Library staff are excited to announce a new searchable database of 29,000 legislative audio files covering 1991-2003!
Until recently, tracking down the history of legislation often involved a trip to the Legislative Reference Library (LRL) or the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)--or both! Before the Legislature began recording meetings digitally in 2004, all audio was recorded on cassette and reel-to-reel tapes. Interest in researching these primary materials has not waned--legislative staff, state agency staff, attorneys, and private citizens continue to use these rich primary research materials. But, the tapes were inconvenient to use and they took up enormous amounts of space at LRL and MHS.
A 2017 appropriation allowed the Legislative Reference Library to undertake the digitization of 29,000 audio tapes. This digitization project and resulting database enhances the existing collection of digital hearings and floor sessions, making these valuable primary records of the Legislature accessible to anyone at any time and preserving them into the future. Researchers are now able to listen to all committee hearings and floor sessions back to 1991. The database draws upon other sources of information such as House and Senate floor logs and committee members for each standing committee.
For further information on researching legislative proceedings, consult the Legislative Reference Library’s legislative history guide and resource list or contact a librarian at 651-296-8338 or by email.
The Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis publication, Fiscal Review, is one of the most heavily used publications in the Legislative Reference Library. The Library’s paper copies are lovingly worn and the digital archive, reaching back to the first publication in 1975, is an invaluable resource.
The 2018 Fiscal Review provides detailed coverage of the budgetary actions of this year's legislative session. Of course, the capital investment and the pensions bills are the main focus of this year's fiscal activity, but this year's edition also takes a look at the vetoed Omnibus Supplemental Finance and Omnibus Tax Bills. Two other budget issue are discussed that impacted the 2018 fiscal legislation as well: The Governor’s line-item veto of the FY2018-19 Legislative Appropriation and the creation of the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Office.
To celebrate the recent release of the 2018 edition of Fiscal Review, the office of Senate Counsel, Research and Fiscal Analysis invites you to the satellite office of the Legislative Reference Library (3238 MSB) on Wednesday, September 26th at 10:30 am. Doughnuts will be served!
Have you heard about the free, online Ebook collection created for all Minnesotans? Ebooks Minnesota has over 5,000 books for readers of all ages – fiction and nonfiction, with a special focus on Minnesota’s independent publishers.
It’s easy to start reading. Open Ebooks Minnesota in your computer browser (such as Chrome, Edge, or Firefox). If you prefer to read on your phone or tablet, download the Biblioboard app in Google Play or the BiblioBoard app in the App Store. You’ll automatically see the option to be connected to the Ebooks Minnesota collection if you are anywhere in Minnesota. Titles that may catch your eye include:
- North Country: The Making of Minnesota
- A Boundary Waters History: Canoeing Across Time
- Partisan Gerrymandering and the Construction of American Democracy
- Doorstep Democracy: Face-to-Face Politics in the Heartland
- Minnesota’s Miracle: Learning from the Government that Worked
- Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear
- The Art of War: The Oldest Military Treatise in the World
- Land of Amber Waves: The History of Brewing in Minnesota
- A History of Professional Hockey in Minnesota: From the North Stars to the Wild
- Morgan Park: Duluth, U.S. Steel and the Forging of a Company Town
- The City, the River, the Bridge: Before and After the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse
- Hinckley and the Fire of 1894
- Minnesota Mayhem: A History of Calamitous Events, Horrific Accidents, Dastardly Crime & Dreadful Behavior in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes
Ebooks Minnesota is brought to you by Minitex and made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Department of Education through a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Elaine wrote the following article for the Minnesota IT Services blog on accessibility issues. She is a librarian at the Legislative Reference Library and also serves as the Accessibility Coordinator for LNET (Legislative Networking Group).
The Minnesota Legislature’s website is the unified effort of staff from the House and Senate and several joint legislative offices including the Revisor of Statutes, the Legislative Reference Library, the Legislative Auditor, and other offices within the Legislative Coordinating Commission. Legislative staff from the various offices collaboratively manage the website through the LNET (Legislative Networking Group).
LNET manages the content and design of the Legislature’s website and acts as a forum for all legislative offices to share and discuss issues. The group meets year-round to continuously improve usability and content on the legislative web pages. LNET members act as consultants for one another on issues of technology.
While each body and office manage distinct websites, many legislative website activities are collaborative. Offices share data to make pages that include information from multiple offices, such as the combined calendar, the conference committee page, and MyBills.
Much of the Legislature’s website, which consists of web pages and PDF documents for download, is compliant with the state accessibility standards and many of its documents posted from 2017 to the present are accessible, or the information is provided in an alternative accessible format such as HTML. Like many organizations, large amounts of older materials may not meet accessibility standards and may require a large dedication of resources if the older material is to be remediated. Legislative staff continue to work toward increasing the accessible online presence of the Minnesota Legislature’s website.
The website is coded so that it is usable by keyboard and with a screen reader, which includes use of jump navigation, alt text, heading tags, and meaningful link language. The Legislature uses popular tools such as WebAIM’s WAVE to test for accessibility. IT staff from the legislative offices are currently coordinating to transition the website to Bootstrap, a web interface framework, that will improve the way it works on diverse screen sizes.
Many materials, such as bills, session laws, statutes, and rules, are available in HTML as an alternative to PDF. Several legislative offices publish reports and use CommonLook software to remediate PDFs, when applicable. Tagged PDFs are offered when possible. Because the nature of legislative work is complex, fluid, and fast-paced, tagged PDFs may not be immediately possible. An additional accessibility challenge for the Legislature is that some documents that are submitted for posting come from public citizens or non-legislative entities and are not electronically accessible. For specific documents that may not be accessible, the Legislative Coordinating Commission facilitates requests for remediation to make the documents accessible.
Audio and video archives are continually expanding on the Legislative website. Streaming video programming is captioned in both the House and Senate. Recent Senate video files have searchable captions. In addition, the House is exploring ways to possibly make transcripts of audio files available.
It isn’t new for party endorsing conventions to be full of twists and turns. They’re as interesting today as they were fifty years ago, and we were reminded of this last week when we received a donated copy of a book we’ve long had in our collection: The 21st Ballot: A Political Party Struggle in Minnesota. The book, written by David Lebedoff and published in 1969, chronicles a turbulent time within the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party starting in late 1965 and running through the election in 1966. That year, Governor Karl Rolvaag lost to a relatively unknown Republican Party activist named Harold LeVander.
The copy we received contained an inscription from former Governor Rolvaag with an interesting note: “… some day I must write to correct some substantial errors." James Pederson, reviewing the book later that year, wrote: "These flaws, while serious, do not discredit The 21st Ballot as a well-written work ...[capturing] the emotion, excitement, and drama that the political events of 1966 held for most Minnesotans."
Proving that both parties have their struggles, There is No November details Jon Grunseth's candidacy for the office of Governor of Minnesota in 1990. The political intrigue included a tough Republican primary battle between Grunseth and State Auditor Arne Carlson, and two post-primary allegations of improper conduct against Grunseth. They were facing incumbent Governor Rudy Perpich. If you don't know how it turned out, check our Minnesota Governors historical table.