Sunday, November 26, 2006

“By its actions, it appears that the appointed management at EPA is determined to actually reduce the sum total of human knowledge,”

A significant and alarming post from US Librarian Roger Owen Green:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is frantically dispersing its library collections to preempt Congressional intervention,according to internal emails released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Contrary to promises by EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock that all of the former library materials will be made available electronically, vast troves of unique technical reports and analyses will remain indefinitely inaccessible....

... This month, EPA closed the OPPTS Library, its only specialized library for research on health effects and properties of toxic chemicals and pesticides, without notice to either the public or affected scientists.

Here's the link to the order to destroy (“recycle”) US Office of Prevention, Pollution and Toxic Substances library materials .


Roger Owen Green said...

I didn't note this in the post, but this story REALLY ticked me off.

Roger Owen Green said...


Democratic House Leaders Use New Powers to Fight Bush's EPA Research Library Closings By
Created 12/01/2006 - 4:42pm


House Democratic leaders are using their new authority as pending
committee chairmen to push the EPA to stop closing its research
libraries. As BuzzFlash has previously reported, the EPA has ignored
protests from politicians and even its own scientists [0] by
preemptively eliminating research resources [0] as instructed by
President Bush's 2007 budget - despite the fact that Congress has yet to
approve any such action.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson was given a letter demanding he
"maintain the status quo" by Committee Ranking Members Bart Gordon
(Science), Henry Waxman (Reform), John Dingell (Energy and Commerce),
and James Oberstar (Transportation and Infrastructure). They also
requested that the EPA compile records of materials that have already
been dispersed to ensure the information can be retrieved and used by
Agency personnel and the public.

"Over the past 36 years, EPA's libraries have accumulated a vast and
invaluable trove of public health and environmental information, including
at least 504,000 books and reports, 3,500 journal titles, 25,000 maps, and
3.6 million information objects on microfilm," the letter notes. "It now
appears that EPA officials are dismantling what is likely one of our
country's most comprehensive and accessible collections of environmental

The entire article can be referenced at the above URL.

Roger Owen Green said...

From today's NY Times:

Op-Ed Contributor
Keep the E.P.A. Libraries Open

Published: December 8, 2006

IF you needed to find out how much pollution an industrial plant in your neighborhood was spewing, or what toxic chemicals were in a local river, where would you go? Until recently, you could discover the answer at one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 29 libraries. But now the E.P.A. has obstructed the American public — as well as its own scientists and staff — by starting to dismantle its crown jewel, the national system of regional E.P.A. libraries.

Until now, any citizen could consult these resources, which include information on things like siting incinerators, storing toxic waste and uncovering links between asthma and car exhaust. E.P.A. staff members and other scientists have counted on the libraries to support their work. First responders and other state and local government officials have used E.P.A. information to protect communities. In the age of terrorism, when the safety of our food and water supply, the uninterrupted flow of energy and, indeed, so much about our environment has become a matter of national security, it seems particularly dangerous to take steps that would hinder our emergency preparedness.

Although lawmakers haven’t yet agreed to President Bush’s proposed 2007 budget, which includes $2 million in cuts to the agency’s library system, the head of the E.P.A. has already instituted cuts. The agency’s main library in Washington has been closed to the public, and regional E.P.A. libraries in Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City, Mo., have been closed altogether. At the Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle branches, hours and public access have been reduced.

Anyone who needs to understand the environmental impact of, say, living downwind or downstream from a new nuclear power plant, or the long-term public health impact of Hurricane Katrina, cannot afford to find the doors barred to potentially lifesaving information. But neither can the rest of us, whose daily lives and choices will be affected by global warming. We all have a right to be able to get access to information about our air, water and soil.

“Libraries and their professionals are integral to the work of E.P.A. toxicologists,” says an agency toxicologist, Suzanne Wuerthele. “Without access to their expertise and extensive collections, it will be difficult to explain to the public, to state agencies, industry and to the courts how and why E.P.A. is protecting the environment over time.”

Some members of Congress have begun to bring these cuts to light. The Senate minority whip, Richard Durbin, urged the president to reopen the libraries and rethink his budget request. Eighteen senators sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking it to make the E.P.A. keep the libraries open. Representatives John Dingell, Bart Gordon and Henry Waxman recently had the Government Accountability Office start an inquiry into the closings and requested that the E.P.A. administrator, Stephen Johnson, cease the destruction of library materials immediately.

The E.P.A. cannot hide behind the fig leaf of fiscal responsibility. While the agency says the closings are all part of a commitment to modernize and digitize, we are not assured that its public plan is adequate or its skills sufficient. Users within the E.P.A. and the American public need information specialists, like librarians, to manage paper collections and to help them get access to digital material and organize online information.

Fortunately, there’s still time to reverse this dangerous threat to a healthy future. The administration could immediately reopen the closed libraries. Congress could conduct oversight hearings to reverse these decisions and prevent any more E.P.A. libraries — all of them containing invaluable information about our environment, all of them paid for by our tax dollars — from closing. The American public deserves no less.

Leslie Burger is the president of the American Library Association and director of the Princeton Public Library.

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