existing resources, depending of course on the number of newspapers that are contained. Depending on the number of sources browsed, it would be compiled more than once a week. The contents would be timely, because we receive the feeds on the date of publication. The experienced editors of Quorum would be seized of the international issues appearing in the Canadian press and be able to identify international press stories on these issues more rapidly. You would benefit from all the advantages that NewsDesk offers. You would have the option of printing the full selection of articles found in international Quorum or just those that are of particular interest to you.
If you'd like the library to pursue this mobile international Quorum, we'd be pleased to obtain your input and feedback through appropriate means, such as interviews, focus groups, and short electronic surveys, for example. We really need your input to make sure that the selection criteria used to identify key stories from this international content meet your needs. We need to know whether you're looking for breaking news from the international perspective or looking for in-depth analytic pieces. It's really important for us to define those selection criteria. Are they stories in the foreign press that impact Canada and/or those that mention Canada and Canadians in the international press?
Those are only the starting points for the selection.
Media monitoring has evolved over the last 30 years largely based on the greater ease of obtaining access to an ever increasing number of media sources in electronic format. The library recognizes your significant ongoing interest in news coverage and has committed to developing enhanced media services under the umbrella of a Parliamentary Newsroom.
The newsroom concept envisions a collection of media sources in a variety of formats, organized to meet your needs, available around the clock, that delivers news offerings in a way that saves you time. Ideally, the contents would be searchable, the results customizable to individual client preferences and requirements. NewsDesk, launched October 1, 2009, is the first component of the Parliamentary Newsroom. In order to acquire more international content, additional funding would be required. We have increased access to Library PressDisplay and are seeking other sources of international content to fill out the Parliamentary Newsroom. We are looking at possible partnerships with departments to enhance our options and keep our costs down while keeping redistribution license issues in mind.
I'd be happy to take your questions, as would my colleagues, and to clarify any of these comments.
We always aspire to reach out across the country. One of my informal operating principles is that we don't do anything that is available only to people locally and that we can't also offer in some means to the rest of the people across the country.
What we're doing in targeting youth right now—I think a little more is said in the detailed explanation of our outreach activities—is really focused at teachers. For the last ten years we've had the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy. We've focused on creating materials for them to teach about Parliament in the classroom, because we figure the reach is going to be more long-term and sustained. They can teach year after year and will in the end have an impact on a greater number of students. That has been our focus in the past.
We also focus on youth programs that bring young people to Parliament. The guide program, for instance, brings 40 university students from across the country every year to have an experience in Parliament. We're very focused on making sure that it is a pan-Canadian opportunity.
We have an intern program that brings four interns to Parliament for a year's experience working side by side with analysts, and they are selected from across the country. But up to this point, with our limited resources we have not been able to do a sustained or focused outreach to youth themselves; we have chosen to focus through the teachers. What we're looking at now is getting the feedback on the 2020 imitative from you, to find out how we can best do it—do it electronically, improve the website, which will take a lot of work and significant money.
We are looking at the materials we produce. For How Canadians Govern Themselves, the Eugene Forsey booklet that is one of the most popular things we have, we're creating an interactive version, so that young people will be more excited possibly about Parliament and how legislation comes to pass.
Most importantly, what we're going to be doing is focus, in all of our products, more on the relevance of Parliament in their lives, so that they have an understanding of all the ways that Parliament can affect them, as they are right now and going forward in their lives.
So that's how I could answer that.
Part of the objective of Parliament 2020 is to answer some of these questions. We understand that a number of parliamentarians want to do things differently, and we also understand that young people want to communicate or interact with you differently from maybe some previous generations.
One step, then, is to understand these things. Interestingly, preliminary results from the U.K. show that parliamentarians' senior staff and young people are not on the same page, so finding out what this means is important to us.
What we are also doing is this. Under the leadership of the Clerk of the Senate, the Clerk of the House, and the parliamentary librarian, there is a parliamentary information management committee, PIM. The objective is to get the three administrations to work together to find out how to manage our information, how to work together to help you.
For example, my colleague Dianne is on that committee, and we would like to get these people to brainstorm ideas on how we move forward making every dollar count. Every administration has to be mindful of how it uses dollars, and there is no point in duplicating services in too many places if we can work better at it together.
For example, you are raising the issue of committee. When it comes to a committee, there is more than one administration involved. Sometimes it is an issue that really belong to the committee. Sometimes it is an infrastructure issue that allows us to support the committee.
Those are the kinds of issues we would have to work out based on what you are asking for. The PIM committee would help us to move the yardstick on it.
