WASHINGTON - August 11 - Beginning in 2006, EPA management began a stealth campaign of closing its regional and technical libraries, ultimately eliminating library service in 23 states and scattering invaluable scientific collections. In December 2007, Congress ordered EPA to re-open the libraries, but by this spring it became apparent that EPA would only grudgingly comply, restoring only minimal holdings in small spaces, in some cases no larger than the lavatories in the buildings they occupied.
In February 2008, a Federal Labor Relations Board arbitrator sustained grievances filed by the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 on behalf of all affected agency employees, finding that EPA acted “unilaterally without the benefit of” employee input in reducing access to seven of its ten regional libraries. The arbitrator ordered EPA to bargain with AFGE Council 238 on library conditions.
The two parties reached a Memorandum of Agreement on July 10, 2008 which became final today. That agreement stipulates that EPA will reopen closed libraries by October 1st and in so doing provide –
- Adequate space, trained librarians and equipment to handle staff requirements and to accommodate usage by the general public;
- An “on-site collection of materials developed and tailored to meet local/regional needs”; and
- A union-management Advisory Board to monitor library operations and the agreement’s implementation.
“The public and the current and future public servants within EPA owe AFGE Council 238 a big thank you for a job well done,” stated PEER Associate Director Carol Goldberg. “This agreement means that EPA will not be able to put a computer terminal and a bookshelf in a cubicle and call it a library.”
EPA will not, however, re-open its specialized library for research on the properties and effects of new chemicals which held one of the world’s most comprehensive technical collections on pesticides and other compounds. EPA did pledge to reopen a Chemical Library as part of its re-opened Headquarters Library in Washington, D.C. with a “professional librarian with knowledge of chemical information” and access to an unspecified “specialized chemical collection.”
“These libraries should never have been closed nor should it have taken months of bargaining to get EPA to agree to put them back in order,” Goldberg added. “The architects of these library closures cannot leave public service soon enough.”
See the Memorandum of Agreement
Look at severe space and other limits EPA had proposed for re-opened libraries
Read the AFGE Council 238 call for continuing Congressional involvement
Examine the ongoing Chemical Library concerns
Revisit the labor arbitrator’s decision against EPA