By Kim Harp, Legislative Reference Librarian
The State Library of Kansas (SLK) is a hoppin’ place during the legislative session. On any given day during the months between January and May, you’ll find the Statehouse halls teeming with Kansas constituents of all walks of life; the State Library can be a refuge and a resource during the hectic legislative process. Patrons stop in the State Library to write up testimony for bill hearings, to shoot emails off to clients, to utilize the collection for researching public policy, to learn bill status or legislative history, and to seek a few quiet minutes to read the news between committee meetings.
The front desk staff and the reference staff of the State Library prepare for the session months ahead, and keep working on legislative matters long after the Senators and Representatives leave the building. Amongst other duties, staff at the front desk greet patrons, help orient them to the library, and check out patrons’ selections. There are three staff members that make up the reference department. Throughout the year, the reference department functions like any other reference department. During session, extra duties are added: the reference department staffs the legislative hotline, tracks legislation, and indexes bills for posterity. There are four session staff that return just for the session every year to help things run smoothly. The session staff index, file, and input data so that the reference staff can pull up accurate information on bills, legislative members, and legislative history, in a heartbeat. The librarians and staff at SLK work hard to serve the legislature and all those who track and follow the actions of the legislature.
The reference department at the State Library helps Kansans contact legislators through a toll-free phone service called the “Legislative Hotline.” The legislative hotline operates year round to provide Kansans a way to find the names of their legislators, contact their Senator or Representative, learn about the status of a bill as it goes through the legislative process, learn more about state government, or leave a message for their legislator. During interim, or the months between June and December, the hotline receives about 350 calls a month. During session, the hotline rings steadily and the volume of calls nearly triples. In the month of April alone, the reference department received and relayed nearly 1800 messages to legislators from constituents statewide. The picture below shows the messages taken by the reference librarians during the last two weeks of the legislative session.
When the legislature adjourns each May, the reference department switches gears. Interim is a time for the reference department and front desk staff to work on projects for the following session, to track interim committees, to work on continuing education, to assist with statewide projects, and to continue general reference work. The State Library’s librarians and staff work hard to ensure that Kansans have clear access to state government year round!