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As Poland's upper house, the Senat, completes its fifth year of existence, the nation's emerging democracy requires an increasing volume of knowledge and constantly updated information. The Research and Analysis Office of the Senat Chancellery facilitates access to this knowledge and information.
Routine and individual procedures are used to attract the Parliamentarian's interest in the services of the Research and Analysis Office. Routine procedures include succinctness and reliability. Materials such as original and uniform graphics and colorful covers are provided. A uniform time frame and location have been established for the distribution of materials, some of which are sent to a m ailing list that is broader than the confines of the Senat. Individualized procedures encompass tailored services such as personalized requester searchers; well-developed contacts for specific information; exhibitions on specific topics of interest and seminars on potentially "hot issues"; clarification of user needs to build demand for Research and Analysis services (market building); and ongoin g analyses of demand (market research).
This paper focuses on the work of one section of the Senat Chancellery of Poland, namely the Research and Analysis (R&A) Office. The office is a unit similar in function to the U.S. Senate Library (although different in size), connected to a mini-CRS (Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress). This example will be familiar to most readers who know the structure and functions of Ameri can library services.
In the Polish Parliament, both the Senat and the Sejm (the lower house) have independent research offices. The work done by these two offices is complementary; the Senat's R&A Office and the Sejm's Bureau of Research, together with the Sejm Library, form a network of services for all Members of Parliament. The R&A Office serves primarily Senators, but if help is needed, the office provides responses to the inquiries from Sejm Deputies as well. The goals of this office are to do the best work possible, as quickly and effectively as feasible. Expeditious action is essential because the Senat has only 30 days to respond to measures passed by the Sejm. Effectiveness means, among other tasks, adverti sing and publicizing the work of the R&A Office.
The way the office performs its services is a direct consequence of the above principles. Another important principle in today's competitive culture is "highly visible advertisement," which builds the office image and encourages Members of Parliament to use its services.
The history of the Senat shapes the orientation of the R&A Office and the products and services it provides. It may be useful at this point to recount the path the Polish people have taken in the past five years to move from a centrally directed communist economy to a democracy and free market. One of the most important results produced by the "Round Table Talks" between the communist government and the "Solidarity" opposition was the agreement to hold a free and open election on June 4, 1989. The Senat elected at that time was the first democratically elected representative institution in Central and Eastern Europe after a lapse of some 40 years. It represented the restoration of a bod y that had been abolished during the 40 years of communist rule in Poland by a rigged referendum in 1946. The new Senat was composed of 100 Senators, of whom 99 came from the Solidarity ballot. Of those elected, only four had previous experience in parliamentary work; the newly elected were largely scholars, lawyers, and economists.
The Polish Senat has a tradition going back several hundred years: as early as the fifteenth century it emerged from the Royal Council and survived until the late eighteenth century, when the Polish State finally was partitioned by its neighbors (Russia, Prussia, and Austria) in 1795 and ceased to exist. The Senat was reborn after Poland became independent again in 1918.
In more recent times, the first term of the Senat of the Third Republic (if one may in that way refer to Poland after the June 4, 1989, election) lasted two year and three months (rather than the constitutional four years). The next election was held on October 27, 1991. The two Chambers were elected in a truly democratic way. The elected Parliament featured much political fragmentation, with almost 30 parties represented in it. The electoral law was of the majority type. All major political forces were represented, from the left to the right of the political spectrum. The second term lasted one year and eight months. The Parliament was dissolved by President Lech Walesa in May 1993 as a result of a stalemate that led to a vote of no confidence for the government of Ms. Hanna Such ocka.
The new Parliament, elected on September 19, 1993, consists of only seven parties and is more leftist than the previous one. Two parties were victorious. The first is the SLD -- the Democratic Left Alliance, a coalition of forces that openly admit communist roots. The second is PSL -- an heir of the former coalition partner of the communist party, the ZSL (the United Peasant Party). The major ity government formed by these two parties has enough votes in both Chambers to carry out many changes, including constitutional ones.
This paper does not discuss structures, constitutional tasks, or proceedings of the Senat in detail. Without doubt, the two basic tasks of the Senat are initiating bills and introducing amendments to Sejm bills (as a rule within one month after they have been passed by the Sejm). These two main prerogatives determine very clear tasks for the R&A Office staff, namely providing services for the S enators to assist them as they initiate and consider bills and amendments. Normally, the Senate must act quickly, so the R&A Office must also be prepared to gather information expeditiously to assist the Senat in its deliberations.]
Immediately after the 1989 election, the Chancellery of the Senat was established. Members of its staff had never been civil servants before and had no experience in this type of work; together with the Senators they began their difficult, one may say pioneering, stage of their work, with little experience for Senators or staff. Since then there have been many changes. The Chancellery has grow n, expanded the scope of services rendered to Senators, and become a professional institution.
