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Resources and Treasures of the Italian Parliamentary Libraries

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This is a guest post by Dante Figueroa, Senior Legal Information Analyst at the Law Library of Congress, and Antonio Casu, Director of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Library. This is the last in a three part series describing the main aspects of the Italian legislature and legislative process; it highlights the internal organization and the bibliographical resources of the Italian parliamentary libraries, with an emphasis on the Chamber of Deputies’ Library.  The first post described the development of the modern Italian government, while the second discussed the Italian Legislative Procedure.

In 1848, both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies created their own libraries. The Library of the Senate (Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica Giovanni Spadolini) is located at the Palazzo di Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Saint Mary above Minerva Palace), and the Library of the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber Library) is located at the Palazzo Macuto. Both buildings share the same architectural complex –the former Dominican Convent della Minerva— where multiple architectural and religious spaces are now accessible for parliamentary and external users. In 2007 both libraries –which have been open to the public since 1988— created the Polo Bibliotecario Parlamentare (Congressional Library Center).

Sala Galilei, one of the reading rooms in the Chamber of Deputies Library. Source: Le Sedi della Camera dei Deputati (Editalia, 1990)

To highlight the role of the Congressional Library Center as a cultural center at the heart of Rome, both libraries collaborate and promote the organization of events and training initiatives (exhibitions, seminars, book presentations, guided tours and training courses), and host conferences, lectures and debates on political-institutional topics.

The Chamber Library is one of the most important European parliamentary libraries, containing more than 1,300,000 volumes of Italian and foreign materials in many intellectual disciplines. The Chamber Library acquires annually about 8,000 monographic works and 1,800 Italian and foreign periodicals. The collection also includes the laws of the Italian states prior to the unification of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861; the parliamentary proceedings of the Italian and other foreign parliamentary chambers; and publications by international organizations. The Chamber Library holdings also include rare materials (15-19th centuries), among them the Kissner Fund, edited between the 16th-19th centuries, which is composed of almost 2,000 volumes and engravings of Rome.

The Chamber Library subscribes to multiple electronic databases which are available at its Digital Library (Biblioteca digitale), and at the Congressional Library Center. In addition, the Bibliography of the Italian Parliament and Electoral Studies database, which is periodically updated, contains 20,000 references to books and magazine articles on the Italian Parliament, on the electoral law and general elections from 1848.

The Chamber Library provides the “Parliamentary Databases and Research Training,” a training on the use of research instruments for parliamentary databases. The Chamber also has a project for the Digitization of Parliamentary Proceedings, which aims at recovering, in digital format, the print collections of all the official acts of the Chamber of Deputies, since its creation in 1848. To date, the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly and the republican period have been digitized at the historic portal of the Library. The project to digitize the parliamentary proceedings of the Kingdom of Italy period (1848-1946) was begun in 2011.

The Chamber Library is composed of the following divisions: the Information Services Unit; the Bibliographic and Legislative Research Unit; the Bibliographic Documentation and Italian Legislation Office, which performs bibliographical research on Italian legislation and parliamentary proceedings; the Foreign Legislation Office, in charge of conducting research in the field of foreign legislation, comparative, and European law. Special mention must be made of the Electronic Resources Services Unit (Re@l), through which the Library makes available a large number of databases from any workstation connected to the network of the Chamber of Deputies. These are some of these databases included in Re@l:

The IOL Online Database (Indici online) is accessible through the network of the Chamber of Deputies, allowing the research of tables of contents of about 380 Italian magazines owned by the Library, and includes a weekly email alert service, on the basis of a list of journals selected by users.

The Chamber Library has a number of periodical publications, which include: New Acquisitions (monthly); Review of new Acquisitions for Parliamentary Committees (monthly); Bibliographical Documentation Materials (dossier); Comparative Legislation Materials (dossier); Synthetic Information Briefings; Foreign Legislation (bimonthly); Review of Parliamentary comparative international politics and security (monthly); Historical Documentation Dossier; and Bibliography of the Italian Parliament and Electoral Studies (quarterly).

The Chamber Library palace has five floors available for patrons’ consultation. Interestingly, the first floor, also called, the Room of the Inquisition, is where the trial of Galileo Galilei was reputedly conducted in the 17th century.

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