EPA Library Closings

This is an archive of information and links related to the EPA library closings threat. The five Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) libraries that were closed reopened on September 30, 2008. The EPA followed through on what was stated in their Report to Congress on the state of the EPA National Library Network.

Timeline

September 30, 2008

The American Library Association welcomed the reopening of five Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) libraries on September 30.  With significant pressure from Congress, the EPA took steps to reopen the five locations in: Chicago (Region 5); Dallas (Region 6); Kansas City (Region 7); and the EPA Headquarters Repository and the Chemical Library in Washington, DC.

ALA and others in the library community have been challenging the closings of these unique environmental information resources, arguing that such libraries are important to the American public as well as to EPA employees and other stakeholders. “We are glad to see that the EPA has reopened these five libraries.  We hope that the federal government has obtained a better understanding of the importance of federal libraries through this difficult battle,” said ALA President, Jim Rettig.

ALA acknowledged the importance of ongoing Congressional oversight of the EPA libraries and expressed its appreciation to congressional leaders Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), who were particularly helpful in pushing EPA to reopen its libraries. ”We want to express our thanks to Congress for conducting the needed oversight and demanding that these EPA libraries not be closed.  The American public will benefit by having important environmental information and library services made available to them again,” added Rettig.

Rettig also stated, “We will continue to work with Congress and the EPA to assure that these libraries remain open and that full library services have been restored.”

April 21, 2008

EPA’s Report to Congress

The EPA National Library Network Report to Congress (pdf) was submitted . The main points in the report are:

  • The five libraries that were closed will be reopened on or before September 30, 2008. (Region 5 in Chicago, Region 6 in Dallas, Region 7 in Kansas City, the EPA Headquarters Repository and the Chemical Library in Washington, DC)
  • All libraries will have a librarian, appropriate staff, reference and book collections, electronic services, interlibrary loan, and public access.
  • FLICC has formed an advisory board that is working with EPA staff; advising on strategic direction library procedures.
  • $1 million appropriations will be used to reestablish libraries, collections, equipment, and for a needs assessment.

The EPA has said that it will continue to be in contact with affected stakeholders as the library plans are finalized. The Headquarters Repository and the Chemical Library in Washington, DC, will be jointly managed by the Office of Environmental Information and the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPPTS).

President-elect Jim Rettig Testimony

On, March 13, ALA President-elect Jim Rettig testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on the impact of library closings at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Speaking to the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Mr. Rettig addressed several of the developments of the past two years, specifically the loss of access to vitally import scientific and environmental government information, and also the necessity of the information specialist – the staff librarian – to ensure the most effective access to this information.

“Because there are fewer libraries and professional library staff, scientists and the public now have limited access to valuable, unique information,” Rettig said. “In an age of global warming and heightened public awareness about the environment, it seems ironic that the Administration would choose this time to limit access to years of research about the environment.”

May 11, 2007

The EPA reported the following  to the Washington Office on May 8, 2007.

EPA is committed to increasing access to environmental information through a combination of online and traditional library services via the EPA Library Network.

EPA is in the process of reviewing its methods of delivering library services. No changes are being made in the EPA Library Network at this time; no changes will be made until we have completed stakeholder input and review. EPA is engaged in a planning process for the future of the Library Network and is soliciting, receiving and responding to input from Agency librarians and library managers, and we are working on a communications plan to involve a broader group of internal and external stakeholders.

A meeting of EPA's federal library managers was held in Chapel Hill, NC on April 10-11 to discuss our overall future plans, review our draft library policy and procedures, and chart out next steps. As part of this meeting, our enforcement office representative developed and presented a paper describing various issues that were discussed at length.  Following the meeting, we issued an Interim Library Policy and are continuing to work on draft library procedures (Dispersion and Library Usage Statistics). [Links to these documents are located further down the page.]

An Interim Library Policy was issued in mid-April and supporting draft procedures are under development.  EPA's Chief Information Officer issued an Interim Library Policy on April 16, 2007 that simply clarifies the governance and responsibilities for the Library Network. Two draft procedures, one on library usage statistics and another on dispersion procedures, are being developed with our EPA library managers and external stakeholders will participate in the review process. Additional procedures will be developed in the course of the coming months and will go through similar development and review processes.  As you know, EPA has commissioned an independent third party review of our draft Digitization procedures. As you recommended, we are involving digitization expert, Cathy Hartmann of the University of North Texas, in this process.

Stakeholder input and communication efforts are being expanded.  EPA is developing a communications plan for involving internal and external stakeholders as we review our plans for the Library Network.  EPA is participating in several external conferences over the next three months to engage in information exchange (including exhibiting at your upcoming June meeting). Other opportunities for stakeholder input are being explored.  We greatly appreciate your offer (and accept) to host a meeting with key stakeholders this summer.

Also, EPA's web presence for the Library Network is being updated to reflect current information and activities.

April 26, 2007

Four Committee Chairmen in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson requesting an update on the Agency’s recent activities with regard to its libraries.

