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Accessing information in a parliamentary environment: is the OPAC dead?

Roxanne Missingham (Australian Parliamentary Library, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia)
Rina Brettell (Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia)
Shirley White (Australian Parliamentary Library, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia)
Sarah Miskin (Australian Parliamentary Library, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 6 March 2009




Access to library collections in an era where users want to “get” rather than “find” offers particular challenges. This paper seeks to explore users' needs for bibliographic records in a primarily full text environment.


The paper describes the need for access to parliamentary and library information from the Australian Parliament and its use by Senators and Members. It then outlines the approach taken to develop and implement a new search system, ParlInfo, which applied a repository and search system that provides integrated access to bibliographic and full text information. Launched in September 2008, it offers facets, alerts, RSS feeds and other Web 2.0 functionality to both the Australian public and Parliamentary Network users accessing library collections and parliamentary collections.


The paper offers insights into solutions which meet the information needs of Senators and Members and the public; and the application of library/web 2.0 solutions. It is relevant to organisations seeking to offer a single gateway to their collections.

Research limitations/implications

The paper offers an approach based on understanding the whole needs of users, rather than applying a traditional assumption that resource discovery should be based only on catalogue records through an OPAC.

Practical implications

The paper provides a model based on integrated access to resource through metadata, full text “crawled” from web sites and full text resources, such as Hansards, that can be applied in many organisations.


The paper's value is in thinking about how the catalogue can be “turned inside out” for the twenty‐first century users' needs.



Missingham, R., Brettell, R., White, S. and Miskin, S. (2009), "Accessing information in a parliamentary environment: is the OPAC dead?", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 42-56.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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