The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should complete its strategic plan for the agency’s library network, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In its report, GAO found that although EPA has been working to restore its library services, the agency failed to complete an overarching strategy for the library network. The agency’s draft strategic plan currently lacks goals, criteria for making funding decisions, or a timeline for inventorying and digitizing holdings. “Given the current economic environment, without a completed strategic plan, including a detailed strategy for acquiring, deploying, and managing funding, EPA may find itself hard-pressed to ensure that the network can meet its users’ needs,” GAO wrote in the report.

EPA closed its headquarters library and several of its regional libraries in 2006 in response to budget cuts. EPA reopened the five closed libraries in September 2008 (see http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/20081110.html#015360). Since then, EPA has hired a national library program manager and developed standards for the libraries’ use of space, on-site collections, staffing, and services. EPA, however, has not yet resumed full hours of operation at some library branches.

EPA has also been working to improve public accessibility to its holdings, including resuming digitization of original documents. However, since the agency has not completed an inventory of its libraries, the amount of time and cost to complete the project is unknown.

GAO recommends that EPA complete its library network strategic plan, inventory its holdings, and improve survey methods for surveying library user needs. “[W]ithout a completed strategic plan that contains implementation goals and timelines, neither EPA nor users of its libraries can have a clear view of what EPA plans to do, when EPA plans to do it, and whether EPA’s actions will ultimately meet users’ needs.” EPA responded to GAO’s recommendations, agreeing to address each of these issues, including completing a strategic plan and cataloging of holdings in fiscal year 2011.

To download the GAO report, visit http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10947.pdf.

 


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