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Innovative solution to MPs suffering

Innovative solution to MPs suffering “information overload” wins top award

The Parliamentary Library took out a top innovation award recently for a project that helps MPs cope with information overload.

Their winning project is infocus – a tailored-information service that combines technology and librarian expertise to provide a customised, confidential and value-added information service to MPs.

The innovative service creates 15 bulletins a week that update MPs and other parliamentary subscribers on what has been published, broadcast, or debated on each selected bulletin topic – and sub-topics - in the previous week.

The popular service took out the 3M Award for Innovation in Libraries for 2003 against two other strong finalists – including the Christchurch City libraries successful Reading Crusade which used sporting heroes to encourage young readers.

The annual award is run by the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) and the 2003 award was presented at the recent LIANZA conference.

The award judges said they were impressed by the extent to which the project was driven by client needs, in particular MPs faced with information overload.

“They (the Parliamentary Library) successfully combined the use of smart technology and traditional library skill to provide a professional information service to their clients,” the judges said on making the award.

Parliamentary Librarian Moira Fraser said winning the award had been a great honour for the library. “It raises our profile both within Parliament and the library world.”

Because the project was so innovative and leading edge, the software needed was not available “off the shelf “. Development company Intergen, created the software for the system.

The company worked in partnership with the library to develop infocus as a browser-based dotNet solution using DTS and Microsoft SQL Server 2000.

Infocus "pulls" and "pushes" data from several electronic databases, such as Knowledge Basket’s Newztext, Index New Zealand and Newsroom. For each information source the parliamentary librarians have designed search queries to match results under each heading in the 15 bulletins.

Throughout the week the bulletins are collated and edited by library staff. The bulletins are checked to ensure that the content is relevant and accurate before being automatically emailed out to clients.

Award sponsor 3M New Zealand was also extremely impressed by infocus which took home $4000 for professional development as first prize. Saya Wahrlich, Market Development Manager of 3M New Zealand’s Safety and Security Division highlighted the project’s innovation from the initial identification of “very real customer needs” right through to its use of technology to answer those needs. “We believe infocus to be a truly world class programme."

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