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Contact:  Larra Clark
              Media relations manager 

For Immediate Release
November 30, 2006 

ALA welcomes letter to EPA on library closures

(CHICAGO) The American Library Association (ALA) today applauded House leaders for directly addressing the issue of library closures and reduced public access to vital environmental and health information at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, ranking members Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and James Oberstar (D-Minn.) expressed their serious concerns over the current implementation of "library reorganization" plans and the "destruction or disposition" of library holdings.

According to the letter: "Despite the lack of Congressional approval and the concerns expressed over this plan, your Agency continues to move forward with dismantling the EPA libraries. It is imperative that the valuable government information maintained by EPA's libraries be preserved."

ALA President Leslie Burger thanks the Congressmen for taking up this issue.  "This letter is vital for increasing the pressure on the EPA to have a more open and accountable process in making decisions that affect thousands of scientists and millions of Americans," said ALA President Leslie Burger. "It is unacceptable that no plan has been submitted to Congress outlining the schedule and procedures the EPA is using to reduce library services and access to unique resources."

The letter follows a call earlier this month from Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and a group of 16 other senators to the Appropriations Committee asking the EPA to be directed to halt the continued closures of libraries "while the Agency solicits and considers public input on its plan to drastically cut its library budget and services."

The closures come in the wake of a proposed $2 million cut in the EPA's budget.  The cut would result in the closure of the Headquarters Library as well as many of the EPA's 27 regional and laboratory libraries, making it extremely difficult-and in some cases impossible-for the public and even EPA staff to find reliable information on sensitive environmental issues.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO), at the request of Congress, also began its investigation into the library closures this month.

Although EPA's 2007 budget has not been set, the EPA already has quietly eliminated or reduced library service covering 31 states. Regional libraries have been closed in Chicago, Texas and Missouri, and the regional library in New York has been closed to the public.

"EPA libraries are staffed with experienced, professional librarians who facilitate access to information - fielding 134,000 research requests from EPA scientists and enforcement staff and others in the last year," Burger added.  "The government, business and the general public depend on EPA's libraries to conduct research critical to protecting public health, enforcing environmental laws and promoting sound economic and land-use planning."

To see the letter and get more information on EPA library closures how to take action on this issue, please visit