Two years ago the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to close its regional libraries. Following widespread criticism of the plan and congressional inquiries, EPA reopened five of the closed libraries on 30 September. EPA's planned closure of the libraries drew quick and sharp criticism from members of Congress, scientific organizations, and other stakeholders concerned about the public's ability to access EPA documents.

As reported in the 25 September 2006 AIBS Public Policy Report (http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/20060925.html#002482), EPA closed the doors of its headquarters library to the public in response to a $2 million cut to the agency's operating budget. The closure of the headquarters library followed closures in Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City. House Democrats, led by Representatives Bart Gordon (D-TN), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and John Dingell (D-MI), then requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate EPA's plan to close the libraries.

EPA published a Federal Register notice announcing that it was "enhancing access to library services for the public and Agency staff. EPA will open previously closed libraries in its National Library Network, with walk-in access for the public and EPA staff. Other library locations will expand staffing, operating hours, or services. This notice provides information regarding how members of the public can access the libraries and services beginning September 30, 2008," and indicated which libraries would be reopened.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Associate Director Carol Goldberg stated, "While we are happy that EPA is re-opening its libraries, we are disturbed that the minds which plotted their closure remain in charge." The American Library Association (ALA) also commented on the reopening of the libraries, stating, "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.

The EPA has responded to public criticism over the library issue by announcing a new Library Strategic Plan, "National Dialogue on Access to Environmental Information" which is still available for comment until 14 November.

 


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