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An Interview with Franck Debié, Acting Director of the European Parliament Library

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Last month, a memorandum of understanding was signed at the Library of Congress by Law Librarian of Congress and Acting Deputy Librarian for Library Collections and Services Jane Sánchez and Secretary General of the European Parliament Klaus Welle. The agreement provides valuable insight into services, collections, and cataloging at the two Libraries. The following is an interview with Franck Debié, Acting Director of the European Parliament Library.

Klaus Welle of the European Parliament (seated, right) and Jane Sánchez of the Law Library of Congress were joined by staff from both institutions after they signed a memorandum agreeing to share information between their two libraries. Photo by Shawn Miller.

How can the European Parliament Library and the Law Library of Congress benefit from sharing best practices?

The sharing of best practices can be carried out in many ways, including staff exchanges. The new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two organisations is an excellent basis for cooperation. It is the first such agreement signed by the European Parliament with a library outside of the European Union. For the European Parliament, it is part of an ambitious strategy to build strong links with leading research libraries in Europe and around the world. The objective is for the two libraries to exchange information and to serve their users better. It establishes a framework for sharing of best practice on activities ranging from research and reference services, to collection development, cataloguing, and training on classification and subject headings. The MoU also envisages the possibility of sending members of the Law Library of Congress staff to visit and observe the operations of the European Parliament Library, and vice-versa. The MoU is the basis for all of this.

What are the goals of the European Parliamentary Research Service and the European Parliament Library?

The European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) was established in November 2013, in order to provide Members of the European Parliament, and where appropriate, parliamentary committees, with independent, objective and authoritative analysis of, and research on, policy issues relating to the European Union, and so assist them in their parliamentary work. DG EPRS aims to provide a comprehensive range of products and services, backed by specialist internal expertise and knowledge sources in all policy fields, so empowering Members and committees through knowledge and contributing to the Parliament’s effectiveness and influence as an institution.

The European Parliament Library specifically provides a wide range of services to Members individually and to the Parliament as a whole. It operates the Library Reading Rooms in Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg, housing the Parliament’s extensive physical and digital collection of books and journals, which it acquires and manages. It provides online access to subscription-based publications for the Parliament as a whole.

How does the European Parliament Library serve its members?

The Library serves Members in a wide variety of ways. In fact, the Library takes the lead in providing access to knowledge sources for the parliamentary community as a whole with Members being the primary clients. The Library provides physical and online access for Members and staff to books, journals, databases, and news and information sources, whilst also providing training in the use of such sources. The Reading Rooms hold the Parliament’s collection of over 80,000 books (and 40,000 e-books), as well as 1,000 newspapers and journals. Regular events – including conferences, book launches and EPRS policy roundtables, often with expert speakers from think tanks and academia – are held in the principal Library Reading Room in Brussels.

The Comparative Law Library (part of the Library Directorate) of the European Parliament serves as a centre of knowledge and expertise on the law of the European Union, its member states, and comparable democratic jurisdictions. It is responsible for building and maintaining an extensive reference collection of legislation, case law, and legal doctrine, as well as engaging in research and analysis in the field of comparative law. It organises conferences on comparative law issues and works closely with other such libraries to increase EP access to relevant material.

What do the Law Library of Congress and the European Parliament Library have in common?

Although clearly on different scales, the European Parliament and the Law Library of Congress aim to serve Members. The common transatlantic ties and values that underpin all our work mean that both libraries are working with the same goals in mind. Libraries need to come to terms with a whole range of new challenges in the digital world. Working together, exchanging experience and learning from each other can equip us for this task. They both grapple with delivering their services based on greater digitisation, stronger emphasis on support for (internal and external) researchers, intensified and more comprehensive provision of sources and databases including cloud technologies.

What is your academic/professional history?

In addition to my European Parliament activities, I am Acting Director of the department of geography and geopolitics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. I also headed the European programme at the HEC business school. I became the policy director of the European Idea network of think tanks and foundations working with the European People’s Party Group in the European Parliament (2009-2010). I have led the team of the Secretary General of the European Parliament Klaus Welle on long term trends, dealing with foresight and strategic planning at administrative level.  In addition to my role as Acting Director of the Library, I am currently Deputy Head of Cabinet of the European Parliament’ Secretary-General. In Paris, I take an active role in building a new academic department at the Ecole Normale Supérieure which brings together geography, geopolitics, area, and urban studies.

What aspects of parliamentary research have you found most interesting and/or most challenging?

Personally, I have worked on peace processes (UN peace operations, peace building in the Balkans and the Middle East) before turning to European affairs. The convergence provided by the EU remains the best chance for peace in the European continent and the Mediterranean.

More widely, I find the concept of parliamentary research serving as a hub of knowledge for Members and the wider parliamentary community throughout the policy cycle as an interesting and stimulating model.

There are huge challenges facing all libraries globally not least caused by the challenge of digitisation of readership. The European Parliament’s library is working on greater digitisation, stronger emphasis on support for (internal and external) researchers, intensified and more comprehensive provision of sources and databases, and the gradual opening of some library services to the public.


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