With a deadline of May 4, 2007, the inquiry concerns recent reports about the continued disposal/ dispersal of library materials, even after recent testimony from Administrator Johnson that a moratorium on such activities had been put into place.

The four Members of Congress who signed the letter are:

  • Rep. Bart Gordon, Chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology;
  • Rep. John Dingell, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce;
  • Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; and
  • Rep. James Oberstar, Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The documents to which this letter is a response are:

February 6, 2007

On February 6, ALA President Leslie Burger testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the issue of EPA libraries.

December 14, 2006

On December 14, 2006, ALA President Leslie Burger spoke at a meeting of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) on the importance of EPA libraries and librarians.

December 13, 2006

On Monday, December 11, the EPA held a teleconference about the closing of its libraries. The EPA released an accompanying  press release the same day.

In response, ALA President Leslie Burger issued the following statement, also available  here:

"The teleconference December 11 raised more questions than it answered. It is a gross oversimplification to state that everyone benefits when libraries go digital. This is only true when there is a thoughtful digitization plan that ensures valuable information is not lost and public access is retained. We are still waiting for the EPA to disclose its digitization plan and budget," Burger said.

December 9, 2006

The op-ed page of the December 9, 2006,  New York Times featured an article by ALA President Leslie Burger, entitled " Keep the E.P.A. Libraries Open." (registration required)

November 30, 2006

On November 30, 2006, the House Science Committee, Democratic Membership, put out the following press release:

(Washington, DC)  In an ongoing effort to protect and preserve the vast environmental resources of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), prominent House leaders today called on the agency to immediately stop efforts to close libraries across the country pending a review by Congress.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Ranking Members Reps. Bart Gordon (D-TN), John Dingell (D-MI), Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and James Oberstar (D-MN) expressed their serious concerns over the current implementation of "library reorganization" plans and the "destruction or disposition" of library holdings.

"It is imperative that the valuable government information maintained by EPA's libraries be preserved," wrote the Ranking Members.

This letter to the Administrator follows-up on a successful effort earlier this fall by the Congressmen to initiate a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation of current EPA actions regarding their libraries and informational resources. [Ed: That letter is included below.] The GAO has begun its review. 

As noted in their letter to the Administrator, the EPA is closing libraries and dispersing resources in accordance with an Administration budget directive that has neither been approved nor formally enacted by Congress. 

Implementation of the library reorganization is proceeding at a rapid pace.  Reports of the library closures, information destruction, and property auctions continue to surface despite the objections to the plan raised by EPA professional staff, EPA employee union representatives and the American Library Association.  The Ranking Democratic Members with oversight authority want to ensure that actions do not undermine the integrity and value of the public information available at these libraries.

The letter is available here:

Issue

The $2 million cut initially proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and included in Bush's budget proposals for fiscal year (FY) 2007 would reduce the 35-year-old EPA Library Network's budget by 80 percent and force closure of at least some regional libraries. EPA administrators have repeatedly alleged that these closings will not affect access to the important environmental and scientific collections and data sets since online functions will meet the needs of the EPA staff, researchers, and the public.

However, many scientists, EPA staff and librarians continue to dispute this contention. ALA and other critics have argued that the EPA library online services are not fully in place and are not adequate to meet the current as well as future demands of users. Further, few advances were made in the online resources before the announcement about the library closings was made.

It has been reported that the President's Budget for FY 2008 will likely make even deeper cutbacks to the entire EPA budget in what appears to be a move to close down the entire agency. Until the American public puts political pressure on Congress to preserve EPA and its important functions as a whole, the likelihood of reopening the EPA libraries and stabilizing the modest library services still available is extremely low. The library closings are a symptom of the even larger threat to the entire agency.

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Background

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Status of EPA Libraries as of Sep 30, 2008

The five Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) libraries that were closed reopened on September 30, 2008.  The EPA followed through on what was stated in their Report to Congress on the state of the EPA National Library Network:
  • The five libraries that were closed will be reopened on or before September 30, 2008; Region 5 in Chicago, Region 6 in Dallas, Region 7 in Kansas City, the EPA Headquarters Repository and the Chemical Library in Washington, DC.
  • All libraries will have a librarian, appropriate staff, reference and book collections, electronic services, interlibrary loan and public access.
The libraries may look different than they previously did, but the needed materials are back in place.  For example, the library in Region 5’s office in Chicago is smaller then before. The library is around 710 square feet. The library includes:
  1. The core reference materials that the EPA librarian group chose for all EPA libraries;
  2. A local collection (with room to add on in the future); and
  3. A Great Lakes collection.

The EPA has also made changes in the EPA Headquarters Repository and the Chemical Library.  These two libraries now share the same space in Washington, DC.  The agency has taken an additional step, hiring a Chemical Librarian that has a background in science and experience working in a laboratory before making the change to librarianship.

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ALA Press Releases

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News Stories and Editorials

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Other Information