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The Value of Legislative Libraries

By Joanne Montague

The New Mexico Legislative Council Service Research Library recently wrapped up its first National Library Week celebration with bookmarks and a trivia contest. National Library Week is a week-long celebration to promote awareness of all types of libraries, whether a public library in a school, city or county, or a private library in a law firm, museum, or corporation.

Did you know that over 30 states have a library in the state’s legislative branch? Legislative libraries are often located within a state’s capitol, but can also be located in state office space near a state’s capitol. Legislative libraries are open and staffed year-round to assist legislators, legislative staff and other state, county, and city agency locate information to help staff make policy decisions or learn more about the background of an issue.

Legislative libraries’ collections often include a mix of history books, legislative materials, state agency reports, and legal resources. Many legislative libraries, including New Mexico’s Legislative Research Library, are open to the general public–including attorneys, lobbyists, advocacy groups, and constituents. Some of the most popular questions our library receives are for biographical information about legislators past and present; what other states’ legislatures have introduced or passed recently on any topic; statistics on the number of bills passed or vetoed in a specific time range; and news articles surrounding a high profile event in state history.

The questions legislative libraries can help with are interesting and rewarding. For example, we hear often from descendants of legislators who are wondering when their grandparents or great-grandparents served, what bills they introduced, and if our collection includes photos while they were in office.

Legislative libraries also respond to questions from law, political science professors or graduate students throughout the country conducting research on the political or electoral process for their dissertations or research. Legislative libraries collaborate with each other across state lines to compile information or data about other state’s laws or statistics.

Your legislative library can also help locate and gather information from other libraries in your state. Many state libraries offer an interlibrary loan service-meaning that if a book or article isn’t owned by their library, they can ask the state library to locate it from another library and get it shipped. For instance, we can get articles for legislators and staff that are from academic journals not freely available online.

Many legislative libraries, like ours, also field questions by email and phone, so you don’t have to drive to the state capitol to get research assistance. More information about the New Mexico Legislative Council’s Research Library can be found at

Joanne Montague is a Senior Legislative Librarian with the New Mexico Legislative Council Service.