Employees of the Chancellery of the Senat have the experience of three terms of Parliament and have worked with three very different groups of Senators. The Chancellery discharges functions which are, by definition, ancillary to the Senat, its organs, and its Senators. Hence the role of its employees is to ensure technical and organizational services to enable the Senat to fulfill its constitut ional functions. Apart from providing backup for the Senat's work in purely organizational terms, the purpose of the Chancellery, and especially the R&A Office, is to provide information, research, and analysis to the Senat organs and Members. The majority of the permanent staff of the Senat Chancellery are not experts -- the staff draws upon the knowledge of highly qualified specialists from universities or research institutes when it must have expertise, opinions, analysis, or reports.
The main objective of the Research and Analysis (R&A) Office is to provide needed information (from the Polish and foreign press, among other sources) as well as opinions and analyses related to particular legislative issues. Currently the R&A Office consists of three units:
• The Quick Reference Unit.
• The Archives of the Senat Chancellery.
• The Subject Report Unit.
The Quick Reference Unit is the "hard disk" of the R&A Office -- a data bank listing the sources of information. It is a basic library and reference resource, a place of collecting and analyzing press information, and creator of its own data bases. It is complemented by the Archives of the Senat Chancellery as well as the Subject Report Unit (which generally addresses current legislation). The R&A Office provides to all Senators complete, objective, and balanced information (including expert reports and opinions about bill proposals) so that various viewpoints can be explored on a given matter.
This office of the Senat Chancellery was formally established in December 1990, but in fact it began its work with the onset of the second term of the Senat, that is, in November 1991. At that time the office consisted of 21 people; currently there are 36 employees. They are mostly very young people: for many of them it is their first job after graduation.
The main section of the office is the Quick Reference Unit, which provides a daily stream of information indispensable for the Chancellery's work. This unit answers many questions, both orally and in writing. It responds to inquiries pertaining to foreign and Polish legislation (e.g., queries about the stage of a given bill or motion; questions concerning legislative history of particular bills ; current and past activities of the Sejm and Senat; the present state of law in a given field, etc.). It also provides information of various sorts: legal, statistical, biographical, bibliographical, and so on. The unit provides materials and data necessary in comparative and other analyses (e.g., estimated costs of suggested legal initiatives). It prepares and publishes a weekly review of ma jor weeklies ("Sygnaly Prasy Polskiej," or SPP) as well as a digest of articles on Poland and the parliamentary matters in the foreign press ("Przeglad Prasy Zagranicznej," or PPZ). It also prepares selections of articles in the Polish press and foreign press, copies of official documents, and bibliographies on requested topics.
Written information takes the form of a discrete series of publications. There is the Thematic Analyses series (symbol: OT), Materials series (M), Selection of Articles (WA), and Bibliographies (B). Appended to each is a short note about the R&A Office, names of the director and deputy directors, telephone and fax numbers. The Subject Report Unit of the R&A Office prepares collections of materials related to bill proposals under way in the Parliament. These are Reports (R) and Opinions (O) series, as well as Information Packets.
Other sources of information are a modest but well thought-out book collection (about 1,300 volumes), periodicals (about 240 Polish titles and 100 foreign titles), and a collection of official documents. Also included are numerous data bases on CD Roms (about 30 disks), microfiche tapes, information on floppy disks, and so on.
The R&A Office is linked worldwide to information through Internet and has on-line access to European data bases as well as the American DIALOG data system. Yet its greatest potential is knowledge and the already considerable experience of its young staff. Thus the Quick Reference Unit in the R&A Office is a reference library in the modern meaning, namely a library whose resources are not only books but also other information media and an educated staff who can skillfully use the collected materials.
The newly elected Senators receive R&A Office materials during their first visit to the Parliamentary building. The Senat Chancellery organizes an orientation program during which the Senators are provided with a Green Guidebook (a compendium of the knowledge about the Senat Chancellery and about other Senators) and a Senators' calendar with phone numbers for the Chancellery and various R&A serv ices. Senators also receive an Info-pack including, among other items, a list of the R&A materials, prepared during the preceding term, and the most recent issues of the Foreign Press (PPZ) and Polish Press Reviews (SPP).
The Info-pack also includes materials recapitulating the legislative changes made by Senators for the preceding term, material discussing the state of work upon the new Constitution, a brief summary of the structure and authority of the key governmental institutions, and of course a short note about the available services of the R&A Office. All these materials are prepared with the assumption th at the recipient has little time for reading and may not have a university or technical education. The only common trait in the case of main users of the R&A Office is their successful election to the Polish Senat.
