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Friday, November 24, 2006

EPA Library Commits Hari-Kiri

EPA Is Hastily Disposing of Its Library Collection

This is a story I read about on the Business Librarians' listserv. It was confirmed by a friend at the EPA, who notes:
"We will lose a great number of reports that are only available as paper copies, and I have no idea what they plan to do with the books. Supposedly we have electronic access to journals (which is great when it works), but many of the ones I have needed aren't the ones to which we subscribe. Sigh."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is frantically dispersing its library collections to preempt Congressional intervention, according to internal emails released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Contrary to promises by EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock that all of the former library materials will be made available electronically, vast troves of unique technical reports and analyses will remain indefinitely inaccessible.
Meanwhile, many materials formerly held by the Office of Prevention, Pollution and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, in EPA’s Washington D.C. Headquarters, were directed to be thrown into trash bins, according to reports received by PEER. This month, EPA closed the OPPTS Library, its only specialized library for research on health effects and properties of toxic chemicals and pesticides, without notice to either the public or affected scientists.

See the order to destroy (“recycle”) OPPTS library materials (PDF)

Read the letter posted by an anonymous employee rebutting EPA claims (PDF)

View the email about inaccessibility of EPA contractor documents (PDF)

Look at the email from the manager of the OPTTS Library (PDF)

Peruse email outlining concerns about how library restoration may be “futile” (PDF)

Examine the appropriations sign-on letter from Senators Boxer and Lautenberg (PDF)

Trace the unfolding developments in EPA’s drive to shutter its libraries

Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

Oh, in case you were wondering, Marcus Peacock comes to EPA from OMB.

"PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch [noted] EPA studies show the cuts will actually lose money due to additional professional staff time that will have to be spent tracking down research materials now assembled by the libraries... In a mass letter of protest signed this June by representatives for 10,000 EPA scientists and researchers, more than half the total agency workforce, employees contend that the library plan is designed to "suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics."

"What is going on inside EPA is positively Orwellian," concluded Ruch.
Some so-called "Christian right" group is calling for a boycott of Wal-Mart today and tomorrow, because the retailer offers gay couples health benefits. Since I boycott Wal-Mart ALL of the time, I'm conflicted, because while I opppose the rationale for the boycott, I would applaud its result.


Anonymous said...

So, since my project is funded by EPA, does that mean I should consider updating my resume?

Roger Owen Green said...

Gordon- Not necessarily. These things may have different funding sources.

Anonymous said...

This is outrageous.

Roger Owen Green said...


Democratic House Leaders Use New Powers to Fight Bush's EPA Research Library Closings By
Created 12/01/2006 - 4:42pm


House Democratic leaders are using their new authority as pending
committee chairmen to push the EPA to stop closing its research
libraries. As BuzzFlash has previously reported, the EPA has ignored
protests from politicians and even its own scientists [0] by
preemptively eliminating research resources [0] as instructed by
President Bush's 2007 budget - despite the fact that Congress has yet to
approve any such action.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson was given a letter demanding he
"maintain the status quo" by Committee Ranking Members Bart Gordon
(Science), Henry Waxman (Reform), John Dingell (Energy and Commerce),
and James Oberstar (Transportation and Infrastructure). They also
requested that the EPA compile records of materials that have already
been dispersed to ensure the information can be retrieved and used by
Agency personnel and the public.

"Over the past 36 years, EPA's libraries have accumulated a vast and
invaluable trove of public health and environmental information, including
at least 504,000 books and reports, 3,500 journal titles, 25,000 maps, and
3.6 million information objects on microfilm," the letter notes. "It now
appears that EPA officials are dismantling what is likely one of our
country's most comprehensive and accessible collections of environmental

The entire article can be referenced at the above URL.

Roger Owen Green said...

Op-Ed Contributor
Keep the E.P.A. Libraries Open

Published: December 8, 2006

IF you needed to find out how much pollution an industrial plant in your neighborhood was spewing, or what toxic chemicals were in a local river, where would you go? Until recently, you could discover the answer at one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 29 libraries. But now the E.P.A. has obstructed the American public — as well as its own scientists and staff — by starting to dismantle its crown jewel, the national system of regional E.P.A. libraries.

Until now, any citizen could consult these resources, which include information on things like siting incinerators, storing toxic waste and uncovering links between asthma and car exhaust. E.P.A. staff members and other scientists have counted on the libraries to support their work. First responders and other state and local government officials have used E.P.A. information to protect communities. In the age of terrorism, when the safety of our food and water supply, the uninterrupted flow of energy and, indeed, so much about our environment has become a matter of national security, it seems particularly dangerous to take steps that would hinder our emergency preparedness.

Although lawmakers haven’t yet agreed to President Bush’s proposed 2007 budget, which includes $2 million in cuts to the agency’s library system, the head of the E.P.A. has already instituted cuts. The agency’s main library in Washington has been closed to the public, and regional E.P.A. libraries in Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City, Mo., have been closed altogether. At the Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle branches, hours and public access have been reduced.

Anyone who needs to understand the environmental impact of, say, living downwind or downstream from a new nuclear power plant, or the long-term public health impact of Hurricane Katrina, cannot afford to find the doors barred to potentially lifesaving information. But neither can the rest of us, whose daily lives and choices will be affected by global warming. We all have a right to be able to get access to information about our air, water and soil.

“Libraries and their professionals are integral to the work of E.P.A. toxicologists,” says an agency toxicologist, Suzanne Wuerthele. “Without access to their expertise and extensive collections, it will be difficult to explain to the public, to state agencies, industry and to the courts how and why E.P.A. is protecting the environment over time.”

Some members of Congress have begun to bring these cuts to light. The Senate minority whip, Richard Durbin, urged the president to reopen the libraries and rethink his budget request. Eighteen senators sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking it to make the E.P.A. keep the libraries open. Representatives John Dingell, Bart Gordon and Henry Waxman recently had the Government Accountability Office start an inquiry into the closings and requested that the E.P.A. administrator, Stephen Johnson, cease the destruction of library materials immediately.

The E.P.A. cannot hide behind the fig leaf of fiscal responsibility. While the agency says the closings are all part of a commitment to modernize and digitize, we are not assured that its public plan is adequate or its skills sufficient. Users within the E.P.A. and the American public need information specialists, like librarians, to manage paper collections and to help them get access to digital material and organize online information.

Fortunately, there’s still time to reverse this dangerous threat to a healthy future. The administration could immediately reopen the closed libraries. Congress could conduct oversight hearings to reverse these decisions and prevent any more E.P.A. libraries — all of them containing invaluable information about our environment, all of them paid for by our tax dollars — from closing. The American public deserves no less.

Leslie Burger is the president of the American Library Association and director of the Princeton Public Library.

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