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ALA briefing on EPA library closings

Hi gang. It’s saturday AM and I’m at the ALA Washington Office briefing. On the agenda are updates on the 110th Congress, participatory networks in libraries, Gates Foundation Connectivity Project, and EPA *and other federal libraries* closures. That’s right, OTHER FEDERAL LIBRARIES!! Not only is EPA under fire, but other agency libraries are going the way of the Dodo. I’ve come in in the middle of the briefing, so missed the first few items on the agenda. Below are some things said during the briefing. Any errors in misquoting are purely mine. Sometimes these fingers just type what they want 🙂

Mike Flynn, Director of Office of Information Analysis and Access, EPA. He made a joke about having his bodyguards outside the room. I’m glad that librarians are becoming known as rough and tumble! Maybe we need some leather jackets.

Anyway, Mike says that his office is trying to provide access to information, GIS data… to EPA employees and the public. Blah, blah, blah, great respect for libraries and librarians.

Mike will Address 3 questions:

–where are we headed?

–how do we plan to get there?

–What are we doing (or not doing) now?

“EPA’s vision is to be the premier environmental library network that provides timely and quality information and services to its employees and the public.”

(JRJ) Ok, the first several slides are clearly PR fluff. More from Mike:

How do we get there? Factors include a demand for information faster, and an expanded role of the internet. EPA is increasing its reliance on electronic delivery, but that’s not to preclude their physical presence of 26 libraries. They are not on a road to closing all EPA libraries. but want to maintain a physical presence across the US and maintaining library services for EPA employees and the public.

Services include:

–Access to online library system
–Access to EPA publications via the National service center website
–Recently instituted FAQ system

Implemented these steps and are now in the process of seeking input as we move forward.

Ok, now it’s the Q&A session.

Several librarians emphasized the fact that EPA library closings have great effect on libraries in the region. Kathy Hartman at U North Texas offered to house the regional EPA Dallas library’s collections but the offer was turned down. EPA officials said they wanted to assure that EPA documents were kept within the EPA library network. 3 repositories will be maintained.

How can libraries continue to get access to documents via ILL? and are any EPA documents being disappeared?

Each of the libraries which have closed, EPA has gone through their collections to identify documents for retention. EPA has NOT destroyed documents. Documents from regional libraries have been sent to repositories.

What are your next steps? Who else beyond the library community are seen as stakeholders?

Science community is very important as is the library community. Questioner strongly suggests that EPA contact the academic, medical and legal communities.

What is the “original inventory”? EPA will complete digitization of documents in several categories by 1/31/07. There are other categories which are being worked on.

Mike says, EPA is engaged, and wants to talk with stakeholders. they are committed to digitization and welcome input.

So what I’m hearing is EPA wants to talk with stakeholders (libraries, scientists…) but they’re going ahead with their plans. This was classic doublespeak IMHO. EPA has already committed to closing libraries, digitizing documents, consolidating collections in 3 repositories, cutting funding for journal subscriptions etc. So what good will it do for them to go and talk with stakeholders? Librarians have been VERY vocal, both at this meeting and over the last year, that what the stakeholders NEED is libraries, services and collections throughout the US. Any thoughts?

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