The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bill Boteler (202) 265-7337

Shuttered EPA Libraries Open Doors Tomorrow After Two Years

EPA Headquarters and Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City Regional Libraries Re-Open


Under orders from Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
tomorrow will again provide access to library services in 15 states and
its own headquarters to agency employees and the public. This ends a
30-month campaign by the Bush administration to restrict availability
of technical materials within EPA but leaves in its wake scattered and
incomplete collections under new political controls of library
operations, says Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

On September 30th, the last day of the federal fiscal year, EPA
will re-open its regional libraries in Chicago (serving the Great Lakes
region), Dallas (Mid-Southern region) and Kansas City (Mid-Western
region) after more than two years. In addition, a long-shuttered
library in EPA Headquarters will re-open and include a small portion of
holdings from what had been a free-standing Chemical Library, for
research on the properties and effects of new chemicals, as a "special
Chemical Collection".

In its September 24, 2008 Federal
Register notice, EPA promises that these re-opened facilities "will be
staffed by a professional librarian to provide service to the public
and EPA staff via phone, e-mail, or in person...for a minimum of 24 hours
over four days per week on a walk-in basis or by appointment."

"While we are happy that EPA is re-opening its libraries, we are
disturbed that the minds which plotted their closure remain in charge,"
stated PEER Associate Director Carol Goldberg, whose organization first
revealed EPA's plans to shut libraries and maintained a drumbeat of
disclosures until Congress finally intervened and directed the agency
to reverse course in December 2007. "Tomorrow, EPA will still accord
its own scientists and the public less access to information than it
did back in 2005."

Most of the re-opened new libraries will be housed in less space and
one, in Chicago (formerly the largest regional library), will re-open
without "permanent furniture and shelving." PEER notes that during the
past two years, EPA further diminished its own informational
infrastructure by -

  • Breaking up collections and disbursing them in a fashion
    that they may never be reassembled. Most of the re-opened libraries
    will only provide "core" reference materials;
  • Banning
    any technical holdings (called "mini-libraries") for scientists and
    specialists that are not subject to centralized control; and
  • Placing all library acquisition and management decisions under a political appointee.

In response to stinging public and congressional criticism, EPA has
undertaken an elaborate "National Dialogue on Access to Environmental
Information" to develop a new Library Strategic Plan in December 2008,
just before the Bush administration leaves office.

"Given its record, the idea that the Bush administration is now
sincerely interested in expanding access to environmental information
is a bit hard to take," Goldberg added. "If Congress had not
intervened, all of EPA's remaining libraries would now be on the
chopping block."

See the Federal Register notice on library re-openings

Trace the history of EPA shutting down its libraries

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.