R&A Office staff also have an outreach program for staff associates of the Senators. The program includes a two-day seminar in Warsaw at the Chancellery's expense for the employees of the Senators' regional offices (the staff of individual Senators). Apart from receiving materials concerning work of the Senat, Chancellery, and R&A Office, these employees are invited to a series of lectures prep aring them for the role of intermediary between the R&A information resources and their respective Senator. The R&A Office tries to develop close, often individual contacts with them, assuming that the effects of the work of the Senators depend considerably on the good cooperation between the R&A Office and the Senators' offices. One of the goals of this office is to make the parliamentary staf f aware of the advantages of cooperation with the R&A Office because information they need can assist them in dealing with the specificity of the work in the Parliament.
In the R&A Office the staff understand the value of "individual attention to the needs of the customer" and they seek to meet the potential interests of their clients. Recently, for example, the R&A staff prepared material about psychiatric law. This material was sent not only to the potentially interested Sejm committee, but also to other Members of Parliament with relevant backgrounds and edu cation. Other occasions when R&A Office staff publicize information services are as follows:
• Foreign Press (PPZ) and Polish Press Reviews (SPP) and some reports of the Subject Report Unit are regularly placed in Senators' mailboxes.
• Special "hot issues" briefing sessions are prepared for committees for various bill proposals; these sessions include data on how to access R&A services and the names of the people responsible for a given subject area.
• A permanent exhibition is maintained on the lowest level of the Polish Parliament building (on the way to the pay office!). The R&A Office has its own showcases, where it presents new publications, advertises seminars and lectures, and informs the Parliament about available services.
• Full text of the Foreign and Polish Press Reviews is available from the R&A Office. The contents of these reviews is the main motivation for using them because they include abstracts and article summaries that keep the Parliament informed.
• Series B includes bibliographies of R&A resources that are available by subject or by date; for example, Resources on Constitutional Matters, Lists of Materials on European Matters, Lists of R&A Publications 1991-1993.
• Listings of current materials are sent approximately bimonthly to all Senators (as well as to parliamentary caucuses and high officials of both Chambers). These materials include opinions, reports, and other materials contracted, requested, or ordered recently by the R&A Office. Each such publication includes basic information about the office.
• In the Senat computer network there is quite exhaustive information about the R&A Office and the list of its publications. The R&A staff are now building a common data base for both Chambers and preparing catalogs of CD-ROMs, data bases, and R&A publications.
• Two sources of information are available to the Senators in the parliamentary cable television system. On the Senat channel (self-turning pages) there is information about most recent R&A products; in the teletext there is a section concerning the R&A Office with names, phone numbers, etc., and with the R&A daily reports on the activities of the other Chamber, the Sejm.
• Besides carefully developing the work style of the R&A Office and the essence of it, the office gives much attention to form. Elegant, uniform design of R&A publications enhances the use of them by Senators and, because of their special brilliant colors, there is no way for them to go unnoticed.
Last but not least is the seminar organized recently (April 26-27, 1994) by the R&A Office under the auspices of the Senat Presidium. The topic was "The Problem of Bicameralism in European Parliamentary Systems." This was an opportunity to promote the activities of the R&A Office among the Members of both Chambers. Each participant received a substantial packet of materials on constitutional m atters. During the seminar a booth was organized in front of the seminar hall where the Senators, Deputies, and specialists on constitutional matters could look at materials of interest to them and order copies for next-day delivery. The verbatim report from the first day of the conference was distributed to the participants the next morning; the report from the second day was sent a week later , together with a thank you note for their attendance. The setting was informal but quite professional. Participants reported a feeling of being well served. During the seminar period, R&A Office staff were available at all times to serve them.
The main role of R&A Office staff at this seminar was to serve as a connection between the specialists and scientists on the one hand and the Senators and Deputies on the other. R&A Office staff accomplished two objectives simultaneously: they gathered materials for a data base on constitutional experts and prepared a mailing list of Senators and Deputies interested in the seminar topic. The large turnout at the seminar -- about 150 participants, with many Members of Parliament included -- was largely due to the R&A Office's advertising efforts. Information about the seminar was disseminated through office media and information sheets that were spread around on tables throughout the building. The R&A Office Director personally visited all parliamentary caucus secretaries and al l key Members of Parliament and distributed information on the seminar prepared in advance.
In closing, it is appropriate to stress the importance of personal contacts with Members of Parliament. The author, as the R&A Office Director, devotes much time to personal contacts with the Senators, Deputies, and their staff. The goal of these conversations is to clarify Member and staff expectations regarding the R&A Office. Although this type of contact may not be possible in all Parliame nts -- in the case of the Polish Parliament access to certain leaders is also extremely difficult -- it often requires quite a lot of time, but it is always a very worthwhile investment.