It's a good question. I can tell you that 35% of Canadian youth voted, compared with 55% of the general population. I don't know how that rate compares with those in other countries. It's fairly consistent; I know the International Parliamentary Union at their fall meeting also discussed this issue. Some of you may have attended that meeting. They are coming out with a report talking about the issue worldwide. This is something that clearly is affecting people around the world.
Also, when we look at the reasons why people are showing up in low numbers, research done concerning young people shows that it's because of lower levels of political interest, lower levels of political knowledge, being less likely to see voting as a duty, and being less likely to be contacted by parties or candidates because a lot of them are at university or may not necessarily be living in a place where you, when you're out contacting, can get hold of them easily.
What we're trying to do is address that first part, about low knowledge of politics. We're working with secondary students, but we're also trying to figure out how we can help people understand more.
Going back to Ms. Bennett's comment, in which she was talking about the fact that they interact, first of all we have to make them aware of how they can interact. They have to understand how Parliament works and where it can be effective. That's the role we can play, working with others such as Student Vote Canada and Apathy Is Boring, to get out there on the ground and work with all of you, who are also out there across the country, to see how we can get that knowledge translated into action.
A little earlier, you talked about doing much more work with young people aged 18 to 24.
I would tell you, most sincerely, that if the parents do not go out and vote, their children will not. There is education to be done not only with young people but also with their parents. That is my impression.
I believe that we must also open the doors of Parliament to young people. I often get groups of young people to come in order for them to see Parliament at work, to see how a committee works and how things work on Parliament Hill. They leave here with some knowledge, but there is no real follow-up afterwards. We therefore must find a tool for there to be follow-up, be it electronic or through some Web site. Our young people are very connected.
Perhaps the young people will get their parents to vote, who knows. We will see. Some form of follow-up after a visit to Parliament could be worthwhile. We could find other means, because we are not just limited to visits.
We are often invited to go to cegeps and schools. We would therefore have a tool we could give them in order for them to communicate, to see what goes on and to follow politics.
I congratulate you on your work and I hope that we will be able to have additional tools, in order to do our work.
I look longingly at what the U.K. is doing. Every day I look longingly at what the U.K. is doing.
The way the U.K. moved ahead was as a result of a parliamentary committee that said there was an issue with political engagement with Parliament. It had a set of hearings, it did a study, it did a report, and then it asked the administration—it presented what the problems were, asked them to come forward with some answers, and gave them a year. They came forward with a proposal, and that's how they moved ahead.
I believe it only was effective because parliamentarians became seized with the issue and went and found out what the issue was, what the challenges were, and then the administration responded.
We can come forward with options for you, and I'm happy to do it. We can come forward with the Vespa to the Cadillac versions. But I really think it's a matter of starting with Parliament 2020 and talking with you about what you need and how you see engaging with the public, listening to young people through this exercise. As I said in my remarks, this is a perfect representation of Parliament in this committee. It's possible that maybe you would like to look into this a little bit more and give us some guidance on where you would like to go.
The sky is the limit. We could do anything. We could start very small immediately. We already have young people coming from across the country to Ottawa through Encounters with Canada, for instance. Right now they get a briefing from a member of Parliament. We could turn that into a simulation—a simulation of a committee—and make it a whole lot more interesting and relevant to them. That would take a relatively little amount of work and increase in funding. Or we could go full bore with mock Parliaments on-site, or taking them out across the country, as they do in the U.K. That is more expensive and would involve a little bit more work and thought.
Anything is possible. If I were to say what you can help us with, it's really to help us develop the options and to help us move ahead on what you as parliamentarians, on behalf of Parliament, think we should be doing.
Some of the questions have actually been answered.
Just to follow up on that, I think there's probably a lot of requests that we can make. I guess it would be, as a whole, what is the percentage that would actually be used? That's how you determine what you should actually put out. We can't negate the fact that we still have the opportunity to get the information through a request through the parliamentary library.
First of all, Mauril touched on the fact that he didn't even know this was on the BlackBerry; neither did I. I'm wondering whether we should be looking at a couple of information sessions on how we as parliamentarians can actually better access resources. Basically, we would learn how to access the information easily from the library through navigating, or maybe things are being asked of the library that are so easy for us to get that it would remove that level of burden on you. How to make the best use of the resources may also be important. We've seen quite a turnover in Parliament in the last few elections, so I think it may be wise to do something like that.
Again, this touches on Senator Stephen Greene's comments; through the changes that the Library of Parliament committee is putting forward, aside from that, to have other questions asked to members of Parliament, I think the survey is a good thing. It's important to ask them, but again, we need to come back here to decipher what the percentage was of people who actually wanted those items put in. Otherwise, we would end up with an international Quorum this high.